24. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador David Bruce, Chief-designate of US Liaison Office in Peking
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
  • Alfred leS. Jenkins, Deputy-designate of US Liaison Office
  • John H. Holdridge, Deputy-designate of US Liaison Office
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Dr. Kissinger: David, I thought we could just review what the group is going to do there and what our concept is in setting this thing up.

Basically, the idea of the Liaison Office escalated. As you know, Al and John, between them, were with me on every trip, and between them they have sat in on every conversation of major substance on every trip. The Liaison Office started really as something primarily for conducting the business of the Paris Embassy, with political things conducted by me and Ambassador Huang Hua in New York. Now with the level of representation on both sides it is something different.

Incidentally, Al, your colleagues don’t know this yet, but the Chinese are sending Huang Chen, their Ambassador to France and also a member of their Central Committee. They are also sending the chief of their protocol department, Han Hsu. There will be an announcement tomorrow. So at this point I see no point on continuing our contact in New York. You should confirm, Al, when you are there [with the advance party], that we can do this. You should repeat that Ambassador Bruce knows everything, and has the President’s full confidence, and that I can talk to the Ambassador here.

Will you get to see the Prime Minister? You should try to see him, or at least Ch’iao Kuan-hua. Don’t do it at a level lower than Ch’iao. I think you should have one substantive talk with a restricted group— in fact, just you. Can you manage that?

Mr. Jenkins: Yes. That will be no problem, especially with the group I have with me on this trip.

[Page 232]

Dr. Kissinger: Tell them: one, that you have been asked by me on behalf of the President to reaffirm everything I said to the Prime Minister. Needless to say, in preparation for the Soviet Summit there will be more intensive consultations with the Soviet Union, but they will be kept fully informed. There will be no surprises, and everything will be fully consistent with the strategy the Prime Minister and I agreed upon.

Ambassador Bruce: When is the Soviet Summit?

Dr. Kissinger: June 18. This is known only in the White House.

Tell them that we will let them know about the details, but our strategy is to gain the time without making substantive concessions— to gain the time we need to prepare our public opinion for closer relations with the People’s Republic, to lay the basis for other measures if they become essential. Say that nothing new has happened since Mr. Lord dealt with their Ambassador on my behalf, but that we will give them the details as they develop and we will keep them fully informed on anything that should develop before doing anything.

On Vietnam, we realize that history will not stop in Vietnam, but it is also impossible for the United States to tolerate flagrant violations of the Agreement that we signed. The violations have been flagrant and the justifications have been insulting. We know all the equipment they are sending; to say that they are civilian goods is insulting to our intelligence. Tell them that there is a time for everything.

Secondly, we never asked them to slow down their military supply while the war was on, because we realize they have their principles. But to keep pouring in military supplies at a time when there is supposed to be peace cannot be considered a friendly act. You can assure them that we are strictly sticking to the replacement provisions, and if there are any questions about it we would be glad to give them a list of what we are sending into South Vietnam on a monthly basis, for their private information. In fact, we will do this.

Ambassador Bruce: Are they pouring equipment into North Vietnam, or are the North Vietnamese bringing down equipment they have already accumulated?

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t really know. If it is only what they have already accumulated, then we are in good shape, because they will not launch an offensive unless there is a pipeline. We have good assurances from the Soviets that they are sending no more military equipment. But we won’t tell the Chinese, at least at this level. Ambassador Bruce can do this.

We will start withdrawing the squadrons from Formosa in July as we have told them.2

[Page 233]

Tell them also that we will be seeing Brandt, Pompidou and Andreotti this spring, and we will inform them about these meetings. These meetings will be in the interest of the strategy of Western cohesion that we talked about.

Tell them also that I will be taking Ambassador Bruce with me to New York to meet Ambassador Huang Hua, for a general discussion. [To Ambassador Bruce] I will take you in early April when we get back.

Al, make sure that I have a back channel to Ambassador Bruce. Do you have a CIA man on the trip?

Mr. Jenkins: No, we don’t.

Mr. Holdridge: You saw the memo we did and sent over last night.3 the CIA is being squeezed out. There is no CIA man in the Liaison Office.

Dr. Kissinger: That is impossible. There must be one Agency representative and one communicator. I will take care of it with the Chinese. David can raise it with the Chinese and explain the reason for it. They will welcome it. We will deal with them completely openly.

Mr. Jenkins: On reporting this meeting I have …

Dr. Kissinger: Don’t report it. Or report it just to me.

Mr. Jenkins: We won’t have a channel yet. I will be busy with so many things, I don’t know if I can come back.

Dr. Kissinger: We have got to know what happened before the Ambassador goes. David?

Ambassador Bruce: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Why don’t you plan on coming back.

Mr. Jenkins: All right.

Dr. Kissinger: We need a channel. I have got to be able to report to you out there on my conversation with Huang Chen. Or else you will be in an impossible position. You will end up like the Paris channel.

Mr. Jenkins: You will tell them that there will be dual communications?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I will tell them there will be dual communications. They will welcome that. We will tell them that there will be one intelligence man in the Embassy and that he won’t do anything that David won’t discuss with them. He can’t do anything they won’t know about anyway. If they want him walled up in the Liaison Office, that’s okay. But there has to be an Agency man so there can be an Agency communicator.

[Page 234]

[At this point Dr. Kissinger telephoned James Schlesinger.4 to say that we wanted an Agency man in the Liaison Office and that he would be there on condition that he did literally nothing that was not cleared by both Ambassador Bruce and Dr. Kissinger. If the CIA would abide by these rules, we would tell the Chinese who the man was and what his job was. This was an unusual procedure, but we had always found with the Chinese that total honesty was the best policy. Dr. Kissinger explained that he would handle the bureaucratics of it.]

We have just got to have all the communicators CIA people, or at least a dual system. How do we do this?

Mr. Jenkins: Porter is handling this at the Department. You will handle it?

Dr. Kissinger: I will take care of it with Porter before you leave. Do you agree with this, David?

Ambassador Bruce: Absolutely. Now the other messages, routine messages on the administrative details, will be coming out through Hong Kong?

Mr. Jenkins: Yes, that is our understanding. These can go through State channels, can’t they?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, Al, you know the fraternity over there. Your effectiveness with the Chinese depends totally on your being a White House man. I know the bureaucracy will want to assert its own interest. Anything you can tactfully suggest to your colleagues as your own idea will make it much easier.

Mr. Jenkins: Should I tell Chiao that we are having a special channel?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, he will welcome it.

Mr. Jenkins: Should I mention this only if they raise it, or should I volunteer it?

Dr. Kissinger: You should raise it. They should understand from the beginning that Ambassador Bruce is the President’s man.

Ambassador Bruce: If you have only CIA communicators, there will be a lot of traffic to State.

Mr. Holdridge: That’s no problem. The communicators can send stuff to State with a different code. They just send it with a different addressee.

Dr. Kissinger: Alternatively, if they want State communicators we would have to set up special facilities.

[Page 235]

Ambassador Bruce: The other would be much simpler.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Mr. Jenkins: A couple of things I want to mention. Privileges and immunities. Am I to nail this down while I am there?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, if you can.

Mr. Jenkins: Travel restrictions. They normally restrict diplomats to within 12 miles of Peking, except for the Ming Tombs. Occasionally they allow visits to other cities like Canton, Shanghai and Tientsin. What should we do?

Dr. Kissinger: Tell them that we have to put on them the same restrictions we put on the Soviets, but you can tell them that we won’t enforce them. And ask them what they will do for you. We will just give them blanket exceptions.

Mr. Jenkins: We will tell them we plan not to enforce the restrictions.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, just tell them what we propose to do. I am sure they will be forthcoming if we don’t press them.

Mr. Jenkins: Some people in my shop have the idea that the Ambassador should present a Moon Rock when he goes over there. I think it’s a silly idea this late.

Dr. Kissinger: It’s already been done! We did it in July 1971.

Mr. Jenkins: That takes care of that.

Dr. Kissinger: Don’t tell them it’s already been done, just tell them we won’t do it.

Mr. Jenkins: Right.

Dr. Kissinger: On personnel, the Ambassador wants Nick Platt as his assistant. We favor that. My requirement is—of course anything that Ambassador Bruce wants, he can do—but to have it as disciplined an organization as possible. We can’t have people running around trying to improve the world, or writing private letters.

Mr. Jenkins: It’s a well-disciplined group. There should be no problem.

Mr. Holdridge: It’s my old Hong Kong Consulate General staff reconstituted. They all used to work for me.

Mr. Jenkins: Because of the servant problem there, the Ambassador will need an Aide to handle these things, a young man. We have a boy named McKinley whom Graham Martin recommended. Martin wanted to take him to Saigon, but China was the boy’s area, so he suggested that Ambassador Bruce should have him.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s all right. Incidentally, I see a lot of mention in the traffic about putting us in the diplomatic enclave. I think, one, that they might want to do better by us, and two, they can use the fact [Page 236] of the Liaison Office as an excuse to do something better for us. So there is no reason for us to propose the diplomatic enclave.

Mr. Jenkins: No. In fact, they might even give us our old compound back.

Dr. Kissinger: It is inconceivable that they would accept someone of the distinction of Ambassador Bruce and not treat us better. They had a chance to turn down this level of representation. When we suggested Ambassador Bruce, we also asked if they would not prefer a lesser level of representation. They had two weeks to mull it over.

Ambassador Bruce: As to my personal requirements, I can say for myself and Evangeline that we don’t care at all what the living conditions are. Don’t let them tell you that because I am an old man I need a soft bed and special conditions.

[At this point, Mr. Kissinger took a call on the secure line from Mr. Schlesinger.]5

Dr. Kissinger: Schlesinger says the problem is that if there are both State and CIA communicators there, the State communicators will know the volume of the traffic through the other channel. And the volume will be greater in the special channel than in the State channel. Therefore, we will need CIA communicators—if you agree.

Ambassador Bruce: I agree, yes. It’s easier.

Dr. Kissinger: We will just insist on it.

Ambassador Bruce: What is the time difference with Peking?

Mr. Jenkins: 13 hours.

Dr. Kissinger: Except in the summer, when it is 12. It works very well.

We can send you messages in the evening our time; you will receive them in the morning and then reply to us in time for morning here.

They may or may not want us in the diplomatic compound. I would leave it to them. They have never failed us on technical arrangements.

Mr. Holdridge: If we don’t ask them, they will have more leeway.

Dr. Kissinger: Al, on their visit here, tell them that anything we can do for their advance party to make it more comfortable for them we will do. As I already told the Prime Minister, they can make requests in two categories—one, to the US Government, and two, to their old friends on a personal basis. Both will be dealt with as a matter of priority.

[Page 237]

We have already told them that they can send people down from New York in advance of the advance party, if they wish. Can we pay their expenses?

Mr. Jenkins: We’ve never done this.

Dr. Kissinger: Will they make you pay your expenses?

Mr. Jenkins: I don’t know. They may put me up in the Peking Hotel.

Dr. Kissinger: Let us know. If they make you pay, then we will make the Chinese pay. If not, we will know what to do. We will just get the money, maybe from the Agency.

Mr. Jenkins: I will just mention it parenthetically, in a regular cable. I will just say that they have asked me to stay as their guest. If I don’t mention anything like this, you will know that I paid my expenses.

Dr. Kissinger: When their advance party comes, can your colleagues avoid it becoming a circus?

Mr. Jenkins: I won’t be here!

Mr. Holdridge: I can handle that.

Dr. Kissinger: Han Hsu is heading their advance team.

Okay. [To Mr. Rodman] Make sure we send a message to them to tell them that we will be setting up a direct White House channel, and that I have asked Mr. Jenkins to bring one substantive message.

[At that point the meeting ended. Ambassador Bruce departed. Dr. Kissinger then brought Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Holdridge back into his office and repeated to them that the effectiveness of the Liaison Office depended on its being a reliable channel for the White House. If Mr. Jenkins had any problem setting up a secure channel, the White House would just have to bypass the Peking Liaison Office. It would be easier bureaucratically if Mr. Jenkins could get this done by making his own suggestions rather than having it be the result of White House suggestions.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 94, Country Files, East Asia, China Exchange January 1–April 14, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office in the White House. All brackets are in the original. On March 26, Kissinger received talking points for this meeting from Holdridge. (Ibid., Box 526, Country Files, Far East, People’s Republic of China, Vol. VI, Jan–Apr 1973)
  2. See footnote 6, Document 18.
  3. Memorandum from Holdridge to Kissinger, March 28. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 526, Country Files, Far East, People’s Republic of China, Vol. 6, Jan–Apr 1973)
  4. A transcript of the March 29 telephone conversation between Kissinger and Schlesinger, 11:35 a.m. is ibid., Kissinger Transcripts, Telcons, closed, National Security, Box 2, 1973, 28–31 March.
  5. No record of the call has been found.