3. Letter From Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai to President Nixon 1

Mr. President,

I have received your letter of January 3, 1973.2

Chairman Mao has read the letter and also takes satisfaction in bilateral developments since last February.

We appreciate Mr. President’s wish for continued improvement in Sino-U.S. relations as was expressed in the letter. The Chinese side believes that the normalization of relations between China and the United States step by step in accordance with the principles of the Shanghai Communiqué3 is not only in the interest of the Chinese and American peoples, but will also contribute to the easing of tension in Asia and the world. However, Mr. President, we would not be frank if we did not point out at the same time that the continuation of the Viet Nam [Page 12] war, particularly such bombings as recently carried out by the United States against the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam, are bound to affect the progress of Sino-U.S. relations. We believe, as Mr. President correctly mentioned in the letter, it is in the interest of us all to bring the Viet Nam war to a rapid conclusion and thus remove the major obstacle to many constructive developments in international relations. As the Chinese saying goes, one should not lose the major for the sake of the minor, and I think it would be of significance to reflect upon these words again at this important juncture. We hope in this round of private meetings between Viet Nam and the United States, interferences can be overcome and an agreement to end the Viet Nam war finally concluded through serious reciprocal negotiations and joint efforts.

It is understandable that Dr. Kissinger’s planned visit to Peking cannot materialize as originally envisaged. You are welcome to send Dr. Kissinger to Peking for a meeting at an appropriate time after the negotiated settlement of the Viet Nam war.

With regard to the series of international issues and questions concerning the development of Sino-U.S. bilateral relations as referred to in the letter, we prepare to have a direct and thorough exchange of views with Dr. Kissinger during his visit to Peking.

My wife and I thank you and Mrs. Nixon for your good wishes and extend our regards to you.

Chou En-Lai 4
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 94, Country Files, Far East, China Exchanges, January 1–April 14, 1973. Top Secret; Exclusively Eyes Only. This letter was sent to Nixon under a covering letter, January 8, from Richard T. Kennedy. (Ibid.) A handwritten note on Kennedy’s cover letter states, “The President has seen per RTK 1/8/73.”
  2. Tab A, Document 1.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 1.
  4. The letter bears Zhou Enlai’s typed signature.