35. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Nixon: With regard to Mao, you know, that is quite significant, don’t you think?2

Kissinger: Oh, I think that’s of enormous significance, Mr. President.

Nixon: The other thing I was going to say, though, that—

Kissinger: Because it means that they think that they are going to deal with you for the foreseeable future.

Nixon: Right. The other thing is do you think that we should get in—well we can’t do it before you leave—but if you could get a message to the Ambassador here that we think it’s very important for Chou En-lai to come to the UN. Or do you want to wait till August to do that?

Kissinger: I’ve already done that, Mr. President.

Nixon: You have?

Kissinger: I did that—

Nixon: You see—

Kissinger: I took the liberty of doing that in response—3

Nixon: You see, it’s going to look rather strange if I go running to China if he doesn’t come here.

Kissinger: No, I’ve already done that.

Nixon: How’d you do it?

Kissinger: I had already extended an invitation at your suggestion a few months ago.

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Nixon: Yeah, I know, but recently?

Kissinger: I repeated it and I said we can do it in one of two ways: either to go to the UN, or better yet just come to Washington on a personal visit.

Nixon: No, what he should do is come to the UN and then drop down here and we’ll give him a nice dinner, you know, without the head of state thing, but it will be everything except the drill.

Kissinger: Right. Well, I told him we could handle it either way. And—

Nixon: And he’s going to forward that to them, huh?

Kissinger: And he said—well, he didn’t turn it down. You know, in the past they said they could never do it as long as the ROC was—

Nixon: Yeah, I know. I know. Yeah.

Kissinger: He said, well he’s very busy and he’ll look at his calendar.

Nixon: Well in view of the Mao thing, you see, the Mao thing has to be significant, because if it came from Chou En-lai that would be one thing, but coming from Mao

Kissinger: It came from both. It was a joint invitation.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: And I don’t know whether you noticed, Mr. President, when he came that he said to you, “Mr. and Mrs. Mao.”

Nixon: Yeah! Yeah, I know.

Kissinger: Well, that was very significant considering her role in the Cultural Revolution.

Nixon: Yeah, and as a member of the Central Committee.

Kissinger: Yes, and of the Politburo.

Nixon: Politburo, I meant. Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger: So I thought it was an extremely significant event.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And also that they answered you within three days. I mean, you only saw him last Wednesday.4

Nixon: Right. Right.

Kissinger: And they also gave us a rather good message on Cambodia.5

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Nixon: Oh, did they?

Kissinger: Yes, but we mustn’t refer to that it in any sense.

Nixon: Oh, no, no, no. Because they can’t get caught at it, I know. [Omitted here is discussion unrelated to China.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 39–87. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portions of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger from 11:16 until 11:22 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. Nixon is referring to a statement that Huang Zhen gave Kissinger that afternoon, indicating “Chairman Mao welcomes President Nixon to visit China at an appropriate time.” (Memorandum of conversation, June 4, 3–3:30 p.m.; ibid., NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 94, Country Files, Far East, China Exchanges, May 16-June 13, 1973)
  3. Kissinger told Huang Zhen that Zhou “has a standing invitation from the President and we would be pleased to welcome him, either on a visit to Washington or in combination with a visit he may take to New York.” (Ibid.)
  4. See Document 34.
  5. The message about Cambodia that Huang read to Kissinger earlier that day is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 94, Country Files, Far East, China Exchanges, May 16-June 13, 1973.