66. Memorandum of Conversation1
- The Secretary of State
- Director of Planning and Coordination Staff
- Acting Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
- Acting Chief, PRC Liaison Ofice
- Chi Chao Chu
- PRC Liaison Office
Dr. Kissinger: Are we ever going to see your Ambassador again? (laughter)
Ambassador Han: He is enjoying the Spring Festival in China now.
The Secretary: I thought we might have a brief meeting to go over two problems. One is this issue on the Paracel Islands, and the other is my trip to the Middle East. Let me talk about the unpleasant one first. I bet you think I’m going to talk about the Middle East now, but I’ll fool you.
There are only two points I wanted to make with respect to the Paracel Islands issue.2 The South Vietnamese government is making a number of representations to international organizations, to SEATO as well as to the United Nations. We wanted to let you know we do not associate ourselves with those representations. We are concerned, however, about the prisoners, and we noted that your government has indicated that the prisoners will be released at an appropriate time. We wanted to urge that this appropriate time be very soon, especially as there is an American included in that group. And that would certainly defuse the situation as far as the United States is concerned. That’s really all I wanted to say about that issue.
(To Mr. Hummel) Or is there more, Art?
Mr. Hummel: For domestic political reasons we would like to say that we have been in touch about this American.[Page 453]
The Secretary: We will say it only in response to questions. (Mr. Lord mentioned to the Secretary that there was some question as to the exact status of the American.)
Ambassador Han: I would like to say a few words about this matter. First, we call these islands Hsi Sha because that is our territory. We make clear in our statements that we are a socialist country; we never invade other’s territory, but we don’t let others invade our territory.
The Secretary: That’s not true of every Socialist country.
Ambassador Han: We have always said that we will not attack if we are not attacked, but if we are attacked by others, we will counterattack. So what we say is clear.
As for when the prisoners will be released, our statement said that at an appropriate time they will be released. It was the Foreign Ministry statement.
But as a personal observation, I would just like to express surprise that there should be an American citizen at that particular area at that particular time. We don’t know the actual circumstances—whether he was there or not or whether he was captured or not.
The Secretary: He was not there on any permanent basis; he was there at the request of the South Vietnamese on some temporary, technical mission, precisely because we thought it was a quiet period. He was only going to stay a day or so, very briefly; then he found himself caught. There are no Americans permanently or even temporarily on these islands. This was an unfortunate incident.
Ambassador Han: As for whether he was taken prisoner or not, we are not aware of it.
The Secretary: Could you attempt to confirm this for us?
Ambassador Han: We will see what is the circumstance.
The Secretary: We would appreciate it very much. The U.S. has taken no position in supporting the South Vietnamese claims to these islands. I wanted to make this clear, also.
Now, a few words about my trip to the Middle East, or did you want to pursue this other subject?
Ambassador Han: With regard to Mr. Hummel’s suggestion whether to publicize this to the media would this be quickly, right away?
The Secretary: We can wait. What do you want? You report to Peking. Not having said anything up to now, we can survive another 24 hours. We can take the heat. We will give it until Friday morning,3 but the more quickly you can let us know, the better. Eventually, we will have to say that we have talked to you.[Page 454]
Ambassador Han: After we have reported to the government, we will see what the reply is.
Mr. Hummel: All we have in mind is to say that we have talked, not to make the other points that the Secretary raised.
The Secretary: We will wait until Friday. We can give you until Friday a.m. to see whether you get an answer. We have been accused of so many things, we can be accused of neglecting an American interest for a day.
Shall we talk about the Middle East for a few minutes?
Ambassador Han: Please.
The Secretary: There is really not all that much to say because I think we are pursuing the policy the Prime Minister has urged upon me, which is to reduce Soviet influence in the Middle East. I have the impression that it is reasonably successful. You know from our public discussions the nature of the agreements. But I thought you may be interested to know that the Egyptians are very dissatisfied with their relationship with the Soviet Union, and they are very interested in improving their relationship with the Peoples Republic. And I have strongly recommended that they do this. They would like you to establish a MIG–21 factory in Egypt. They will pay you for it; it’s up to you. I thought you should know their interest in improving relations with the Peoples Republic.
In Syria, we are just at the beginning of the process, but it is basically what I described with the Prime Minister, to keep them separate from Iraq.
I think it was your Prime Minister who urged me to become active in the Middle East. I don’t know whether he thinks we have become too active now (laughter).
Ambassador Han: We do not know about the content of your discussions with the Prime Minister in Peking, but I do know of the talk that Vice Minister Chiao had with yourself and Ambassador Hummel in New York.
The Secretary: It was in the same spirit; the Prime Minister went into greater detail.
Are you ever going to get a vacation?
Ambassador Han: Starting today, there are three days of the Spring Festival.
The Secretary: We are retaliating. We are bringing Ambassador Bruce home for a few weeks. It’s not a question of reciprocity; I just want his advice, including European problems. I may send him to Europe as a matter of fact for a few weeks.
Ambassador Han: I remember you mentioned this the last time.
Is that all?
The Secretary: Yes.
Ambassador Han: Thank you for receiving us.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 96, Country Files, Far East, China Exchanges, November 1, 1973–March 31, 1974. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. The meeting was held at Kissinger’s office in the Department of State.↩
- Chinese forces captured Gerald Emil Kosh, an employee of the Department of Defense, during a battle between South Vietnam and China over competing claims to the Paracel Islands.↩
- January 25.↩