93. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Teng Hsiao-p’ing, Vice Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
  • Ch’iao Kuan-hua, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Amb. Huang Chen, Chief of PRC Liaison Office, Washington
  • Wang Hai-jung, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Lin P’ing, Director, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs
  • T’ang Wen-sheng, Deputy Director, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs
  • Chang Han-chih, Deputy Director, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs
  • Chu Tsien Ta-yung, Counselor, PRCLO, Washington
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Amb. George Bush, Chief, U.S. Liaison Office
  • Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant to the President
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
  • Philip Habib, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Richard Solomon, National Security Council Senior Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, National Security Council Staff
  • Karlene Knieps, Department of State (notetaker)

Teng: So how should we commence? I suggest we listen to the Doctor first, because you have traveled to so many lands.

Kissinger: Perhaps we should have a general review of events since we last met. I’m deciding whether to read the black [briefing] book, which has 400 pages, or the green book, which has 200. [Laughter]

Teng: It is up to you.

Kissinger: Let me review the international situation as we see it, as it has developed during the year.

I agree with the analysis of Chairman Mao that we should make progress in normalization, but also that there is an international environment which brought us together in the first place and which determines in many respects our relationship.

In this respect, the factor in which we both have an interest, and which has produced some common fronts, is your ally and northern neighbor. In this respect, our assessment has not changed since last [Page 570]year. We believe Soviet purposes are still essentially hegemonial. We don’t think it is particularly fruitful to debate in which direction the primary thrust is going, because in whichever direction it goes, the ultimate consequences will be the same. And therefore, we believe the principal necessity is to keep in mind the overall objectives and the means to prevent them from being realized.

In this respect, we have to keep in mind—and I’m being very frank with you—a very complicated domestic situation. For the United States to take strong actions in crises, it is necessary to do so from a position of having demonstrated to our people that we have exhausted every avenue for peace. I think Chairman Mao, last year, said the United States plays complicated games, and China too plays complicated games, but more energetically. [Laughter]

Teng: I think he had discussed actually the difference between shadow-boxing and boxing in the Sha-lin style, which is more energetic.

Kissinger: Yes, shadow-boxing. But it was a profound observation. We have to do a lot of shadow-boxing to get into a position to take action when we are in a crisis. I say this only so you will distinguish between appearances and reality. We will not permit a strategic gain for Soviet power. We will attempt to reduce Soviet power where we can. We do not, however…At the same time we go through many stages which create either diplomatic obstacles to the extension of Soviet power or psychological and political obstacles against Soviet military action. We do not intend to create a condominium with the Soviet Union, because such a policy—by removing all obstacles to Soviet expansion—would eventually, with certainty, turn against us.

So events of this past year fitted this pattern. We have made a number of agreements with the Soviet Union on limiting arms competition to some extent, and certain technical cooperation on specific subjects. But this has enabled us, at the same time, to prevent any further extension of Soviet power. If we were in a position of open confrontation with the Soviet Union it would create the domestic situation I have described. And in addition, in each European country, the European left would be able to polarize the political spectrum by labeling us as the source of world tensions. Our present policy forces the Communist parties of Italy and France to support NATO, and [this is] despite their domestic battles on purely domestic issues.

We will have a separate session, I suppose, in which we can go into greater detail on the recent discussions in Vladivostok, than I can now in a general review. On that occasion I will give you the exact figures that were agreed upon. But you know now that the Soviet Union agreed upon equal numbers without counting our overseas based systems, which means in effect that we have a substantial advantage. And, in addition, we will have a very substantial advantage in warheads for [Page 571]the entire period of the agreement. I will explain this when I go through the figures with you.

So we believe the agreement in Vladivostok demonstrates the Soviet Union is not as strong as it sometimes pretends, or they would not have agreed to that—at least vis-à-vis us. Perhaps during our discussions we can set aside an hour for detailed discussion of the Soviet situation.

In other parts of the world, our relations with Western Europe have substantially improved since I was last here. Relations between France and the United States are much better, and the discussions of last year have resulted in greater cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance along the lines we pointed out [to you in previous discussions].

In the Middle East, since I was here last year we have brought about two agreements, between Egypt and Israel and between Syria and Israel. Let me explain our Middle East strategy to you: The Soviet Union attempts to produce a comprehensive solution rapidly. And every time I see your ally Gromyko he gives me a list of 10 principles, 20 main points, 40 points, 160 sub-sub paragraphs which he would like me to agree to. [Laughter] There is only one thing wrong with their proposals—the United States has to do all the work, and the Soviet Union will get all the advantages. That we are not prepared to do.

For us, quite candidly, the problem of Israel is an issue which has profound domestic consequences. If we do not behave carefully, we can produce a situation within the United States in which a very serious domestic problem is created in the Middle East which will affect our overall foreign policy. And this China should keep in mind as well. So we have to divide the problem into parts, each of which can be handled separately, and each of which can be managed domestically. And this is why we are proceeding step by step.

[Teng bends over and spits loudly into his spittoon.]

Our press, which has a great desire to see American setbacks, is always seeing stalemates. The fact of the matter is we are now proceeding by methods different from the spectacular methods of last year. We are now proceeding by the methods of the Vietnamese negotiations and our early contact with you, and we are confident we can produce another step within the next 3 or 4 months. But we would like to have it culminate a little closer to Mr. Brezhnev’s visit to Egypt, so they’ll have something to celebrate when he comes there. So those negotiations are going on quietly. And we are announcing today that the Israeli Foreign Minister is coming to Washington next week and you should assume this will be an integral part of our approach.

With respect to the Palestinians, this is an issue on which the last word has not yet been spoken. We would have preferred it if negotiations had taken place between King Hussein and Israel, and then subsequent negotiations between the Palestinians and Hussein.

[Page 572]

T’ang: First between Hussein and Israel?

Kissinger: Yes, [negotiations] which could have restored the West Bank to Arab control, and then with the ultimate disposition settled between the Palestinians and Hussein.

Teng: You mean by returning the West Bank to the Arabs, returning it to Jordan?

Kissinger: Our idea, specifically, was—and it is a tragedy—we had achieved agreement that the West Bank, or a substantial part of the West Bank, with two-thirds of the population, would go technically to Jordan, but under U.N. supervision, so we would have been in a position to have discussions in the U.N. in another year or so as to the ultimate disposition. From this point of view, the Rabat decision was premature.

Now we need a period on this issue of some moderation and cooling off, to allow both sides to adjust to the new circumstances.

It is, in any event, important to keep the following in mind: The Arabs cannot win a war in the next 5 years. Historically they may be stronger, but in the short term they are certainly not the stronger. Therefore, any political progress has to come through the United States. There is no other way. The only interest we have in the political process is that it appear that our decisions are made at our own free will. If we are pressed [by the Arabs] we will resist long enough to demonstrate that pressure cannot possibly succeed. And if we are pressed by the Soviet Union, we will simply do nothing and we will tell the Soviet Union to produce progress.

I think President Asad, whom I like very much, visited you last year.

Teng: No, it was their Vice President, Shafei. Asad or Sadat?

Kissinger: Asad.

Ch’iao: He didn’t come here. He went to North Korea.

Kissinger: Oh!

Ch’iao: He didn’t come from the South.

Kissinger: I think you would like him. He gets many arms from the Soviet Union, but he is a realist. At any rate, I mention him only because even he has understood that under conditions of pressure the United States diplomacy will not operate. And he has now agreed to the extension of the United Nations forces in Syria, and we are going to ask Austria to introduce a resolution which he has worked out with us, and which, for your information, Israel has already accepted. So, we hope you will not veto it. [Laughter.

This isn’t known yet. We have negotiated it for the last week with Syria. I don’t think the Soviet Union knows about it yet. They made very many threatening statements about Syria in Vladivostok.

[Page 573]

I mention it only to indicate that even good friends of the Soviet Union in the Arab world have to understand our policy.

Our policy is to produce progress that returns Arab territory to Arab control, but gradually at a pace that doesn’t produce paralysis of our foreign policy because of the domestic reaction. And we will not do it under Soviet pressure at all.

Eventually, there will be a return to the Geneva Conference, but that will produce a certain stalemate.

In the area of Iran, I think things have gone approximately as we foresaw.

Teng: May I insert a question here?

Kissinger: Certainly.

Teng: Have you decided with the Soviet Union when the Geneva Conference will be convened?

Kissinger: No.

Teng: I think the Soviet Union thinks it should be quicker and they will be attending.

Kissinger: Yes, we spent 4 months preparing for it, and then it met one day, after which we closed it. [Laughter] The Soviet Union always urges us to hold it. Eventually, it will have to take place. I don’t think it can possibly be before March.

As long as the Arabs think they are making progress outside the Conference, they will be in no hurry to get there. No one wants it except the Soviet Union. They have an Ambassador in Geneva, Vinogradov, who spends all his time waiting for a conference that doesn’t take place. We occasionally send Ambassador Bunker once every two months to keep him company there doing nothing. But we have not agreed on a resumption date. The earliest I could foresee would be March—unless there is a total breakdown in the secret discussions now going on between Egypt and Israel and the other Arab countries and Israel through us. And I don’t foresee such a breakdown.

On Iran, as I have said, things have developed in the direction of my discussions with Chairman Mao and the Prime Minister last year.

[Refreshments are brought in]

I was getting worried. No food was coming in for 20 minutes. [Laughter] I didn’t see how I was going to live through it. [Laughter] [to Rumsfeld] See, I have gained 5 pounds here on every visit.

We can discuss that in great detail too. I mean about Iran, not about food. [Laughter]

In other parts of the world: I took a trip to India, as you know, As I explained to your Ambassador, my primary purpose was contributing giving India another opening except [besides] total reliance on the Soviet Union. Our assessment is India’s intentions in Southeast Asia [Page 574]are hegemonial, and that they would like to reduce all neighboring countries to the status of Bhutan, and that we are not prepared to accept.

Ch’iao: May I insert something here? As I recall it, the Doctor made a speech to some scholarly association in which he said about the leading position of India on the sub-continent.

Kissinger: No, I said that India, as the strongest country on the subcontinent had a special obligation for restraint. And the intention was to point out the necessity for restraint. At any rate, we intend during the first half of next year to resume some cash arms sales to Pakistan which will restore some relationship. I will probably have to shoot half of Mr. Lord’s staff before we can execute this.

But that is the direction in which we are moving. We have invited Prime Minister Bhutto to Washington, and within a few months after that we will do it.

Now, two events that have happened since last year that we did not discuss are the internationalization of the problem of energy, and the problem of food.

We are prepared in principle to discuss these issues with you, and to explain our views to you. They are areas in which we know you are sensitive to some statements that have been made by us. We are not indifferent to cannons that are fired at us with respect to these issues. And I think we should attempt to avoid unnecessary confrontations, because we have to solve the energy problem, not for ourselves, but because if it continues in its present form it will lead to the political disintegration of Western Europe. We can solve it for ourselves easily—relatively easily. And this cannot be a matter of indifference to the People’s Republic. It has for us nothing to do with the Third World against the industrialized world, and we don’t think it should be approached from a strictly theoretical point of view. But while I am here I am prepared to discuss it in greater detail.

So this is the general situation. I have spoken for 50 minutes, which is what doctors do. I would propose, as we continue our discussions— in addition to normalization, we could pick an area for discussion in greater detail—the Soviet Union, the Middle East.

There is another issue which I leave it up to the Chinese side whether it wishes to discuss, and that is the problem of Cambodia. We don’t insist on discussing it. I have the impression that whenever it is raised it creates a degree of irritation on the Chinese side, which is uncharacteristic—and in addition to being uncharacteristic is out of proportion to the intrinsic importance of the subject being raised. From this I conclude the Chinese side considers us more than usually stupid on the issue of Cambodia. [Laughter] And that you must have the impression we are missing some point that should be perfectly obvious. So I thought, if you want to, we could give you our analysis.

[Page 575]

Because in one respect we are really not in disagreement. We are not opposed to Sihanouk. We have no interest in Sihanouk returning to Cambodia as a figurehead for Hanoi. But we would have no objection to him if he could head a truly independent government. And if you want to, we could have an exchange of views on this subject—if you promise me not to get irritated.

Ch’iao: I don’t think we have ever become irritated.

Kissinger: No, not personally. No, we understand your interest in Sihanouk and we are prepared to discuss it.

So this is the international scene as we see it, quickly. And then in our subsequent discussions we will go into more detail on each area.

[They confer]

Teng: Yes, it seems we don’t have very much common language when it comes to the question of agriculture and energy. But we can exchange views.

Kissinger: I actually think we should have some common interests.

Teng: As for China itself, the food problem and energy problem do not exist for us, in that sense.

As for the Cambodian issues, I think you should be clear about our views, that is, both Samdech Norodom Sihanouk and the resistance forces within the country are neither puppets of Hanoi nor puppets of China as some people say. Figureheads.

Kissinger: We agree they aren’t figureheads of China.

Teng: Nor of Hanoi.

Kissinger: That we are not sure of.

Teng: We can assure you. They are entirely figureheads for the independence of their own country and nation. Actually why does the United States have to get itself involved in this issue? Because from the beginning it was their own problem. Let them solve their own problem.

Kissinger: The United States is already involved in the issue. It can’t make the decision whether to get involved.

Teng: Since you have the power to decide whether to get involved, you also have the power to decide not to be involved.

Kissinger: That may be partly true, but for the U.S. to simply abandon people with whom we have been working has a larger significance and it is not a habit we should acquire lightly.

Teng: It should also be true to say you have worked with Sihanouk for an even longer period of time.

Kissinger: We don’t exclude Sihanouk. We think we should find a formula for a negotiation to get started, the outcome of which would, in all probability be Sihanouk.

[Page 576]

Teng: On this issue you would know we support Samdech Norodom Sihanouk and the resistance forces within the country and we support their position. And to put it frankly, we think if the United States is to place its hopes on Lon Nol or on any force you think would replace Lon Nol, that is not reliable.

Kissinger: We think it is possible to produce a negotiation, at the end of which Sihanouk could quite possibly emerge as the controlling factor. We think it is in his own interest not to be totally dependent on one force. He should have many forces, factors to play with.

Teng: That is your idea.

Kissinger: It is our idea that it is possible to achieve a solution in Cambodia in which Sihanouk could emerge as the dominant force, yes.

Teng: As you wanted to discuss this specifically, we can.

Kissinger: All right.

Teng: But I think that is all for this morning.

Kissinger: That is probably right.

Teng: How should we proceed this afternoon?

Kissinger: It is up to you. We have not discussed normalization and we are prepared.

Teng: Perhaps we will invite you this afternoon to discuss what you didn’t finish: bilateral relations and normalization. Because we will only have half an hour this afternoon. Tomorrow morning we can continue with our views.

Kissinger: That will be fine. That will be important.

Teng: 3:30 p.m. this afternoon.

Kissinger: At the Guest House?

Teng: Yes. It might be more convenient for you.

Kissinger: It is very courteous.

Teng: The same people?

Kissinger: The same numbers. I will probably add Mr. Gleysteen and drop somebody else.

Teng: That is your decision.

Kissinger: But the same numbers.

Teng: An agreement on quantity and not quality! [Laughter.

[The meeting ended]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Advisor, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, Box 2, China Memcons and Reports, November 25–29, 1974, Kissinger’s Trip (1). Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Great Hall of the People. All brackets are in the original.