157. Editorial Note
On March 23, 1972, Assistant Secretary of State Marshall Green reported to President Nixon on his trip to East Asia, including his talks with Thai Prime Minister Thanom and other Thai leaders in Bangkok on March 8, 1972. (See Documents 153 and 154 for reports of Green’s conversations with Thai leaders.) The meeting was held in the Oval Office from 4:08 p.m. to 5:02 p.m. The following is an excerpt from the tape recording of that meeting:
Nixon: “Tell me, now what, what about, did you—Thailand, you know, give a little deal on that. We have a [unclear].”
Green: “Thailand, the big problem there, of course, is all this insurgency going on—”
Nixon: “Right. And they blame the Chinese.”
Green: “And they know the Chinese are involved …”
Green: “How active they are. They’re unable to, perhaps, catalog it with—”
Nixon: “Were you able to have a private talk with Thanom or …”?
Green: “Thanom? No, because he was a monk and that was a holy day. I wanted to. I tried to, but I couldn’t make contact with him.”
Nixon: “I understand, but on the other hand who’d you see”?
Green: “I know it’s a big problem, though, because I talked with Thanom. Boy, this I talked with Praphat, and Dawee—”
Green: “You haven’t had touch with [unclear]”?
Nixon: “Foreign Service [unclear]”
Green: “And then I [unclear exchange].”
Nixon: “I know some of them. I know those others, the old hands, like [unclear].”
Green: “Mr. President, when I left town they made a very favorable statement. The Government of Thailand made a very favorable statement. The reports we’ve had out of our Embassy have all been favorable as a follow up. Now they would say, ‘Well, the Chinese say they believe in these five principles but we know damn well they don’t.’ And I said, ‘Well, we’re not saying that we think they’ve reformed but now we have at least mutually accepted standards to hold them by.’”
Nixon: “Well look, you could—I interrupt—I know, too, you probably assured them that you know Nixon and—”
Green: “Yeah.”[Page 344]
Nixon: “—he’s not one that stands by.”
Green: “That’s right, I know it’s [unclear]”
Green: “Yeah, I told him what we’re dealing with and [unclear] President Nixon. He’s been around. There’s no President that’s come into office here who’s had more background in foreign affairs. He’s not being difficult. He’s practical, and his approach to this problem is, as a matter of fact, to the extent that we can make progress [unclear].”
Nixon: “Sure. The world would be a hell of a lot safer out there for those people if we had some stroke with China rather than if we had to have our stroke against them. That’s my opinion.”
Nixon: “Suppose that we just—suppose the Chinese thing made a run at Thailand. And suppose the Thais said, ‘Look, we have a treaty with you.’ Do you see an American President going down to the Congress and saying, ‘We’re going to declare war on China to keep our treaty commitments with Thailand?’ Huh? We’ve got to let them think that. I mean we can’t say that our treaty commitments are not going to be kept, and the Chinese better think they’re gonna be kept. But the practical problem, that’s what we’ve got to face, is that at the present time, except for Western Europe there are damn few places where you would get support. You wouldn’t even get it now on Israel. Not today.”
Haig: “That’s right.”
Nixon: “And then influence them, try to ameliorate their aggressiveness.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation among Nixon, Green, Haig, and Holdridge, March 23, 1972, 4:08–5:02 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 692–3) The editor transcribed the portions of this conversation specifically for this volume.