[Page 83]

18. Minutes of Defense Program Review Committee Meeting1

DEFENSE PROGRAM REVIEW COMMITTEE MEETING

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Strategy in Asia (NSSM 171)2

PARTICIPATION

  • State
  • Kenneth Rush
  • Leslie Brown
  • Richard Sneider
  • DOD
  • William Clements
  • Paul Brands
  • Major Gen. William Schoning
  • JCS
  • Vice Adm. John P. Weinel
  • CIA
  • Lt. Gen. Vernon Walters
  • Bruce Clarke
  • ACDA
  • Robert Behr
  • John Twombly
  • OMB
  • Ellis Veatch
  • NSC Staff
  • Brig. Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • Lawrence Eagleburger
  • Philip Odeen
  • Col. T. C. Pinckney
  • John Knubel
  • Jeanne W. Davis

SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS

It was agreed that the Defense Department would:

. . . prepare an analysis of the PRC nuclear escalatory capability over the next ten years;3

. . . study the possibility of increasing the mobility of the U.S. division in Korea and treating it as a theatre reserve;4

[Page 84]

. . . prepare a schedule for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Taiwan;5

. . . prepare a paper on alternative plans for a phase-down of U.S. military presence in Thailand.6

Mr. Kissinger: (to Gen. Walters) Do you have a briefing?

Gen. Walters: We have no real briefing today.

Mr. Kissinger: Then I want to discuss the following questions: 1) what our basic military strategy in Asia should be; are the assumptions of NSDM 277 still valid? 2) what should be the role of U.S. forces in relation to this strategy? 3) what should be the relationship of these general judgments to U.S. deployment? 4) [1½ lines not declassified] There are some questions of security assistance but I think these are largely theoretical.

So far as our basic strategy goes, is it still valid? The assumptions of NSDM 27 were that we would try to build up local forces to resist local attacks. [2 lines not declassified] You should remember this was considered a very progressive policy in 1969. [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Rush: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Clements: I am listening and learning on this subject, but our people say yes.

Gen. Walters: Of course, the situation in the PRC has changed. Our assumptions are no longer as they were. We have made some input to reflect this change, but not totally successfully.

Mr. Kissinger: You can argue about the probability of a PRC attack, but in case of an attack, are we agreed that our assumptions are still valid?

All agreed.

[Page 85]

Mr. Kissinger: But we disagree as to the U.S. forces required to resist such an attack. [3 lines not declassified] This puzzles me. [2 lines not declassified] I know we went through this three years ago and the systems analysts tried to convince me. [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Brands: The analysis in Southeast Asia indicated a range of force needs would be [1½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t want to debate it. [2 lines not declassified] What does this imply for force projections? [2 lines not declassified] What are your views?

Mr. Rush: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Rush: Theoretically, perhaps, but not practically. [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: You are right, there is no chance of more divisions in the foreseeable future. [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: Sure. It is a question of priority. [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Rush: In that $17 billion figure of Senator Mansfield’s, how many divisions are dedicated to NATO?

Mr. Odeen: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Odeen: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: You would have a serious problem with timing. [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s assume Sino-Soviet relations are likely to stay as they are. It is not likely that the Soviets would attack in Europe if we should get involved with the PRC. The Russians might want to keep us going with the Chinese.

Mr. Rush: Perhaps, but the more deeply involved we become, the more dangerous it would be—the more the Soviets might be tempted to move in Europe.

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Rush: And we had nothing left for NATO then. What better time could it have been for the Russians to move?

[Page 86]

Gen. Walters: [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: (to Adm. Weinel) [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: No.

Mr. Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified] With our present forces could he make this decision?

Adm. Weinel: [less than 1 line not declassified] We could live with that. Of course, [1 line not declassified] That’s easy to say, but not easy to do.

Mr. Kissinger: [1½ lines not declassified] He almost convinced me that it was closer there than it would have been in Europe. [2 lines not declassified] How long would it take to get them out there?

Mr. Brand: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: What about supplies?

Mr. Clements: I just don’t believe you could do it that fast.

Mr. Kissinger: Maybe after you build a headquarters for 50,000 men.

Mr. Clements: [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: [less than 1 line not declassified] then it would slow down.

Mr. Kissinger: Because of supplies?

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Odeen: They might hit Thailand and South Vietnam simultaneously.

Mr. Kissinger: I just can’t see the Chinese moving into South Vietnam. For what purpose? Why should they help the North Vietnamese create a large country at their flank? That is not a realistic danger. [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: And it’s closer to Russia so the risk increases.

Mr. Kissinger: As long as the PRC faces the Northern threat, they won’t take on the U.S. How much time did you say it would take to get troops to Southeast Asia?

Mr. Brand: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: Is that based on the assumption of U.S. withdrawals?

Mr. Brand: Yes, but we would have retained our bases.

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

[Page 87]

Mr. Clements: I think Admiral Weinel is using an average of [less than 1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Gen. Walters: [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Gen. Walters: But you were facing a different PRC then.

Mr. Kissinger: There was no PRC then. [1½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Rush: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: I hear the Korean Army is pretty good. [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: Of course, we would have some warning time.

Gen. Walters: The Kim Il Sung Trail is deep in the water.

Mr. Kissinger: What does that mean?

Gen. Walters: It means it is easier to control a peninsula with water on both sides if you have naval superiority. This wasn’t true in Vietnam. You could not apply naval power on the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Clements: [1 line not declassified] We could give them great staying power.

Adm. Weinel: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified] So we should stop talking about it. Do you all agree?

Adm. Weinel: In security assistance doctrine we might see a goal of self-sufficiency in time. That’s OK as a planning objective, but it is not very pragmatic. In Korea when we have completed modernization, it should follow that in the total force context it would not take [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: But it would take some?

Adm. Weinel: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: Well-stated.

Mr. Kissinger: Could you explain the rationale? [2 lines not declassified] I am just trying to elicit a coherent statement of the role of tactical nuclear weapons before the end of the second term.

Mr. Rush: [2 lines not declassified] Where do we stop?

Mr. Kissinger: [1½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Rush: But the losing side would escalate.

Mr. Kissinger: The reason for my question is to see if we can develop [less than 1 line not declassified] I get two different statements. [less [Page 88]than 1 line not declassified] Then we should plan without them. [1 line not declassified] This moment will arrive earlier with fewer divisions.

Gen. Walters: [1½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: [4 lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: There is no protection against stupidity.

Adm. Weinel: True, but it would be extremely difficult to use [less than 1 line not declassified]—a viable organization. If you don’t have that, how could you use the weapons?

Mr. Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Rush: In the first stage we would certainly operate without [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified] Let me be the devil’s advocate. [2 lines not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: We couldn’t bring ourselves to do it before.

Mr. Kissinger: But a lot of things have changed. We couldn’t bring ourselves to mine Haiphong harbor.

Mr. Rush: World opinion would be against us.

Mr. Kissinger: World opinion is against a loser. There are no awards for losing with restraint.

Mr. Rush: I agree.

Mr. Kissinger: [4½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Rush: [1 line not declassified] I agree with you on what we want them to think.

Mr. Kissinger: [2½ lines not declassified]

Gen. Walters: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [2½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Rush: Absolutely.

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: I still have had no briefing on the deployment of nuclear weapons.

Adm. Weinel: Any time!

Mr. Kissinger: The PRC will have how many—[less than 1 line not declassified] by 1976?

Mr. Clarke: Including short and medium-range missiles, about [less than 1 line not declassified] altogether by 1976.

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified] It would be insanity, but they might do it.

Mr. Sneider: They might go for our rear supply area.

Gen. Walters: [1 line not declassified]

[Page 89]

Mr. Rush: The psychological impact would be enormous.

Gen. Walters: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [less than 1 line not declassified] I just don’t think they [1½ lines not declassified]

Gen. Walters: Knowing the excellence of our intelligence, they wouldn’t try.

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

[2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Odeen: [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: That’s ancient history.

Mr. Rush: We have [less than 1 line not declassified] troops in Korea. How many are in the division?

Mr. Odeen: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Sneider) What would Japan do if the Chinese should attack?

Mr. Sneider: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: That’s my guess too.

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: [3½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified] We have a separate problem on deployments on Taiwan and a separate problem on Thailand. On Korea and Okinawa, what is your judgment about deployment?

Mr. Rush: [6 lines not declassified] I think we need to work out a plan on what we want to do over a five-year period.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s what I am asking.

Mr. Rush: I think we should work out a five-year plan.

Mr. Kissinger: But you would prefer not to take them out?

Mr. Rush: Yes.

Mr. Clements: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: Then what would you plan?

Mr. Rush: It would be directed toward alternatives, [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: On the basis of what contingency? [1½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Rush: It would depend on the course of negotiations between North and South Korea. [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Clements: That is what I would like to see.

Adm. Weinel: That would be a little quick. [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Rush: But it’s not in the right place.

[Page 90]

Gen. Walters: Maybe not militarily, but it is politically.

Mr. Kissinger: Where would you put it?

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Rush: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Rush: [1½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: What is the advantage of having a division in the Marianas rather than in Korea? Particularly when Korea wants them and the others do not.

Mr. Rush: There is no issue in either Micronesia or the Marianas on force levels.

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified] What is the Korean problem? If we can get something from North Korea for it—?

Mr. Sneider: It’s a Congressional problem.

Mr. Rush: The Congressional problem in Korea would not be eased by transferring them to the Marianas.

Mr. Rush: (Senator) Mansfield wants all our troops home.

Mr. Kissinger: But he will always want that.

Mr. Rush: I pointed out that we won’t save a cent by taking forces out of Europe, so that what the Congress is really talking about is cutting the defense budget. Mansfield countered by saying money was not the factor—that he was interested only in the principle that American boys should not be overseas.

Mr. Kissinger: That is a question of Congressional strategy. You could argue that the Executive Branch is best protected by sticking to what it believes is right, with a rational explanation to the Congress, rather than by letting the Congress force us back, step by bloody step.

Mr. Rush: I agree.

Mr. Kissinger: Congress may force us to take something out of Korea. Or we may decide that our forces might be better deployed elsewhere. If we think we are better off in Korea unless we get a major agreement with North Korea or with the PRC, [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Rush: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Clements: We could cut the forces—take out less than the total.

Adm. Weinel: [1½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: We have talked about making the [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified] A joint PRC-North Korean move wouldn’t have the option of [1 line not declassified]

[Page 91]

Mr. Sneider: The present division is tied to Korea. We can see some advantage to having some mobility in another area of East Asia. We are only talking about changing the character of the division.

Gen. Walters: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified] I have no views on your proposal, but you could argue that the PRC might leave them alone if the division were tied to South Korea. But if it were usable elsewhere, it would be a different problem. But if someone wants to study this, by all means do so.

Adm. Weinel: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: [2 lines not declassified]

Gen. Walters: Mobility requires more money.

Mr. Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: Okinawa is a small island, and we are building roads and establishing communication centers all over it. In a five-year period there will be real land pressure.

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: Yes.

Adm. Weinel: You can make a division mobile just by saying so. This is a matter of policy rather than hardware. If you declare that the division could be used elsewhere, it’s mobile.

Mr. Sneider: Also Korea will want to cut its ground forces, in which case the Congress will ask why we keep one division there when the Koreans are cutting their forces. [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s have Defense study this.

Mr. Clements: We’ll do a paper for you.

Mr. Kissinger: Could we consider Taiwan? The Shanghai communique8 said specifically that, as tensions in the area diminish, we would consider withdrawing troops from Taiwan. Tensions in the area have diminished and we have 3,000 more troops there than at the time of the communique. I’d just like to call this to the attention of Defense. Get those troops the hell out of there. We are obligated to get our forces below the level at the time of the Shanghai communique. We can’t put in 3,000 additional forces and then withdraw them and sell that as a cut-back, a concession. [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Sneider: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: We need to take some out in the next fiscal year. The Chinese are not panicky, but we need some action. [less than 1 line not declassified]

[Page 92]

Mr. Rush: That is up to you—it’s a political problem.

Mr. Kissinger: I will play with that.

Mr. Sneider: The next crunch depends on when we can replace the planes the ROC sent to Vietnam.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–118, Minutes of Meetings, Defense Program Review Committee Minutes, Originals, ’69–’73 [3 of 3]. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Document 5.
  3. Under a November 8 covering memorandum, Clements forwarded a DOD paper to Kissinger, Rush, Colby, Ash, and Ikle concluding that the PRC would probably acquire nuclear escalatory capability over the next decade, but that its willingness to use that newfound capability was less certain. (Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330–76–187, 040, National Security Council, 1973)
  4. Under an October 13 covering memorandum, Clements forwarded a DOD paper to Kissinger,Division based in South Korea unchanged or assigning it a PACOM-wide contingency role. (National Archives, RG 218, Official Records of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Moorer, NSSM 171)
  5. Under a November 8 covering memorandum, Clements forwarded a DOD paper to Kissinger, Rush, Colby, Ash, and Ikle proposing a three-phased withdrawal of tactical airlift forces from Taiwan. Under the plan, United States forces stationed in Taiwan would be reduced to 2,800 by March 1976. On December 5, Kissinger approved the reductions when he initialed a memorandum sent to him by Hummel. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–196, Policy Papers, NSSM 171 [1 of 2])
  6. Under an October 13 covering memorandum, Clements forwarded a DOD paper to Kissinger, Rush, Colby, Ash, and Ikle summarizing two options, one favored by the OSD and other by the JCS and ISA, to reduce the number of United States personnel stationed in Thailand to 32,200. In a memorandum, November 21, Kissinger informed Schlesinger that the President, after reviewing Clements’ memorandum, had decided that, due to the threat of a North Vietnamese offensive, there be no force reductions in Thailand until the end of the FY 74 dry season. Kissinger also directed the DOD to prepare a plan to withdraw forces to the 32,200 level commencing at the end of the dry season and ending by the end of FY 75. (Ibid.) On January 22, 1974, Schlesinger sent a memorandum to Kissinger outlining the plan. (Ibid., RG 218, Official Records of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Moorer, NSSM 171)
  7. Document 56 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972.
  8. Document 203 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XVII, China, 1969–1972.