- Ch’iao Kuan-hua, PRC Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Huang Hua, PRC Representative to the United Nations
- Chen Chu, PRC Deputy Representative to the United Nations
- Mrs. Shih Yen-hua, Interpreter
- Mr. Kuo, Notetaker
- Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Nelson A. Rockefeller, Governor of New York
- Major General Alexander M. Haig, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- John Holdridge, NSC Staff
- Winston Lord, NSC Staff
THE WHITE HOUSE
MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION
DATE & TIME: Monday, November 13, 1972, 7:30-10:00 p.m.
PLACE: Century Club, New York City
(The evening’s conversation went back and forth between social talk and substantive discussion. This memcon recounts all the substantive exchanges. The Chinese party arrived at 7:30 p.m. and drinks were consumed for half an hour before dinner. The Vice Minister presented Governor Rockefeller with a Chinese vase, gave a smaller one to Dr. Kissinger and another artifact to General Haig, together with tea and mao tai for all the Americans. After a few minutes of light banter the following discussion ensued before dinner.)[Page 2]
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We should drink a toast to General Haig upon his return. (To Dr. Kissinger) How do things stand?
Dr. Kissinger : They are as I explained last time to your Ambassador. We will meet next week as you know. We will have about four or five substantive changes and eight to ten technical points, of the kind we discussed the other evening. If DRV shows the same attitude as previously we should be able to come to agreement. Then if the North Vietnamese show some patience and understanding for our needs, in two to three weeks at the most we should be able to bring Saigon along. Everything should be done by December 10. We will not ask for any more changes after the next meeting. General Haig made some progress in Saigon. After the meeting next week I will go back to Saigon, and we will complete the discussions.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: You mean you first go to Paris and then to Saigon?
Dr. Kissinger : I will be honest. The mistake I made last time was to go to Saigon with a very brief deadline. The disadvantage was that as time went on our negotiating position got weaker. It was a very embarrassing position. Therefore, we now want an interval after Paris so that next time we can prepare gradually. We may send General Haig back again. We will apply influence ahead of the time that I return to Saigon.
In Paris, if Hanoi deals with us in the same farsighted spirit, we will settle next week in principle and then return to Washington for a week. We will apply pressures from here rather than while I am in Saigon. That is the only thing that makes sense. Therefore patience and silence from Hanoi is needed. It is no good to claim victory while we are influencing Saigon. But it will be done and we will succeed. I will go to Saigon the first of December after a week in Washington. Our target date is December 8 or 9.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: (To General Haig) Was there some change in the attitude in Saigon after you went there?
General Haig: Yes. There was considerable change, considerable progress. There are still some differences on one area.[Page 3]
Dr. Kissinger : Really on two areas.
General Haig: Well, two.
Dr. Kissinger : The big difficulty is the presence of North Vietnamese troops in the South. If that can be solved, everything else will be easy. We understand the problem of Hanoi. They do not wish to admit their forces are in the South and then withdraw them, which is a double humiliation. But on the other hand, it is very difficult for Saigon to make peace and to recognize the right of the North Vietnamese forces to be on its territory. So we have to look for some practical solution. I indicated to the Ambassador the direction we are thinking about, that North Vietnam withdraw some forces - they don’t need to tell us, we can pick it up from intelligence. Second, there is already in the agreement now a provision for demobilization of forces. Xuan Thuy referred to it in the New York Times That provision can be strengthened and made a little bit more explicit. After a ceasefire the two parties can negotiate a reduction in forces. I think the combination of those two measures would succeed in breaking the difficulties.
There is one other thing that can be done - one of those complicated formulas that we use (Vice Minister Chiao laughs heartily). We can say that all Vietnamese agree that … What we can do, for example, we can have a protocol in which we note all the things the North Vietnamese say, that the only forces in the South are South Vietnamese or South Vietnamese who went North and returned. We can acknowledge these statements and say we do not recognize the right of the North Vietnamese to go South. They don’t claim to have this right. This and the other measures would satisfy Saigon.
Either Hanoi will keep the agreement, in which case it won’t matter how many troops they have in the South, or Hanoi will break the agreement, in which case we have the U.S. Air Force in Thailand and will take drastic action. I assume the same factors in North Vietnam which made it make peace will work against the starting of the war again. We are prepared to see an evolution take place. We are not children. We are students of history, and know the revolution will not stop on December 10. But it is in no one’s interest to see things forced, particularly at a time when we are making decisions that are going to be unpopular, so that confidence in our leadership is not shaken.[Page 4]
You were present when I was with the Prime Minister. Everything we said in June we reaffirm. We will not increase our demands. We will not break the ceasefire. We will not seek any military solution there. We will not stand in the way of a historical political process. I think the question of the forces in the South should be shifted to the political arena, and if this is done, all things will be possible.
I think the Vice Minister understands everything I say in English.
Governor Rockefeller: He gets two shots at what you are saying.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Not exactly.
Dr. Kissinger : One major point—we will use our strength gained through the elections to end the war, not to prosecute it. The Prime Minister should understand we want to end the war so that we can turn to the bigger things that we have discussed.
(At this point Dr. Kissinger suggested that they go into dinner and the party moved to the round table in the same room where a lengthy cordial dinner ensued for a couple of hours. Most of the dinner was taken up with substantive discussion which is recorded below. There were also brief interludes of lighter conversation.)
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Although we had some heated discussions [in the PRC] there was always a good feeling.
Governor Rockefeller: Dr. Kissinger returned with a deep respect and affection for his counterparts.
Dr. Kissinger : It was important work. We have established a good relationship with China, and we have every intention of accelerating it in the new Administration.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We all stated the facts.
Governor Rockefeller: You can’t go wrong with the facts, even at the local level. I am a provincial leader.[Page 5]
Dr. Kissinger : The Ambassador [Huang] taught me a lesson [in July 1971] when we were negotiating the communique about the President’s visit to the PRC. I have not told him this yet. My only experience had been with your northern ally.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: My old friend.
Dr. Kissinger : We tried the same method we used with them, which the Communists usually follow, i.e., to present very extreme demands. I suggested that each side present its maximum position - we present ours, you present yours - and then we would start negotiating. Ambassador Huang said, no, that is not the way to do it. He believed that each side should state what it honestly must have and then the two sides could find words easily. This is what we did. This is how it happened. You know the Russians would prefer to have a worse agreement with some concessions from the other side than to have a better agreement. They insist on extreme demands.
Governor Rockefeller: Is this technique for public consumption or for self-gratification?
Dr. Kissinger : With the Chinese, for example, you would start out with $750 million and end up with $725 million. With the Russians if you started out with 800 million they would settle for $776 million, but they would take it as a victory because they got you down 25 million dollars worth.
Governor Rockefeller: Mr. Vice Minister, it’s a sign of inward insecurity.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: With respect to the negotiations on the boundary question with the Soviet Union.
Governor Rockefeller: Which system is used - the Russian or the Chinese?
Vice Minister Ch’iao: (to Dr. Kissinger) You had some successful negotiations with them. I have not.
Dr. Kissinger : They’re not as afraid of me as they are of you.[Page 6]
Vice Minister Ch’iao: As Dr. Kissinger knows, the negotiations on the borders have gone on for over three years, and I was directly engaged for two years. The negotiations started in 1969 after agreement was reached between the two Prime Ministers in Peking on the principles. What are the present state of the borders between China and the Soviet Union which were established in mid, or the latter part of the, 19th century? China and Czarist Russia concluded a series of unequal treaties. At that time China was in a very weak position. In the unequal treaties there were simply no surveys. They just used pencils and drew lines on the map. That was the way the boundaries were decided. Accordingly, in these unequal treaties problems arose because in certain sections of the treaties they did not stipulate very clearly the borders between China and Russia in these disputed areas. The Soviet side say these belong to them, and we say that they belong to us.
Dr. Kissinger : You do not challenge the treaties themselves?
Vice Minister Ch’iao: No. All propaganda to the contrary is groundless. Some people say the Chinese want to abrogate the unequal treaties and recover all the land seized by Russia. These are groundless and not the position of the Chinese.
Governor Rockefeller: That’s very interesting.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: So in 1969, Mr. Kosygin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union, came to Peking and [Page 7] Premier Chou En-lai talked to him on the boundary question. He said the problems between the two countries should be settled and that negotiations should be held, first, free from any threat and, secondly, proceeding from the basis of taking the SinoRussian treaties on the border as the basis, while at the same time [recognizing that] some disputed areas along the Sino-Russian border exist. From this basic point should proceed negotiations of the question. At that time I was present. Chairman Kosygin then asked, what are the disputed areas? Premier Chou En-lai gave him an explanation of what I said just now. He said, now I understand. Some places you claim are yours, and some we claim are ours. The Premier told him that his understanding was correct. Premier Chou En-lai said, in order for the Sino-Soviet negotiations on the border questions to be conducted free from any threat and through peaceful negotiations, that: there should be three points with regard to the provisions of the agreement. First, one should maintain the status quo of the border. This is a very clear point and needs no explanation. Second, the two sides should avert armed conflict. The third point is that for the disputed areas, which they claim and we claim, the armed forces of both sides must be withdrawn and disengaged. Premier Kosygin said he was in full accord.
Dr. Kissinger : I don’t know your experience but our troubles usually start at that point.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Exactly. That’s where the trouble starts. So the problem follows. There was agreement at that time. Premier Kosygin said that we should write down the points on paper. Premier Chou En-lai said that could be done, and Premier Kosygin asked how many days it would take to put it down on paper. Premier Chou En-lai asked him how many days he wanted. Premier Kosygin said one week. Chou En-ial said all right and within one week we gave them a paper.
When the paper was given to them, they said that these questions should be discussed when negotiations start on the boundary question. We agreed and the negotiations on the boundary question started, and I played a most unhappy role. I was in the negotiations for two years and now the negotiations are going on for more than three years. And I washed my hands of it last year.
And recently on the question of the non-use of force or threat of force, including conventional weapons, missiles, and nuclear weapons, we thought negotiations should be conducted free from any threat of force. So we put forward the proposition that both sides should refrain from doing so. This is in the provisional agreement that we proposed, one of the provisions in the provisional agreement. Because, if between China and the Soviet Union there is any chance of armed conflict, the main problem is with the border question.[Page 8]
Governor Rockefeller: Right.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: And the greatest danger is these disputed areas. The two sides maintain armed forces in these areas, so the forces of the two sides should disengage.
Three years have passed in the negotiations, and no results have been achieved. What I’m going to tell you is something new, that is, recently, in early November, the Soviet Union all of a sudden changed its attitude.
Governor Rockefeller: Very interesting.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: They proposed that we should leave aside other questions and only talk about the non-use of force, of conventional and nuclear weapons and keep this issue separate from the boundary question. On the one hand, they are not recognizing that there are disputed areas of the Sino-Soviet border. On the other band, they are fundamentally opposed to withdrawing their forces from the disputed areas. But it is very clear why they fear so much the disputed areas—once they recognize that there are disputed areas along the Sino-Soviet border, there will be a chain reaction concerning other boundaries.
Dr. Kissinger : From their other allies.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: They try to lasso us by abstract provisions which have nothing to do with reality, such as the non-use of force.
Dr. Kissinger : If you accept this point, it has a relationship to other strategy of theirs which may come along in the next two or three years. It seems to fit into the general strategy of the proposals they are making to us.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Please listen to me. We refused in November.
Dr. Kissinger : You just refused.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Yes. I wanted you to know this piece of information. If anybody tells you that China and the Soviet Union have reached agreement on the non-use of force, including nuclear and conventional weapons, that is unfounded. It is nonsense. You should not believe them. You know our character and what we say is honest.[Page 9]
Dr. Kissinger : We have always been able to rely on your word. I hope you can always rely on our word. Any information we receive from the Soviet Union on its relations with you, we will check with you. It would be useful if you check with us anything on our relations with them that you get from them. We will generally give the information. If you haven’t heard from us, the chances are it is not true. We will reach no understandings with the Soviet Union without your knowing about it. This is a fixed principle of this Administration.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: And I believe since your visit to China relations between our two countries have been according to this principle. We may have difficulties. We may have very heated discussions, for example, in Hangchow—I don’t know whether you remember or not.
Dr. Kissinger : You took a half-hour interval to prepare a speech, but you had provocation.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: No. As we have always done, I wanted to tell you this information.
Dr. Kissinger : I appreciate this very much because, no doubt, we will hear a more complex version in the not too distant future.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: So I wanted to tell you in advance.
Dr. Kissinger : In this connection, we will be under considerable pressure in the next month on the nuclear treaty, of which we gave you the text, but we will proceed with the strategy that we have told you about, of avoiding any commitment to it. We will do it in a complex way without ever actually refusing it. But you can be certain that we will not accept it, and we will keep you informed about any new proposal we receive.
Of course, I want to discuss this whole subject with the Prime Minister when I see him in January.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: I would publish all their thoughts so that they will be discredited before the world. [Page 10] Dr. Kissinger: You have a good intelligence system. You know when I leave my office. You will recall Bangladesh.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: The New York Times did not take my word.
Governor Rockefeller: You should take the New York Times the whole organization, with you.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Do you have any specific requests with respect to your visit to China next January?
Dr. Kissinger : First, I thought I would come around January 6, if this is convenient for you. I thought we might discuss first of all the evolution in our bilateral relations. I am assuming we will have finished the war in Vietnam so that we can then make a schedule for normalization of our relationships. Then I might put before the Prime Minister and you our views on how we envision the next four years and listen to any advice you choose to give us, particularly concerning the problem I discussed with the Ambassador. It is not inconceivable that the maximum dangers of the hegemonial designs that we discussed, and both pledged to oppose in the Shanghai Communique, could arise from 1974 onward. We are determined to oppose this, not out of any consideration for others but for consideration for ourselves.
But this is a complex problem for us, and so I thought we might have a very frank exchange on the general subject—which, of course, we hope will not arise in practice.
And then we might have our usual exchanges on Indochina. I think it is important that after peace is made there should be a period of tranquility for some years. This is particularly true for Cambodia, where you have a special interest. I frankly think that your interests and ours are similar. You want a neutral, independent Cambodia not dominated by any one country, and this is what we want too. There is no American interest there. We don’t care how this is done so long as the evolution is gradual. But unsatisfactory arrangements could affect other relationships. It is very difficult for us to end the war and then have a renewal of war elsewhere because then we are accused of a bad deal that hampers us elsewhere. Our objectives are not dissimilar, if I understand them, and we are not wedded to any particular orientation.[Page 11]
Then we can continue to discuss Europe. Incidentally, I believe the Prime Minister’s discussions with European Foreign Ministers (I have seen reports of these) have been very useful from our point of view. I have said that you are the toughest European country (laughter).
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Talking about this question, the question of Cambodia, I will very bluntly ask you one question. Are you prepared to talk to Prince Sihanouk?
Dr. Kissinger : While I am there?
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Anyway, do you have any ideas of talking with him?
Dr. Kissinger : I will speak very candidly. If we can have a period of quiet then there would inevitably have to be some discussions with Prince Sihanouk.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We are assuming… our hope is that there will be quiet in Vietnam. Of course, there are many questions. When you go to China in January, if you do have the idea of talking to Prince Sihanouk, I can arrange it.
Dr. Kissinger : I have not considered it for that period. But I will be very glad to talk to the Prime Minister about Cambodia. I can tell you now on a confidential basis it would be possible to arrive at an understanding with the Prime Minister that does justice to the concerns of Prince Sihanouk. If the war continues in Cambodia, then we have to maintain in our present position. But what we want in Cambodia, to be very blunt, is to reduce the influence of India and the Soviet Union, and to preserve it from becoming an appendage of Hanoi. Whoever can best preserve it as an independent neutral country, is consistent with our policy, and we believe consistent with yours.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: I think that the three Indochinese countries must be independent, but at the same time must have friendly relations among themselves.
Dr. Kissinger : There are three countries, but four states for the time being. Vice Minister Ch’iao: [Page 12] Of course, the present status is three countries and four sides. But in the historical process, the South and North of Vietnam will inevitably go toward reunification.
Dr. Kissinger : We will not oppose this, and we are not opposed to friendly relations among these countries.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: I think Dr. Kissinger is aware that there was once a summit meeting of the Indochinese peoples, and they published documents, and the documents set forth their principles.
Dr. Kissinger : You left some literature about it in my study in the guest house along with some pictures (Vice Minister Ch’iao: laughs).
Vice Minister Ch’iao: You reminded me—I was going to give you some documents on the SinoSoviet question. But you must be very busy.
Dr. Kissinger : I will read them.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We had some very happy times, with Dr. Kissinger, but we had an experience with our old friend which was very unhappy. In Hangchow we had a big quarrel.
Dr. Kissinger : Yes, until 5 a.m. There was an agreement the night before, and I wanted to change it. I must say seriously, that we had an agreement the night before and for purely internal American reasons we had to request many changes. They were trivial. This made it extremely hard to explain why we needed another session. It was a great tribute to the Prime Minister and the Vice Foreign Minister that they agreed to reopen the question after a half-hour speech during which what was said was basically correct. We spent until S a. m. for internal American reasons of no interest to China, and not on essential problems. It showed very great generosity on the part of the Chinese. They had already had a meeting of their governing body to approve the wording. Nothing affected the essence; only something in one paragraph. I must say we deeply appreciated this, and it was very important in gaining concurrence among all our people for the communique.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Thank you very much. My theory is that we all reason things out. We must make major accommodation within a framework of principle. I can’t impose my ideas on you, nor can you impose your ideas on me. [Page 13] Dr. Kissinger: There was also human understanding, which was very important.
Governor Rockefeller: And respect.
Dr. Kissinger : What always impresses me in dealing with the Chinese is that your word counts.
Governor Rockefeller: Maybe the day will come when your northern neighbor will wish it had settled the border dispute during those two years.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Nobody can tell.
Dr. Kissinger : Joseph Alsop is going to China and will seek an interview with the Prime Minister. If you could pay some attention to him, it would be very useful.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Mr. Galbraith said what you told me he would say.
Dr. Kissinger I want to tell you that I appreciate very much your seeing him.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: And we found he had very clear ideas on the India-Pakistan crisis.
Dr. Kissinger : All wrong.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Really? At the time of the Security Council debate on the entry of Bangladesh, I told Galbraith that we were not opposed to Bangladesh. I said that we thought the people of Bangladesh were good and that we had no prejudice against its leader, but the main thing was to implement the UN resolutions. Galbraith said he was in complete agreement with me, and wondered why Bangladesh was in such a hurry. He said that China was outside the UN for 24 years—it was really 22 years - and that they also should be able to wait 24 years.
Dr. Kissinger : He was very impressed with his meeting with you. He called me when he got back. [Page 14] Vice Minister Ch’iao: I was very much impressed by his views. I thought he was reasoning things out, but you know better. He is your old friend.
Dr. Kissinger : He is a very intelligent and decent man, very influential among American intellectuals, and I thought it was important that you see him. He had a very good impression of the Vice Foreign Minister.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We feel we can make friends with those who are honest.
Dr. Kissinger : The Prime Minister made quite an impression on Foreign Secretary Home with respect to problems where he needed to have an impression on him, including India-Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We talked about the same questions, not only with Home, but Schumann. We are realistic; we are not windbags.
Dr. Kissinger : That is rare among Foreign Ministers these days. [Page 15] In this sense you had a very good influence on the Europeans.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Tomorrow I leave for Britain, and I will probably have a chance to see Lord Home.
Dr. Kissinger : lam sure. If necessary, I will talk with him about this some more.
Dr. Kissinger : In many European countries—this is not true of Home—the left wing is influenced by Moscow. It is very useful to hear from Peking a different assessment of international affairs. Because you are very realistic and not windbags. This is very helpful. I talked to Schumann, Scheel and Home after you. I believe with. respect to Europe in this his torical period our interests are practically identical.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Yes, indeed.
(Dr. Kissinger then got up to propose a toast, which follows):
“This is a very informal occasion, but is also a very notable occasion because I think it is the first opportunity that we in Washington have had to entertain on a social occasion senior officials from the People’s Republic of China. When we look back on the last four years, the most important event in a very dramatic four years has been the first visit to China. It has brought an entirely new perspective to all of us.
“If I may say so, although you are a communist country we greatly respect people who deal with events in terms of objective circumstances and we recognize that you are people who have fought for your ideal in a way that trivial people would not do. You are also people who very strongly defend principle, and we can rely on your word. We deal with you in frankness, openness and mutual trust. We have many shared objectives, some of which were reflected in the Shanghai Communique, and some of which were as discussed tonight at the dinner table. We both oppose hegemony. We both are dedicated to the independence of nations. And we both are dedicated to the principles discussed so much during the visit to China, and which appeared in the Shanghai Communique.
“On our side, a week after the President’s election, I assure you that the normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China is not a tactical development but a profound historical necessity which we will pursue with greater vigor during the new Administration. We will do [Page 16] this because we believe in it. The principles of the Shanghai Communique will be embellished in the next Administration, and we will make the transition in our relations from adversaries to friendship—a friendship which already exists at the human level between our peoples and our governments.
“I propose a toast to the Chinese and American people, to the Vice Foreign Minister, and to an accelerated improvement in our relations.”
(Vice Minister Ch’iao then rose to make his own toast.)
Vice Minister Ch’iao: In the past two years, in the improvement of relations between China and the U.S. all people will remember one person without a name—who is here tonight, “Mr. Doctor”—who has made outstanding contributions. And we also hope that in the relations between our two countries we will continue t o overcome various obstacles and difficulties and head toward accelerated normalization.
At this time here I would like to express congratulations on the reelection of President Nixon.
I think all agree—I agree with the views of our many friends and our friend whose name I forgot. Therefore, I propose a toast to the man whose name I forgot, to Mr. Governor, and to all our friends and the great people ;of our two countries and our great friendship. (Sits down.)
At the banquet in Shanghai, the President said something that our northern friend attacked us about.
It was just a sentence, and was nothing very serious in the first place. He said that when the Chinese and American peoples were united, they would be invincible in the world. They (the northern friends) said from this that China and the U.S. were united against the Soviet Union.
Dr. Kissinger : They said it to us, too.
Governor Rockefeller: They attacked you because it is true.
Dr. Kissinger : On the statement that “this was the week that changed the world” they attacked us. We meant both sentences. It changed the world and it is in our interest to stay together with you.[Page 17]
Vice Minister Ch’iao: This sentence is correct in the first place.
Dr. Kissinger : Both are correct.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: It would indicate the changed situation in the world. And if our two people unite, why not?
Dr. Kissinger : It is not directed against anyone but it is a peaceful intent.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: I have told many friends that we are very patient in our negotiations with our Soviet friends. Why should we oppose the Soviet Union? It is not true. We are not opposed, although we are not in agreement with their policy.
Dr. Kissinger : It is an amazing thing. We make many agreements with the Soviet Union. We always tell you, but there are no complaints. You are not opposed.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We are not that kind of people, with absolutely subjective views. We know that different countries have different views and different ways. of acting. We don’t demand that all the people in the world act as we do.
Dr. Kissinger : You are very self-confident.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Our self-confidence comes from the fact that we have no expansionist intention nor any ulterior motive. We only defend our rights.
Dr. Kissinger : It is important that we both oppose expansionism by others.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We also oppose the hegemony of any country. We jointly oppose the hegemony of any country. We related the same position to Mr. Tanaka and Mr. Ohira. On the question of Japan, I don’t know what you feel. We told you our attitude.[Page 18]
Dr. Kissinger : First, we appreciate the fair way you kept us informed about your moves. Second, we have no objection to the normalization of relations between Japan and the People’s Republic. I think we have a common interest in not exciting Japan’s nationalistic ambitions too much, because even if at first it turns against one of us, at the first change it could turn against the other.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: It was the same with Germany, the Nazis. Nazi Germany first opposed one country and then the other.
Dr. Kissinger : So, if we can keep that principle which we have established in mind, we think that Sino-Japanese relations can be very useful.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We will firmly carry out this policy. The last time Ohira was in the United States, he first talked to you, and then he talked to me.
Dr. Kissinger : When be was in New York City.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: In a reception I said that we very much hoped that Japan would maintain friendly relations with all of her neighbors, with the U.S. and the Soy-let Union and China and other countries.
Governor Rockefeller: Good.
Dr. Kissinger : The danger with Japan is the one the Prime Minister mentioned to me at our last meeting. If it is too full of pride in its achievements it might become very nationalistic. But if countries like you and we encourage it in a moderate direction, we can control that. We have noticed you have not discouraged them from maintaining military relations with us, and you will notice we have not discouraged them from maintaining economic and political relations with you.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We are very clear about this point and I think both of us must make efforts, particularly you, to prevent Japan from embarking on the old track of expansionism and aggression.
Dr. Kissinger : Yes, you can be sure.[Page 19]
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We talked with Tanaka and Ohira about this question, because the results of embarking on the old road would be dangerous and not in the interest of Japan itself.
Dr. Kissinger : We should keep ourselves generally informed.
Vice Minister Chiao: Mr. Doctor, you have greater influence in Japan than China does, so you have greater responsibility. I speak honestly.
Dr. Kissinger : You are right. But if we compete with each other and encourage Japan then neither has any influence. We will encourage Japan in a moderate direction and keep you generally informed. I think it would be helpful if we kept each other informed. Our interests are mutual.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Please rest assured that we will inform you of the general spirit of what we talk about with Japan.
Dr. Kissinger : You have been very correct.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Because a revival of Japanese militarism would not be good for Japan, nor to the interests of China or yourself. Either they would attack you or us and in the end be defeated.
Dr. Kissinger : Right.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: We draw profound lessons from history. We have less to say than you, except in culture. Our attitude is more influential in economic and political problems, the U.S. in military ones.
Dr. Kissinger : Right. On political and military matters, the U.S. has more influence, but in the long range cultural sense, you have more.
Vice Minister Chiao: Correct. But that is caused by history.
Dr. Kissinger : And by Japanese greed.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: That is a problem.
Governor Rockefeller: I suggest that as an observation on Japan, that Japanese economic cooperation with China, and Japanese economic cooperation with other countries should be balanced, so that there is not a one-sided influence.[Page 20]
Vice Minister Ch’iao: I agree. We don’t talk behind the backs of the Japanese. We also tell the Japanese that. What Mr. Governor has said is correct, but it is impossible for Japan to be excessively linked with China economically unless China becomes a colony of Japan. I tell you in confidence we will not repeat fifty years of history.
Governor Rockefeller: I understand.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Some Japanese friends who are sober-minded also understand this. Governor Rockefeller That’s good. Vice Minister Ch’iao: Another subject I would like to talk about is Vietnam. You understand our position. We will not get involved in this question, but we earnestly hope that you will settle it in a very good way. We have our own positions and many questions, but today we will not debate. We can talk about it in Peking.
Indeed this is a very important question. If the Vietnam question cannot be solved, then the Indochina question cannot be solved, and this will be a very difficult problem in the relations between our two countries. This is the overall significance.
Dr. Kissinger : I agree. I hope when I am in Peking we will have a signed agreement. I will not ask you to give me a reply, but when Le Duc Tho comes to Paris be will undoubtedly stop in Peking. The great thing about the Prime Minister’s conversations with me and the President was that be could distinguish between what is essential from the trivial, and he remained objective. The North Vietnamese have one difficulty—they are a small country and they do not have your largeness of spirit—they cant keep the larger view and not get bogged down in detail. If be comes to Paris with this largeness of spirit, I am certain we can reach a fair solution. If there is a period of quiet so normal forces can begin to assert themselves, then I believe that Indochina will disappear as an issue between our two countries. This is our highest objective.[Page 21]
Vice Minister Ch’iao: I am going to tell you my personal opinion. You said that the Vietnamese side and the American side have made many mistakes. You know and we know that we are not in agreement with you on those questions. I will not debate it here. But recently Saigon has made many, many statements and has put forward positions which make the whole situation insoluble. That’s what I’m worried about. That is my personal opinion. I think that after over more than one year of contact between us we have identical positions on many questions. Anyway, we must think of a way out.
I think you still remember before when you were embarking on the plane, Prime Minister Cbou En-Lai said to the President that Vietnam is a small country and the U.S. should assume a high profile.
Dr. Kissinger : I understood the Prime Minister.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: A high vantage point. I think a country like yours can make some concessions. Maybe you can’t accept this. I speak what I think. I don’t want to humiliate you. I have no intention.
Dr. Kissinger : No, no, we are speaking as friends.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: For example, the question of the presence of North Vietnamese troops in the South. If you make too big an issue of it, Hanoi cannot possibly accept, and your views will fundamentally be untenable. I think Prime Minister Chou En-Lal stated to you that we indeed understand the feeling of the Vietnamese people, and you should show some statesmanship to such a fighting and courageous small country. For example, you talk about the propaganda from Hanoi. You should not blame them on this and take what they say to heart. Anyway, we should think of a way out of this question, though it is a small question, if it is not solved, then others cannot be solved.
Dr. Kissinger : I agree. First we must make an effort to find a way out. We are looking at this in a statesmanlike way, and we are not supporting all of Saigon’s points. On the other band, we cannot totally ignore a country in which we have fought and where we are still fighting. It is not unreasonable that they make requests. We are willing to be generous, but we will not back all their demands. We can see from the radio that they are not satisfied. Nobody can respect us if we overthrow a country we have supported. If people see us as being totally cynical, then in other [Page 22] difficult situations there is a problem. We will not make an excessive issue of the North Vietnamese troops. They must make some concession, but we do not ask them to make all. They do not have to make all the concessions; we will make some too and approach them half way, but they must do something. Your influence could be very helpful. I know you have your principles, as we have ours. I have experienced yours, usually after midnight (laughter).
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Mr. “X” (laughter), I am not Le Duc Tho. I do not represent Le Duc Tho. It would be a good thing to settle this question.
Dr. Kissinger : My own estimate is that by the time I come to Peking, if Hanoi shows any reasonableness, this will be settled.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: I won’t discuss this with you. I will only say one word. I studied philosophy.
Dr. Kissinger : So did I.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: So we’re in the same line. One should not lose the whole world just to gain South Vietnam. Perhaps the Governor will not agree with me, but you’re too much involved in South Vietnam.
Governor Rockefeller: I don’t think we will lose the whole world.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: There are many causes. I talked philosophy with you last year. The results of the India-Pakistan question were that you were too much involved. You may not agree,, and treat me as a professor treats a student.
Dr. Kissinger : I agree that there is something in what you say, but if we are humiliated in Indochina we will not be able to do anything anywhere else. The Governor is more experienced than I am, and knows this.
Governor Rockefeller: Just as a politician.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: You are modest.[Page 23]
Governor Rockefeller: As an observer rather than a politician, we have been through a period of politics for North Vietnam, South Vietnam and the U.S., partly having to do with the elections. Now we can say that the time has come to get together and settle.
Vice Minister Chiao: Because now you are in the position to settle the question.
Governor Rockefeller: Now we are in a position to settle.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: That is not to say that we hope that somebody is humiliated. Nobody should be humiliated.
Dr. Kissinger : On that basis we can certainly settle within a month. My honest judgment is that it is 80 - 85 percent settled, and it would be a great tragedy if the remaining differences were to stop an agreement.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: I’m a little worried about the question of North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam. If you act like the propaganda in Saigon it will be difficult.
Dr. Kissinger : I will tell you informally that we will not go nearly so far as the propaganda in Saigon, but Hanoi must cooperate and give us something. Then we can go to Saigon and say this is all we can get. But if Hanoi does nothing then there is a problem. I can assure you that we will not go nearly so far as Saigon.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: I told you now that I am not Le Duc Tho.
Dr. Kissinger : We need a face-saving formula. You know how much importance we Westerners attach to face.
Vice Minister Ch’iao: Just like Orientals! You have talked with us one year and more, and you know that the Chinese are frank and honest.
Dr. Kissinger : Yes, and they always keep their word.
(The Chinese soon took their leave in a most cordial fashion.)
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 850, President’s File-China Trip, China Exchanges, Oct 24, 1972-Dec 31, 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Presumably drafted by either Holdridge or Lord. Ellipses and brackets in the source text. The meeting was held at the Century Club. Also in attendance on the U.S. side were Governor Nelson Rockefeller (R-New York) and Haig.↩
- President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger and Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ch’iao Kuan-hua discussed the prospects of a settlement in Vietnam, the Sino-Soviet border question, their mutual concern about a “nationalistic” Japan, and the continuation of good relations between the U.S. and China.↩