41. Memorandum of Conversation, Beijing, October 21, 1971, 4:42-7:17 p.m.1 2



  • Prime Minister Chou En-lai, People’s Republic of China
  • Chang Wen-chin, Director, Western Europe and American Department, PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Hsuing Hsiang-hui, Secretary to the Prime Minister
  • Wang Hai-jung, Deputy Chief of Protocol, PRC
  • Tang Wen-sheng and Chi Chao-chu, Chinese Interpreters Chinese Notetakers
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Winston Lord, Senior Staff Member, NSC

PLACE: Great Hall of the People, Peking

DATE & TIME: October 21, 1971, 4:42 - 7:17 p.m.


Dr. Kissinger: I wonder whether before we start this subject I could make two points to the Prime Minister.

PM Chou: Please.

Dr. Kissinger: One is, again, a minor technical point. It would be best, and I think the Prime Minister agrees, if the technical people met as a group. This way Commander Howe can keep an eye on them, whereas if they break up into separate groups I can’t be responsible for them.

PM Chou: We don’t think it’s good to break into several groups.

Dr. Kissinger: And if the Prime Minister would permit me to make another comment picking up a point we made this morning. (Chou nods)

This morning the Prime Minister said certain words are “empty guns” and we shouldn’t take them so seriously, and in general I agree with him. But I thought it might interest the Prime Minister if I showed [Page 2] him a report which I received from my office on how the American press played the arrival here, and which points they stressed. A lot of this material doesn’t concern China at all, but I didn’t want the Prime Minister to think that I am being secretive so I am giving him the whole cable. And I think the Prime Minister will see that in both the written press and on television, instead of emphasizing the purpose for which I came here, people stress certain signs that the press noticed that were put up at the airport. (Chou laughs)

Here is the whole document; you can read it yourself. I have underlined the points. It’s … the only reason I mention it is because, in my case it is not a matter of great importance, except I am convinced at this moment the Ambassadors from Taiwan, the Soviet Union and Japan are very active in spreading this all over Washington.

PM Chou: That’s certain.

Dr. Kissinger: And if this were to happen in the case of the President, then it would, of course, have a very bad effect on public opinion. But I say this in the spirit of our discussion this morning, and not as any criticism. Of course, I have sent a telegram to point out that despite all the press has reported, our reception could not have been more cordial nor the discussions more constructive. I have just sent this back.

PM Chou: Your comments were correct.

Dr. Kissinger: That is my profound conviction. I did this so that people would not misunderstand the report.

PM Chou: Right, I was fully prepared in spirit for all of this, for them doing so because our slogan has been up there for quite a long time.

Dr. Kissinger: I won’t discuss it, because I considered the Prime Minister’s toast our greeting and nothing else.

PM Chou: Don’t they think that we have said enough? Our slogan includes application to imperialism, revisionism, and all other reactionaries, so they must be feeling better.

[Page 3]

Dr. Kissinger: They don’t know what revisionism means, Mr. Prime Minister. I hate to tell you that.

PM Chou: That’s where the trouble comes from, and that’s where the tragedy arises. They say we are left revisionists.

Dr. Kissinger: That is true.

PM Chou: So, shall we continue. Some small matters are bound to arise, but this does not obstruct the development of the general situation. With respect to the question of Taiwan, there is one more question I would like to clarify.

Dr. Kissinger: Please.

PM Chou: That is with respect to the proposal, the draft resolution put forward in the United Nations by the United States and Japanese Governments advocating one China and two governments. The proposal in this form, on the contrary, has made it even more unacceptable when it is considered from the point of view of the UN charter. Of course we oppose this resolution.

But about your putting this forward, some people say there is now a feeling on your part of wanting to have it fail, and in view of your words this morning, I don’t think you would wish for your resolution completely to fail. The spirit in which the personal representative of your President, Mr. Reagan, acted in his visit to Taiwan and in his talks with Chiang Kai-shek, I don’t think was in the same spirit. We don’t think that resolution was of a very high standard. Of course, I also understand it is difficult to put forward a resolution of that kind.

Dr. Kissinger: First of all Governor Reagan is a specialized aspect of the American political scene. Now I will speak frankly to you Mr. Prime Minister, because it makes no sense … you will meet our diplomats soon enough. For us to carry out the policy toward you which you and I discussed in July, it is important that we maintain as long as possible the support of the sort of people whom Governor Reagan represents. And up to now, he has publicly supported our initiative, and this has been of great consequence in enabling us to restrain that China lobby.

[Page 4]

PM Chou: So is the China lobby more concentrated in the western part of the United States than others?

Dr. Kissinger: It is concentrated primarily in southern California, and in some parts of the south, but more in the western part and southern part, not in the eastern part.

PM Chou: Is it because some persons in the western parts and southern parts of the United States are more interested in Pacific affairs, have some investments in the Orient, or because some missionaries when they withdrew from the Orient went to the West and South?

Dr. Kissinger: I think the missionary element is of considerable importance, as with Representative Judd.

PM Chou: Judd?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. And I think also Governor Reagan represents the conservative wing, and for the conservative wing anti-communism has always been an ideological necessity.

PM Chou: Was Senator Judd’s family missionaries?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, medical missionaries.

PM Chou: And he has the same surname that I have.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh really? So Governor Reagan’s trip should be seen in terms of the American domestic policy. He does not represent our foreign policy.

If you reveal these statements, you will also have to give me some employment in your foreign office.

PM Chou: (laughs) There is no question of revealing these things.

Dr. Kissinger: Now secondly, Mr. Prime Minister, it does indicate, however, as I said to you this morning, that victory this year for the Albanian Resolution would not be in the best interests of the policy you and I have been discussing.

[Page 5]

PM Chou: That’s why I am asking you, wouldn’t it be very unfavorable to you if your draft resolution could not win the sympathy of other countries?

Dr. Kissinger: In my view, for this year it would be unfavorable for both of us.

PM Chou: It’s easy for us. We can just not go and leave Chiang Kai-shek there. And Kishi especially went to ask Chiang to stay in the United Nations, no matter what the consequences.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, he cannot stay if the Albanian Resolution succeeds.

PM Chou: But now Kishi is going to see your President.

Dr. Kissinger: This visit of Kishi to the President is an annual event which is produced by the fact that they played golf together when the President was out of office.

PM Chou: (laughs) Does he also play golf?

Kissinger: Yes. It has nothing to do with the UN.

PM Chou: But it has something to do with Chiang Kai-shek.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t believe so. I believe from what I know, and if I am wrong I will inform you to the contrary, he wants to discuss the relationship of Japan to the U.S. primarily in the economic field. I will request a report on this conversation if it should take place while I am here. I do not believe it concerns Chiang Kai-shek . . I am certain it does not concern Chiang Kai-shek but I will check.

One result of an unfavorable UN vote this year would be that it would give our opponents a symbol around which to rally. But I am answering your question, Mr. Prime Minister. It is not a suggestion we are making to you. I am explaining to you why we have taken the position we have.

Now, with respect to the first question the Prime Minister put to me, whether we put forward the resolution in order to be defeated. The original [Page 6] proposal which our bureaucracy made was in the direction of a two-China solution, which simply said that any government that exercised jurisdiction over an area should be in the UN, and it put Taiwan on the same level as the two Germanies, and two Koreas, and so forth. After our conversation in July we have changed this to its present, somewhat inelegant, formulation, which is to say one China and in effect two governments for the time being. We thought, in the spirit of our discussion, to maintain the principle of one China might be more important to you than the subsidiary issue of representation in the UN.

PM Chou: The same with us. On our side, we will certainly not give up Taiwan, or accept a so-called undetermined status for Taiwan in exchange for a seat in the UN.

Dr. Kissinger: We understand that.

PM Chou: Because since the beginning of the debate in the UN up to the present I have felt such a shadow and I have been openly discussing this with some foreign visitors. I have asked some Japanese friends: if the UN agreed for Japan to be a permanent member of the Security Council, but would not allow you to reacquire full sovereignty over Okinawa, and asked you to give up forever all sovereignty over the four small islands north of Hokkaido, would Japan agree? They said they wouldn’t, and those whom I spoke to included representatives of the Japanese-opposition, of the Democratic Liberal party, and those with no political affiliations.

Dr. Kissinger: Under our present formula, you are not required to give up sovereignty.

PM Chou: You mean your draft resolution or the Albanian Resolution?

Dr. Kissinger: Even under our resolution.

PM Chou: It’s very easy to deal with the U.S. draft resolution. We can just refuse to go. That’s very simple. I can go back and go to bed. The question is that in the other resolution it calls for the restoration of all lawful rights of China in the United Nations, including its seat in the UN.

[Page 7]

In that resolution it is not possible to put in a clause concerning the status of Taiwan, and if it is passed, the status of Taiwan is not yet decided.

Dr. Kissinger: In the Albanian Resolution?

PM Chou: There is such a danger. Of course, countries who support the Albanian Resolution haven’t thought of this side of the question. But under this condition another shadow has appeared in the UN, and that might meet us on this.

Dr. Kissinger: Which shadow?

PM Chou: The activities I told you about conducted by Japan.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh I see.

PM Chou: Why does Britain want to leave such a tail behind? Few countries in the world operate this way. And therefore in the draft communique we would like to prepare between our countries for the visit of President Nixon the wording regarding Taiwan is most difficult, and we will have to rely on your assistants. They are young and will be able to find a good way.

Dr. Kissinger: We will try to find some formulation that … as I told you, it is harder for us to say everything than to do some of the things described, but we will try to find a way to indicate our understanding of your concern. Although it probably will not go far enough for your ultimate desire.

PM Chou: And do you mean it’s diametrically opposed to our ultimate desire or in the same direction?

Dr. Kissinger: It will be in the same direction.

PM Chou: We will wait to see your wording and your wisdom.

Dr. Kissinger: We will try various formulations.

PM Chou: We are also considering this question.

Dr. Kissinger: As for the U.S. resolution in the UN, I think this is one of the questions history will take care of.

[Page 8]

PM Chou: That’s true, but the struggle that we face here today is quite troublesome. Because the majority of the countries in the UN truly wish to restore the lawful rights of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations, especially in view of the fact that it has been deprived this for twenty-six years, and especially in view of the fact that since the announcement has been made it has encouraged them greatly. Japan itself wavered for a long time over this issue, and that is very natural.

But what we think is more important is the future of Taiwan. And this is the most crucial issue between our two countries.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

PM Chou: And so the question is rather complicated.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

PM Chou: Since August 20, we haven’t said anything on the issue of the UN.

Dr. Kissinger: I know. You have been very restrained and we have greatly appreciated it.

PM Chou: We have to see how the debate comes out.

Dr. Kissinger: We have valued your restraint.

PM Chou: Because in view of the whole situation in the world, since our two countries wish to improve our relations, then every step we take should be beneficial to that direction, but it shouldn’t be detrimental to the interests of our two peoples.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. The only question we have to discuss is not the direction but the rate of progress we can make.

PM Chou: If the rate of progress is a bit slower, that’s an easy aspect of the matter to deal with. The trouble is if anything else from another direction barges in that will be troublesome, like the knife of Mishima. A horizontal knife like that, if it should come, that would be troublesome.

[Page 9]

Dr. Kissinger: We both face the problem that many countries and groups in the world might have an interest in destroying the fragile relationship we are trying to build. We are determined to proceed in the direction which we have started.

PM Chou: There are not a few who wish to break up this relationship. I am not speaking about those among the people. I am speaking about those in power.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. We have two dangers from which to guard, speaking from our side. One is the elements who want to come in from the side, as the Prime Minister points out, and the second is that if we try to go too fast we tear the fabric. So what we should do is to establish the direction both in these talks and when the President comes here, and then to be sure that every step we take is in this direction, and that we take no steps that are detrimental.

So we can call that a stage in our discussions and we can mention it later on in our conclusion if it is agreeable to the Prime Minister.

PM Chou: Shall we go on to the next question, the question of Indochina, which is an even more urgent question than the Taiwan issue, because your troops are still in Indochina and haven’t left yet; and we said very long ago that we wish to settle matters not through force but through peaceful negotiations. We said this 16 years ago, and now in view of the fact that your President is coming to visit it should be more so.

Now the United Nations is discussing this matter so there is no special reason for us to be very hasty on this matter. On the contrary, what we are worried about is that if our legitimate rights in the United Nations are restored, while the status of Taiwan is left hanging in the air, we will have to consider this matter.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand this point. It is new to me quite honestly. I had not thought of it this way.

PM Chou: But now the relatively more urgent issue is the issue of Indochina, because the war there has not yet ended; your troops the re have not withdrawn totally and the date of final withdrawal has not been [Page 10] set even. And this year and in the coming year it will be an issue which people throughout the world, including people of the United States, will call for even more urgently. Especially since you left here, since you went back, the United States Government has not replied to the seven points put forward by the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: This is not true. The Prime Minister is not correctly informed.

PM Chou: But it is an open fact, open propaganda if that is the case.

Dr. Kissinger: No.

PM Chou: Because the whole world is saying the seven-point proposal can be taken as a basis for discussion but the United States, since the proposal was put forward, has refused to answer it. Especially after you returned from China, the U.S. has refused to take such a position, and this makes the people of the world more unhappy.

Dr. Kissinger: I will let you finish, Mr. Prime Minister.

PM Chou: Some people are saying that it goes without saying the United States in coming to China is wishing to put the Vietnamese people aside in this matter. The seven-point proposal put forward by the Minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the —

Dr. Kissinger: I know what you mean.

PM Chou: Was put forward on the first day of July and the announcement was made on the 15th of July and after that the United States Government has refused to give any answer to the proposal and some people are saying it was due to pressure from the Chinese. Though the Chinese Government would never undertake any such obligation, some people are talking in this way. You told me beforehand you were going to change the head of your delegation at Paris, and you said he could also be sent to China. At that time I didn’t connect it with the Paris talks. But after the issues of the announcement, and after such rumors were spreading around in the world, it was impossible for us to accept Mr. Bruce.

Dr. Kissinger: We understood.

[Page 11]

PM Chou: Of course, personally, we are sorry, but under that political atmosphere, it was impossible to accept him.

Dr. Kissinger: We understand this, but we hope after some interval you will be able to accept him because he is the diplomat whom the White House trusts the most, who is most reliable and can speak freely.

PM Chou: Why is it he couldn’t succeed in Paris? So it seems to us that if the United States Government and President Nixon doesn’t take the initiative to proclaim a date of final withdrawal from Indochina, it will be detrimental to the President’s visit to China. Of course, it would not have any other effect—the visit will still take place, but it will be better if this is solved. And I have told you before that as a matter of principle we support the PRG’s seven-point proposal.

Dr. Kissinger: I have never doubted it.

PM Chou: The specific solution must be worked out between your two sides, because that is a matter of other sovereign countries, and we cannot intervene. Although we have given such large amounts of assistance to Vietnam, we never intervene in their internal affairs. The final decision lies with the Vietnamese.

And therefore we find it difficult to understand why President Nixon would not like to declare a date of final withdrawal from Indochina at such a favorable time like this. Because you told me last time that you really did wish to withdraw from Vietnam, that you didn’t want to continue to be bogged down in that quagmire. People in the United States and the rest of the world have their eyes on this issue. And this is a question even more important than the question of the restoration of the lawful rights of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations, and a question even more urgent than the normalization of Sino-American relations.

Dr. Kissinger: Are you finished?

PM Chou: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me reply to you, Mr. Prime Minister, with absolute frankness. For us, Vietnam is a very anguishing problem. We have been there now for many years, and it has provoked enormous suffering in the United States. It was not this Administration that got us into the war, but we have a responsibility for ending it.

[Page 12]

PM Chou: Yes, before President Nixon came to office he had promised he would do so.

Dr. Kissinger: In 1967 when I was a private citizen, I started private negotiations with Hanoi on my own initiative, which later became official negotiations. But I must say that while your allies in Vietnam know how to fight, I am not sure that they know how to negotiate. Also I do not believe they have correctly informed you about what has gone on this year.

First of all, which is a point of your honor, namely, the implication that you have in any contributed to enabling us not to answer the seven points—this is of course totally untrue. When I met with Mr. Le Duc Tho in Paris on July 26 I told him we wanted to end the war in Hanoi, and not Peking, and when we went to Peking it was to discuss Sino-U.S. relations and not the Vietnam negotiations.

Now, let me tell the Prime Minister what we have done this year, and he will see that the accusation that we have not replied to the seven points is totally wrong.

On May 31 I met Minister Xuan Thuy secretly in Paris and proposed to him seven points for ending the war, seven American points. One of these seven points was an offer to set a deadline for our withdrawal. On June 26, Mr. Le Duc Tho came to Paris, and I met with him secretly and he proposed to me nine points in reply. On July 1, Madame Binh published her seven points, and the Prime Minister will admit that it is an odd procedure to be given nine points secretly and seven points publicly. As a diplomatic historian, I don’t know many examples of this procedure.

On July 12, on the way back from Peking, I met Mr. Le Duc Tho secretly in Paris. I may tell the Prime Minister, while it was difficult to get to Peking unobserved, it was infinitely harder to meet Mr. Le Duc Tho secretly with 200 press people chasing me all over Paris. I asked Le Duc Tho which points we should deal with, the nine points or the seven points. He told us that the nine points were the more significant points, and that these were the ones we should negotiate. Since the nine points were secret, it was obvious that we could not make a public reply to the seven points, or there would have been absolute confusion.

Nevertheless, on August 16, we made a formal eight-point proposal which incorporated our reply to the nine points as well as our reply to the seven points and which in fact accepted verbatim several of the seven points, word for word. I might point out, Mr. Prime Minister, that while I came secretly to Paris, Mr. Le Duc Tho could not find it possible to come from Hanoi, and I had to deal with a subordinate.

[Page 13]

PM Chou: Xuan Thuy?

Dr. Kissinger: Xuan Thuy.

On September 13, I came again secretly to Paris; again Mr. Le Duc Tho was not present. At this meeting, Mr. Xuan Thuy rejected two of the eight points we had made. We then reformulated our proposals, and we have submitted eight new points on October 11. Of these eight points, six are the same; we reformulated the two points to which Hanoi objected.

We have requested another secret meeting on November 1, and we have not yet received a reply. Therefore, far from our refusing to reply to the seven points, it is Hanoi who has refused to reply to us. Of our eight points, four are drawn almost verbatim from the nine points of Hanoi and two are drawn from the seven points of Madame Binh, verbatim.

Also, Mr. Prime Minister, you spoke very eloquently the last time we were here about the necessity of not leaving any tail behind. This has been reflected in our proposals of August 16, but especially in our proposal of October 11.

I want to be candid with you, Mr. Prime Minister. If we made our proposals public we could completely dominate public opinion on this question because we have gone as far as anyone could possibly go, and there will be no one in the United States of America who will ask us to go further than we have gone. But we are not interested in winning a propaganda battle; we are interested in ending the war. And we see no reason why Hanoi will settle more easily if we engage in a public exchange with them if it doesn’t in the form of secret exchanges.

So the problem as we see it is this. We have offered to set a fixed date for withdrawal. We have offered new elections six months after a peace is signed. We have offered that all American troops withdraw one month before the election. And we have offered that the President and Vice President of Vietnam resign one month before the election so that they do not run the election.

[Page 14]

So you see, Mr. Prime Minister, we have taken the matters you mentioned to us to heart. And while we understand that you do not want to interfere in this process, it is an interesting question whether one little country obsessed with its suffering and obsessed with the war should be permitted to thwart every progress because its suspicion is so great that it will not make a negotiated settlement. Why should we want to maintain bases in one little corner of Asia when the whole trend of our policy is to form a new relationship with the most important country in Asia? If the leaders of Vietnam ever spoke to us with anything approaching the largeness of spirit that has been shown by you, Mr. Prime Minister, we could settle the war within a matter of days.

At the same time, I must tell you, in all honesty, we have made our last offer. We cannot go further than we have gone. We believe that every reasonable objective that Hanoi could have can be safeguarded. We want the independence for the countries of Southeast Asia—the only countries who want the war to continue are those who wish to create a bloc against you, not us, whatever our original motive.

Hanoi has not yet replied to our last proposal, so we do not know what their attitude is, but it is they who owe us an answer.

PM Chou: You mean the …

Dr. Kissinger: The October 11 proposal. But I can assure you we would like nothing better than to have ended the war when we come to Peking.

PM Chou: That is also something we would hope for.

Dr. Kissinger: We know you do not trade in principles. Nor do we ask you to do so, but we do not believe that one now has to trade in principles to end this war on the basis of proposals we have made.

PM Chou: So did your final proposal include a clause regarding the date of a final withdrawal?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

PM Chou: For a complete withdrawal or a partial withdrawal; are you going to leave some behind?

[Page 15]

Dr. Kissinger: All American forces, except the normal number in a military attache’s office, which is very small, will be out of the country during the month before the election. And the election will be six months after a peace settlement. At this time there will be no American forces in Vietnam except at the American Embassy.

I will be very specific so that you know the precise proposal if you are interested. We have proposed that we sign immediately, in a matter of weeks, a statement of principles on which a settlement should be based. We will withdraw all American forces except a few thousand within seven months of the signing of these principles, even if there is no peace treaty. We will withdraw all American forces, even these few thousand that are left, within six months of a peace settlement, of the final settlement. So we have given them two versions that guarantee in effect our total withdrawal.

PM Chou: You mean after you withdraw all your military forces, except the military attache’s office, a month afterward there will be an election?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

PM Chou: You mean this present election that was held will not count?

Dr. Kissinger: It will count until that election.

PM Chou: (laughs) It’s a question; that is your view.

Dr. Kissinger: We don’t have to debate that because that isn’t relevant to the proposal.

PM Chou: Is there any such condition that not only the war between the United States and Vietnam should cease, but also the civil war should cease?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, there is a condition for cease-fire.

PM Chou: You mean an all-around cease-fire?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but there is also the provision that the existing President and Vice President should resign one month before the election.

[Page 16]

PM Chou: But you mean, both the cease-fire and the resignation of the former President and Vice President, and new elections, is it only confined to Vietnam?

Dr. Kissinger: The election is confined to South Vietnam, because that is the only issue we have so far negotiated with Hanoi. The cease-fire applies to all of Indochina. But that, of course, includes our bombing also, air activity.

PM Chou: By withdrawal of troops, do you mean withdrawal of your Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps from the whole of Indochina?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

PM Chou: Recently we have heard your commander of the Pacific, Admiral McCain, was saying very loudly that you must not withdraw from Indochina. He said that you shouldn’t withdraw from places that he was in charge of.

Dr. Kissinger: That leaves either two choices. He will either carry out his orders, or we will put someone else in charge of these places.

PM Chou: Probably also some “empty guns.” (laughs)

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, Admiral McCain is a very enthusiastic admiral.

PM Chou: Something like General Patton, maybe? (laughter) I have a very deep impression of that general. I saw the film only after you left. If I had seen it before you came I would have talked to you a lot about that film.

Dr. Kissinger: The President has seen that film more often than Admiral McCain.

PM Chou: That’s why I was more interested in Patton. I hear he was a real character.

Dr. Kissinger: Patton? Yes. I was a private and I saw Patton, and the actor really had all his characteristics.

[Page 17]

PM Chou: You were under him?

Dr. Kissinger: In the way a very low-ranking man is. I served in his Army. I do not believe he was conscious of my existence. (laughter)

PM Chou: (to notetaker): You liked to see Patton?

Miss Pineau: Quite honestly I haven’t seen it. I would like to see it.

Dr. Kissinger: There will be compulsory attendance.

PM Chou: There must be some knots in this question to make them not believe the United States really wants to withdraw and make this into an area of peace and non-alignment.

Dr. Kissinger: Of course, they have not replied to this proposal, and maybe they will accept.

PM Chou: I must tell you honestly I don’t know a word of this, of the eight points just now mentioned, and the two points changed. I don’t know a word of it, because it was during the period just after the visit of Mr. Podgorny of the Soviet Union. You know about this visit.

Dr. Kissinger: I know about it but I don’t know what went on. We did not send a message with Podgorny.

PM Chou: (laughs) I would not think you would send it through him. But he had some demands Vietnam would not agree to. They are sticking out their hands everywhere. All three horses of the troika are busier than ever.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, we have stimulated them into frantic activity.

PM Chou: (laughs) Probably; possible.

Dr. Kissinger: I have often asked myself the question you put to me, why will they not accept it? And I have no good answer except to say that the qualities that make for heroism are not necessarily the qualities that make for peace.

PM Chou: Not completely; some have both qualities.

Dr. Kissinger: Some have both, but …

[Page 18]

PM Chou: But to take the nation as a whole, it will finally temper itself to a fine degree. For instance, Napoleon was a hero in war, but he failed in the end. But the revolutionary spirit and tradition of France as a nation was preserved. The same as the pioneer spirit which exists in your people’s tradition. So every nation so long as it exists has its good tradition and its strong points.

Dr. Kissinger: No question, and as I told the Prime Minister last time, I personally admire the North Vietnamese.

PM Chou: Yes, I always think that if you were to categorically withdraw it would be a glory to you and not a defeat. General DeGaulle withdrew even more troops than you did and following that, two million inhabitants withdrew from Algeria, and that was even more difficult than if you were to do it now.

Dr. Kissinger: He found someone to negotiate with. The North Vietnamese are so suspicious, so convinced we are trying to trick them, that either they would find a trick in our proposal, or if they can’t find a trick they have to reject it until they have found a trick. There is a certain egocentricity about them. They believe we have nothing else on our mind except how we can out-maneuver them. This isn’t true. We genuinely want to make peace with them and we genuinely want to establish a basis of trust with them. If this were not true, and we were not seeking a negotiated end, I wouldn’t have come to Paris secretly on so many occasions.

We will withdraw one way or the other. The only question is whether we will withdraw more slowly or we will withdraw as the result of a negotiation.

PM Chou: But there is a historical reason for the Vietnamese attitude, which I discussed with you the last time, that is because they were taken in in 1954 during the Geneva Agreements.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand this, but if they have learned a lesson from 1954, so should we have. The lesson they have learned is they were tricked. The lesson we have learned is that if they are tricked again they will fight again. No peace lasts unless the countries it affects wish to maintain it. This is true in our relations and it is true in our relations with North Vietnam.

[Page 19]

PM Chou: So the question now arises, if you want an all-around ceasefire, wouldn’t that be equal to a freeze on the situation? And then the Vietnamization program would continue?

Dr. Kissinger: No, because the government would resign and we would withdraw, and because we have reformulated one of the points of Madame Binh. We are willing to accept restrictions on the amount of military aid which we can give to South Vietnam as part of the peace settlement.

PM Chou: You mean the government that is set up after this new election?

Dr. Kissinger: Whatever the government is, we will accept limitations on the amount of military and economic assistance we can give. And finally, there is one point I have not yet mentioned to the Prime Minister, which we have not put into the proposal because we cannot accept the principle of paying an indemnity. But we have said after the principles are agreed to we would, as an act of free will, ask our Congress to earmark $7.5 billion for the reconstruction of Indochina, of which $2 billion would be for North Vietnam. That is not a formal proposal; that is a separate understanding, or rather a promise. That is over a five-year period.

PM Chou: Then there is a second question. What will be the effect of all-around cease-fire on Cambodia? Wouldn’t that mean the Lon Nol clique would remain?

Dr. Kissinger: We don’t accept the characterization of the Prime Minister. It means the political forces in Cambodia will work themselves out over a period of time. If the North Vietnamese forces withdrew from Cambodia, the question wouldn’t arise at all. But it would be unlikely that history would stop in Cambodia.

PM Chou: The Lon Nol/Sirik Matak clique is a clique that is reactionary to the extreme, and on this matter perhaps our views differ greatly. And the Cambodian people want to continue to work to overthrow it. What can you do about that? Like the Chinese people worked to overthrow Chiang Kai-shek, you can go on to aid them for three to five years. What will be its result? The result will still be its collapse. How can you maintain Southeast Asia as a region of peace and non-alignment?

Dr. Kissinger: If the North Vietnamese withdrew their forces from Cambodia it would be easy for us to accept restrictions on the amount of military aid we can give to Cambodia, and then the Cambodians can settle their future by themselves.

[Page 20]

PM Chou: If you are going to give assistance to Lon Nol-Sirik Matak, then we will certainly have to give assistance to Sihanouk. What good is that?

Dr. Kissinger: If all outside forces withdrew and neither side gave assistance, then the local forces can determine their future.

PM Chou: You mean they will resolve it between themselves.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. Our interest in Cambodia has always been the presence of the North Vietnamese; it has never been the Cambodian situation as such.

PM Chou: But this question was created there in your invasion into Cambodia.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know whether the Prime Minister wants to debate history, but there were 50,000 North Vietnamese in Cambodia before we went in there.

PM Chou: That was because the United States troops went into South Vietnam and they had sympathy there for South Vietnam. Even we didn’t know about that. It was Lon Nol himself who told me about this fact in this very room. I was sitting in this chair; he was in the one you are in. That was when he came to China in 1969 to celebrate our 20th anniversary. He came as the Prime Minister of Cambodia, and I was greatly surprised and taken aback by that fact. Because I know first of all that Sihanouk believed in Buddhism and was peace-loving. The second fact was that he was pro-French, although very friendly toward China. Because we are good friends, he also wrote some good poetry in memory of our friendship. But his politics and his life were both French still.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s correct.

PM Chou: But because he sympathized with the South Vietnamese people who had been pushed into war for 10 years, he allowed some of their troops to use the eastern part of Cambodia to maneuver their troops. He didn’t even tell us. It was in 1969 when I was talking with him in this room that Lon Nol told me about it. It was upon hearing this I said this Prince is truly remarkable. And Sihanouk had this sympathy for them. [Page 21] But the United States has no reason to rebuke Sihanouk, nor does the United States have any reason to rebuke the North Vietnamese for assisting their compatriots in South Vietnam. Because in 1954 after the Geneva Conference, they withdrew their armed fighters and they did so very scrupulously, in good faith.

After we reached agreement on the announcement last July the first country we went to was Hanoi. I told them about our meeting so there would be no misunderstanding.

At that time (1954) Le Duan and Pham Van Dong, who were both from the south, said it had been a very painful experience for them to persuade their fellows in the south to withdraw to the north with their weapons and leave their families in the south. At that time Le Duan had asked to remain in the south. He was confident that after 30 years the revolution in the south would be successful. Because he saw it was difficult for these fighters to leave their families. They were only able to persuade their fighters to go because of the prestige of Premier Ho Chi Minh. Because it was stipulated in the Geneva Agreements that one year after the Conference, representatives of the North and the South would meet and discuss a way of holding elections under the provisions of the agreement to unify Vietnam, and it was on the basis of this that they persuaded fighters to withdraw to North Vietnam, though they left their families. They believed that soon after they would be able to hold elections.

And I believe you also believe that if elections had been held, Premier Ho Chi Minh would have been elected. John Foster Dulles said so, as did many others. But this was false, dirty, what Dulles did, and even Eden wrote about it in his memoirs! He said, “I won’t sign this. I will issue a statement saying I will not disturb the agreement.” But it was he himself who disturbed the agreements, and he told Eden, and Eden wrote in his memoirs that this was false and that after the Geneva Conference they had immediately worked with the Southeast Asians. They had worked on a policy of brinkmanship… they had drawn a line. He believed in a philosophy you no longer believe in, that he thought they could draw a circle around the communist countries to contain them as if all the socialist countries were one monolith.

[Page 22]

But that is not true. On the other hand, they believed once they drew a line all the countries on their side would also be a monolith. But that is not possible either. Even those in South Vietnam would not listen to them. The U.S. sent in military advisors, military forces, and it was this thing that gave rise to the war of aggression in South Vietnam. And it was these members of families of fighters who had gone to the north that rose up to fight against this aggression. Why should such an indomitable nation not be allowed to be independent?

Dr. Kissinger: But no one is keeping them from being independent now. Whatever the reading of history, we now have the wisdom to make a peace that accords with these national aspirations. They have proved they will fight; they no longer need show it. Their guarantee is not this or that clause or proposal; their guarantee is that there is a completely different world outlook between Dulles’ policy and our policy. In 1954, the United States was getting engaged; in 1971 our approach is quite different. If we wanted to pursue the Dulles policy, I wouldn’t be talking to you. Therefore, if we want to pursue peace in Indochina now it will not be for reasons of intervention, but for peace over the longer term.

PM Chou: Anyway, there is a knot in your negotiations that hasn’t been untied.

Dr. Kissinger: This is true.

PM Chou: Because they believe that your tendency is to assist Thieu, Lon Nol, Sirik Matak, and Tam. So on this question if you don’t take a fair attitude, they won’t understand you.

For instance, if you now were to assist Chiang Kai-shek to come back to the mainland, or separate Taiwan from the mainland into an independent state, how could we understand? Because you wish no such policy and because we know your President wishes to change this situation in the world, we have a common point.

Dr. Kissinger: But this proves my point, because our basic attitude toward Vietnam summarizes our attitude toward you, and if they showed us that minimum degree of confidence we could end the war very quickly. Because we have shown them a way by which both the military and political problem can be resolved. But they must leave something to the political process; they cannot ask us to surrender to them.

[Page 23]

PM Chou: It is not surrender. DeGaulle withdrew his troops on his own initiative, and the whole world believed it was a glorious thing. And if your President wishes to win the respect of the world, withdrawal of your troops from Indochina would be a great action indeed.

Dr. Kissinger: But as I have explained, that is what we have offered. The question is whether Hanoi will negotiate on this basis. Withdrawal is not the issue. We have offered the most generous terms possible and the only reason we have not published them is because we want to make peace and not propaganda. But I am fairly optimistic that they will accept our last proposal.

PM Chou: I don’t know the content of your final proposal, so there is no way for me to say anything on this. What I want to tell you is the mental state they are in. They are in a state of war, of being submitted to aggression. They are not like China. China is so big that though there are a million troops on our northern frontiers, among which three hundred thousand have entered into the People’s Republic of Mongolia, spearheaded against China; and though there is no withdrawal yet from Taiwan and Chiang Kai-shek makes a great cry about returning; and though some Japanese militarists are making great cry about self-defense, they want their self-defense troops to go abroad; although such a situation exists and Admiral McCain is saying loudly his troops in the Pacific should do this and that…

Dr. Kissinger: If the Prime Minister faces no greater threat than that, he is in good shape.

PM Chou: I just added that as one more example. If I were to add more that would be the Soviet Union and India. But Madame Gandhi says this is not spearheaded against any country, and India is still non-aligned. Although the situation is such, we still recognize the times have changed and we should look at the future.

But you cannot rebuke the 14 million people of South Vietnam who are suffering in the extreme misery at the present for not accepting anything they do not feel is safe. There is no reason to rebuke them for that; they should feel safe. It is about the same situation George Washington was in 200 years ago. How many did you have at that time?

Dr. Kissinger: Three million.

[Page 24]

PM Chou: And with such a small population they dared to defy the British Empire because they had no way out. That also was a kind of guerrilla warfare, I think, and it was three years afterward he was elected commander-in-chief. But in the end your ancestors won. The pioneer spirit was victorious. So when we think of the experiences of our own nations we should sympathize with the miseries of others. So you should do your utmost to let them see your policy as truly changed. But if it was only us, it would be impossible for us to say this to them, because we are in a different position; we are not participants.

Dr. Kissinger: We understand this.

PM Chou: And also there are people on the side, as you said, doing their best to provoke things.

Dr. Kissinger: We are well aware of this.

PM Chou: So we hope you will also consider this because when your President comes there must be some clause dealing with this and wouldn’t it be a good thing if by the time he came it had been settled? I don’t mean everything has been settled, but there should be an agreement. That would be a great victory and glory to you. I don’t think it would be a defeat.

Dr. Kissinger: I have taken seven secret trips to Paris this year, which is not my principal job, to try to make peace. We want to make peace. Continuation of the war is not in the interest of the U.S. or China. Continuation of the war can only help outside countries. We are no long-term threat to the independence of Vietnam in any concept of the future of Asia. We want to make peace.

We also recognize there are limits to what you want to do and what you can do, because we know there are outside forces encouraging continuation of the war for reasons unrelated to Vietnam, but related to rivalries and ambitions. But if an opportunity presents itself in which you might be asked about the degree of our sincerity, without telling us, you could perhaps offer your opinion as to the degree of our sincerity.

We’ll do what we can, but in all frankness we cannot go further than the proposal of October 11 to which they have not responded.

PM Chou: You don’t mean by the outside countries you were mentioning.

[Page 25]

Dr. Kissinger: No.

PM Chou: Yes, we wish you can get out of that place.

Dr. Kissinger: We have no doubt of that. I was thinking of countries farther away.

PM Chou: We know. They hope you can be tied down to that place.

Dr. Kissinger: And that you can be embarrassed.

PM Chou: I haven’t read the document of October 11 yet, so I cannot say anything on that. I only said a few words on the matter of all-around cease-fire. I can think over the question more and maybe later on I can say more about it, because I think it would be impossible to say nothing about this matter in the communique.

Dr. Kissinger: On the other hand, you should be under no misapprehension. Vietnam is a subject of extreme sensitivity to us, and it is impossible for us to accept a communique which is critical of us. We can, of course, accept silence, but we cannot accept a communique which can be construed as an attack on us.

PM Chou: But the declaration of withdrawal of troops from Indochina by a United States President, wouldn’t that be something worthy of the hailing of the people of the world? Because the people of the whole world in many countries have been asking you to take such a step. If you did so, wouldn’t that be worthy of the acclaim of the people of the world? Why is it impossible for President Nixon to do something it was possible for General DeGaulle to do?

Dr. Kissinger: President DeGaulle found a party on the other side prepared to negotiate. We have up to now not found it possible to get the agreement of the other side to a settlement.

PM Chou: But if the United States were to take the initiative in declaring a withdrawal, wouldn’t that win the support of the people of the world, including the United States?

Dr. Kissinger: Our belief has been that we could not do this as a propaganda exercise. We could get favorable headlines for two or three months, but these victories are empty.

[Page 26]

PM Chou: I don’t think that would be necessarily so. Haven’t you said your policy has been determined?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but if we announce something Hanoi then rejects, your problem will not be any easier. You can still not support our position in a communique.

PM Chou: Of course, it cannot be written into a communique if you don’t reach an agreement with Hanoi. Of course, first of all it is hoped your two sides will come to a conclusion.

Dr. Kissinger: We will try very hard.

PM Chou: Because this is the most urgent matter in the relaxation of tension in the Far East. This will benefit people of Indochina, and neither will it be detrimental to the glory of the United States. In my view it will make the United States even more glorious.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand the Prime Minister’s point of view, and have explained our point of view. The only reason I do not give the Prime Minister our formal proposal is because we feel since we are negotiating secretly with Hanoi, it is not proper for me to give you our documents, because if we were negotiating with you, you would not appreciate our giving our private documents to other countries. But if Hanoi gave it to you, we would be very pleased.

PM Chou: I agree with that point of view.

Dr. Kissinger: We will take what the Prime Minister said to us very seriously, and we hope that if things do not work out as we both hope that we will find some understanding, if not, of course, agreement.

PM Chou: You mean with the North Vietnamese side or with us?

Dr. Kissinger: I hope we can find understanding with the Vietnamese side, but hope you will understand what we are trying to do even though we understand that you will support your allies.

PM Chou: If in Indochina the policy of peace and non-alignment can be realized, that will be most beneficial to peace and the relaxation of tension in the Far East.

[Page 27]

Dr. Kissinger: If the Prime Minister could teach some of his methods to his allies we would have peace very quickly.

PM Chou: That wouldn’t do because the styles of various countries are different.

Dr. Kissinger: That is true.

PM Chou: And we cannot impose our will on others.

The relations between our two countries have been cut off many years. The style of our words is very straightforward and there is not so much reluctance, and there does not arise the question of imposing will on each other. And this is what Chairman Mao teaches us, not to impose our will on others. Because the conditions and history of each country are different, and even though their world outlooks may be similar in general, there may be differences in their ways of thinking and their style. And each has their own experience of struggle, and it is through this experience that progress is made. Why is it the world is not tranquil, not only the western world, the so-called socialist world as well? There are all kinds of socialism. And this proves the bankruptcy of Dulles’ policy. Both of us are attacking Dulles’ policy in front of our other American friends. I hope they don’t see that as unforgivable.

Kissinger: Miss Pineau wasn’t even alive when Dulles was. She doesn’t mind.

PM Chou: You were not alive?

Miss Pineau: Mr. Kissinger is flattering me. I was alive.

PM Chou: Did you ever meet him?

Miss Pineau: I am trying to remember. I don’t think so.

PM Chou: Did you know that once he wouldn’t shake hands with me?

Miss Pineau: No, I didn’t.

PM Chou: Wasn’t that curious?

[Page 28]

Dr. Kissinger: It was unforgivable, Mr. Prime Minister.

PM Chou: We still have three more days, so we have to step up our work. If the weather is nice, and there’s not too much wind, maybe you can go to the Great Wall in the morning.

Dr. Kissinger: We should, in any case, before I leave have a general agreement on a communique.

PM Chou: You have the general idea in your mind, so we can formulate one in our discussions.

Dr. Kissinger: I have a suspicion the Prime Minister has an idea in his mind.

PM Chou: But not much. Because it was you who mentioned it after you arrived. It was only then that my mind began to work. But it was said in the press that you have been preparing for a month.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1035, Files for the President-China Material, HAK visit to PRC, October 1971, Memcons-originals. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. No drafting information appears on the memorandum; presumably drafted by Lord. The meeting was held in the Great Hall of the People.
  2. President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger noted that California Governor Ronald Reagan’s recent visit to Taiwan did not reflect official U.S. foreign policy. Chinese Premier Chou En-lai then called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Indochina and criticized Washington’s “refusal” to reply to Hanoi’s seven point proposal. Kissinger responded that the North Vietnamese had failed to respond both to the August 1971 U.S. eight point proposal including a withdrawal date, which he had presented to North Vietnamese negotiator Xuan Thuy in Paris in September, and to a subsequent October 11, revision of the proposal. The two also discussed the effect a ceasefire in Vietnam would have on Cambodia.