221. Memorandum From the President’s National Security Adviser (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Reply to Prime Minister Heath’s Letter on Proposed UK Sale of Military Jet Engine to PRC

Prime Minister Heath has sent you the letter at Tab B setting forth the current thinking of his government with regard to COCOM and the future of the Western embargo on strategic exports, and seeking your [Page 717] approval of Rolls Royce’s proposed sale of the Spey 202 jet engine with afterburner to the People’s Republic of China.

The Prime Minister recalls your Camp David discussions on COCOM, reviews the PRC’s interest in acquiring new technology, notes that the PRC is very interested in buying the Spey 202 engine with afterburner, notes further that this transaction is precluded by current COCOM rules but suggests that this transaction would not, in fact, prejudice essential political and security interests—and would therefore be consistent with the US and UK policy toward the PRC.

It would not seem possible for the United States to give ready approval to the UK’s proposal sale to the PRC. US and COCOM export controls are presently based on the premise that Western countries should restrict the sale of military equipment to Communist countries. Indeed, before selling goods which could under certain circumstances have strategic military use we request the purchasing country to certify that such items will be used only for peaceful end uses. Openly to approve, as the UK desires, the sale of the Spey 202 engine with afterburner would be to allow the sale of equipment which could be put to no other than a non-peaceful use. This would probably be the final blow to any system of strategic export controls on Communist countries—i.e., COCOM.

However, as a result of the recent interagency review of COCOM, we are now in position to inform the British of our current policy toward COCOM—a policy which looks to expansion of non-strategic trade with Communist countries, consistent with improvement in political relations. As this review of COCOM has just been completed, and as the British government has also undertaken a COCOM review, the time would seem right for early bilateral consultations at the expert level to develop a new USUK coordinated approach to COCOM and, if possible, an agreed position on the Spey 202 engine either with or without the military afterburner.

The letter for your signature to Prime Minister Heath at Tab A would thank him for having raised this issue with you, note the steps you have taken with regard to US policy toward COCOM and recommend bilateral consultations at the expert level in the very near future to review the Spey 202 and other COCOM issues. Your letter has been coordinated with Dave Gergen.


That you sign the letter to Prime Minister Heath at Tab A.

  1. Summary: Kissinger forwarded Heath’s letter on the proposed British sale of Rolls Royce Spey airplane engines to China.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 764, Presidential Correspondence, United Kingdom, Prime Minister Edward Heath, 1972. Secret. Sent for action. Attached but not published is Tab A, a June 12 letter to Heath that Nixon signed; and Tab B, an April 25 letter from Heath to Nixon. On June 30, Kissinger spoke to Cromer about the Spey issue. Advising the UK to “stay cool,” Kissinger asserted that after his August trip to China “we can overrule the bureaucracy. Can you wait that long? I’ll talk to the Chinese.” Cromer replied, “Well, I don’t know. I hear rumblings from London that if the reply in COCOM is negative, our people will go ahead anyway.” Kissinger asked Cromer whether he could wait two weeks; Cromer promised to check with London. (Memorandum of conversation, June 30; ibid., NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 64, Country Files, Europe, General, Exchanges with the UK—Other, July 12, 1973 (1 of 3))