222. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Proposed UK Sale of Spey 202 Engine to PRC

Following your July 10 conversation with Lord Cromer, Sykes of the UK Embassy called. London, he said, would prefer it if we could take a little extra time to persuade our agencies to withdraw their objections. If, however, we must oppose the proposed sale in COCOM, London hopes we will do so in a low key—in that the British Government has already decided to go ahead with the sale.

The British are planning to take the matter to COCOM on July 16. The text of the draft UK submission to COCOM, provided to you by Cromer, is at Tab B, together with an accompanying aide mémoire and background paper on the proposed sale.

While the UK’s proposed sale makes sense from the viewpoint of our policy toward the PRC, it would be very difficult for our COCOM delegation to support the sale under the current COCOM ground rules. At this point, it would appear best to have our delegation instructed to do no more than oppose the sale in a very low key manner. (However, unless our delegation receives policy guidance to the contrary, it can be expected to offer very strong opposition to the UK.)

At Tab C, I have included a brief fact sheet on the mechanics of the COCOM system, including the clearance process for negotiating instructions within the U.S. Government. At this point, it is essential that you take up the delegation’s instructions with Secretary Schlesinger [Page 719] and Deputy Secretary Rush, explain the rationale for having the U.S. confine itself to very low key opposition, and direct that Defense and State provide our COCOM delegation with the necessary instructions.

If you would prefer first to check this approach with the President, the memorandum for your signature at Tab A would do this: forwarding Prime Minister Heath’s most recent message on the subject, reviewing the policy reasons supporting the sale and the current COCOM ground rules blocking the sale, and recommending that our delegation do no more than express low key opposition.


1. If appropriate, that you sign the memorandum for the President at Tab A.

2. That you review the UK’s proposed sale with Secretary Schlesinger and Deputy Secretary Rush and have them issue the necessary State/Defense instructions to our COCOM Delegation.

  1. Summary: Sonnenfeldt discussed the proposed British sale of Rolls Royce Spey airplane engines to China.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 64, Country Files, Europe, General, Exchanges with the UK—Other, July 12, 1973 (1 of 3). Secret. Sent for urgent action. Attached but not published is Tab A, a draft memorandum to Nixon; Tab B, the UK aide-mémoire and draft COCOM submission; and Tab C, an undated paper entitled, “Procedures on COCOM Exceptions Requests.” Kissinger wrote at the top of the memorandum, “Put Pres. memo into files. Tell State + Defense to oppose low key. I’ll handle with Rush.” On July 10, Cromer told Kissinger that the UK wanted “to tie the Chinese into the West in a way that gets them on board, and incidentally it is of some commercial benefit to us.” Kissinger replied, “Our problem is tactical. For reasons of our own we want to strengthen China.” After noting DOD’s opposition to the proposal, Kissinger stated, “We favor it. The only question is whether to give it a low-key protest or bless it.” (Memorandum of conversation, July 10; ibid.)