107. Memorandum From Jessica Tuchman Mathews of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Human Rights Initiatives on Your China Trip

Les and I met with Oksenberg the other day to discuss follow-up to the Cambodian human rights statement,2 including the Indochinese refugee problem. In the course of our discussions we identified two human rights initiatives you might want to raise with the Chinese. Both of them appear to be in our mutual interest. I thought Mike supported both ideas, but find that they have not been included in your briefing book. There are two vague allusions to the issues (see the highlighted sections at Tab A) but neither is explained or presented as an initiative. I am therefore taking the liberty of suggesting to you directly that you consider raising the following two points in your discussions in the PRC.

I have discussed both of these ideas with John Richardson who thinks they are excellent. He felt strongly enough about them that he told me that he was going to violate his personal rule of not taking your time to call you and urge that you do so.

I. Human Rights in Cambodia

It is clearly in the Chinese interest to avoid a Vietnamese takeover in Cambodia. It is also clear that the more the Cambodian government alienates its own people by its continued atrocities, the easier it will be for the Vietnamese to move in. Already many thousands of Cambodians have fled to Vietnam (a traditional enemy) where they will be armed and trained to fight in Cambodia. Thus it can be argued that by its own policies, the Cambodian government is handing a takeover to Vietnam on a silver platter. The PRC is the only foreign government which could influence Phnom Penh. Our proposal is therefore that you suggest to the Chinese that they urge the Cambodian government to moderate its policies in the interest of self-preservation. It could be put to the Chinese that they should do this not in the interest of human rights, but in their own self-interest.

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II. Refugees

The flow of refugees from Vietnam is increasing at a staggering rate. The April figures are triple our most recent predictions. We are clearly not going to be able to take them all in, and the problem could swiftly grow to major proportions and become quite embarrassing. A large fraction of these refugees are ethnic Chinese. The PRC has already taken in a large number of them. Our proposal is that you encourage the PRC to continue its program of accepting the ethnic Chinese refugees, and urge them to expand it if necessary to meet the changing dimensions of the problem. You might suggest that the PRC could improve its own image and standing in the international community by showing a humanitarian, generous attitude toward these refugees. If the Chinese were to do so our own problem would be significantly eased.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 39, Brzezinski, Asia: 5/18–25/78: Memos. Secret. According to the attached correspondence profile, this memorandum accompanied Brzezinski on his trip.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 96. “Les” is Les Denend.