120. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • China Policy

On your directive, I told the Chinese we would be prepared to start negotiating on normalization during the month of June. Accordingly, not to lose some credibility, Woodcock should take the initial steps within the next two weeks.2

Cy’s paper3 was drafted after extensive review of my Peking visit. I agree with its general thrust. However, let me note three additional considerations:

1. I am concerned about confidentiality. This is going to be a most sensitive process, and premature disclosure that the negotiations are underway is likely to complicate the process. You might mention to Cy the importance of restricting the number of people involved in drafting instructions and in discussion of this matter.

2. The issue of confidentiality is related to congressional consultations. Once these consultations start, confidentiality is finished. On the other hand, I have the feeling that the normalization issue is going to be quite controversial. Thus strong bipartisan support will be necessary, and this does mean the need to consult at least with the top leadership before too much time has passed. Timing of such a step ought to be determined very carefully.

3. The negotiating strategy proposed in the paper is essentially sequential. We would start with the easiest question—our post-normalization representation on Taiwan—and then go on to the more difficult problems, particularly the question of arms sales to Taiwan. [Page 496] An alternative might be to lay out our position more comprehensively, perhaps through the device of submitting a draft normalization communique. It might be useful to discuss this alternative approach at the meeting that Cy proposes.

Generally, my impression is that the Chinese are inclined to negotiate constructively, though on the basis of their “three conditions.” Their handling of your Annapolis speech,4 as well as their talks with me, indicate a more positive assessment of our foreign policy. We have thus created a relatively favorable climate for the forthcoming negotiations.

Do you want a meeting scheduled for next week?5

Do you want all those mentioned by Cy to attend?6

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Geographic File, Box 9, China (People’s Republic of), Normalization, 1/24/78–11/10/78. Secret; Sensitive. At the top of the page, Carter wrote, “Zbig—no copies. J.”
  2. Woodcock’s instructions, which Brzezinski sent to Carter for approval under an undated covering memorandum, are in Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 46, China, Normalization, 6–12/78. In his memoirs, Brzezinski noted that he would “periodically submit to the President draft instructions for Leonard Woodcock, which would be prepared by Oksenberg and Holbrooke, working closely with me, and which would be reviewed by Vance. The President gave them meticulous attention. He took out sentences and inserted and reworded others. He carefully monitored every single paragraph and every proposal.” (Power and Principle, p. 225)
  3. See Document 119.
  4. Carter’s June 7 address at the U.S. Naval Academy is printed in Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 1052–1057.
  5. Carter checked the Yes option.
  6. Carter checked the No option and wrote below it, “[less than 1 line not declassified]. J. Keep meeting secret.” Carter probably meant restricting the meeting attendees to the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs. See footnote 1, Document 119.