122. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of Dr. Brzezinski’s Meeting with Ambassador Han Hsu


  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Michel Oksenberg, Staff Member, NSC
  • Ambassador Han Hsu, Acting Chief of the People’s Republic of China Liaison Office
  • Tsao Kuei-shang, Political Counselor, People’s Republic of China Liaison Office
  • Yang Yu-yang, Interpreter, People’s Republic of China Liaison Office

Background: Mr. Oksenberg received a telephone call from Wang Hung-pao on Thursday, June 15, indicating that Ambassador Han Hsu would like to meet with Dr. Brzezinski. He indicated that Dr. Brzezinski was out of town and would be back from Panama late on Friday. He could arrange for Ambassador Han to see David Aaron swiftly or we could wait until Dr. Brzezinski was back on Monday. Mr. Oksenberg asked which meeting Ambassador Han preferred. (After consulting with Ambassador Han, Ms. Wang informed him that a meeting on Monday would be fine.)

Dr. Brzezinski: Howdy! It is good to see you. Have a seat.

My memory is still fresh from the trip. It was one of the high points of my life. I appreciated the photographs that you sent me.

Ambassador Han Hsu: I notice you have been very busy since your return, and now you are just back from Panama.

[Page 499]

Dr. Brzezinski: Yes. The President’s trip to the Panama Canal was very useful.2 The Venezuelan President said that he considered the Panama Canal Treaty the most constructive step by the U.S. and Latin America in the twentieth century, that it was a decisive step away from our previous neo-colonial relations with Latin American countries.

Ambassador Han Hsu: As you know, regarding the Panama Canal Treaty, we favor it.

Before proceeding, I am instructed to talk on foreign affairs matters.

According to the news media, the United States is considering a large sale of arms to Taiwan, including 60 F–4s.3

Dr. Brzezinski must be aware of Premier Hua’s conversation of May 22 on this question.4 Such an act on the part of the United States would not be in conformity with the spirit of the Shanghai Communique. It goes counter to the indications made by the American side during Dr. Brzezinski’s discussions in Peking to the effect that President Carter is determined to speed up and push forward the nor-malization of relations between our countries on the premises of the principle of one China, of the U.S. side accepting the three points of the severance of diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the removal of all U.S. military forces and installations from Taiwan, and the abrogation of the so-called Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan.

This would be a very important policy and action about which we are very concerned. I hope that President Carter and Dr. Brzezinski will pay attention to this.

Dr. Brzezinski: I will convey it to the President and to the Secretary of State immediately so they will understand your position.

Let me note that you are commenting on a newspaper report. I do not want to confirm or deny the accuracy of a newspaper report.

I do wish to say, however, that our acceptance of the principle of one China and our willingness to move forward on normalization within the context of your three points do not preclude the maintenance of full economic relations with the people on Taiwan.

When I talked with your leaders in Peking, I said that there is bound to be a historically transitional phase in our relations with Tai [Page 500] wan in which the maintenance of economic and social relations will have to continue, given the historical legacies we are trying to overcome. This will be difficult.

We are aware of your desires and your national sentiments. You have to be sensitive to our historical legacies and concerns. I want to underline again President Carter is committed to the principles of the Shanghai Communique and is determined to normalize relations with you in the framework of your three points and on the basis of the principle of one China. But we have historical and political legacies that have to be overcome.

Ambassador Han Hsu: Since you had detailed conversations with our leaders on this subject, I would just make one further comment. During your conversation with the Chinese leaders, they told you in person that as to the indication that the U.S. Government has made up its mind on this issue, the Chinese side will hear its words and see its actions.

(Turning to another text written in another book.) During Dr. Brzezinski’s trip, the U.S. side indicated a number of modalities for expanding our relations and put forth concrete suggestions in this regard.

In his conversations with Dr. Brzezinski, Vice Premier Teng stated that in principle the Chinese side favors an expansion in our bilateral relations with the U.S. side and shares the American desire. Of course, there is a difference between normalized and not normalized relations. For example, the U.S. made a suggestion for an exchange of military visits, but in view of the status quo, the conditions are not yet ripe.

As to the U.S. suggestion for delegations led by Cabinet-level officials, we would welcome Dr. Schlesinger to head an energy delegation and Dr. Press to head a scientific and technological delegation.

Since Dr. Press originally suggested June 19 as the date of his arrival in Peking, it obviously is too late. We suggest that a scientific and technological delegation to visit China in mid-July, around July 10. (In Chinese, literally, beginning in the middle third of the month.) We hope the U.S. side can give a reply as early as possible. If the U.S. side agrees, we would appreciate receiving a list of names as well as the desires of the U.S. delegation as to its travel and the subjects it wishes to discuss.

As for the timing of the energy delegation, this can be agreed on later through consultations of the two sides.

Dr. Brzezinski: I appreciate the promptness of the reply and its constructive spirit. As far as the military delegation is concerned, we are in no hurry, if it is more convenient for the Chinese side to wait.

As far as the other delegations, I will be in touch with Dr. Press immediately concerning a July 10 visit. If it is not practical, we will be back in touch with you right away.

[Page 501]

As far as Dr. Schlesinger is concerned, I will be in touch with him. Given the energy bill in Congress, there is likely to be some complication as to a visit by him in the very immediate future, but he will welcome such an opportunity at the earliest mutually convenient time.

By the way, I read the speech you delivered in Illinois.5 You should do more speaking like this. You should talk more, both privately and also talk more publicly.

I have not seen you since my return. I want to tell you that I found my conversations in Peking very helpful and very valuable, not only about matters of bilateral concern but about how each of us perceives the evolution of global politics more generally.

We approach relations with you as involving long-term and strategic considerations, and we do not consider our relations with you tactical. I found that your leaders also have this view. This provides a solid basis for increased contact and even tacit cooperation.

I hope it will be possible to have such consultations more frequently and regularly. In the absence of full and normal relations, it may be more difficult to undertake formal moves together, as it would be after formal relations are established.

But such visits are very useful. From the American side, I found it very useful to hear the world views of Premier Hua and Vice Premier Teng, and to review the world situation on a systematic basis with Foreign Minister Huang.

I have given a summary report to the President about the trip and have given him to read the entire transcripts of my conversations with Premier Hua and Vice Premier Teng. He has read them in their entirety. He was impressed by the candor of our talks and thought it very useful to obtain the views of your leaders.

This comes close to having a direct conversation between our two leaders. If they do not share a common perspective, at least we have promoted mutual understanding. (In a departure from common practice in the BrzezinskiHan Hsu talks, the above paragraph was not translated. Rather, Han Hsu responded immediately.)

Ambassador Han Hsu: Yes, and that is why at the closing banquet, Foreign Minister Huang Hua said that he felt the talks were very beneficial. Vice Premier Teng hopes that you will be in China again. The next time you should bring your children.

[Page 502]

Dr. Brzezinski: Yes. I would like to do so. Many people wish to go, and I wish to go again. My wife enjoyed the trip very much as well. She liked Madame Huang and got along well.

Have you heard that my wife gave a toast at the final banquet?

Ambassador Han Hsu: (Clearly surprised.) No!

Dr. Brzezinski: Well, let me tell you the story. At the banquet we hosted and after I gave my toast, my wife leaned across the table and said that she wanted to give a toast. I felt a little uncomfortable and thought I should discuss this with the Foreign Minister. You know that the Foreign Minister is a professional diplomat, and so when I turned to him and asked him whether he thought it appropriate for my wife to give a toast he said, “Well, uh, uh, uh, well, uh, y-e-s-s-s-s-. If she . . . ah, uh, ah, wants to.”

I then turned to my wife and said “The Foreign Minister thinks it best if you do not give a toast.” My wife said “But this is our banquet. We are the hosts!” She turned to Madame Huang and asked her what she thought.

Madame Huang said “If you wish to give a toast, of course you should give a toast.” Madame Huang then leaned across the table and in Chinese spoke very very firmly to the Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister then turned to me and said “Of course your wife should give a toast!”

Ambassador Han Hsu: What did she say?

Dr. Brzezinski: She said that the toasts that had been given thus far had dwelled on important matters of state but had omitted any mention of the Chinese people, and she proposed a toast to the Chinese people, not only for their history but for their dedication to the building of a new country, a dedication which had become so evident to Mrs. Brzezinski during her brief stay in Peking.

Before we break up, may I ask you a question? Do you accept invitations of a non-diplomatic sort to visit private homes?

Ambassador Han Hsu: Of course.

Dr. Brzezinski: Well, I would like to invite you to come to our house. It would be a casual evening. Perhaps we could swim before dinner.

Ambassador Han Hsu: I would accept such an invitation with pleasure.

Dr. Brzezinski: Well, Mike will be in touch with you about either June 24 or June 25.

I look forward to it.

Ambassador Han Hsu: So do I.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 56, Policy Process: 6–9/78. Secret. The meeting took place at the White House. A shorter version of this memorandum of conversation, focusing only on the aspects relating to U.S. arms sales to the ROC, bears a “C” at the top of the page, indicating that the President saw it. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 50, Chron: 6/78)
  2. President Carter visited Panama City June 16–17 to sign the Panama Canal Treaty.
  3. Telegram 148485 to all East Asian and Pacific diplomatic posts, June 12, reported, “Globe’s Beecher quotes admin sources (6/11) that U.S. considering sale of 60 F–4 fighters worth $500 mil to Taiwan.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780245–0667)
  4. See Document 111.
  5. Han visited Illinois at the invitation of Representative Paul Findley (R–Illinois) and delivered a commencement address on May 21 at Illinois College. The title of his address was “The Friendship Will Last From Generation to Generation.” (Douglas E. Kneeland, “Peking’s Man in Washington Has a Visit With Americans in Illinois, and a Good Time Is Had by All,” The New York Times, May 24, 1978, p. A16)