123. Editorial Note

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance proposed holding a meeting to discuss the next step in the normalization process in his covering memorandum to the June 13 memorandum to President Jimmy Carter (see Document 119). In response to Vance’s memorandum and an accompanying one from the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski (see Document 120), Carter agreed to a meeting, but requested a smaller group of attendees than Vance proposed (see footnote 6, Document 120). The meeting was scheduled for June 20.

The day before the meeting, Michel Oksenberg of the National Security Council Staff prepared a briefing memorandum for Brzezinski. Oksenberg emphasized four points. First, “If we move forward on SALT without accompanying forward movement in our China relationship, we undermine the essence of our triangular diplomacy—namely, simultaneously to seek a more cooperative relationship with both the PRC and the USSR.” He noted that if the United States did not seek to normalize Sino-American relations, it could, as a “compensatory move,” adopt a more liberal policy of transferring technology to China. He added, however, that “this is a much more risky course, both in terms of a Soviet reaction that could jeopardize SALT and of the peaceful future of Taiwan. We have an interest in a strong and secure China, in other words, only after the Taiwan issue has been made a less provocative issue in Sino-American relations.”

Second, Oksenberg asserted that the United States would not be able to obtain a pledge from China of peaceful intent toward Taiwan: “This is a matter of sovereignty for them.” He added, “for their domestic political reasons, the PRC leaders cannot normalize on terms that would reduce the chances for the ultimate reunification of China.” Oksenberg’s third point related to the capacity of the U.S. Government to manage Sino-American normalization. He wrote, “Zbig, my deepest concern over this issue is the President’s capacity to sell normalization to the public. If his standing in the polls were strong and public confidence in his management of foreign policy were high, there would be no question what course we should adopt. However, normalization is not an issue that can be bungled. Our ties with China are too fragile to withstand the stress of failure. Candor forces me to say that my gravest doubts about normalization rest not with the Chinese or the bargain we will be able to strike but our own capacity to handle this issue well.” Fourth, Oksenberg warned of potential dangers: “On the merits of the case, normalization is the best course, without a Chinese guarantee of peaceful intent but with a commitment to patience and with an understanding on arms sales. However, the President must be aware of the serious domestic political peril and legal complexities of normalization. [Page 504] It is not a decision I envy, and I will support him fully no matter what he decides.” (Memorandum from Oksenberg to Brzezinski, June 19; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 74, Far East: Box 1)

The meeting was held on June 20 at 2:15 p.m. with the President, Vance, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, Brzezinski, and Assistant to the President Hamilton Jordan in attendance. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No memorandum of conversation has been found. In his memoirs, Brzezinski noted: “We reached the following conclusions, which I jotted down on a sheet of paper and, for reasons of security, did not even have typed:


“1. Keep very confidential.

“2. Chinese anxious to improve relations. Have done everything we wanted prior to ZB visit.

“3. Aim for December 15. But keep the info circle very small. Our public position—we do want to improve and normalize relations.

“4. China congressional action to precede SALT ratification.

“5. Residual relations: would like broader options than private organization. A trade mission? A military sales mission? Cy will get legal assessment.

“6. Woodcock to conduct negotiations. Oksenberg and Holbrooke to work on this. Woodcock to initiate discussions by asking for a date. Instructions to follow.

“7. Woodcock to go in, propose talks every ten days, propose an agenda: (1) representation; (2) peaceful resolution; (3) U.S. trade with Taiwan; (4) communiqué and modalities.

“8. Early next week submit draft on representation instructions.

“9. Woodcock to explore the possibility of one year’s notice to R.O.C. as a way out of the dilemma.” (Brzezinski, Power and Principle, p. 224)