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


  • Woodcock’s Next Round: Meeting Number 3

At breakfast tomorrow, we will discuss the next set of instructions to go to Leonard.

Two sessions have now been held. On July 5, Leonard made his initial presentation on our basic principles and the negotiating procedures we wished to follow.2 You will recall that we wished to discuss [Page 510] three issues in sequence, reaching tentative agreement on one issue before moving to the next. The three issues are: a) the nature of the post-normalization American presence on Taiwan; b) our respective statements on the occasion of normalization; and c) American trade with Taiwan after normalization.

On July 14, Huang Hua set forth the Chinese principles and the procedures the Chinese wished to follow.3 Huang called for a comprehensive U.S. presentation on the three issues to which the Chinese would then respond.

The ball is now in our court. We face three options: 1) to accept the Chinese procedure and make a comprehensive presentation; 2) to insist on our initially suggested procedures, indicating that we will not begin until the Chinese agree to respond to each of our separate presentations; 3) to proceed with the first of our three separate presentations even without a Chinese response.

Cy and I recommend the third alternative. To accept the Chinese procedure would present too swift a retreat and would suggest we had not carefully considered our preference. We should communicate a sense of resolve. At the same time, to insist on our initial procedure, we believe, would produce a deadlock over procedure. We therefore recommend Leonard inform the Chinese that we still intend to make three separate presentations and that a separate response to each would facilitate the negotiating process. Leonard would then immediately offer to move on to the first topic: the post-normalization American presence on Taiwan.

We face an important choice on the substance of the presentation: whether to build a positive environment by making a lean presentation or to introduce potentially contentious considerations on which we could subsequently yield.

From Peking, Leonard has cabled his strong recommendation that we strive to build a positive environment.4 Leonard notes our respective positions are already close. He recalls that in his presentation to Huang Hua last November,5 he was instructed to give the Chinese reason to believe we would not seek to maintain official representation on Taiwan. To quibble now, Leonard observes, would risk getting our discussions bogged down over an issue that is not central to our principal concerns for Taiwan’s security and thus undermine prospects of completing the process within the time frame that we envisage. [Page 511] Leonard encourages a positive beginning, then careful resolution of the central security issues (statements and arms sales), followed by ironing out of the residual details.

We concur with Leonard’s reasoning, which leads us to recommend the relatively brief presentation spelled out below.6 We have couched Leonard’s statement so that, if the Chinese do not object or raise questions, we in fact will have considerable latitude in developing our post-normalization presence on Taiwan. We do not indicate whether any activities currently carried out under the government domain would not be carried out under private channels. We deliberately and with some license interpret the Chinese position as permitting the maintenance of our current commercial, cultural, and other relations; they have never used the word “other.” We allude to a transition period during which we will phase out our governmental presence on Taiwan. If asked, we will say our “unofficial organization” will be essentially private. The attractiveness of this presentation is that it places the burden on the Chinese to seek clarification, to correct our understanding of their view, or to seek to impose precise limits on the American presence.

To be sure, Leonard’s presentation lacks the detail that would ease our Congressional problems. However, a more extensive, explicit presentation would raise sensitive issues—such as whether U.S. Government officials would visit Taiwan on short-term assignment—to which the Chinese might feel obliged to object, but which they would accept if left unsaid. In short, by striving for ambiguity, we may preserve our ability to have a somewhat more formal, extensive relationship with Taiwan than were we to strive for explicitness.

We have drafted our presentation with the possibility in mind that we may wish to reveal it to Congress at the time of normalization.

To conclude, we recommend a brief and somewhat ambiguous presentation which nonetheless commits us to sustain our relationship with Taiwan after normalization without permanent official representation and without formal governmental relations. We need approval for this presentation.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 46, China: Normalization: 6–12/78. Top Secret; Sensitive; Voyager; Eyes Only; Outside the System; Alpha Channel. Sent for action. A handwritten notation suggests that the memorandum was drafted in “mid-July ’78.” At the top of the page, Carter wrote, “Zbig—J.”
  2. Woodcock described his July 5 meeting with Huang Hua in backchannel message 174 to the White House, July 5. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 2–5/78)
  3. Woodcock described his July 14 meeting with Huang Hua in backchannel message 181 to the White House, July 14. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 46, China: Normalization: 6–12/78)
  4. Not found.
  5. See Document 68 and footnote 4 thereto.
  6. The presentation for Woodcock was not found attached, but several drafts are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 44, Meetings: 8/78.