172. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to the Chief of the Liaison Office in China (Woodcock)1

WH81624. Please be in touch as soon as possible with the Vice Premier and tell him that we will try to be as restrained as we can on the subject of arms sales but that within the U.S. political process it is simply impossible for the U.S. not to reaffirm its position on this subject. That position, communicated directly by the President to Ambassador Chai on September 19, will have to be reaffirmed.2 Recognizing Chinese sensitivity on this matter, we will not make a formal statement, but we will respond to the inevitable questions which will surely be raised immediately both by the press and by opponents of normalization in the following fashion: “Within the agreement to normalize, the United States had made it clear that it will continue to trade with Taiwan, including the restrained sale of some selected defensive ABM, after the expiration of the Defense Treaty in ways which will not endanger the prospects for peace in the region. The Chinese side does [Page 654] not endorse the U.S. position on this matter. But this has not prevented both sides from agreeing to normalize relations.3

I am simultaneously explaining this matter to Ambassador Chai in the hope of giving the Chinese as sensitive an understanding of our political process as is possible under the circumstances.

We hope the Chinese side will show the maximum restraint in its comments since we do attach the highest importance to initiating this new chapter in our relations under the most favorable of circumstances and in the best possible atmosphere.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 11, China (PRC): Woodcock’s (Leonard) Talks, 12/78. Top Secret; Flash; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only; Via Voyager Channels. Sent with the instruction: “Please deliver immediately to Ambassador Woodcock in a sealed envelope marked exclusively for his eyes only.”
  2. See Document 135.
  3. Woodcock responded in backchannel message 240 to Brzezinski, December 15, in which he reported: “Given the late hour here, I have conveyed to Vice Pemier Teng through Foreign Ministry channels the substance of our proposed response to queries on the arms sales issue, together with a full characterization of the circumstances and considerations surrounding our use of this response. Teng is, of course, aware of our intentions from my session with him this afternoon. He now has available to him the exact nature of our proposed response. Based on his comments then, the Chinese will undoubtedly consider it necessary to make a response of their own. I have indicated that I would be available at any time should the Vice Premier wish to see me.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 45, Meetings: 12/14–17/78)