179. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Normalization with China: Implementing Steps

This memorandum outlines the steps which the Department of Defense presently plans to take, subject to your concurrence, to insure timely and effective implementation of the decision to normalize rela [Page 671] tions with the Peoples Republic of China. We plan to tailor our actions on defense issues to facilitate the evolution of a new relationship with Peking, while protecting, through our dealings with Taiwan, the US reputation for integrity, reliability and credibility. We face the need for early actions in the following areas.

1. Arms Sales

The basic requirement is to find a balance between our interests in Taiwan and in Peking. On the one hand, we need to respond affirmatively to a sufficient number of the ROC’s pending arms requests to help them over a psychologically difficult adjustment period, and to defuse Congressional opposition to normalization. On the other hand, we do not want to invite unhelpful press comparisons of the package to the “Enhance Plus Program” provided South Vietnam in 1972, or provoke PRC allegations that we are violating recently agreed understandings.

In essence I believe that Warren Christopher should be authorized—in addition to reconfirming those sales that were approved in November—to notify the ROC of approval of a number of additional requests for non-controversial defensive arms (roughly $200 million in new commitments), to indicate that follow-on support (e.g., spares) will continue for systems previously provided, to defer US response to the ROC’s Harpoon request until after CY 1979, and to indicate that we recognize their future need for an all-weather interceptor aircraft and will be giving consideration in the months ahead to how we can best help them meet their future requirements.

2. Withdrawal of the U.S. Military Presence

I see no insurmountable problems in managing the withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Taiwan, although the four-month schedule will be tight. When the Taiwan Defense Command (TDC) is withdrawn, I think it would make sense to retain a small planning group for Taiwan defense matters as part of Admiral Weisner’s staff in Hawaii through the remainder of 1979. The Joint Staff is currently developing a detailed schedule for the withdrawals.

3. War Reserve Matériel (WRM)

We currently have approximately 7,400 tons of munitions and 745,000 barrels of POL on Taiwan. These items are physically located on ROC military installations, but in some instances, the actual storage facilities (e.g., POL tanks) are owned by the U.S.

The Defense Department has submitted a detailed recommendation for the disposition of WRM on Taiwan to the SCC Ad Hoc Group [Page 672] (Tab A).2 During the course of next year, we plan gradually to withdraw some critical munitions items on which our theater reserves are short. After April 30, those withdrawals will be handled by contractor personnel. I suggest that we seek special legislation to permit the cost-free transfer of the balance of our munitions and equipment—mainly 500 and 2,000 pound bombs, some vehicles, and communications gear—to the ROC. I believe we should retain existing POL stocks on Taiwan under U.S. title for the time being. This fuel is critically needed to meet U.S. military requirements in the theater; however, at present we have no alternate POL storage facilities in the Western Pacific. We would plan gradually to withdraw the POL from Taiwan by commercial means and under civilian contract as alternate storage facilities become available in Korea, Japan or elsewhere in the area over the next few years.

4. The F–4 Program Depot Maintenance Facility

The facility does contract work for the Air Force (engine repair and maintenance on U.S. F–4 aircraft) as well as commercial work for civilian corporations. Plans are already being implemented to shift military contracts to Korea, and all DoD personnel and government-owned equipment will be withdrawn from Taiwan by December 31, 1979. After April 30 we will transfer any contract supervisory functions previously performed by military personnel to civilian contractors.

5. Defense Activities

For some years we have been reducing the level of our military activities on Taiwan as part of the effort to condition the ROC to the inevitability of normalization. Now that normalization has been announced, I believe we should avoid an abrupt and systematic termination of all military-to-military contacts, and continue rather to phase these down and out gradually during the course of the year. As our forces are withdrawn over the next four months, I would propose to sustain a modest level of military-to-military contacts with the ROC, including a limited number of previously scheduled ship visits, two US–ROC exercises (Sharkhunt—an ASW exercise planned for January 9–11; and Eagle/Lark/Bluesky—an air defense exercise planned for January 20–29). We may want to adjust the timing of the latter exercise to avoid having it take place just prior to Teng’s visit. These steps will ease Taiwan’s adjustment, and help us on the Hill, without, I believe, provoking serious difficulties with Peking.

These, I suspect, are the major defense issues which Warren Christopher’s delegation will confront next week in Taipei. Others may sur [Page 673] face either during the visit or subsequently as we implement the normalization decision. My staff will continue to work closely with the SCC Ad Hoc Group on China to insure that these are identified and resolved in a timely way.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–81–0202, China (Nats), 092. Secret. Sent to Brown under a December 23 covering memorandum from McGiffert that reads, “Warren Christopher will confront a number of questions on which we do not yet have precise guidance from the White House. The attached memo to Zbig is designed to obtain such guidance quickly in the form of his endorsement of your proposals. Alternatively you may wish to use the memo as talkers for a phone call to ZB.” On the covering memorandum, someone, probably McGiffert, wrote, “The White House expects this—as a memo to get decisions on some open issues made.” (Ibid.)
  2. Tab A was not found.