203. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary’s Luncheon for PRC Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping


  • People’s Republic of China
  • Deng Xiaoping, Vice Premier of the State Council
  • Fang Yi, Vice Premier of the State Council
  • Huang Hua, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Chai Zemin, Chief, Liaison Office
  • Zhang Wenjin, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Pu Shouchang, Special Assistant
  • Peng Di, Information Assistant
  • Wei Yongqing, Director of Protocol, MFA
  • Zhu Qizhen, Deputy Director of the Americas and Oceania Department, MFA
  • Ji Chaozhu, Interpreter for Vice Premier Deng
  • United States
  • Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State
  • Harold Brown, Secretary of Defense
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Hamilton Jordan, Assistant to the President
  • Warren Christopher, Deputy Secretary of State
  • David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Richard C. Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Leonard Woodcock, Chief, Liaison Office
  • Michel Oksenberg, Senior Staff Member, NSC
  • Roger Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Harry E.T. Thayer, Director, Office of PRC and Mongolia Affairs, Department of State

Secretary Vance, referring to the morning’s meeting with the President,2 suggested further discussion of Turkey. We had devoted great attention to Turkey, a subject of serious concern. Last year, the Administration made a major effort to lift the arms embargo, which had prevented us from delivering arms and then limited the amount of arms we could ship. We were able last year to pass legislation to lift the embargo, thus enabling us to deliver more arms than the limit previously set. The new budget this year provides for increased assistance to Turkey.

Secretary Vance said that beyond the issue of assistance, the United States is concerned about the economic problem. Thus, last year, we provided security support assistance to help Turkey in the economic area. Such assistance this year had been increased 100 percent over last year. However, it is quite clear that the problem goes much broader and deeper in terms of meeting economic needs. At the Guadeloupe Summit, it was decided to establish a consortium to provide additional assistance. Mr. Christopher had recently visited Turkey to discuss a number of matters, including military assistance. He asked Mr. Christopher to comment.

Deputy Secretary Christopher said that the economic problem was the principal one now facing Prime Minister Ecevit. He said that there was a lack of foreign exchange to purchase raw materials from which exports would be produced, and Turkey was thus on the edge of bankruptcy. However, Turkey had underlying economic strength, and Prime Minister Ecevit believed that if a financing bridge is provided to enable Turkey to earn foreign exchange, this could put Turkey in a healthy situation. The Germans are taking the lead, with our strong support, to organize a consortium to bolster Turkey’s economic strength, and this would in turn enhance the strength at the eastern end of the NATO Alliance.

Secretary Brown commented on military aspects. He said that for the last several years Turkey’s armed forces readiness was deficient because of the need for new materiel restricted by the embargo. The [Page 750] supply of materiel never totally stopped but the embargo slowed it down. When the embargo was lifted last year, Secretary Brown said, $80 million in the pipeline was released. He noted that the Administration’s budget this year has a comparable amount of military assistance and foreign military sales, which would enable Turkey’s state of readiness to be brought back up, including both air and land forces. This cannot be done in just one year—or just by the United States—but it can be accomplished by the consortium. (Vice Premier Deng asked for clarification of the figure Secretary Brown had given; interpreter Ji told him it was $80 million.) Secretary Brown said that although Turkey’s relations with NATO never completely broke down, it is now possible for us to work more closely to improve NATO’s military capability in that area.

Vice Premier Deng asked about Turkey’s relations with Greece. Secretary Brown said that they remained strained. Secretary Vance added that relations between Greece and Turkey are very important and that their re-integration into NATO had been slowed by the state of their bilateral relations. Secretary Brown said that the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe has been working to strengthen cooperation between the two countries, including constructing an effective Aegean command. Vice Premier Deng noted that a number of Greek islands were just on the border of Turkey. Secretary Vance said that they are fortified, much to Turkey’s concern.

Vice Premier Deng commented that this was a complicated situation, made more so by the Cyprus issue. Secretary Vance said there were also troublesome aspects relating to seabeds issues. The United States is trying to facilitate discussions of this important aspect among the parties concerned. Little progress has been made on this, however. Regarding Cyprus, the United States is working, in the UN and with the UN Secretary General and his staff, on new ideas to provide a basis for getting the talks started again. He noted that Mr. Christopher had also dealt with this subject on his trip.

Mr. Christopher said he is relatively optimistic that the talks by the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can start again, with some chance of success. Despite longstanding bitterness between them, there are factors conducive to a settlement: Turkey’s forces constitute an economic drain; the UN members providing forces are weary of the task; and the Greek Cypriots are aware that the world is looking to them for movement rather than stubbornness. Although the Greeks and Turks differ on many things, he noted, they do recognize a mutuality about security; each recognizes that the other’s strength is important, particularly in the NATO context.

Secretary Vance summarized that, in short, we are anxious to strengthen them for NATO’s purposes. There are serious obstacles; but [Page 751] NATO’s strong view is that Turkey is of great strategic importance in the region. Obviously, he added, the importance increases as we see the instability in Iran. Concern about this is shown not just by the NATO Alliance but also by the European Community in general.

Secretary Vance suggested that it would be useful, since Secretary Brown would not be joining the meetings with the President, to provide an assessment of NATO, including its current status, a comparison with the past, and projections for the future.

Secretary Brown began by noting that he would concentrate on the military side of the balance. However, he said, there are also many political, economic and social factors affecting both the Warsaw Pact members and the European and North American members of NATO. Certainly those factors have a strong influence on both the Warsaw Pact and NATO. Clearly, the Warsaw Pact nations have made their greatest strides on the military side. Ten years ago they had an unfavorable balance and now they are roughly in balance, especially in conventional forces. In the last five years in particular the Soviets have been moving troops into Eastern Europe; but the differences at confrontation points, Secretary Brown said, are not all that great—about 150,000 troops. He said that the Soviets have modernized. They have moved from artillery, aircraft and tanks with defensive shorter range functions to more modern capabilities, heavily armed and longer range.

Secretary Brown said that NATO in the past few years—particularly the last two years—has stepped up its own modernization. In the last two years, the NATO Allies decided on three things: a) on the goal of expanding their defense budgets, after inflation, by three percent; b) on short term measures such as an increase in anti-tank weapons, readiness and reinforcement, and to increase the stock of war materiel; c) on formulating longer term defense plans, for which they have established ten separate groups dedicated to plans in ten different areas, e.g. improved command and control, and strengthened air defense. These groups have developed long-term plans covering the period through 1985, including how to spend the $50–$80 billion that is being added to defense budgets. Secretary Vance intervened to note that the NATO Alliance is now more cohesive and will be focussing on these issues in a more planned, comprehensive and effective manner.

Secretary Brown continued that NATO, as a result of these decisions, has procured many thousands of anti-tank weapons, with ammunition, and all but two or three of the NATO countries have increased their real defense budgets this year over last year. Although the Soviets continue to have more tanks and a few more aircraft, the USSR cannot be confident of overrunning Western Europe in a quick attack. The United States, by 1982 or 1983, will be able to add five divisions in Europe within ten days. He said that, although NATO has no inte[Page 752]ntion of invading the Warsaw Pact countries, the Soviets must be and are quite concerned, in any plan to overrun Western Europe, that the momentum is now against them. There is evidence that they are concerned, and we and our NATO allies are quite confident.

Secretary Vance said that he thought Secretary Brown’s comments might be helpful as background for the Vice Premier’s discussions that afternoon.

Vice Premier Deng pointed out that the Soviets might attack NATO on two flanks.

Secretary Brown acknowledged this. He said that the weather was a difficulty on the northern flank, but if the Soviets attempt to attack there NATO has plans to reinforce very quickly by both air and sea. Elsewhere on the northern flank, he said, the United States Marines participated in an exercise in Denmark last summer. On the southern flank, the Greek and Turkish armies are very substantial in size. There must be improvements in the political situation for them to fight effectively, and that flank needs a reinforcement capability, which we are preparing to have by air and sea as well. He noted that it would be very important to close both the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits to block the Soviet Black Sea fleet and to isolate the Mediterranean.

Vice Premier Deng said that he had been wondering for many years now if it is accurate to describe the situation by separating strategic from conventional weapons. Secretary Brown replied that in his judgment it would be difficult to keep conventional war from escalating into nuclear war. He said that one can theorize but he thinks it would escalate. Secretary Brown pointed out that this is what helps to deter a conventional attack.

Vice Premier Deng said that NATO had a strategic shortcoming in that the NATO rear, the United States, is very far from Europe and that the Soviet Union is very close.

Secretary Brown responded that this is why we are working on reinforcement capability. If we pre-position supplies in Europe then all we need to do is move troops over there, which we can do in a few days. By 1983, he said, we will have five divisions of equipment pre-positioned so we can double the fighting force in a week or ten days. Subsequently more forces can be moved by ship within 30 days, but the initial move must be quick and we are arranging to do that.

Secretary Vance noted that the obvious complement to this is that NATO must develop an early warning capability of maximum effectiveness.

Secretary Brown said that we believe that any substantial Soviet build-up would become apparent in a few days, but the Soviets can build up rapidly and we must keep our ability to respond in a week or [Page 753] two. He asked how the Vice Premier looks upon this in respect to China’s defensive system, and asked about China’s ability to respond and resist attack in a brief period.

Vice Premier Deng answered that China’s warning systems are backward but China is always on the alert to possible attack by the Soviets. However, the current Chinese assessment is that it is not easy for the Soviets, with their present armed forces in the Far East, to launch an attack. Their arms in the Far East are less than a quarter of their total, including forces near Iran and East Turkestan. As far as he knew, the Vice Premier continued, the Soviets had not increased their forces in the Far East to a large degree. He said that since the Vietnam question arose, the Soviets were “clamoring” but he had not seen much increase in their forces. Nevertheless, China is ready, and ready for them to go deep. The Vice Premier joked that maybe China has no other merits, but it does have plenty of territory. The Soviets have, however, strengthened their naval and air forces in the Far East similar to what they have done in Europe, with particular emphasis on naval improvements.

Dr. Brzezinski commented that we have some indication that the Soviets have increased their ground forces also, especially in certain areas near the Chinese frontier. This has been a gradual increase over the last few years. Vice Premier Deng said that the addition of one or two divisions along a common boundary of several thousand kilometers would not make much difference. Secretary Brown said we had also noted an increase in their air force, but this did not seem linked to Vietnam. Vice Premier Deng acknowledged this, but said their increase in naval forces is connected with the Vietnam situation. Secretary Brown said the Soviets certainly could reach Vietnam only by air or sea and thus such a build-up was of use in Vietnam. But this began early. Vice Premier Deng said that of course the Soviets don’t need so much of a build-up to deal with the United States. Foreign Minister Huang added that Vietnam authorities are already asking residents of the Cam Ranh Bay area to withdraw.

Secretary Vance, turning the conversation back to Southern Europe, said we must look at the whole area, including Portugal, Spain, Italy, Yugoslavia and others who must keep themselves strong politically. He said that, in the last two years, we have been working on Portugal to help build stability there including economic stability, and with Spain, in the process of establishing a new government. He anticipated, from his conversations there, that Spain will seek to join NATO within the next couple of years. He said we have been trying to continue to strengthen relations with Yugoslavia with whom our relations are closer and better than they were two years ago. The United States will continue this effort, especially because of the importance of Yugo[Page 754]slavia’s particular location and also because of its important role in the non-aligned movement. Vice Premier Deng said he agreed, and recalled that the Yugoslav question was discussed with both Secretary Vance and Dr. Brzezinski. Deng volunteered that the attitude recently taken by both Romania and Yugoslavia was very good. Secretary Vance said he agreed, and thought that Chairman Hua’s visits to these countries were constructive and productive. He asked Dr. Brzezinski if he had anything to add regarding the southern tier.

Dr. Brzezinski said that he would just make one point. He told Deng that we were watching Algeria very closely since perhaps Algeria might take a more helpful position following Boumediene’s death. He said we would like to encourage China regarding Algeria, and anything China could do would be important, because of Algeria’s position in the non-aligned movement. Vice Premier Deng replied that it is a pity that during the previous period Algeria had been rather close to the Soviet Union. Deng said that China hopes that there will be changes for the better, but this would depend on who eventually emerges as Algeria’s leader.

(The Secretary reported that Mrs. Vance’s luncheon was proceeding more slowly and therefore the Secretary’s luncheon group had been asked to wait a few minutes, until 2:00 p.m., before giving toasts in the next room. This prompted a humorous exchange led by Vice Premier Deng about the comparative speed with which those with a military background eat their meals.)

Vice Premier Deng asked about the $80 million mentioned earlier. Secretary Brown replied that the $80 million was in foreign military sales credits which now had been released. Most of the new money this year, he said, is credits, but he believed that some is grant aid.

Vice Premier Deng said he believes that these measures with Turkey are beneficial, but he wanted to reiterate what he had said at the meeting in the morning—that Pakistan is no less important than Turkey. In Pakistan it is important to keep Bhutto from being condemned to death; at the same time, we should be aware that toward the end of his rule he leaned toward the Soviet Union. He said that Bhutto’s inability to get help from the United States and Europe contributed to this. It is possible also that the new leadership could move in that direction, too.

Secretary Vance recalled that he had said Sunday night that our policy is to assist Pakistan, and this is reflected in this year’s budget. But, as he had also discussed at length Sunday night, Pakistan must act in a way to help us, under our law, provide for them. As long as Pakistan engages in nuclear reprocessing our law prevents us from giving economic and military assistance. Vice Premier Deng said: “We can do some work to that effect.” (The Secretary intervened to say this would [Page 755] be “very good.”) Under these circumstances, Deng continued, the United States must give Pakistan effective aid. The Vice Premier noted that the Pakistanis believe the United States previously agreed to provide more aid than we actually did. Deng quickly added that, of course, he did not know the details about that. Secretary Vance took note of the Vice Premier’s comment, then turned back to the subject of Bhutto, saying that the United States had urged General Zia to exercise clemency once his case was decided by the Supreme Court even though Bhutto had attacked the United States. Vice Premier Deng said that Bhutto is a man of emotion: sometimes he curses the Chinese also. Secretary Brown concluded the discussions by saying that if all those in other countries who had cursed the United States were executed there would be few people left in the world.

(The Secretary then led Vice Premier Deng to join Mrs. Vance’s luncheon for the toasts.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat Files: Lot 84 D 241, Box 9, Vance NODIS Memcons, 1979. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Thayer and cleared by Sullivan. Vance’s luncheon took place in the James Madison Room at the Department of State.
  2. See Document 202.