204. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of the President’s Meeting with the People’s Republic of China Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping


  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Vice President Walter Mondale
  • Secretary of State Cyrus Vance
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • David Aaron, Staff Member, National Security Council
  • Michel Oksenberg, Staff Member, NSC
  • Trudy Werner, Notetaker, NSC
  • Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping
  • Vice Premier Fang Yi
  • Foreign Minister Huang Hua
  • Ambassador Chai Zemin
  • Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Wenjin
  • Acting Head of Department of American and Oceanian Affairs Zhu Qizhen
  • Head of the Department of Protocol Wei Yongqing
  • Pu Shouchang, Member, State Planning Commission
  • Lien Zhengpao, Notetaker

President Carter: Mr. Vice Premier, we are very excited about the gifts. They are very beautiful.

Vice Premier Deng: They are very little gifts.

President Carter: This afternoon I thought we might go over the range of world problem areas. Let me try to explain our own attitudes toward them and in some circumstances outline what steps we are taking to alleviate the problems.

I understand that Secretary Brown gave you a description of what we are doing in Europe with our NATO allies to strengthen our defense.2

We have a very good spirit and a sense of purpose and cohesion in NATO that was not there several years ago. As Secretary Brown undoubtedly told you, we have about 340,000 men, armed forces personnel, in the European Theatre.

Concerning the Soviet Union, we are also deeply concerned about recent developments in Afghanistan and Vietnam, Ethiopia, South Yemen, earlier of course in Angola and we share your concern about these developments.

I think, though, in an effort to be accurate, all of the trends in recent years have not been in favor of the Soviet Union.

Several countries have moved from a closer allegiance to the Soviet Union more and more to an allegiance to the Western world and indeed with your country as well.

A few years ago, for instance, Egypt was a very close permanent ally of the Soviet Union. Now, of course, it is a very close friend of ours and yours as well. I think it is accurate to say that since Madame Ghandi’s departure, with her replacement by Desai, that India has taken a much more positive attitude toward the United States than it had before.

I won’t mention the countries one-by-one because you know them as well. But I think in the case of Indonesia their relations with us are better. In several countries in Eastern Europe, Romania and others, their relations with us have improved. Yugoslavia has increased its friendship toward us. Nigeria is much more friendly toward the West. [Page 757] So too is Guinea, North Korea, formerly dependent on the Soviet Union, is much more friendly with you. Perhaps we have our best relationship with Japan in recent years. The ASEAN nations are much more cohesive, much more independent economically. I think their recent action in the United Nations concerning Vietnam’s invasion of Kampuchea was encouraging. Somalia, for a while very closely dominated by the Soviets, now is much more independent. And in the Middle East, the Soviets complained because they have been excluded from deliberations there. While many trends favor the Soviet Union, in many other ways, I think Soviet influence has been decreased.

We have also been pleased lately to conclude our naval base agreements with President Marcos in the Philippines. So our military presence in the Western Pacific is on as secure a basis as it has been in many many years.

We are very pleased that for the first time that I can remember we have a good relationship with China, Japan and India all at the same time. And we believe those friendships will grow stronger as time goes by.

But we obviously have problems and challenges from the Soviet Union that we need to address together. We think it would be a mistake to form an alliance against the Soviet Union but there are many areas of the world where we can act in concert without intruding on the rights of the people involved in a troubled region.

We feel that in many ways the Soviet Union has become increasingly isolated from their formal staunch allies and friends. The recent vote in the United Nations we think was highly significant when for the first time the developing nations of the world voted overwhelmingly against the Soviet Union and against the invasion by the Vietnamese of Kampuchea.

Our working together with you and others made it possible for the first time recently for the Cubans to be halted in their obvious effort to take over the nonaligned movement and to dominate it.

When I was in Guadeloupe with the leaders of West Germany, Great Britain and France, we had long discussions about the problem in Pakistan and Turkey, two nations that are of concern to you.

We are working now with the West Germans and others to try to alleviate some of Turkey’s economic problems and also to cooperate with the International Monetary Fund in this effort.

We are trying through the United Nations to alleviate the tension that divides Turkey and Greece and to bring both those nations back into a closer relationship with NATO. The Turkey–Greece problem is similar to the one that divides Pakistan and India. And we hope that everything will be done by you and us to bring about closer relations be [Page 758] tween Pakistan and India. We are resuming our efforts to renew our strong ties with Pakistan and here we can work in harmony with you. The British and French and others are also interested in having a strong Pakistan, both economically and militarily.

General Zia has sent me a very valuable message through you. We are very pleased to hear about the prospects for President Bhutto’s life being spared.

There is a very serious problem in Pakistan which has already been discussed with you by Secretary Vance concerning their developing nuclear force. As you know, India already has that capability. We will try to do everything we can to have a mutual agreement between those two nations, that neither will go down the road to becoming a nuclear power.

When Prime Minister Desai was here and when I was in India earlier last year, he expressed his desire to work closely with Pakistan’s leaders to communicate better and alleviate tensions and your good influence in Pakistan would be very valuable. We would like to have your advice and information as the possibility for peace is explored.

Vice Premier Deng: Pakistan’s problem is this. What Pakistan is dissatisfied about is that they feel American aid to India is quite a lot, whereas your aid to Pakistan is very very small.

If, for instance, the United States gives the same amount of aid to Pakistan as it is giving to India, I think our advice to the Pakistanis not to develop a nuclear capability would be effective.

President Carter: I am not sure we can equate the levels of aid because of the greater population in India. We have a law recently passed by Congress which we cannot violate which would require us almost completely to terminate our aid to Pakistan if they developed a nuclear capability.

Secretary Vance was telling me that on the basis of population, the economic aid to the two countries is about equivalent—$120 million of aid to India and $40 million of aid going to Pakistan.

Vice Premier Deng: But I hope that you consider that you should not calculate it on a per capita basis. Because the threat which Pakistan is facing is from India and they went through the bitter experiences of being dismembered by India. And now Pakistan is faced with the danger of being dismembered once again, of course, this second dismemberment, this danger, does not come from India alone but emanates from the north. For instance, there is the danger of a separatist movement in Buchistan encouraged by outside assistance.

And so that if you give aid in accordance with the population, then Pakistan will always be under the threat of India.

[Page 759]

President Carter: The aid I referred to was economic aid, not military aid. We have encouraged our European allies to join with us recently in Guadeloupe to increase the aid we give to Pakistan.

Vice Premier Deng: If the United States or, through your allies, you could give really down-to-earth, solid assistance to Pakistan, then I believe it would be possible not to develop a nuclear plant. I hear that General Zia plans to come to Washington.

Secretary Vance: There is not a definite date set.

President Carter: Recently we have moved to Pakistan two squadrons of F–5 fighter planes and the French have decided to sell their most advanced Mirage airplanes. I think the 2000.

Vice Premier Deng: That is good.

President Carter: We agree with your concern.

Vice Premier Deng: As I was saying this noon time to the Secretary of State and Dr. Brzezinski, if we look back in the history of Pakistan we can see that at the beginning Mr. Bhutto was opposed to the Soviet Union, but later when Bhutto felt he was getting more and more isolated, he depended more upon the Soviet Union. At the present time, General Zia’s regime is still independent. At the same time we note the internal struggles are still very complicated. If one does not give him real effective aid, General Zia will be vulnerable to internal and external pressures.

President Carter: I would like to say a word about the Middle East. I have spent hundreds of hours trying to bring the Arab countries together to resolve the differences that have been so explosive, differences which prompted war four times in the last 30 years.

It is a very difficult challenge, as you know. But I think at this point we have continued steadily to make very slow progress and both the Israelis and Egyptians are determined to reach an agreement as a first step toward a comprehensive peace agreement. We are determined to resolve the Palestinian question, West Bank, Gaza and also to lay the basis for a peace agreement between Israel and Jordan and Israel and Syria. The comprehensive nature of this peace has been a basis for the Camp David meeting and both the Israelis and Egyptians still are committed to carry out the terms of that agreement.

Unfortunately, many of the Arab countries still waste their military and political strength in trying to destroy Israel, rather than combining their strength to prevent Soviet intrusion into the Middle Eastern areas.

Our efforts are to make sure that Israel and the Arab countries—even as far away as Morocco, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and others—recognize that they must alleviate tension among them [Page 760] selves based primarily on the Camp David accords in order to face a common challenge to their own safety and their own independence.

Your encouragement of President Sadat in his very courageous action has been very helpful.

Vice Premier Deng: Our relations with President Sadat are very good. And we trust each other. The question now is that we must not increase the difficulties of President Sadat. If President Sadat does not insist upon the restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people and if President Sadat does not insist upon the return of the lands occupied since the war, then President Sadat will become isolated among the Arabs.

President Carter: As you know, he insists on both these goals.

Vice Premier Deng: And we told this to President Sadat himself because he is persisting in these two points. That is why we have the courage to support the position of President Sadat. And it is precisely because of this position that I have been able to maintain good relations with both Iraq and Syria.

And so the crux of the problem is still to persuade Mr. Begin and to quickly reach agreement on these two points. That is, first, to return the occupied lands to the Arab nations and second, to agree to the creation of a Palestinian entity on the West Bank of the Jordan and to restore to the Palestinian people their national rights.

President Carter: In the opinion of President Sadat, and we agree with him, the Camp David agreement signed by Sadat and Israel accomplishes these goals adequately and we would hope that you could continue to use your own good influence among the other Arab nations to encourage and support the Camp David accords. It is very difficult for President Sadat in having the cooperation of the Palestinians and the Jordanians to carry out the agreements reached at Camp David. Quietly the Saudi Arabians have expressed their support, but because of the intense pressure placed on them by Libya and by Iraq, they have been much more neutral, for instance in the Bagdad conference. But we believe that the Camp David agreement must be the basis for a settlement in the Middle East. The only alternative is to bring the Soviet Union into the discussion as was originally envisioned by the U.N. call for a Geneva Conference. Neither Egypt nor Syria, none of them wants to see the Soviet Union come in and be a full partner in the future discussions.

Vice Premier Deng: That is very good. Don’t let the Russians meddle in.

I think we can work together towards this end. As for Israel itself, it is an existing entity. We cannot just wipe it off the face of the earth. We have never approved such an approach. Israel is an objective reality which exists. We have already made clear our position.

[Page 761]

President Carter: Can you establish any sort of communications with the Israelis?

Vice Premier Deng: We cannot do it at the present time. Because if we were to do so, we could not conduct any work at all.

President Carter: And the same with the Saudi Arabians?

Vice Premier Deng: No. Saudi Arabia is different. It is the Saudi Arabians who do not want to have contacts with us.

But if you can do some promotion work there, we would be grateful.

The Saudi Arabians say they do not want to establish diplomatic relations with an atheistic country.

President Carter: I think to summarize what I said so far, there are many areas of the world where you and we have a common goal and where we can cooperate. In Pakistan, in strengthening the ASEAN nations, in the Middle East, among the non-aligned countries who look to you for leadership and guidance quite often. The recent Kampuchea issue in the U.N. was an encouraging development. In Korea, I would like to hear your idea of what we might do to assure future peace and non-aggression in Korea.

Vice Premier Deng: While I was in Japan, former Prime Minister Fukuda raised this question; a number of U.S. Senators and others raised this question with me. Here I can say in clear and explicit terms that there does not exist a danger of North Koreans preparing to launch a war. Even should the United States withdraw all its armed forces from South Korea, leaving only the South Korean armed forces there, under those circumstances there still would be no possibility of the North Koreans attacking South Korea. I am sure that Mr. President has already noted the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has suggested a new proposal for resuming negotiations and put forth concrete suggestions. And the North Koreans hope to engage in negotiations with the United States. And they are even more eager to engage in a dialogue with South Korea.

But because the Park Chung-hee government in the past rejected negotiations with the Democratic Republic of Korea, so this time North Korea hopes that should such negotiations be resumed, they should not only be conducted on a government basis but that different parties and various peoples’ organizations could also take part in negotiations on both sides.

President Carter: This makes it difficult if not impossible for the South Koreans to agree because of the inadmissibility of North Korea’s deciding who should represent the South Koreans in the discussions. If it was possible for the government authorities to negotiate directly, this would open up immediate possibilities for fruitful discussion.

[Page 762]

President Carter: Are you in a position to have any communications directly with the South Koreans?

Vice Premier Deng: For similar reasons, like Israel, we cannot have direct contacts with the South Koreans because if we were to do that we would lose the possibility of doing work with regard to other parties. These are very sensitive problems.

President Carter: Yes, I know. Of course we would be very glad to have a trade relationship with North Korea if you could have a similar relationship with South Korea, and perhaps these openings might provide new avenues of choice and new ways to resolve differences.

Vice Premier Deng: It would be best for us not to create a situation in which it would make it even more difficult for North and South Korea to contact each other.

President Carter: We will continue to use our good offices to bring the two governments together for discussion and to the extent you can, you will do the same. We will cooperate and share advice.

Vice Premier Deng: While in Japan, Prime Minister Fukuda also made a similar suggestion that they will work with regard to South Korea and we with regard to North Korea. But we did not agree to this. The Japanese could work with the South Koreans but if we were to do the same with the North Koreans, results would be just the opposite of what we would want.

I would like to explain this point. Some think the Soviet Union is increasing its influence in North Korea. That is not correct. Actually, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has all along maintained a relationship of trust with China. And there is no secret to that. We never interfered in the internal affairs of North Korea and we never took a part in their decision making. Whatever aid we gave them, it was totally devoid of any conditions. Whereas, Soviet aid always has strings attached. In fact, some of those conditions were very hard indeed, which involved Korean internal affairs and that is why the North Koreans became unhappy with the Soviet Union.

President Carter: Do you think it would be inappropriate for you to encourage the North Koreans to meet with the South Korean government officials or authorities?

Vice Premier Deng: We can just express our support for the North Koreans’ position for independent, peaceful reunification. Mr. President probably has already noted that the promise of the recent North Korean proposals is that the two sides should engage in peaceful consultations. And in this field, I think we can do work that includes Japan to encourage them to engage in direct negotiations.

President Carter: The last thing I would like to discuss with you, and you can raise other items if you wish, is our own general relationship with the Soviet Union.

[Page 763]

I notice in the interview that you gave to Hedley Donovan of Time Magazine that you expressed your displeasure with the SALT agreement and your support of the letter written by the retired generals.3 This causes us some problem. This morning I noticed that you said you did not object to a SALT II Agreement and that it might be necessary. If you could let your views be clarified when you speak to the members of Congress and to the public it would be very helpful to us. We believe that the SALT Agreement is not only important for us and for the Soviet Union but for you and other nations as well. And I would like to explain briefly why I believe that this is true.

Vice Premier Deng: But I would like to make clear that, in my interview with Mr. Donovan, I did say that we do not object to the United States concluding this or that agreement with the Soviet Union. Rather, I said to Mr. Donovan that just by signing agreements with the Soviet Union, no matter how many agreements, you cannot by means of those agreements put restraints on the Soviet Union. I told Mr. Donovan I do not object to the signing of this or that agreement.

President Carter: In the Time Magazine coming out this week and in the afternoon Washington newspaper, the emphasis was on the opposition to SALT and if this could be clarified with statements about your true attitude, it would be very helpful.

Vice Premier Deng: Yes. I can do that.

President Carter: As you know, we have had several agreements with the Soviet Union. This particular agreement brings the limit on the Soviet Union and us much more directly in balance. It does not prevent our own nation from developing and deploying the strategic weapons which we would like to have. As you know, the Soviets’ agreement with us limits them and us, but does not limit the French or the British. And, as already published in the news, it does not include tactical or theatre nuclear weapons under this agreement. The Soviets would have to dismantle about ten percent of their total transcontinental missiles and the development of new missiles in the future would be restrained.

We feel, perhaps contrary to your own belief, that the Soviets have complied with the previous agreements, including the Limited Test [Page 764] Ban, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, SALT I and the agreement reached at Vladivostok. We believe there was adequate means of verification of their compliance and of course we would monitor constantly the Soviet agreement or compliance with SALT II as well. I think this type of limit, mutually placed on ourselves and the Soviet Union is much more constraining on them—for they desire to build up armed forces rapidly—than it is on ourselves and other nations who do not have this desire but must maintain a strategic balance. We have not yet concluded all the SALT terms. Most of them have already been revealed in the news media and, of course, we would be glad, at a later date, to give Ambassador Ch’ai a briefing on the terms of the SALT Agreement as soon as it is concluded with the Soviet Union. But my judgment is that this type of agreement, although not perfect and not adequate, is a step in the right direction.

Vice Premier Deng: We are not opposed to negotiations. And we are not opposed to your reaching this or that agreement. At the same time we believe that such an agreement cannot really restrain the Soviet Union. Because with regard to these nuclear strategic weapons, you have already reached these agreements with them. This will be the fourth. The first in 1963, in 1972 with SALT I, in 1975 at Vladivostok and now this will be the fourth.

President Carter: Yes, I know. That is true.

Vice Premier Deng: And after each agreement, the Soviet Union stepped up its efforts to catch up.

President Carter: Yes.

Vice Premier Deng: And there may be the fourth, fifth, or sixth agreement and we are not opposed to those. But so far as we are concerned, we do not believe that these agreements can restrain the Soviet Union from carrying out its expansionistic policies. Even if you are able to carry out effective supervision on the question of nuclear weapons, they will still look for loopholes in another direction. For instance, Afghanistan, Iran, South Yemen, Angola, Vietnam, Ethiopia and so on, they constantly engage in such actions. So we repeatedly said that what we really need to do is real, solid, down-to-earth work.

And when we talk about doing real, solid, down-to-earth work, that means such actions as normalizing relations between our two countries, concluding the Japanese Peace and Friendship Treaty, and uniting ASEAN, including breaking up Soviet strategic plans for launching war. Wherever the Soviet Union sticks its fingers, there we must chop them off.

President Carter: Let me say that we do not depend on the arms control agreements to remove all the threats to world peace. We are at the same time maintaining and even increasing the military capability of the United States. We encourage our NATO allies to do the same. We [Page 765] are encouraging the Japanese, within their own prescribed limits, to improve their own defense capability. We are pleased with your Peace and Friendship Treaty with Japan. I think that as we deal with countries where the Soviets now have a foundation, you can help us and vice versa to replace or reduce the Soviet influence.

It would be a mistake for us to forget about Tanzania. Our belief is that Nyerere has not shifted completely away from us to the Soviet Union. Machel has a very strong nationalist capability. There are countries where the Soviets have an influence, where you in your way and we in our way can encourage friendship instead of domination by the Soviets.

I think a prompt approach, as you point out, is a very good approach. We also let the Soviets know that their adventurism is contrary to their desire for détente, friendship, trade, and peace with the Western nations and we do everything we can to alleviate tension in the trouble spots around the world because often the Soviets take advantage of disharmony or an outbreak of violence or instability in a country to move in—hopefully temporarily. I think in all these areas, as our own relations become strong and more normal, a shared effort by the two of us can be very helpful to ourselves, to both our countries, and to the entire world. We want to avoid war permanently if possible, not just postpone war for a couple of decades and I am sure this is your desire as well.

Vice Premier Deng: I agree to what you have just said. I would like to just say something supplementary. We believe that the experience of Angola merits summarizing. We see some changes now in Angola. There are now signs already that we may be able to improve relations with Angola. The Foreign Minister is thinking of developing relations with Angola. As we see it, there are two factors leading toward this. One fact is that both the Soviets and the Cubans are not popular there because, with the exception of providing them with munitions and weapons, economically speaking, the Soviets and Cubans cannot help them solve any problems. Then, the second factor is holding the flag of the Angolans. Actually the Cubans invaded Zaire and they were defeated. And so this shows the strategic aims of the Soviet Union. If we are to adopt a tit-for-tat policy toward the Soviets, then it would further change. Frankly speaking, as for this incident of Angola invading Zaire, those who were most cursed were China and France. But it would have been better if not only China and France were cursed but if the United States were also cursed.

President Carter: We were. We moved troops into Zaire.

Vice Premier Deng: But you are cursed not so vehemently. Further, in the future, let’s suffer in common from curses.

[Page 766]

President Carter: Mr. Vice Premier, it might be good for us to move into the Oval Office to discuss the Vietnamese question if this is satisfactory to you.

Vice Premier Deng: Fine.

The President, the Vice President, Secretary Vance, Dr. Brzezinski, Vice Premier Deng, Foreign Minister Huang, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang, and Mr. Chi (translator) adjourned to the Oval Office to meet from 4:59 p.m. to 5:49 p.m.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 47, China: President’s Meeting with Vice Premier Deng: 1–2/79. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room. Brzezinski gave Carter suggested talking points for this meeting, which were initialed “C.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, VIP Visit File, Box 2, China: Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, 1/28/79–2/1/79: 1/25/79 Briefing Book [III])
  2. During the luncheon meeting at the Department of State; see Document 203.
  3. In the interview published in Time Magazine (see footnote 4, Document 202), Deng said, “I suppose that you have already read the letter of 170 retired American generals and admirals. I have read it myself, and I very much approve of that letter.” According to Time, “The open letter, warning that the Soviets were ‘heading for superiority, not parity, in the military arena,’ ran a full page in The New York Times last week and was signed by 178 retired generals and admirals. Among them: Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., former Chief of Naval Operations; General Albert C. Wedemeyer, China theater commander in World War II; Major General George J. Keegan Jr., former Air Force chief of intelligence.”