207. Memorandum of Conversation1

January 30, 1979; the President Reporting on His Conversations with Deng

The President said that he read to Deng his own notes indicating the U.S. position.2 Deng listened without interruption.

Deng then said that because it was very serious he wanted to tell the U.S. the Chinese considerations. China must still teach Vietnam a lesson. The Soviet Union can use Cuba, Vietnam, and then Afghanistan will evolve into a proxy. The PRC is approaching this issue from a position of strength. The action will be very limited.

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If Vietnam thought the PRC soft, the situation will get worse. Cambodia is now changing its “past unpopular policies,” and its resistance is gaining support.

The action will be quick, lasting 10–20 days, to be followed by withdrawal. Deng expects divided international reactions. At first, they will be negative, but in time they will turn more favorable. This matter has been thoroughly vetted at the top of the Chinese government.

The Chinese will study the U.S. views very carefully. Deng will also discuss this matter with Ohira, though he expects Ohira’s views to be similar to the President’s.

Deng would appreciate having an intelligence briefing and his Foreign Minister will listen to it.3 It is reassuring to have a friend with whom things of this sort can be discussed so frankly.

The President said our position is not based on fear of the Soviet Union or Vietnam. We think isolating them is a better form of punishment.

Deng then asked for U.S. aid to Cambodia through Thailand. The President asked if the Thais could accept and relay it to the Cambodians. Deng said yes and that he has in mind light weapons. The Thais are now sending a senior officer to the Thai-Cambodian border to keep communications more secure.

  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. According to the President’s Daily Diary, this meeting took place in the Oval Office with Deng and the Chinese interpreter, Ji Chaozhu, from 9:05 to 9:40 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials)
  2. See Document 206.
  3. Carter added, “an intelligence.”