212. Oral Message From Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping to President Carter1

Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping has sent an oral message to President Carter.

“I was glad to receive the letter of Mr. President.2 Mr. President, your suggestion about remaining in close touch on matters of common concern is very good. Premier Hua and I also share the same aspiration.

During my visit to Washington, D.C., I exchanged views with Your Excellency on the Indochina situation.3 At that time, I mentioned the consideration that one cannot sit on one’s hands without doing anything regarding the Vietnam aggressors and that one must give them an appropriate lesson.

I also listened carefully to the views stated by Mr. President. Now the situation on the Sino-Vietnam border has further deteriorated.

The armed provocations of the Vietnam troops inside the Chinese territory have been constantly escalating. We are forced to make the decision to take necessary self-defense operations against Vietnam.

This operation will be restricted and limited in scope. What we seek is a tranquil border.

This move will not affect the general situation. It may play a certain role to check the ambitions of Vietnam and will benefit peace and stability of this region. In view of the common concern of our two countries in the region, we especially inform Mr. President of the above consideration.

We expect to have the understanding and support of you and the U.S. Government.

Mr. President, we have still kept our recent visit to the United States in beautiful memory. My wife joins me in sending heartful thanks for your warm hospitality.”

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 47, China: Sino-Vietnamese Conflict, Heads of State Exchanges: 2/79. Secret. Delivered by Chai on the morning of February 15 to Oksenberg since both Vance and Brzezinski were in Mexico with Carter. (Brzezinski, Power and Principle, p. 411)
  2. Not further identified. This may be a reference to a February 7 letter from Carter to Deng, which discussed the success of Deng’s visit and reiterated Carter’s view of the next steps in the economic, cultural, and political relations between the United States and China. Carter also expressed his appreciation for the invitation to visit China and his pleasure that Hua had accepted an invitation to visit the United States. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 38, Deng Xiaoping 1/79 Visit: 2/1–8/79)
  3. See especially Documents 205207.