242. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Robert Gates, Staff Member, NSC
  • Chai Zemin, People’s Republic of China Ambassador to the United States
  • Zhou Wenzhong, Interpreter, People’s Republic of China Embassy

Ambassador Chai: In yesterday’s meeting with the President, he talked of the SALT II negotiations.2 One thing he said is open to different interpretations and I would like to get clarification. This morning I asked Mike Oksenberg the same question and he told me to ask you.

Dr. Brzezinski: He is a cautious man. Did he mention two other things to you?

Ambassador Chai: Yes he did. In yesterday’s meeting the President said (with regard to SALT), “I want to keep you involved.”

Dr. Brzezinski: Informed. Our records show that the President said “Within the bounds of propriety we wish to keep you thoroughly informed.”

Ambassador Chai: Yesterday I took it as “involved.”

Dr. Brzezinski: Our notes are carefully prepared. Of course, if you want to be involved . . .

Ambassador Chai: As I said yesterday, we view SALT II as something in which China is not very interested.

Dr. Brzezinski: Then you do not want to be involved but rather informed.

Ambassador Chai: Yes.

Dr. Brzezinski: Was the rest of the message clear?

Ambassador Chai: Yes. That was the only thing. So you will keep me informed?

Dr. Brzezinski: We expect to hear from the Soviets by the beginning of next week. We hope all major issues are finished. We will then set dates for the meeting.

Ambassador Chai: Both sides have already agreed to the wording of the agreement?

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Dr. Brzezinski: Basically yes. There are three or four issues to be worked out and we expect to do this in the next few days.

Let me mention another subject. Your country and the United States have an interest in stability in the Far East. One way to further promote stability would be to find some way to initiate three-way talks between the US, South Korea and North Korea. I do not know if South Korea is willing to have such talks nor if North Korea is willing, but if such discussions could be arranged, it would contribute to greater stability in the region. Stability in the region is in the interest of the US, China and Japan; it is not in the Soviet interest. It would be useful to explore ways to initiate this sort of discussion. I do not have any concrete idea—nor do I expect you to have any today—but we may want to return to this subject later. The President will be going to South Korea at the end of June.

Ambassador Chai: I understand North Korea is willing to be involved in talks with you and with South Korea, but not in three-way talks.

Dr. Brzezinski: This is part of the problem because we will not talk alone inasmuch as that would undermine South Korea. Also, we are involved in South Korea’s security.

Ambassador Chai: What about efforts to promote a dialogue between North and South Korea?

Dr. Brzezinski: There is some dialogue but it is limited because they cannot deal with the security problem in our absence.

Ambassador Chai: My view is that it is advisable to have a separate dialogue.

Dr. Brzezinski: It is impossible to talk separately with North Korea without stimulating suspicion and insecurity in South Korea. Maybe we can all think about it and find some creative solution.

Ambassador Chai: I am certain you are good at finding solutions to all kinds of problems.

Dr. Brzezinski: It is easier if we work together.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 52, Chron: 5/1–17/79. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The meeting took place in Brzezinski’s office in the White House.
  2. See Document 241.