246. Memorandum From Michel Oksenberg and Nicholas Platt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Beijing, Taipei, and the Korean Issue

It is by no means certain that the Chinese will be willing to exercise much leverage, even behind the scenes, to produce a flexible North Korean posture during any trilateral talks among Pyongyang, Seoul, and Washington.

Beyond that, the major incentive for South Korea to participate meaningfully in such talks would be the knowledge that as a result of those talks, South Korea could expect to initiate contacts with Beijing. South Korea, as you know, would like to enter into a constructive relationship with the PRC, at least in the economic realm.

It is highly unlikely that China at this stage is prepared to reciprocate the Seoul desire.

What incentive could we offer Beijing to encourage it to initiate contacts with Seoul? I believe the route is through Taipei. China has long seen a parallel between the North Korea–South Korea “civil war” and their own relationship with Taipei. They fear any policy they pursue toward South Korea would set a precedent for their Taiwan policy. If they are willing to accept the “two Korea” solution, why not “two Chinas?” the argument goes.

In addition, the Chinese would like to get talks going with Taipei and would hope that we could play a role there.

We believe it is worth considering our indicating to Beijing that we would be prepared to encourage Taipei to adopt a more forthcoming [Page 883] attitude toward contacts with China—particularly in the trade realm—in exchange for the PRC initiating economic contacts with South Korea. Naturally, the proposition would have to be put in more delicate terms.

We would have to think carefully about the combination of pressures and incentives we would have to apply in Taipei to get it to initiate contacts with Beijing. One source of leverage which we have over Taiwan, of course, is arms sales. And those arms sales would go down a good deal easier in Beijing if they were to take place after Taipei had somewhat relaxed its position of “no trade with Communist China.”

In short, the specific proposal we have to make is this: When we request the Chinese to assist in establishing trilateral talks with North Korea, we indicate that South Korea proceeds on the assumption that one result of the talks will be the initiation of economic contact with the PRC. In the event such contacts develop, the U.S. would also be prepared to try to encourage Taiwan to develop economic contacts with the PRC as well.


That you approve our developing this idea in more concrete form among the East Asian Group.2

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 9, China (PRC): 4–5/79. Confidential; Outside the System. Sent for action.
  2. Brzezinski did not check either the Approve or Disapprove option. Instead, he wrote, “Doubtful line—I am troubled by the [parallel]. (What about the summit idea—where does this stand?) ZB.”