291. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Second Meeting Between Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and Vice Premier Geng Biao, People’s Republic of China


  • No change from first meeting

Secretary Brown opened the discussion by welcoming Geng Biao to his Guest House, which for a few days will be ours, and asking him to speak first. Geng declined, however, and asked as host for the entire visit to hear the U.S. first.

Secretary Brown: We have some presentations on the balance of forces. I will hold them off for a while so we can talk about the bilateral issues that I mentioned this morning.

—I now would like to suggest measures for sustaining bilateral contacts and consultations between our two defense establishments. Increased interaction between us would promote mutual understanding, expand our capability to act in mutually reinforcing ways when our interests coincide, and narrow differences between us when our interests—as they sometimes will—diverge.

—I have a list of suggestions which I would like to propose and I hope that you have some also.

—First, I would like to invite you to my country at a mutually convenient time and to suggest that from now on, we meet on a regular basis.

—Second, I propose that we expand our respective attache offices on a reciprocal basis as soon as adequate working and living accommodations are available for our attaches in Beijing.

—Third, I would like to invite a delegation from your Military Academy to visit our National Defense University in Washington, D.C., and to tour some of our military installations in the United States.

—Fourth, we both know that modern military forces require extensive support organizations to sustain them. We would be willing at an appropriate time to discuss our experiences in these fields with you. If you are interested, we might start with exchanges in two areas: communications and medical support. We could also discuss some aspects of transportation and logistics, although, in the latter case, we would not wish to imply that we had entered a supply relationship or were engaged in joint planning for military contingencies.

[Page 1051]

—With respect to these proposals, we would be prepared to announce any or all of them at the end of my visit, even if some of the dates remain to be arranged. Of course, we would welcome your suggestions on this kind of exchange. If you wish to discuss the details of any of them further, we could do so now or I would suggest that you designate someone to get in touch with Mr. Komer or Mr. McGiffert.

—Finally, we have an overriding interest in preventing crises in the world from escalating to confrontation and war. We have established special communications arrangements with both friends and adversaries to facilitate rapid and confidential communication in crisis situations. We have such arrangements with the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and Federal Republic of Germany and others. We believe a direct communications link, dedicated to high level priority communications between our leaders, both in times of crisis and other cases of special sensitivity, is both substantively and symbolically appropriate given the new state of our relations and the importance of our two nations in world affairs. I discussed this with you yesterday and Dr. Dinneen and Ambassador Seignious also had discussions with your side. If you are interested in pursuing this, we are prepared to initiate some detailed discussions on the modalities. I would welcome hearing from you on these proposals now.

Geng Biao: Fine. Now I should like to say a few words.

—In the last year, since the establishment of diplomatic relations, our bilateral relations have developed in rapid fashion. There have been many exchanges of visits, study tours, and visits by many people. Apart from delegations of government leaders to the US, we have sent 380 study groups to the US totaling 2900 people. Thus far, we have also signed fifteen agreements and there is no doubt that our relations will continue to make headway in days to come. We have been thinking about future visits by the leaders of our two nations.

—As regards the suggestions about regular consultations between our two nations on major events, we will take it under consideration. If there is anything we need to talk about, we will go through our embassies and consulates.

—We welcome your offer to expand our attache offices after the accommodation problems have been solved in both countries.

—We would like to accept your invitation for a return visit by our Military Academy to the United States. We can continue to talk about discussions concerning logistics between our two countries.

—But at the same time, we have seen rapid development of commercial and economic relations between our two countries. We would like to see an early granting of Most Favored Nation status as it now acts to restrict our bilateral trade. We would like to hope that, while there has been some development, you will lift the embargo that is a [Page 1052] legacy of the past and not place China in the same Y category as the Soviet Union.

—Mr. Secretary, when you met with me yesterday, you mentioned technology transfers. I was wondering if you want to talk in more detail about it now.

Secretary Brown: That is the subject I want to talk about next. The way I understand the procedures including MFN, the matter is before Congress and they must act affirmatively if China is to be granted Most Favored Nation status. If they act affirmatively, we can expect to have the Most Favored Nation bill passed by the middle of February. I would note that while this matter is under consultation, it is important that nothing happen that would link the PRC and the Soviet Union and Iran.

Geng Biao: China will not veto the Iranian resolution.

Secretary Brown: Perhaps the situation may develop whereby the Soviet Union will not have to veto it either, depending on how China acts. He continued the discussion of technology transfer by making the following points:

—Let me now turn to export controls and technology transfer. Vice President Mondale stated during his visit here that we had drawn a distinction between you and the Soviet Union. At present, we are doing so on a case-by-case basis. We recognize this process is cumbersome and within the Executive Branch we believe we have identified the methods for drawing a distinction between China and the Soviet Union that still preserves our legitimate national security interests. And we will be consulting with Congress on this in establishing our new policy.

—We have offered to discuss specific cases with you. Something we do only for Romania among countries on the Y list. And I brought Mr. Dinneen with me to initiate direct contact with you, for the first time, to explore these issues; that is, to hear from you those types of specific technology transfers that you desire.

—We have licensed several items to you which we would not license to the Soviet Union and I am prepared to discuss two additional cases.

—As we move forward in this area, we must speak frankly to one another about our concerns. We must not enter into arrangements that may prove unworkable or that infringe on the sovereignty of our countries or damage our interests. I think we can make progress in this area by working together in a cooperative spirit.

—There are two such cases before us: LANDSAT D and Western Geophysical.

—On LANDSAT D, we are prepared to support the PRC request subject to certain safeguards which we believe are reasonable and [Page 1053] workable. Further discussions on these details will be held here during Dr. Frank Press’ visit later this month, but LANDSAT D is an example that China is not in the same category as the USSR in our export licensing procedures.

—The Western Geophysical case is a difficult case because of the high technology involved. We are reviewing it again in the context of a leasing arrangement rather than a sales arrangement. Because of the large computer capacity of this system, our experts—and Dr. Dinneen is the appropriate member of our group—would appreciate hearing your views on the requirements for this large capacity system. Before we discuss this further, I would appreciate your views.

Geng Biao: Yes, we can continue these discussions in counterpart meetings.

Secretary Brown: I agree. If you wish, you should come up with someone to speak to Dr. Dinneen and if you have any specific requests, they should be given to him.

Geng Biao: As to the form of the transfers, we do not wish to impose our will on others. Perhaps we can discuss it tomorrow or as time goes by. Take the case of the most favored nation, if we wait awhile now it appears that we will receive it in the near future.

Zhang Wenchin: We have been waiting since July!

Secretary Brown: The point I want to reiterate is that we do not treat the PRC and the Soviet Union in the same way. If you let me know your interests, we will deal on a case-by-case basis. We will not be governed by the principle that if we can’t sell it to the USSR we will not sell it to the PRC.

Geng Biao: I hope so.

At this point in the discussion, it was decided to have a series of counterpart meetings. The first group to meet would be on technology and the U.S. representative would be Dr. Dinneen. The Chinese representative would be Liu Huaging, Assistant to Chief of the General Staff. On arms control, the U.S. representative would be Ambassador Seignious, and the Chinese representative would be Zhang Wenchin, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. For military to military contacts, the U.S. representative would be Mr. McGiffert and the Chinese representative would be Chai Chenwen, Director, Foreign Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Defense.

Dr. Brown: I had earlier suggested that we have broad discussions on the military balance, but last night I had some other ideas and I will suggest then that we do these discussions in counterpart meetings.

Geng Biao: Yes. I am in favor of that. We will handle them through counterpart discussions.

[Page 1054]

Secretary Brown: I think that there are a number of balances. Mr. Komer will be in charge of the U.S. side. I would suggest that Mr. Komer and Brigadier General Smith speak to the nuclear balance and Ambassador Komer is also an expert on the European balance. Mr. McGiffert could discuss the Middle East, as he is our expert in that area. The naval balances and rapid deployment could be discussed by Admiral Hanson. They can all meet in one group or they could break up into several groups as they see fit.

Geng Biao: For our side, the Deputy Chief of the General Staff will be in charge. It will be up to him to determine who will be at the meeting.

Secretary Brown: We will look to you as we expect to learn from you as much as provide information. I suggest 3:00 p.m. tomorrow so that I can visit the PLA Military Academy, but I would stress that we would like to hear from you also, and not just speak ourselves.

Geng Biao: We will also prepare a position. We do not want to relinquish the right to speak.

Secretary Brown: It is not necessary to go through the discussion now.

However, when the US presentation is made tomorrow, as balances are examined and US plans for the improvement in the balance are made, you will note that arms control plays an important part in our strategy. Arms control measures do not prevent competition, but they can stabilize the competition and reduce uncertainties in the future.

For that reason, arms control is a part of our national security. There are two choices: we can build up our forces or hold down Soviet forces. Negotiations on arms control enable us to limit Soviet forces.

Of course, it is important that any agreement so reached be verifiable, but we have found it possible to reach verification agreements which enable us to measure Soviet strength. We need to know the number of Soviet missiles, with or without an agreement. Agreements in fact enable us to learn more about Soviet missiles than we would otherwise know.

I won’t say more about the virtues of arms control, but will leave that for the meeting General Seignious will have with the Vice Foreign Minister.

So, let’s leave it to counterpart groups at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, or other times that may be arranged.

Geng Biao: You won’t have a light program, visiting the Academy.

Secretary Brown: Yes. The technology transfer and equipment transfer groups will meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

[Page 1055]

Geng Biao: Fine. If there are no more points you wish to raise, we can stop the discussion at this level.

Nicholas Platt
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–82–0217, China (Reds) 25 May 1980. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in Guest House No. 4. Prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Richeson from Platt’s notes.