292. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Meeting between Secretary of Defense Brown and Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping


  • US Side
  • Secretary Brown
  • Ambassador Woodcock
  • Ambassador Komer
  • Assistant Secretary McGiffert
  • Assistant Secretary of State Holbrooke
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Armacost
  • Brigadier General Smith
  • NSC Staff Member Oksenberg
  • NSC Staff Member Platt
  • Colonel Gilliland, Defense Attache to Beijing
  • Chinese Side:
  • Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping
  • Geng Biao
  • Wu Xiuchen
  • Zhang Wenjin
  • Lie Huaching
  • Chai Chenwen
  • Han Xu
  • Ji Chiaozhu
  • Huang Zhenji

Deng: It should be noted that since the Shanghai Communique of 1972, our relations have developed in a satisfactory way. Only last year [Page 1056] we realized the normalization of US relations. Then, I visited the United States and afterward Vice President Mondale visited our country. Our subsequent relations have continued the momentum begun by these visits. Dr. Brown, you have come to visit us as the United States Secretary of Defense. I think your visit itself is of major significance. So I would like to extend a cordial welcome to you, Mr. Secretary, your colleagues and your friends here.

Dr. Brown: Thank you very much Mr. Vice Premier. It has now been one year and one week since normalization. The great value of normalization is not merely the establishment of government relations but the strategic advantages which accrue to both countries which follow from my previous conversations with Vice Premier Geng and you.

(Note: At this point the photographers departed and the meeting was continued without further interruption.)

Deng: This is an eventful time.

Dr. Brown: Yes, our visit is taking place when so many important developments are happening in the world. To be able to discuss these events is an added value of normalization.

Deng: (spoken as hot towels were being passed). China is backward. We have nothing to export but towels such as we are using now.

Dr. Brown: Not so. Ideas can also be exported, and the idea of using a hot towel, as so many other ideas, came from your country and has spread to the entire world.

Deng: You and Vice Premier Geng have covered a great variety of subjects in the two sessions you have had with each other.2 I would like to engage in further discussions with you on matters of mutual concern. I wonder if there is any topic you would like to raise for discussion?

Dr. Brown: As I indicated, Mr. Vice Premier, the day of recognition is now fifty-three weeks behind us. I know that you, Mr. Vice Premier, played a central role in normalization. The strategic value of relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States has since become very clear to all of us. Vice President Mondale said when he was here that normalization means not only the establishment of a close relationship but also close consultation in global matters. (Deng tells translator he is not speaking loud enough.) My trip at this critical time and my discussions with Vice Premier Geng, Minister Xu, you, and tomorrow with Premier Hua, show the true value of normalization and the need for each of us to take concrete actions.

[Page 1057]

We have been discussing a long list of items in these past two days, but I would like to explain to you the background of developments in the United States which have changed US attitudes toward the world and the United States’ position in the world. Soviet behavior in the last year or more—use of Cuban and Vietnamese proxics for military purposes in the Third World—has had an effect on US public opinion. Soviet fortification of northern islands off Hokkaido have also had an effect on American and Japanese opinion. The Soviet military buildup which in fact has continued for over twenty years has finally sunk into American consciousness as an important fact. But more recently and most importantly, events in Iran and Afghanistan have demonstrated the situation and crystallized the American mood.

We were increasing our defense budget and we will do more. We persuaded our European allies to agree to deployment of long range theater nuclear forces on their territory. We intend to increase our military presence in the Middle East and Arabian Sea area. Moreover, we have accelerated our plans to have rapidly deployable military forces. We will increase our arms supply to Pakistan. The United States is increasingly united behind the policies of President Carter in these things. The United States is more ready than ever to play a central role with our allies and national partners to organize opposition to Soviet expansion.

As I say, we have a long list of topics to discuss, but perhaps you would say which ones need attention, or perhaps you would like to respond to points I have raised and wish to raise your own.

Deng: With respect to global strategy, at least one can say that within the last few years China has always been making its position clear on the question. Besides, we have pointed out explicitly that the Soviet Union is the source of international turbulence and crisis and is a threat to peace and security in the world. And, we have pointed out clearly that the Soviet policy of hegemony and global expansion will not be changed in any manner by any single factor.

There is only one way to cope with the Soviet Union—all of us should unite so as to deal with the Soviet Union in an earnest fashion. In the past, some people tended to read China’s point of view as an attempt to divert peril to other areas. They thought we had an incorrect point of view. They thought that the Soviet Union’s focus was on China. When Chairman Mao and Premier Chou were still with us, on numerous occasions they expounded the view that the Soviet strategic focus was on Europe (including the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and even the Persian Gulf). The strategic focus on Europe means that the Soviet Union’s strategic focus is on the United States. At that time the Soviet Union had one million troops in the east, but should it be said that all one million troops were directed against [Page 1058] China? We have said they are primarily against the United States and the Seventh Fleet. We say they are addressed against the United States and Japan. People raise the question, “What should be said about the Soviet strategic focus in the west—in Europe? Three fourths of the Soviet Union’s military strength is directed against the west. This fact forms the basis for my presentation. Basically, the Soviet stance has not changed. What has happened in Afghanistan, Iran, Africa, South Yemen, Ethiopia, and the Middle East shows that Europe and the West still remain the strategic focus of the Soviet Union. My personal judgment is that for a considerable length of time the West has not offered an effective response to actions of the Soviet Union, so the Soviet Union has strength to spare to augment its forces in the East. The Soviet Union has beefed up its Pacific Fleet.

Meanwhile the Soviets have used Vietnam—what we call “the Cuba of the East”—to engage in a direct invasion of Kampuchea, to control Laos, to threaten the ASEAN countries, and to establish bases in the Pacific region. Meanwhile the Soviet Union has redoubled its efforts to pursue a policy of southward thrust toward the Indian Ocean which was the policy followed by the Soviet Union from the time of the Czars until the present leadership. Such a line of action by the Soviet Union does not contradict the constant focus on the West, but has linked its strategy in the West and strategy in the Asian and Pacific region.

I think that Vice Premier Geng must have mentioned the following fact. Soviet policy is like a dumbbell—in the Pacific they are trying to increase the strength of their naval fleet and of their three services and in the Indian Ocean area they are accelerating steps toward security access to the Indian Ocean. This is a strategic policy of a southward drive. The two policies are like two edges, both aiming at the Straits of Malacca. Then, if there are troubles, this line could be cut immediately.

Dr. Brown: Vice Premier Geng and I did discuss global strategy. Our concepts are very much alike but we did have some differences in detail. The Soviet fleet is no match for the US fleet, so the real threat to China is along the Sino-Soviet border.

So, it is most important that we coordinate our policies against the Soviet Union to try to keep the peace. We have explored this, especially Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It would be useful to explore this a bit more.

Deng: What I was driving at was that although Soviet strategic focus remains on the West, the issues of the Asian and Pacific region have now linked together with those of Europe, and this is the recent change in the situation.

For example, during my trip to the United States, I emphasized to President Carter that only if Japan, China, Europe, and the United [Page 1059] States get united will we be able to deal with the Soviets. Of course this also involves unity of Third World countries situated along this geographic line.

And, besides we have all along emphasized the point that treaties and agreements with the Soviet Union will be of little value. I belabored the point in the United States that we are not opposed to negotiations or signing treaties but these will not have the effect of restraining Soviet hegemonistic acts. What we need is down-to-earth concrete acts. At that time and in this context, I cited the Sino-Japanese Peace and Friendship Treaty and normalization of Sino-American relations. These are down to earth, concrete moves. At that time, I also talked about the strategic alliance between the US and Western Europe countries and how to increase the strength with Western European countries. I also talked about the need to increase the defense capabilities of the Japanese. On that occasion, I also said that increasing Chinese defense capability will help maintain peace and resist Soviet hegemony. I even went to the point of saying to one American friend there are one million Soviet troops in the east which we don’t think are directed solely against China. But, if they were solely directed against China and if we could pin down two million Soviet troops, what harm would that do? You must be aware of my thoughts.

Dr. Brown: Yes. The question you have raised is in the midst of being implemented. The United States and Europe are each improving their strengths and increasing their cooperation. Japan is increasing its defense expenditure and closely cooperating with the United States. US/Chinese cooperation is also increasing.

Deng: We, on our part, are satisfied with what Japan, Europe, and the United States have done—that this is the correct line of action. If I may say, it would have been better if this could have been done even earlier. If so, some events could have been avoided. Please don’t regard this as a critical comment; it is just my analysis.

Dr. Brown: We just should learn from the past to coordinate our actions now and take visible parallel actions. Regarding Afghanistan, we have agreed to follow-on talks and parallel actions. For example, we’ve agreed to aid the Afghanistan rebels whom the Soviets hope to crush because of their religion and we are also going to help Pakistan.

Deng: As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the only correct approach to Afghanistan is to give aid to the resistance forces, and we should work together on this. But, I’d emphasize that this kind of aid must be more than symbolic. I must note the fact that Soviet aggression involves the fate of the whole nation. Facts in Afghanistan prove that most of the Afghan troops have leaned toward the resistance forces, although some have been disarmed. The Afghan people have been fighting fiercely against Soviet aggression. We must turn Afghanistan [Page 1060] into a quagmire in which the Soviet Union is bogged down for a long time in a guerrilla warfare.

Dr. Brown: That is what we intend to do, but we must keep our intentions confidential. With regard to Pakistan, aid will be given much more publicly. We are beginning consultations with the Pakistanis about this. We will ask Congress to amend the law concerning military assistance to Pakistan, and we expect Congress to be cooperative. As soon as we have an agreement with President Zia on the amount of assistance, we will start our deliveries. Vice Premier Geng earlier assured me that provided aid to Pakistan was more than symbolic, there would be no difficulty in using Chinese overflight as one way of delivering supplies. It is also important that the PRC supply the Afghanistan freedom fighters with arms. We would like to know your plans in that regard.

Deng: Since the southward drive strategy of the Soviet Union is to seize warm water ports along the Indian Ocean, Pakistan inevitably becomes the next target on the Soviet list. Personally, I must have said on no less than ten occasions to my American friends that the United States should aid Pakistan. With regard to question of South Asia, there is no other way except giving aid to Pakistan. As you know, it has always been our view that the US policy giving more attention to India than Pakistan is not an appropriate policy. Regarding India, we have always felt that the United States should try to cultivate good relations, and this has had a good effect. But India is not a stabilizing factor. Perhaps you already know the general election results.

Dr. Brown: I do not know, but in any case, if no Party gains a majority, it will take some time to settle. Perhaps you can say how that will come out.

Deng: Indira Gandhi has gotten 70% of the vote. It is very difficult to judge at this time how India will go. Even if Indira Gandhi should follow India’s previous policy; still India is not the most reliable and stabilizing factor in southern Asia. Let’s not talk about Indira Gandhi. The present government is thinking of recognizing the Heng Samrin Regime. Perhaps after Pakistan has been strengthened, India will become a more stabilizing factor. What one should try to achieve is to make Pakistan a genuine stabilizing factor in South Asia. We hope the United States will give earnest and sincere thought to this question. If one does not keep this clear in one’s mind, then one’s attitude toward India will make one vacillate in one’s position toward Pakistan. In the past the United States has refrained from aiding Pakistan. I think in part this is the work of India, probably because of a fear of offending India. Since you now have decided to aid Pakistan, I am sure India will send you one note after another, strongly objecting.

[Page 1061]

Dr. Brown: There are limits on our ability to aid Pakistan because of their nuclear explosive program. Although we still object to their doing so, we will now set that aside for the time being, to facilitate strengthening Pakistan against potential Soviet action.

Deng: That is a very good approach. Pakistan has its own reasons for developing a nuclear program. We ourselves oppose the Pakistan effort on nuclear weapons because we believe it meaningless to spend money on such a program. Pakistan has its own arguments, i.e., India has exploded a nuclear device but the world has not seemed to complain about this. So now you have decided to put this aside and solve the question of military and economic aid to Pakistan. We applaud this decision. We give large amounts of assistance to Pakistan. One can say that great amounts of military equipment now in the hands of Pakistani troops come from China. In order to strengthen our links with Pakistan, we have built a highway in the most difficult terrain through the mountains. The question of continuing Chinese aid to Pakistan does not exist. Moreover, Chinese armaments are rather poor in quality. While the United States has decided to give aid to Pakistan, you must now convince Pakistan this is a sincere and genuine US effort and make them believe that they will benefit from modern US weapons. I know that the Pakistanis have many grievances against the United States. This developed to the point that Pakistan withdrew from CENTO. Have you approached Pakistan on the aid question?

Dr. Brown: We have given them some information and will give them more. Pakistan has indicated that they did not wish to have a visit from a survey team until they have received answers to their questions on the magnitude and type of supplies we have in mind.

Deng: You should directly approach Pakistan to raise this question. I would like to cite an episode. It was through the work of Pakistan that Henry Kissinger came to China to talk about normalization and to set the trip of President Nixon. Since you were able to talk with them about this, you should be able to talk to them now.

Dr. Brown: I am aware of this Pakistani help, and this will help put aside some of our reservations.

Deng: You may recall that I raised the question of aid to Pakistan with President Carter. He said the US will give aid in proportion to the population of the two countries. I said this was not feasible. The Pakistanis and Indians are afraid of each other. If the population ratio formula should be used, Pakistan will be in an increasingly inferior position. We hope that since the United States decided to give aid to Pakistan, it will really satisfy Pakistan’s requirements. We hope your aid to Pakistan will not be affected too much by India’s reaction. This is especially important since Indira Gandhi has come into office. We hope the US will not mention the Pakistani nuclear program because India [Page 1062] has already said that the United States has supplied them with enriched uranium.

Dr. Brown: We will continue to maintain our opposition against Pakistani nuclear development, but we nonetheless will also provide aid to Pakistan. But we must also remember that Soviet actions are directed not only at Pakistan but also at Iran. The United States is in a very difficult position vis-a-vis Iran. Iran is a very complicated question. So long as the hostages are held, we cannot have good relations. We need Chinese support on the United Nations sanctions because if there is no vote for sanctions there will be increasing pressure on the United States to take unilateral action against Iran. That could be damaging but necessary. In that event US-Sino relations would be strained. We were grateful for Chinese cooperation in December in the United Nations Security Council and I hope this will continue. We need an affirmative Chinese vote in the UN Security Council.

Deng: May I return to Pakistan? I believe it is better if US would enter direct discussions with Pakistan. Chinese policy with regard to aid to Pakistan has been consistent for the past twenty years. Regarding Chinese aid to Afghanistan resistance forces, we are supporting the refugees through Pakistan. Regarding how the US feels about giving aid to resistance forces in Afghanistan, you may wish to discuss this with the Pakistanis. There are perhaps already 400,000 Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

Regarding the UN Security Council vote on Iran, our government departments concerned are still studying this question.3 When one considers the question of Iran, you should not just take into account the present circumstances. You should also take into account the longer view. One thing to be considered is how much practical effect sanctions will have. If the sanctions should fail to have great practical effect or to face a difficult road, I think it would be better not to have a resolution than to have one. As far as China is concerned, if China should vote for sanctions, this would cut off relations between China and Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini is anti-Chinese now, but the Iranian people still have ties to the Chinese people. So the question is whether this channel of communication between China and Iran should be blocked or retained [Page 1063] so that China could play a future role in US/Iranian relations. Of course, China does not play any role in this at present.

But even at present, Pakistan has certain contacts with Iran. Shahi, the Pakistani external advisor, met Khomeini. Of course, Pakistan does not have much influence on Iran, but the channel is there. So perhaps your aid to Pakistan will at a certain point have an effect on contacts between Pakistan and Iran.

If China should vote for UN Security Council sanctions and the Soviet Union then casts a veto, sanctions would not come into effect. Then China’s word would carry far less weight in the Arab world, but the Soviet Union would benefit in the process.

Dr. Brown: I have heard these arguments and discussed them with your Foreign Minister yesterday.4 I would like to make three points. First, nobody has good communications with Khomeini and the value of influence with the people is not clear. Second, sanctions will be voted on one way or another. Thus it is not a question of whether there is a vote, but of solidarity—between the United States and its friends, including the People’s Republic of China. If sanctions are voted down without a Soviet vote, this will be a great victory for the Soviets. Third, many think US-Iranian relations are at stake. We must not allow the UN vote to become a US-Iran issue, in which case the kidnappers will continue to control the hostages. The hostages must be released at an early date, so we can compete with the Soviet Union for influence in Iran. As long as the hostages are held, the American people will demand some action. Iran is even more important than Pakistan, and it would be particularly bad if the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan facilitated Soviet access to Persian Gulf oil and to Iran.

Deng: There is another possibility. A veto of the UN Security Council resolution would lead to expanded Soviet influence in Iran. At the moment, a Soviet veto may bring Khomeini and the Soviet Union together. The Soviet Union has its partisan forces in Iran—the Tudeh Party. The Soviet Union has considerable influence on mass organs such as trade unions and student organizations. We would like to advise the United States not to act rashly. It is better to slow down the pace, so the US can give sanctions good thought. It is so complicated—there are many factors working. Regarding China, it is a question of maintaining contact with the Iranians, and this vote will also affect China’s relations with other Islamic countries. It is a complicated issue. We would prefer for the vote not to take place in the next few days. I hope the United States will think this through carefully and weigh the various aspects. You should go slow. It is not good to act rashly. [Page 1064] Christmas is already over, so you now have ample time to consider this.

Dr. Brown: The United States has been quite patient with regard to unilateral action. It is not easy for us to be patient if our friends say we should be patient because there is nothing they can do to help us. While contact with the Iranians is important, how can we do future business with an Iran which thinks kidnapping is an acceptable action. It is hard to believe anyone can have contact with the groups who support the kidnappers. But I hear you. We will consider the matter carefully. A vote is inevitable, but I don’t know how fixed the timing is.

Deng: I think the issue could be pursued in a prudent way. Give us more time, and we will consider it and you consider it?

Dr. Brown: Would timing affect the Chinese vote? For example, if the vote came after the Afghan vote?

Holbrooke: The Security Council has already voted.

Dr. Brown: Yes, but the Security Council has voted on the Afghanistan issue, but it now will go to the General Assembly. Would a delay in the vote increase the chances of a favorable PRC vote?

Deng: We will continue to study this matter. It is far too complicated. I have already made my position very clear.

Since there is not much time left I would like to raise three points. First, the Kampuchean question. I hope the United States will stick to its present position. The reason why I say this is because some countries (for example the United Kingdom) have adopted a most unreasonable position—derecognizing Democratic Kampuchea. There are some countries working for a potential Sihanouk government to replace the DK government. The essence of the problem we have to consider seriously is that in Kampuchea the only resistance force remaining to fight the Vietnamese is the DK force. If we should adopt inappropriate measures, these forces would be disintegrated. Actually, what Prince Sihanouk has said has the effect of helping the Vietnamese and the Russians as well. We on our part do not take Sihanouk’s role lightly and think at a certain time he can come forward. But this is not the time. He refuses to cooperate with various resistance forces, which is not reasonable on his part. The Vietnamese objective is to wipe out the resistance forces during the dry season offensive. Three dry season months have already passed and there are only three left. Anyway, we hope to reach an understanding with you that no one will do anything injurious to the resistance forces or weaken their strength. I hope the United States Government will consider our viewpoints. Japan sees this question rather differently than China. Japan gives aid to Vietnam and in our view this will do harm.

Second, as you know, Vice President Mubarak is here. We talked about the Middle East issue. We have told him that we show under[Page 1065]standing for the Egyptian position, but what both China and the United States should realize is that this puts us in an isolated position vis-a-vis the Arab world. This provides opportunity for Soviet exploitation. I repeat what I told President Carter. I hope the United States will help Sadat by applying pressure on Israel so that Sadat can carry out his own program. If the United States does not heed these points Sadat will be in more difficulty. Even now, for example, Israeli relations with Egypt have deteriorated.

The third point is the question of bilateral relations. In that regard we hope that there will be substance in this development.

I will not mention purchase of F–15 or F–16 aircraft any more. Regarding technology transfer, we hope the United States will adopt a more open approach since this comes under your cognizance, Mr. Secretary.

Dr. Brown: I would like to respond. I have made my views on Indochina clear to the Foreign Minister. We recognize the contribution in a military sense made to the resistance by the Pol Pot group, but there is no way they can be reinstated in power. Thus, you and I should think about a long term political situation which could well involve Prince Sihanouk.

Deng: From a longer term point of view, a political solution involving Sihanouk can’t be ruled out, but I don’t think what he is doing now is good.

Dr. Brown: Regarding Egyptian/Israeli relations, the US is convinced that the solution to the Palestinian problem is a necessary part of reaching a comprehensive peace settlement. We are working closely with Sadat and Israel in moving the negotiations along.

Deng: Good.

Dr. Brown: On technology transfer, I have explained that we have drawn a distinction between the Soviet Union and China. For example we will agree to provide LANDSAT D to China, but not to the Soviet Union.

Deng: I think the scope of technology transfer is too narrow.

Dr. Brown: This will be discussed in some detail by our experts. US policy is that while we won’t sell arms (wu-ch’i) to the People’s Republic of China, this does not apply to all military equipment (chun-shih shih-pei). I am drawing a distinction between dual use technology and military equipment, such as surveillance and warning equipment, e.g., over-the-horizon radar. I am prepared to discuss this with your technical people on a very private basis. This is a new topic separate from the issue of technology transfer.

Deng: Good. There will be counterpart discussions. We will discuss this this evening. If it is not solved then, maybe it can be addressed later.

[Page 1066]

Dr. Brown: I agree. This is different from discussing F–15s, F–16s, or other weapons. But we have a chance to discuss other things. We have a long relationship in front of us.

Deng: Yes, the visit by Vice President Mondale opened the path for relations in the 1980s and deepened our ties. I thank you, Secretary Brown, for coming to visit us. I ask that upon your return you convey to President Carter and Vice President Mondale my personal regards. I think that at a time like this we need to increase our contacts. Our countries have much to say to each other. Thank you.

Dr. Brown: Thank you. I will convey your kind regards to President Carter and Vice President Mondale. I hope my visit will move us a few steps further to even a closer relationship.

Deng: As I said just now, you don’t have to mention other things. Your coming here itself is of major significance because you are the Secretary of Defense.5

Nicholas Platt
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 26, Brown (Harold) 1/80 Trip Memcons: 1/80. Top Secret; Sensitive. Prepared by Brigadier General Carl Smith from Platt’s notes. The meeting took place in the Great Hall of the People. Earlier in the morning of January 8, McGiffert and Hanson met with Chai Chen Wen, Director of the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the PRC Ministry of Defense. (Memorandum of conversation, January 8, 8 a.m.; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Brown (Harold) 1/80 Trip Memcons: 1/80)
  2. See Documents 290 and 291.
  3. Telegram 313 from Beijing, January 11, reported that China would abstain on the Security Council vote on sanctions on Iran. On the first page of the telegram, Carter wrote, “Zbig—Shows a lack of courage. They always want others to act—‘to stand up to the Soviets’ etc. J.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence With Foreign Leaders File, Box 3, China, People’s Republic of: Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, 12/78–1/80) China did not abstain on the vote on January 13 but did not participate in the voting. Because the Soviet Union, a permanent member of the Security Council, vetoed the resolution, it did not pass. For information on China’s role in the Security Council consideration of the resolution, see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1980, pp. 309–311.
  4. The discussion was at the January 7 luncheon meeting; see footnote 3, Document 290.
  5. During the afternoon, Dinneen met again with Liu Huaqing to discuss technology transfer. (Memorandum of conversation, January 8, 3 p.m.; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 26, Brown (Harold) 1/80 Trip Memcons: 1/80) Simultaneously, Komer met with Wu Xiuchuan, Deputy Chief of the General Staff. (Memorandum of conversation, January 8, 3 p.m.; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 26, Brown (Harold) 1/80 Trip Memcons: 1/80)