301. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Holbrooke) to Secretary of State Vance1
Technology Transfers and Military Sales to China
Harold intends to raise this issue at tomorrow’s VBB lunch. The attached paper embodies the recommendations of the EA “informal group.”2 In toto the steps proposed may suggest substantial adjustments in our policy toward China. In fact, however, these steps essentially implement decisions already adopted.
1. Munitions Control List. While this list (Tab A) looks long, it excludes 13 of the 19 categories on the Munitions Control List, and merely identifies those categories and parts of categories from which we will consider items for licensing on a case-by-case basis.3
2. Chinese Requests. Our proposed response to outstanding Chinese requests is outlined in Tab A, Encl. 2.4 The Defense Department’s office of Research and Engineering and the Joint Staff have reviewed the list with an eye to possible adverse consequences to our security and that of our Asian friends and allies. Their willingness to approve further discussion of various items reflects a variety of considerations. Some (e.g. Honeywell Level 66 Computers) have previously been sold to the [Page 1094] USSR. Others (e.g. 100 MB disk driver or LTN–51 INS) contain technology we have already sold to the PRC for civilian purposes. In still other cases (e.g. IR sensors) sales would be subject to strict conditions—e.g. early generation systems only.
3. U.S. Export Control Categories. This is a purely cosmetic change, but one which is symbolically important to Beijing and fully consistent with other adjustments in our trade relationship with China.
4. Dual Use Technology and COCOM. While we have informed our COCOM partners of our preference for a procedure patterned along the lines of the Polish formula, we have not formally tabled a proposal. It is time that we do so. This will surprise no one and we think our allies will buy this approach.
5. Arms Sales, Military Equipment Sales and COCOM. Bureaucratic simplicity and allied solidarity incline us to favor handling sales of all items destined for military end-use in COCOM. To be sure, the creation of a separate high level committee to handle such items might enable us to avoid taking a position on the record on third country arms sales. But having indicated our own intent to sell military support equipment to China, it is difficult for us to argue that our allies should respond to our requests within COCOM while requiring them to seek our views on arms sales outside the existing framework. In any event we would be participants in whatever consultative process was established, and the Russians have probably assumed we have been urging our allies to sell weapons to China whatever we say. (COCOM was, of course, established to restrict, not promote sales.)
6. The Package as a Whole. There is a larger policy question: How should we play these decisions in relation to our current efforts to orchestrate a coordinated allied response to Soviet action in Afghanistan? Announcement of these measures at this time could invite some charges—e.g. from Europeans—that we are acting in a hasty fashion to stick it to the Russians. While such allegations will undoubtedly surface, we believe they are manageable because they are wide of the mark.
—In fact these steps are not that new; they represent essentially a codification of decisions already announced at least in general terms. To that extent they have already been discounted by Moscow and others. Beijing expects them; failure to follow through would be hard to explain to the Chinese who may, however, be disappointed that we have not been more forthcoming.
—They do not get us out ahead of our allies, who will welcome a clearer definition of our intentions regarding military equipment sales to China and our agreement to handle arms sales within COCOM. Cer[Page 1095]tainly we should consult further with the allies on these steps prior to any public announcements.5
—Congressional sensitivities must also be accommodated through prior consultations.
—We should emphasize in backgrounders to the press that we will continue to process requests carefully on a case-by-case basis.
- Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat Files: Lot 84 D 241, Vance/Brown/Brzezinski Luncheons. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Armacost on February 27. Attached to a February 27 briefing memorandum from Bartholomew to Vance before Vance’s February 28 luncheon meeting with Brown and Brzezinski. (Ibid.) At the bottom of the last page of this memorandum, Holbrooke wrote, “All this has been coordinated with Reggie [Bartholomew]—but no one else, per your instructions. RH.”↩
- Tab A, printed below.↩
- The list is attached but not printed as Enclosure 1 to Tab A.↩
- Enclosure 2 to Tab A, “Proposed Response to Chinese Request,” is attached but not printed.↩
- An unknown person, probably Vance, underlined all except the first word of this sentence.↩
- Top Secret; Sensitive.↩