313. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Memorandum of Conversation between President Carter and Premier Hua Guofeng of the Peoples’ Republic of China


  • PRC
  • Premier Hua Guofeng
  • Deputy Foreign Minister Han Nianlong
  • Minister Counselor (Deputy Chief of Mission of the PRC Embassy in Japan) Wang Xiaoyun
  • Deputy Director of Asian Affairs of the Foreign Minister Xiao Xiangchuan
  • Sun Ping: Notetaker
  • Chun Hui: Interpreter, Director of Secretariat of Foreign Ministry
  • U.S.
  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Secretary of State Edmund Muskie
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Michael Mansfield, U.S. Ambassador to Japan
  • Michael Armacost, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Bureau for East Asia and Pacific Affairs
  • Donald Gregg, National Security Council Staff Member
  • Vivian Chang (interpreter)

Following departure of the press, Premier Hua opened the substantive portion of the meeting by describing his strong respect for the late PM Ohira. Hua noted that he had been in Japan in late May and had held productive talks with PM Ohira. Hua said that on the day of his departure from Tokyo, PM Ohira had come to bid him good-bye, and then had gone on to a strenuous day of campaign speech-making. Ohira was hospitalized that night, and PM Hua learned of his untimely passing after his return to the PRC. PM Hua noted that PM Ohira had made a strong contribution to the development of ties between Japan and the PRC, and that he had been a far-sighted statesman. Hua said that PM Ohira had described his 1 May visit to Washington, and that he had expressed satisfaction with the talks he had held with President Carter.2 Hua described Ohira’s death as a loss to both the Japanese and Chinese people, and said that he would long be remembered.

PM Hua then said that he was happy to have a chance to meet with President Carter. He recalled that the President had issued an invita[Page 1119]tion for Hua to visit the U.S. when Vice Premier Deng was in Washington. Hua said that the press of official duties had kept him from accepting the invitation, and that he felt it important to meet at this time.

Hua said that he appreciated President Carter’s decision to normalize relations with the PRC 18 months ago. He said that he had been pleased with the development of U.S.–PRC relations over that time. Hua noted that a few differences exist between the U.S. and the PRC, but said that this was a normal and natural thing, as even a single country or a family will have differing viewpoints as to how certain problems should be approached. Hua said he felt that the differences between our two countries are minor, and that they will work themselves out.

President Carter cited his own close ties with the late PM Ohira, and said that his death had been a tragedy. The President said that Ohira had frequently mentioned the advantages he saw in the development of close ties between the U.S. and the PRC. President Carter said that the U.S. and the PRC have made steady progress in developing their relations over the past 18 months. Even though some differences do exist, the President said that our countries share a common viewpoint on strategic and historical issues, where our interests are the same. The President noted that in his appearance on Japanese television a few minutes earlier, he had told the Japanese people that he believes the development of close U.S.–PRC ties will contribute to peace, stability and progress in the Western Pacific region. The President noted that our countries share common opportunities and common problems, especially in terms of responding to recent Soviet actions such as the attack on Afghanistan and Soviet support to the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea. These moves, the President noted, add a new dimension to our problems. The President said that this Soviet thrust to the South should not be accepted by the other countries of the world and viewed as maintaining the status quo. He said we should continue to oppose the Soviet moves.

The President said that in response to the recent SRV attack into Thai territory, we had expedited shipment by air to Thailand of some weapons they had ordered. PM Hua said that he had watched on television the delivery of 105mm howitzers by U.S. aircraft. He said that it was important to support Thailand, and that the PRC appreciated what the U.S. had done to expedite the shipment of arms.

The President replied that the volume of the aid was not great, but that the symbolism of the action had been important.

Turning to Afghanistan, the President said that some limited assistance was being given to the Afghan freedom fighters who are struggling for their independence against the Soviet invaders. The President noted that much of the Afghan army has defected to the freedom [Page 1120] fighters, taking their weapons with them. The President said that the U.S. considers it important to give assistance to those who struggle for their freedom. The President noted that Pakistan, even though under Soviet pressure, was participating to some degree in efforts to support the Afghan freedom fighters. The President said that these actions are very sensitive, and that it is difficult to discuss them in complete candor. He also noted that the U.S. is willing to exchange intelligence with the PRC on the situation in Afghanistan, and that we have benefitted from some information received from the Chinese side.

Dr. Brzezinski said that the U.S. has not been indifferent or passive in responding to the difficult situation in which the Afghan freedom fighters have found themselves. Dr. Brzezinski noted that the freedom fighters have one need which the U.S. has not been able to satisfy. This is a need for SA–7 ground-to-air missiles, which would be highly effective in reducing the efficacy of the Soviet helicopter gun-ships. Dr. Brzezinski said that he had heard that the PRC either has or is producing the SA–7 missile, and that if such weapons could be given to the freedom fighers, an important contribution would have been made to their resistance.

President Carter said that we can deliver such weapons “indirectly but effectively” to the freedom fighters. The President noted that we had been careful not to send any weapons of U.S. origin into Afghanistan, as the Soviets would use such weapons for propaganda purposes.

Premier Hua said that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the attack on Kampuchea had not happened by chance. Hua described the attack on Afghanistan as a premeditated plan by the Soviets, designed to give them control of the country. Hua then sketched the events in Afghanistan that led up to the Soviet attack. He noted that three Afghan presidents had been murdered in a short time. He said that this was a series of events almost without parallel, and that the murders had been the direct result of Soviet intervention. Hua said that the attack into Afghanistan was part of a thrust to the South by the Soviets, and that if they succeed in controlling Afghanistan, they will then move on toward the Indian Ocean and the oil-producing regions of the Middle East. Hua noted that the American CIA has predicted that Soviet oil production will decline, starting about 1985, and that the Soviets feel the need to seize oil producing regions. Hua commented that even if the Soviet oil production were not to decline, they would still undertake the same sort of strategic effort.

PM Hua then sketched his view of the Soviet strategy for the Middle East. He cited the use of Cuban proxies in Ethiopia and South Yemen. He said that the Soviets are taking advantage of the Arab-Israeli split to sow dissension among Arab nations. Hua said that Afghanistan was part of this strategy, and that the Soviets are conf[Page 1121]ident that they can succeed in achieving their objectives in the Middle East. Hua noted that it is easier for the Soviets to advance their interests in the Middle East than in the European area, where Warsaw Pact forces are directly confronted by the NATO alliance.

Turning to Iran, Hua said that the Soviets are also trying to exploit the situation there. He noted that the Iranian government lacks authority, and that there are 300,000 to 400,000 weapons scattered throughout Iran that the Soviets hope to acquire through activities of the Tudeh party. Hua said that the Soviets hope to cause trouble by starting other proxy wars. He mentioned Saudi Arabia, where there are influential groups of Palestinians, and said that things would be “hot” in the Middle East throughout the 1980s.

Premier Hua then spoke of Southeast Asia, where he said that the Vietnamese are like the Cubans in acting as Soviet proxies. He cited the fact that the Soviets now have the use of harbors at Danang and Cam Ranh Bay, and that they are using the airport in Saigon. Hua said he believes that if the Soviets consolidate their control (via the Vietnamese) of Kampuchea, they will then try to block the Strait of Malacca, making the vital link between their strongholds in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. If the Soviets were to consolidate these efforts, Hua said he believed that their expansion and preparations for war would have been completed, and that the Soviets could then move “without scruples.” Hua said that with control of the oil-producing region of the Middle East, the Soviets “would have outflanked Europe,” and that the West would have no choice but to fight. He quickly added that to fight under such conditions would mean paying a heavy price and that it would be an unduly delayed response to Soviet strategy.

Hua said that the first line of defense against the Soviets should be in Afghanistan and Kampuchea. He said that the PRC hopes that the “Middle East question” can be solved quickly. Hua noted his satisfaction with the recent ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Kuala Lumpur3 where the ASEAN FM also met with their counterparts from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, and said that the SRV attack into Thailand had produced more unity in ASEAN. President Carter said that the development of ASEAN’s strength and unity had been an encouraging development. He said that the Philippines and Australia were also clearly aware of the Soviet threat. The President said that the U.S. has been encouraged by the diplomatic exchanges between the PRC and India, but that we were disappointed by Indian recognition of the Heng Samrin puppet regime in Kampuchea.

[Page 1122]

Hua replied that he had been pleased to note that the U.S. had regretted the Indian move.

The President said that in the long run good relations between the PRC and India, and India and the U.S. are important, and that we should not let India move closer to the Soviet Union without any action on our part. The President said that the U.S. is trying to arouse Western European consciousness of the threat to them which the Soviet attack on Afghanistan represents. He noted that the U.S. was having some difficulty in accomplishing this goal. The President said that the U.S. will increase its presence in the Indian Ocean through use of facilities in Oman and Kenya. The President said that we might also use facilities in Somalia, but that this option was still under review.

Premier Hua referred back to the subject of aid to Thailand. He said that the PRC is making every effort to assist the Thais, including shipments of “natural resources.” He said that he had discussed this matter with Prime Minister Prem during their current visit to Tokyo. Hua said that the PRC was taking pressure off Thailand by tying down 29 SRV infantry divisions along the Sino-Vietnamese border. Hua said he had also told the Thais that the PRC would “side with them” if Vietnam made another large-scale attack into Thailand.

Premier Hua said that one difference between the PRC and the U.S. lay in our views of the Democratic Kampuchea movement. He said that in the Chinese view, the DK remains the main force of resistance to SRV control of Kampuchea. Hua said that the DK has reviewed and admitted some of its past mistakes. He deplored the Indian decision to recognize the Heng Samrin regime, which amounts to a derecognition of the DK, and said that if this became the start of a trend, the results would be damaging to efforts to block SRV control of Kampuchea. The Vietnamese attempted but were not successful in eliminating the Khmer Resistance Forces during the dry season. The U.S. position on this issue is important. Hua also noted that humanitarian aid from the international organizations to the Kampuchean refugees has been stopped. He said that if Kampuchea is to be part of the first line of defense against Soviet expansionism, the Kampucheans need support. Hua said that he hoped that the U.S. would keep these points in mind during the upcoming UN General Assembly vote on the DK credentials issue. He urged the U.S. to continue to vote for the DK.

President Carter replied that we do not have significant differences with regard to the Kampuchean situation. The President said that we cannot recognize the Heng Samrin regime, and that the Pol Pot forces (DK) have a terrible reputation. The President said that this makes it difficult to deal with American public opinion and the Congress on this issue. The President said that he and Secretary Muskie will prepare the U.S. Congress for a U.S. position that will prevent a transfer of creden[Page 1123]tials to the Vietnamese puppet regime. The President added that he would have the Secretary call Secretary General Waldheim to urge expeditious implementation of the request from the ten nations at the ASEAN meeting that aid to the refugees be resumed. The President said that the U.S. would consult closely with the PRC before voting on the DK credentials issue at the UN in September.

Premier Hua expressed his thanks for this statement. He said that the PRC does not, as some allege, want to establish a pro-PRC government in Kampuchea. He said that the PRC was approaching the Kampuchean problem only in terms of its strategic implications. Hua noted that the DK has said that if the Vietnamese were to withdraw from Kampuchea, free elections should be held under UN auspices to decide on how the Kampuchean people want to be governed. Hua said that the first objective is to stop Soviet aggression and expansion in Kampuchea.

Premier Hua said he had discussed the PRC view of the situation in Pakistan with Senator Byrd, as well as with Dr. Brzezinski. Hua said that aid to Pakistan should be increased. Secretary Muskie, referring back to the DK credentials issue, said that the U.S. does not favor the “empty seat formula,” that would amount to a Soviet victory. Secretary Muskie said that our major problem was with Pol Pot, and not as much with the DK movement as a whole.

Premier Hua said that Pol Pot is no longer head of the DK. President Carter said that this is understood. Premier Hua again urged that American aid to Pakistan be increased. He deplored India’s recognition of Heng Samrin, and said that India changed her mind at the last minute and did not attend the recent ASEAN meeting because of the SRV attack into Thailand. Continuing to criticize the Indians, Hua said that India had helped to found the non-aligned movement, which was created to oppose the imposition of external influence on one country by another. India’s vote for Heng Samrin, Hua said, meant that they were voting for a regime imposed by force—a violation of the principles of the non-aligned movement.

President Carter said that he agreed with this statement. Hua said that India’s image will suffer great loss, and that by their vote they had missed an opportunity to play a greater role in the non-aligned movement. Hua said it was interesting to speculate as to why the Indians had taken the step of recognizing Heng Samrin. He said that it was directly related to the $1.6 billion dollar military aid agreement India had just signed with the Soviets. He said that in this way, India was acting under foreign pressure, and that its reputation would suffer as a result.

Returning to the subject of Pakistan, Hua said that he had met General Zia recently, and that Zia said he hoped for more aid from the [Page 1124] U.S. Hua paid tribute to the two Islamic conferences,4 which he said had been helpful. He cited the three-man committee set up by the Islamic Conference as performing good work. Hua said that the Soviets have been putting pressure on Pakistan, even threatening it with “another dismemberment.” Hua praised Pakistan’s courage in standing up to the Soviet pressure. President Carter said that he agreed the Pakistanis have been courageous.

Referring to Iran, Hua said that the PRC has stated its opposition to the holding of the hostages. He said that he believes the Soviet attack into Afghanistan also threatens Iran. He noted that the Iranians have called upon the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan, and that the Iranians have said they will support the Afghan rebels if the Soviets do not pull out. Hua noted that the Iranians are keeping their word on this matter. Iran has refused to recognize the Soviet puppet regime in Kabul, and at the recent Islamic conference, the Iranians accepted six Afghan rebel groups as part of their own delegation. President Carter noted that the Iranians have also told the Soviets to reduce their presence in Iran, and that some of the 2,000 Soviet “advisors” will have to move out.

President Carter, noting the time, said that the Japanese Prime Minister was waiting to say good-bye, so that the meeting would have to draw to a close. The President said that the visit had shown the value of exchanging views with the Chinese leadership, and that, a few months after the U.S. election, the U.S. and the PRC should discuss the dates for exchanging visits by our Heads of State. He said that he hoped to see Premier Hua in China. Premier Hua responded simply, “welcome.”

The meeting ended after brief arrangements had been made for dealing with the press.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 38, Memcons: President: 7/80. Secret. Carter and Hua were in Tokyo to attend Japanese Prime Minister Ohira’s memorial service.
  2. Ohira visited Washington April 30–May 1.
  3. The ASEAN Ministerial meeting took place in Kuala Lumpur June 25–26.
  4. Reference is to the Conference of Islamic States, which convened in January and May.