6. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • US Relations with the People’s Republic of China

In the past six years the building of a new Sino-American relationship has been a central element in Washington’s efforts to construct counterweights to and constraints on the Soviets. However, I am concerned that the new Administration, in its first weeks, may be giving the impression that the weight of its national security diplomacy will be cast in the familiar framework of the Western alliance (and Japan) versus the Soviet Union and ignoring China. China policy is omitted from the first sixteen PRMs although most aspects of US-Soviet relations are covered.

My memo of this date to the President expresses my concern for fostering a US–PRC relationship which gives greater global balance to our national security policy.2 In addition the Chinese must be very concerned over some aspects of our Asian policy and what they might perceive as our dealings with the Soviets. Therefore I recommend some form of an interagency policy review on the People’s Republic of China be conducted over the next month to six weeks. That review need not be handled in a formal fashion, but it should be broad and systematic.

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From a national security perspective, issues which need to be considered generally relate to Taiwan and the broad US–PRC security relationship.

Taiwan and Normalization

—Actions to be completed prior to initiation of negotiations with the PRC. Examples might include: review of Republic of China (ROC) requests for certain weapon systems, sale of certain items of military equipment to the ROC, consultations with the ROC and our other friends and allies, termination of FMS credits to the ROC, etc.

—Impact of any changes in our relationship with Taiwan on key Asian allies, especially Japan. Offsetting measures we might take to minimize adverse impacts.

—Implications of normalization for Soviet-American relations.

—Impact of normalization on US efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Asia. In particular, there is the question of possible further actions in this direction by the ROC.

—Actions we might be willing to take to ensure that there is a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. Specifically arms sales to the ROC prior to normalization, contingency planning, requirements (if any) of continued US arms sales to Taiwan following normalization, and other actions of primarily a diplomatic or political nature.

—Time phasing for withdrawal of US forces and facilities to include the possibility of civilianizing certain functions. [1½ lines not declassified]

—Means of maintaining contacts with the ROC and protecting our interests on Taiwan.

US–PRC Security Relationship

—The impact of an enhanced US–PRC relationship on Soviet-American and Sino-Soviet relations and other aspects of US national security. Specifically:

—Benefits we have received as a result of our improved relations with the PRC.

—Implications of a failure to advance US–PRC relations.

—US and PRC objectives in either maintaining or improving relations, emphasizing areas of common and conflicting interests.

—The utility of Sino-American relations in influencing Soviet behavior. For example, what levels of US–PRC cooperation in security matters could cause Moscow to inject the “China factor” into future SALT negotiations and other aspects of the diplomacy of détente.

—Feasibility of US–PRC relations as a means of sustaining the Sino-Soviet split.

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—The relationship between the state of US–PRC relations and the continuation of favorable policies by the PRC. Specifically, there are a number of third country areas of concern to our security interests—Korea, Japan, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe—where the Washington–Peking dialogue of the past six years has led to low-level forms of policy coordination which have served our interests.

—Is it desirable to deepen US–PRC relations? If so, how might this be done? Politically? Economically? In the area of security relations?

—Impact of improved US–PRC relations on our Asian allies, Western Europe and the Third World.

—Alternative policy approaches towards the PRC.

In the past, because of the sensitivity of the relationship, our policy toward the PRC has not been developed through the normal interagency process. My memo to the President expresses some of my concerns on this score. In any event the evolution of our future China policy will have significant implications for the Department of Defense. In addition, the issues involved are quite complex and involve areas of great uncertainty and therefore they should be thoroughly and systematically examined. They are also of great political importance to the President politically. With all this in mind, I again urge you to initiate some form of interagency review of our China policy during the next month or so.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 1–2/77. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. Brown’s February 9 memorandum to Carter was sent to the President under Brzezinski’s February 14 covering memorandum, see Document 9.