62. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary’s Dinner for PRC Foreign Minister Huang


  • U.S.
  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Leonard Woodcock
  • Under Secretary Habib
  • Assistant Secretary Holbrooke, EA
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Gleysteen, EA
  • Michel Oksenberg, NSC
  • Harry E. T. Thayer, Director, EA/PRCM
  • PRC
  • Foreign Minister Huang Hua
  • Ambassador Chen Chu, PermRep to UN
  • Counselor Chou Nan, PRC UN Mission
  • Tsien Chia-tung, Adviser to UN Delegation
  • Ting Yuan-hung, Director, American Division, MFA
  • Kuo Chia-ting, Adviser to UN Delegation
  • Shih Yen-hua, Interpreter

(The Chinese arrived ten minutes late. Press photographers remained for 2–3 minutes. The first portion of the conversation took place in a sitting area adjacent to the dining area. The Secretary and Foreign Minister exchanged greetings on behalf of their wives and exchanged other courtesies briefly.)

The Secretary: I understand that you will be speaking at the General Assembly tomorrow.

Minister Huang: Yes. I’ll be speaking third in the afternoon at about 5:00 p.m.2 This is only an expectation.

Middle East

The Secretary: I have just come back from Washington where I had two meetings with the Syrians and Jordanians on the Middle East problem. Now I have had meetings with Foreign Minister Dayan, For[Page 243]eign Minister Fahmi and Foreign Minister Khaddam and Chief of Court Sharaf; and Boutros of Lebanon is coming next week. We are concentrating now on seeing whether or not we can resolve the question of participation of the Palestinians in the Geneva Conference. Everybody now is in agreement that there should be a unified Arab delegation, including the Palestinians. The big issue is how to define the Palestinians and how to organize them.

Minister Huang: The resolution now in the UN says that the PLO is the sole legal representative of the Palestinians. But UN resolutions often mean nothing to many people.

The Secretary: We will keep working hard to resolve the participation question; because if we can, we can then have a Geneva Conference by the end of the year, but we have a long way to go and it is going to be hard.

Minister Huang: While in Peking the Secretary of State was hopeful but now says it’s hard.

The Secretary: But I am hopeful.

Minister Huang: Secretary Vance is always an optimist.

The Secretary: But now both parties say that the Palestinians should participate. The Israelis have changed their view. In addition, since I saw you in Peking, we have received suggestions from the parties on draft treaty language, and this has been helpful in getting more detailed expositions of the positions of the parties. It doesn’t make the issues easier to solve, but it makes them clearer. We have gotten down to issues of what to do in particular areas, of specific territories, security arrangements and guarantees and those kinds of concrete matters. Since the last time I saw you the question of settlements has become more heated than it was.

Habib (to the Secretary): You have talked to the Soviet Co-chairman.

The Secretary: I have had discussions with the Soviet Co-chairman about the Geneva Conference and will be meeting again with him on Friday to talk about this and to see if the Co-chairmen should issue a joint statement about calling for convening of the Geneva Conference. You might be interested in what has happened on the SALT talks since I last saw you.


Minister Huang: May I interrupt?

The Secretary: Of course.

Minister Huang: I remember in Peking how Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping said that if in the Middle East you could check the Israelis [Page 244] and in South Africa check the South Africans you would be able to get leverage so that things may change.3

The Secretary: As far as Rhodesia is concerned, we hope we can work out through the parties specific proposals for a special representative and discuss transitional arrangements. If so, it will be a positive first step.

Minister Huang: Why didn’t you wait for discussion of the Anglo-American report? Why pick up Paragraph 11–C of the special report?

The Secretary: Because we think it’s important to begin discussions with the parties about what is involved. So it would be useful for the UN Representative to sit down with the designated parties and see if there is a practical way to resolve the question. Security issues are of fundamental importance and we should proceed step by step. What’s more, we think it is important that the Africans think we should proceed in this fashion rather than take up the whole thing first.

Minister Huang: The Security Council is now discussing this question and Ambassador Chen attended the discussion this afternoon.

The Secretary: I have not had time to catch up on today’s events. How did it go?

Chen: The meeting adjourned without conclusion and will convene again tomorrow.

The Secretary: Who all talked this afternoon?

Chen: All member states except China, the Soviet Union (etc.). Nkomo also spoke. I don’t know what the views of Mr. Mugabe are. The British are very vague about Mugabe’s views.

The Secretary: And Nkomo?

Chen: They didn’t touch on Mugabe’s views. The Zambians distributed a statement which Nkomo and Mugabe signed. Our British friends are very impatient and wanted a Security Council resolution today, but many problems need to be clarified and many Africans want to speak. There is a Chinese saying: “much haste less speed.” Perhaps the Africans are dissatisfied with the proceedings today. Tomorrow afternoon after Foreign Minister Huang’s speech we will have a Security Council meeting.

The Secretary: The Front-Line Presidents have spoken but perhaps others will want to speak too.

Minister Huang: You were about to say something about SALT.


The Secretary: Since I last saw you we have had two meetings with the Soviets, and last Thursday and Friday Gromyko was in Wash[Page 245]ington. There was some narrowing of differences. Then last night he came down, as you know, and there was further narrowing of differences, but there are still issues that divide us. We agreed to turn it over to our two delegations in Geneva and ask them to resolve differences. They will keep the two Foreign Ministers informed and we will see what progress they will make.

Minister Huang: What is the aim of all this, because both sides have agreed to prolong the agreement?

The Secretary: Perhaps I can finish and then answer the question. My judgment is that agreements will eventually be reached, but I cannot say when now. It depends on the flexibility that will be shown. We will just have to wait and see. Regarding the interim agreement, it does expire on October 3. But both sides felt it would not be useful if the agreement expired to have an immediate build up of arms. So it would be useful for each side to agree to abide by the agreement, but each could terminate at any time, without notice to the other party.

(The Secretary invites the Chinese to move to the table.)

Meeting With President Carter; Visit to Canada

The Secretary: I gather you are going to Canada from here?

Minister Huang: That is something I was going to tell you. While I was in Peking we contacted the Canadian Embassy to arrange a visit when I came to New York. (Huang notes approvingly that he has been served Mao-tai). It was agreed that I would go on a visit from October 4 to October 6. We know that this is the busiest time for the Canadians. There are two Prime Ministers and two Foreign Ministers visiting so they can have little room for changing our program. So when President Carter proposed a meeting, we suggested early on the morning of the 4th before his speech, but there seemed to be difficulties in making such an arrangement. I am very sorry I was not able to meet President Carter.

The Secretary: He is sorry too.

(Small talk about the menu and Mao-tai.)

The Secretary: We have seen a good deal of the Canadians recently, including the Foreign Minister in the last few weeks. We have done a great deal of work together, including working on a joint enterprise to transport natural gas down to the U.S. overland. We have also been discussing fishing problems, new treaties, boundary arrangements, working out some of these problems. Do you still know a number of people in the Government who were there when you were there?

Minister Huang: Prime Minister Trudeau; but apart from him I don’t know many people.

Someone: Mr. Jamieson?

[Page 246]

Minister Huang: No. Mr. Sharpe was Foreign Minister. That was 1971, and I was Ambassador to Canada for only five months before I left.

Chinese Agriculture; Fertilizer; CCPIT Visit; Ambassador Woodcock’s Trip

(There ensued joking among the Americans about Mr. Habib’s service in Canada as an expert reporter on eggs. His assignment to New Zealand was also mentioned.)

Mr. Habib: The Canadians are facing many political problems.

Minister Huang: Quebec?

The Secretary: Yes. But it also spills over into other provinces. It has a ripple effect.

Mr. Habib: Are you still buying lots of Canadian wheat?

Minister Huang: Yes, but I don’t know the exact figure. Canada and Australia are our main wheat suppliers.

Mr. Holbrooke: Did the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade have a good trip?

Minister Huang: I had no time to meet them.

Ambassador Woodcock: A few days ago I was introduced in the Northeast of China to Kaoliang chiu (wine). It makes this Mao-tai taste mild.

Minister Huang: Did you go to the North East?

Ambassador Woodcock: Before the 18th. I visited Shenyang, Changchun, Taching, Harbin.

Minister Huang: Taching is very interesting.

There is a chemical fertilizer plant nearby, purchased from the U.S. I had a very interesting visit there.

(Both sides discuss the expansion of China’s agricultural production and the need for fertilizer and water. Mr. Habib mentioned the writings of John Lossing Buck on Chinese agriculture, noting that Pearl Buck was not a very popular figure in China but that her husband was a good agricultural economist.4 The Secretary recalled his 1975 trip and meeting with engineers from the fertilizer plants.)

Mr. Habib: Did you agree to buy another fertilizer plant, Mr. Minister? Let’s close a deal.

Mr. Holbrooke: Has Huang Chen arrived back in the U.S.?

Minister Huang: (After consulting with others.) Yes. Yesterday.

[Page 247]

(The two sides discussed National Days in Washington and New York; Mr. Habib said he was sorry that he could not make the National Day celebration in Washington. There followed small talk about the Secretary’s previous service as Pan Am board member, enabling his wife, but not children, to travel free on Pan Am.)

Mr. Habib: (After small talk about New York City.) Let’s get down to basics, Mr. Minister, are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Minister Huang: For different reasons, I am an optimist.


Mr. Habib: (After someone mentioned Lazar Mojsov, GA President.) He is a good man, and will make a good President of the GA.

Minister Huang: Yes. He is a good man.

The Secretary: I am very sorry that I did not meet Yugoslav Vice President Kardelj this afternoon. But I became tied up with a Middle East meeting.

Minister Huang: In the Yugoslav Party Kardelj is the senior official apart from President Tito—a veteran.

The Secretary: How was the Tito visit?

Minister Huang: Very good. Both sides were very much satisfied. When you were in Peking Vice Premier Teng talked about Yugoslavia. Through the visit of Tito to China, it has been proved that what Vice Premier Teng told you was correct: the determination of Yugoslavia to defend its independence, sovereignty, and to resist outside aggression. The Yugoslavs have made full preparations. Through this visit, our two countries are able to fully develop their relations—trade, science and technological cooperation, cultural exchanges and exchanges of visits.

The Secretary: Yes. We are fully familiar with this. We have discussed preparations with Yugoslavia—logistic support.

Minister Huang: I think in arms production, the Yugoslavs are self sufficient (at least) in infantry weapons.

The Secretary: Yes, but they need tanks and other things. We have discussed weapons, and we have supplied them with aircraft in the past. I believe that I will meet with the Yugoslav Foreign Minister tomorrow or the next day.

Minister Huang: Minic?

The Secretary: Yes. I last met him several months ago in Paris.

Minister Huang: My impression is that Mr. Minic is very knowledgeable. He is a veteran fighter, the same generation as President Tito, who launched the guerilla war against fascism. He started with the underground student movement.

The Secretary: That generation of Yugoslavs was very courageous and very able.

[Page 248]

Minister Huang: President Tito is the only survivor of the leaders of the Second World War, who led the people in the fight against fascism. Now he is already 85. President Tito expressed the desire to visit Chairman Mao long ago. Chairman Mao had high regard for President Tito. When the Foreign Minister visited China, in 1975, Chairman Mao passed his high regards to Tito. His name means the same as iron, and Mao described him as strong as iron. So, when President Tito came, we paid him a warm welcome. He is the only survivor of the three leaders of the non-aligned movement—the other two were Nehru and Nasser. Yesterday, the President of the General Assembly, Mojsov, told me that when Tito went back to Yugoslavia from China, the Yugoslavs dispensed with the usual protocol for welcoming their leader upon his return. Six hundred thousand of Belgrade’s one million people came to the streets to welcome President Tito.

Mr. Habib: President Tito went to North Korea on this trip. Did he learn anything interesting? He went before Peking, didn’t he?

Minister Huang: The first country he visited was the Soviet Union, then North Korea, then China. As for his trip to the Soviet Union, as we can see from the joint communique, Yugoslavia adheres to its own principles.

Mr. Habib: That means he doesn’t like the Soviet Union. But what about North Korea? Anything interesting?

Minister Huang: He received a very warm welcome.

Mr. Habib: That’s not very interesting. If they gave him a cold welcome, then it would have been interesting (laughter).


The Secretary: (After a pause) How do you see the special session?

Minister Huang: You mean on disarmament?

The Secretary: Yes.

Minister Huang: We don’t have much interest in it. There have been many lessons in this field. The talks in Geneva have been going on for 17 years. Documents have been piled up, in room after room. But not a single rifle or bullet has been reduced . . .

Mr. Habib: It is not a place for an optimist.

Minister Huang: This is not exaggeration.

Africa: The Horn

The Secretary: Have you been following the situation in the Horn of Africa recently.

Minister Huang: It seems that the situation has gotten out of Soviet hands recently. As you said in Peking, the Soviets are trying to ride on two horses.

[Page 249]

Mr. Habib: And they have already fallen off one.

The Secretary: The situation is still very unstable.

Minister Huang: I believe Ethiopia has asked for arms.

The Secretary: Yes, but we are not giving any.

Mr. Habib: Nor are we giving spare parts, and we are giving nothing to Somalia either.

The Secretary and Habib: They have enough. They are getting what they need, and they have some rich friends.

Minister Huang: But the Somalis are complaining. They have Soviet arms.

The Secretary: Yes. And the Soviets have cut them off.

Mr. Habib: That’s the first horse from which they have fallen.

The Secretary: They have had to reduce their presence in Berbera, too. We have been invited to put a ship in for a port visit there. We will probably do it.

Minister Huang: You have decided to visit?

The Secretary: No. They have invited us to do so, and we are placing that under consideration. They have said it would be interesting.

Minister Huang: Is it true there is a missile base there? We have seen pictures of them in your newspapers.

The Secretary: Not a base, but there are missile repair facilities. We have pictures of them. We have offered our Soviet friends these pictures if they want them.

Mr. Habib: Do you think the Somalis will hold on?

Minister Huang: I don’t think they will give it up. But the war will be expanded and continued.

The Secretary: The Kenyans are getting worried now.

Minister Huang: The OAU is not quite in favor of the Somali action. It wants to mediate.

The Secretary: But it can’t make up its mind to do anything. It can’t get the votes to take action.

Mr. Habib: Have the Somalis asked you for arms also?

Minister Huang: They mainly have asked for assistance in other fields. Vice President Ismail visited in June. He raised requests for economic assistance and economic cooperation. We are doing our utmost to help Somalia with roads, textile mills and bridges. Some projects are completed. They now have requested help to build dams for a hydro-electric power plant to raise agricultural production.

The Secretary: Are you giving help to Mozambique too?

Minister Huang: Yes. But I do not know the details.

[Page 250]

Mr. Habib: You used to do a lot more in Africa than you are now doing. You have reduced your effort.

Minister Huang: Several years ago we had a big project, the Tanzam railroad. In terms of money this was a big portion of our effort, and that effort has now been reduced.

Africa: Southern

The Secretary: If we go forward in our project to help the Rhodesians—the black Rhodesians—to achieve majority rule, and the right to rule their country, we have agreed to give a great deal of additional assistance, to help the country come into being. We would expect also that Namibia—after elections are carried out—would also need much help, and we will give considerable help to them also.

Minister Huang: It’s not going to be easy to solve these two problems.

The Secretary: Right. It will be difficult, but we are on the way. I am an optimist.

Mr. Habib: You can help.

Minister Huang: The help we can give them is to give rifles and artillery to defeat the Smith regime. When that is accomplished, it can be solved. Smith will not yield until his troops are defeated.

The Secretary: It also needs political and economic pressure against him.

Minister Huang: What about Vorster?

The Secretary: He has been helpful to a minor degree behind the scenes, but not as far as we wished he would go. We have indicated that if he is not more helpful, we are prepared to take steps that will affect South Africa itself. We will be watching very carefully to see what happens in the next month or two.

Mr. Habib: You have heard what our Ambassador said on this topic today?

The Secretary: We have talked to Kaunda, Nyere and Machel—at great length on many occasions.

Chen: Yes. Ambassador Young said that the OAU is strong enough to force the super-powers to act on behalf of the African states. (laughter)

Mr. Habib: He meant the Soviet Union and China.

Chen: Everyone smiled at this portion of his speech.

Minister Huang: Does he still believe the Cuban presence in Africa to be a stabilizing factor?

Mr. Habib: If he still believes it, he doesn’t say anything. Have you asked him?

[Page 251]

Minister Huang: He is very active.

The Secretary: He has been very successful.

Mr. Habib: In many respects, he has helped turn around African policy.

President’s Trip

The Secretary: I might say a word about the President’s trip. In the latter part of November, he is visiting Latin America, Africa, India and several countries in Europe. It is his first real extended trip outside of the U.S., aside from his brief trip to Western Europe. He will go to Latin America, visiting Venezuela, a country which has worked closely with us in the hemisphere, cooperating with us on a number of important issues. Also Brazil, an increasingly important country. Then he goes to Nigeria. As I told you in Peking, our relations had deteriorated for a number of years, but now our relations are warm and friendly. Since the change of Government in India, our relations have improved markedly and we will visit there as well. We will pay a return visit to the Shah, who will visit here next month. Then he will go to Europe: Poland, Belgium and France. In eleven days he will visit four continents and eight countries. He will cover a good deal of ground in a brief period and have an opportunity to further develop relations.

Minister Huang: How many days altogether?

The Secretary: Eleven days.

Mr. Habib: Four continents and eight countries.

The Secretary: Lots of travelling. I will go for much of the trip. I may come back in order to work on Middle East problems.

Secretary’s Toast

The Secretary: (rising) Mr. Minister, a word of welcome. It is a great pleasure to welcome you to New York. New York is not new to you. It is a great pleasure to have you here as Foreign Minister. I warmly recall the splendid hospitality extended to me in Peking. I recall that in Peking we had serious and candid exchanges on a wide variety of subjects, both global and bilateral topics. I recall that at the Summer Palace, Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping said he hoped that relations would continue to move forward. In my meeting with Chairman Hua, he said he hoped to move forward and that I would so inform President Carter.5 I have done so, and can tell you that the President has asked me to reaffirm that he deeply shares this view and the hope that our relations will move forward to the point of normalization.

[Page 252]

I propose a toast to the health of Chairman Hua, of the Foreign Minister and of our Chinese friends and to the friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.

Huang’s Toast

Minister Huang: It is a great pleasure to return to New York in my capacity as head of the Chinese delegation at the 32d session of the GA. I have lots of old friends in the UN and lots of good friends among the American people in New York. This time, when I have come back, I have had the chance of meeting old friends, especially American friends, and this gives me the opportunity of exchanging views on a number of questions. And this evening, Your Excellency Mr. Vance and other friends who visited China are holding this dinner for us. I wish to express thanks.

When Chairman Hua learned that I was going to the UNGA, he asked me to convey a message to President Carter. So I’ll take this opportunity to convey a message from Chairman (sic) Hua to President Carter. Chairman (or Premier?) Hua expresses greetings to President Carter. Premier (sic) Hua hopes you will convey to the President that he thinks Sino-US relations are not a diplomatic question but a political question. It is necessary to consider this question from the viewpoint of long term strategic interests. He hopes Sino-US relations will develop on the basis of the Shanghai Communique.

I propose a toast to President Carter, to the Secretary, and to other friends, and to friendship between the people of China and of the United States.

(Small talk about tea and coffee.)


The Secretary: On the question of normalization of relations, when I was in Peking, the Vice Premier indicated we should, in his judgment, reflect on what he had to say and asked that I discuss his views with President Carter and consider it from the strategic point of view. We have been doing this, and we have not yet completed our reflections. This should be in the near future. When we have, we shall be back in touch with you. And when that time comes, I suggest we will ask Ambassador Woodcock to convey our thoughts to you. We would convey our thoughts in that fashion. Both the President and I have complete confidence in him. So if you think this is appropriate, we can proceed in that way, in accordance with what the Vice Premier said. We would plan to do this in that fashion. (Huang clearly understood this in English and was nodding his head throughout the presentation.)

Minister Huang: I remember that Vice Premier Teng at that time said he did not request an immediate reply. He suggested that, after se[Page 253]rious consideration, you may give us a reply. He also said that he would not press.

As to when the Secretary thinks he is able to present new views on the question of normalization on the basis of the principles of the Shanghai Communique, it is up to you. I think it is perfectly appropriate to give the reply through Ambassador Woodcock. We agree to this idea.

(The Secretary began to end the dinner by offering Mrs. Vance’s best wishes, expressing hope that she would be able to see Madame Huang before the latter returned to China. Huang asked Ambassador Woodcock how long he would remain in the U.S., to which the Ambassador replied, “a few days”. Ambassador Woodcock joked that Peking is now his “home,” and when in Harbin he referred to it as such. He added that he hoped to travel south shortly after returning to Peking.)

(The Secretary proposed that if he encountered the press after the dinner he would say that it had been a great pleasure to have had a chance to meet the Foreign Minister again and to exchange views on a variety of subjects, and that he looked forward to continuing these exchanges in the future. If asked about normalization of relations, he would say we would continue to be guided by the principles of the Shanghai Communique, with the ultimate objective of normalization. Huang agreed.)

(In conducting Huang to the elevator, the Secretary briefly addressed the issue of the Vice Premier’s public characterization of the Peking visit. He said he had received the message through Ambassador Bush and that he now considered the matter closed. The Secretary said later that Foreign Minister Huang seemed puzzled by the reference to the Bush message, perhaps indicating that he wasn’t aware of that exchange with Teng.)6

(Messrs. Holbrooke and Thayer accompanied the Chinese down on the elevator. In encountering the press on his way out to 44th Street, the Foreign Minister substantially followed the press line proposed by the Secretary, saying that the two sides exchanged views concerning [Page 254] the international situation and agreed to continue to contact each other on bilateral relations.)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 56, Policy Process: 9–12/77. Secret; Nodis. The dinner took place in the Secretary’s Dining Room in the UN Plaza Hotel. Woodcock provided advice for Vance’s meeting and also recommended, “Needless to say I think we should accept the ‘Japanese formula’ of non-official representation in Taipei.” (Telegram 2138 from Beijing, September 21; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840076–0632)
  2. Huang Hua’s address to the UN General Assembly on September 29 was reported in the The New York Times. See Kathleen Teltsch, “Peking, at the U.N., Describes Russians as Top War Threat,” The New York Times, September 30, 1977, p. 8.
  3. See Document 50.
  4. John Lossing Buck was an agricultural economist who worked in China in the 1920s and 1930s. His wife, Pearl S. Buck, wrote about China and was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Some leftist intellectuals criticized her work as anti-revolutionary.
  5. See Document 52.
  6. Deng and Bush met in the Great Hall of the People on September 27. During their discussion, Deng noted that, while talking to a reporter with the AP, he had felt compelled to say that there was no flexibility in the Chinese position on Taiwan. He remarked that he had done this in order to contradict public comments, which Deng attributed to Vance, indicating that there was flexibility in the Chinese position. A transcript of the Deng–Bush conversation was transmitted in telegram 2199 from Beijing, September 29. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770354–0660) Deng’s interview with AP reporter Louis D. Boccardi is attached to a memorandum from Oksenberg to Brzezinski and Aaron, September 6. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 7–9/77) See also footnote 3, Document 56.