79. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Trip to the Far East

A couple of weeks ago you said that you felt that a consultative visit by me to China would be useful; you mentioned this also to Mansfield in Cy’s presence; and this morning the matter was brought up by Harold. Considering the importance of the U.S. maintaining a better relationship with both China and the USSR than either of them has with each other, and bearing in mind developments on the Horn and the related need to send a sensitive signal to the Soviets, the time is ripe for your decision on this subject.

Since it would be inadvisable to convey a sense of haste to the Chinese, and since it will take time to plan a serious consultative meeting, I would envisage proceeding along the following lines, subject to your reactions and approval:

1. Following your decision, I would consult with Cy, and then approach the Chinese to inform them that I am now ready to accept formally the invitation which they have more than once issued since last fall;

2. I would propose that such a two or three-day visit to Peking be labeled clearly in advance as consultative. In this context, I would pre[Page 295]pare myself to present the Chinese with a full briefing on our current SALT negotiations as well as on the overall strategic situation. In addition, I would be prepared to discuss with the Chinese other matters of common concern, such as developments in the African Horn.

3. Subject to Chinese response, probably the best time for the visit would be somewhere around the middle of April. Hopefully, this would be after the ratification of the Panama Canal Treaties.

4. To dampen speculation, the meeting would be deliberately labeled as consultative; to send the proper signal to the Soviets, it could probably be announced in a low-key fashion sometime soon, even if scheduled for the second half of April; it would be agreed beforehand with the Chinese that there would be no communique on the conclusion of the visit, and we would make no further comments from here after my return, thereby giving the Soviets some food for thought.2

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 46, China: Brzezinski, May, 1978, Trip: 11/77–5/17/78. Top Secret.
  2. Carter did not check either the Approve or Disapprove options, but wrote at the “Other” option, “I’ll probably decide this week. J.”