89. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of Dr. Brzezinski’s Meeting with Ambassador Han Hsu


  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Michel Oksenberg, Staff Member, NSC
  • Ambassador Han Hsu, Acting Chief of the People’s Republic of China Liaison Office
  • Tsao Keui-sheng, Political Counselor, People’s Republic of China Liaison Office
  • Shen Jo-yun, Interpreter, People’s Republic of China Liaison Office

(Background: Mr. Oksenberg received a telephone call at 2:45 p.m. on March 27 indicating that Ambassador Han Hsu had a response to Dr. Brzezinski’s message of March 21.2 Mr. Oksenberg arranged for a 4:45 p.m. meeting, called in haste since Dr. Brzezinski was departing the next day for the President’s Latin America and Africa trip.)

Dr. Brzezinski: Excuse me for not being able to see you for a longer period of time and for calling you here so swiftly after learning that you had a message for me, but I am leaving on the President’s trip tomorrow. We are in a state of chaos.

Ambassador Han Hsu: I know you are leaving, and I very much appreciate and thank you for making arrangements to see me so quickly.

Concerning your visit to China, here is the reply to the points you raised the last time we met: First, with regard to a date, the Chinese side [Page 316] is preoccupied in mid-May, and a visit of two to three days would be possible after May 20.

Second, as to Dr. Brzezinski’s visit, the Chinese side will make appropriate arrangements. The U.S. side is aware of Chinese customs. The Chinese side finds it difficult to say with whom Dr. Brzezinski will be visiting.

Third, the Chinese side has no plan to issue an announcement of the visit. The U.S. side can do that.

Dr. Brzezinski: As far as the announcement is concerned, fine. We will tell you in advance when we intend to make our announcement and give you a text in advance concerning what we would say. It would go probably something like this: “With the President’s approval and advice of the Secretary of State, Dr. Brzezinski will be visiting China from May 20 to May 23 to engage in consultations about matters of common interest.”

As to date, we will check carefully with the Presidential calendar and come back with a proposal soon after my return from the President’s trip. The NATO Summit is planned for sometime at the end of May, perhaps in the last week. I do not remember precisely. I will have to check to see if I can be away just prior to that. It may be better to go right after the NATO Summit.

So, as to the announcement, if it is agreeable with you, that is the way we will handle it. As to the date, we will be back in touch with you.

As to the third point, I should underline that my going underscores our desire to consult on important matters of concern. I am going for reasons of state. My visit could be in keeping with our view that the PRC occupies a paramount position in world affairs, and that we attach great importance to these consultations.

I would hope that my visit will be viewed in the same way by my hosts in the country I am so eager to visit. This is in keeping with Chairman Hua Kuo-feng’s statements on the common points we share in the world today.

It would seem to me desirable for you to be able to indicate to me in advance the nature and the participants in the talks I would have. It would be difficult to go unless I knew of the nature of the trip, at least a portion of it.

Naturally, this would not be disclosed in advance. I have mentioned that I do not intend to take press with me. But I repeat that I would like to know in advance something about the nature of the program.

I might add that I realize your practice of not specifying the full nature of trips to your country, but a partial indication is both desirable [Page 317] and necessary for our own planning and preparation. I hope you report this back, since I think this is in our mutual interest.

(At this point the conversation was interrupted as Dr. Brzezinski took a telephone call which was from the President. The Chinese became aware that it was a Presidential call.)

Dr. Brzezinski: So, to summarize, from my point of view, it is difficult to make such a leap into the unknown. This is not a leap forward, but a leap into the unknown.

Ambassador Han Hsu: So, when you get a firm date, you will let us know. We will wait on that until you get back.

As to your second point, we are aware that you know that our practices are consistent. Visitors to China do not know their schedule or who they will see. But you may rest assured that you will be welcomed and will make appropriate arrangements.

Dr. Brzezinski: If I were the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary of Treasury, I would know who I would meet because of established protocol. But my position as the National Security Advisor is more ambiguous. The purpose is consultative and to discuss matters of highest importance. This is unusual in diplomatic practice, but there are precedents. So, if you are unable to give me a complete sense of my trip, perhaps you could give me a general idea.

Ambassador Han Hsu: Last time you mentioned the problem of leakage. So far as the Chinese side is concerned, leaks are out of the question.

Dr. Brzezinski: I know. But here leakages are not out of the question.

Ambassador Han Hsu: The problem lies with the American side and with the situation here. There are no problems of leaking in Peking.

Mr. Oksenberg: But as to Mr. Brzezinski’s trip, the first mention of it occurred at a lunch when newspaper men were holding microphones as Ambassador Huang Chen spoke. (Ambassador Han Hsu noted and said “Yes.”)

Dr. Brzezinski: We will be in touch when we come back from our trip. I will check on our schedule and meanwhile I hope that you will seek to see whether a greater degree of predictability can be injected into my visit.

Ambassador Han Hsu: I will report back to Peking. We will leave discussion of the world situation to the next time.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 56, Policy Process: 1–4/78. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House.
  2. See Document 87.