96. 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 Kuei-sheng, Political Counselor, People’s Republic of China Liaison Office
  • Yang Yu-yang, Interpreter, People’s Republic of China Liaison Office

Dr. Brzezinski: I am pleased to see you. I am looking forward to the trip very much. We plan to make our announcement in the middle of next week.2

Ambassador Han: I have no objection to the announcement that you plan to release. It is fine.

Dr. Brzezinski: After our announcement, I will give you more information on the small party I plan to take with me. I have indicated earlier that no journalists will accompany me. I look forward to seeing Peking or the region around it. I talked with your predecessor about parts of the country that I would enjoy visiting, and if you wish to plan for that and recommend it, I would be interested.

Ambassador Han: Fine. We will be in touch.

Dr. Brzezinski: Let me first turn to the Vance mission to Moscow.3 There is not much to report at this time. I would like to give you the general purpose of the visit and then describe a couple particular things about it.

We have no illusions about the Soviet Union, but we do know that we have to live in the same world with it. Secretary Vance’s visit has two purposes—to review the wider pattern of our relations and to see whether some progress can be made on SALT.

On the wider pattern of our relations, Secretary Vance is on instructions to make the point to the Soviets that President Carter meant [Page 351] what he said in his Wake Forest speech, that détente must be genuinely comprehensive and reciprocal if it is to become wider.4 These two words—comprehensive and reciprocal—have special meaning. Comprehensive means the relationship can be genuinely cooperative on a broad basis. Or it can be limited. Reciprocal means that their relations with us—their actions toward us—cannot be different from our actions toward them. They cannot expect us to behave differently toward them than they do toward us.

Ambassador Han: Does this include Soviet behavior in Africa?

Dr. Brzezinski: Yes. Vance is under instructions to express our particular concern about Soviet behavior in Africa. We consider this Soviet behavior in Africa an important instance of the nature of détente—whether it in fact will be comprehensive and reciprocal.

As to SALT, we do not anticipate that this mission will resolve the remaining issues. Rather, we hope for some progress on some of the issues. We would anticipate this meeting to be followed by a GromykoVance meeting here later, and then if a SALT signing is possible and if Soviet behavior elsewhere does not raise questions, then a final VanceGromyko meeting or else—and on this we are not certain—a possible Brezhnev–Carter meeting could take place.

During this trip, we are seeking to narrow differences on three options:

—The overall numbers. We are close to an agreement on the numerical limits on specific weapons, but there is a disagreement on overall limits.

Ambassador Han: I am not sure what you mean.

Dr. Brzezinski: Well, we are attempting to reach limits on MIRVs, ALCMs, and so on. There are numerical limits on specific systems. But there is disagreement on overall limits, though the difference between us is narrow. We wish a limit of 2160, but are prepared to go to 2200. The Russians are at 2250. This is confidential and for your information.

—The second issue is noncircumvention.

Mr. Yang: I am sorry. I do not understand the point.

Dr. Brzezinski: Non-circumvention means the provisions in the agreement to prevent evasion through transfer of arms to our allies. The Russians wanted a narrow definition, a strict limit as to what could be transferred to allies. We found the Russian definition would have been very harmful in our relations with NATO. We have been very firm.

Ambassador Han: Does this mean limitations in the transfer of technology to NATO?

[Page 352]

Dr. Brzezinski: It could. But we have insisted on a general statement without restrictive clauses, so we believe the agreement will not impair our relationship with NATO.

—The third point concerns weapons modernization. We wish to be very restrictive here, to attempt to preclude either side from developing new weapons, but the Soviet Union wants to be less restrictive.

There are a number of other issues on which we still have no agreement, but some progress has been made through careful and restrained negotiations.

Now let me change the subject unless you have any other questions.

Ambassador Han: Yes. Did Vance touch on the subject of Africa and what was the Soviet Union’s reaction?

Dr. Brzezinski: I was just getting to that. Yes. We said that Soviet behavior in Africa was not compatible with the relationship we sought to develop with the Soviet Union. The Soviets responded with their usual statements about the selfless nature of their involvement in Africa. But I believe the Soviet Union is gradually realizing that we are serious and that their actions in Africa will impinge on the aspects of our relationship.

Can you tell me about Siad’s recent trip to China?5

Ambassador Han: I have not heard anything official, and only know what I have read from the newspapers and official press releases. Upon his return to Mogadishu, Siad said he was satisfied.

Dr. Brzezinski: If you hear more and can share it, we would be very much obliged to know what happened on his trip. We are negotiating on military aid to Siad. Things are going sufficiently well so that we will take steps to give aid. Our concern is that in the political sense, Siad should not be able to help the Soviets maintain the pretense that they are defending other countries. If Siad lays territorial claims to portions of Kenya, Djibouti, or the Ogaden, the Soviet Union can offer assistance to these localities as a defensive measure. If Siad would drop his territorial claims, then the Soviet Union would appear the aggressor and Somalis could rightfully claim it needs help.

Let me turn to another subject. The President yesterday issued a strong statement on Cambodia.6 It was a serious statement of concern about the human condition in Cambodia. The loss of blood, according to our best information, has been tragically high. But we wish you [Page 353] to know that the statement bears no relationship to our views on Vietnamese-Cambodian relations. Our statement is not intended to affect the external relations of Cambodia. This statement expresses concern for the internal loss of life in Cambodia.

Ambassador Han: I would like to make personal remarks on this question. Not long ago TASS made a fierce attack on Cambodia and commented on the Vietnam–Cambodia conflict. Now, it would appear that the President joins in this attack. Isn’t this an instance of the President joining our Polar Bear neighbor to the north?

Dr. Brzezinski: Since you are speaking frankly, let me do so also. There is a dilemma here. Where do we draw the line between concerns about international relations and concerns about the internal affairs of another country?

Ambassador Han: We respect Cambodia for its complete independence.

Dr. Brzezinski: But I hope you understand that the President’s statement does not suggest that we would support either indirect or direct designs of others on this region. You should know that we are opposed to hegemony and support the inclusion of anti-hegemonism clauses in statements of other countries.

Ambassador Han: Nonetheless, the issuance of this statement on Cambodia has the same objective effect.

Dr. Brzezinski: We do not want to support the Soviets. This presents a difficult issue to us. But the internal programs of Cambodia are very grave. In a nation of seven million, perhaps one to two million may have died. We believe this. We want to register our concern. But we do not wish to connect this concern with matters of the international concern.

Ambassador Han: We do not believe this figure. But in any case, we are used to these kinds of statements. After Chinese liberation, the U.S. made similar statements about us.

Dr. Brzezinski: Well, I hope I am wrong. But this is what we believe. After all, during the Stalin purges, people also said that the extent of bloodshed was not as great as we now know it was. So we will eventually know. Meanwhile, we must act according to our best information.

Ambassador Han: According to our figures, the loss of life was not so much. We believe the internal situation in Cambodia is excellent. The Cambodians are now self-sufficient in grain, and in fact export grain. They are very firm against hegemony, and they rely on their own efforts to resist hegemonial powers. This earns our support.

Dr. Brzezinski: To repeat, we agree on the value of anti-hegemony determination.

[Page 354]

Counselor Tsao: Well, I have just served in Cambodia.

Dr. Brzezinski: Oh?

Mr. Oksenberg: Yes. Mr. Tsao was Political Counselor there before coming to Washington.

Dr. Brzezinski: In what years were you in Cambodia?

Counselor Tsao: I was there twice—in the late 1950s to 1963 and then from 1974 to 1977. The situation there is excellent. Compared to Vietnam, it is certainly better. There has been an increase in the production of grain. Industrial production has been increasing. Because of the war, there was bound to be a loss of life, but the Cambodian Government is not responsible for that. The infectious diseases which took a heavy toll were a result of the war, not of the government’s deliberate actions.

Dr. Brzezinski: I hope that is true.

Counselor Tsao: It is true. The Cambodian Government has tried to improve the health and housing conditions of its people. It has eliminated malaria and the death rate due to malaria has been reduced. It has concentrated its efforts most recently to improve housing. Since I was there before, I can compare what exists today with the situation before. The urban situation is better. The government has achieved in a short time what had not been accomplished before, and the people support their government.

Ambassador Han: Yes, how could they have such rapid development and repulse such pressure from outside if the government did not enjoy the support of its people? I should point out that the Cambodians have given 300,000 tons of rice to Laos.

Dr. Brzezinski: Why has Vietnam pressed Cambodia?

Counselor Tsao: It is an age-old conflict. Plus the Vietnamese have been pushed by the support of the Polar Bear.

Dr. Brzezinski: I hope your information is right. We have no international interest in this issue but only are concerned about a social and human problem.

I regret that I have to break the meeting now, but I have to be in New York. When we next meet, I will give you more on the Vance trip. Also, I hope you can tell me something about Africa.

Ambassador Han: Are there any new developments in the Mid East?

Dr. Brzezinski: Not really. The next step is to get through Congress the arms package. It is important that we win. Then we can go forward with confidence that the Congress supports our effort. If the Congress does not support us, then we do not have Congressional support for a policy of maintaining peace and keeping the Soviets out. As far as the month of May is concerned, we will therefore be preoccupied with [Page 355] Congress, after that we would plan to move politically in our discussions with the Israelis, Egyptians, Jordanians, and Palestinians.

Ambassador Han: I will be back in touch with you.

When Dr. Brzezinski walked Ambassador Han, Counselor Tsao, and Mr. Yang to their car, before saying good-bye, Dr. Brzezinski said that Counselor Tsao was unusual in his having been in Cambodia both before and after the new government had been installed. He asked which Americans he knew from his prior service. He asked whether he knew the Ambassador. Tsao said no, [1½ lines not declassified]. Dr. Brzezinski said “Well, you know the right people to meet.”

[1 paragraph (6 lines) not declassified]

Oksenberg gave his name on a piece of paper. Ambassador Han asked when he would be arriving in Peking. Oksenberg said he was not certain but he thought this summer and that in any case the State Department would soon be processing his application. Ambassador Han said “Fine.”

  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. The White House and the Department of State announced Brzezinski’s trip on April 26. See Don Oberdorfer, “Brzezinski Plans to Visit China, Despite Reported Opposition From Vance,” The Washington Post, April 27, 1978, p. A18.
  3. Vance visited Moscow April 19–23.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 87.
  5. Somali President Siad Barre visited Beijing April 14–18 to sign an agreement on economic and technical cooperation with China.
  6. For the text of the President’s April 21 statement on human rights abuses in Cambodia, see Public Papers: Carter, 1978, pp. 767–768.