203. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Summary of the President’s Private Meeting with President Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Jimmy Carter
  • President of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu
  • Mr. Celac, Interpreter

(Note: This summary is based on the Romanian notes. The President’s remarks were translated into Romanian and then translated back into English.)

The President said he would like to have a few minutes to talk privately on any matters that President Ceausescu would like to raise. Relations between our countries are very good and we have established good rapport personally. Before the larger talks, it might be useful to exchange views on matters of special interest.

President Ceausescu reiterated his appreciation for the progress in relations between the two countries and expressed satisfaction with the visit and talks thus far. He agreed that a good personal relationship has been established and expressed the hope that it will continue. He noted that the two have communicated previously through special channels and he felt that it would be useful to continue such contacts in addition to those through the two embassies when problems arise in the future.

The President agreed, suggesting that they might exchange personal letters without waiting for a crisis or special problems.

MFN and Emigration

President Ceausescu agreed. He mentioned his meeting that morning with a group of US Senators at which the question of MFN was raised. They came to the conclusion that some improvements could be made in the process by which annual renewal of MFN is handled which would not require that the matter be raised before Congress each year. A more permanent solution can possibly be worked out later.

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The President said that this problem was also of concern to him, but change in legislation would be necessary in order to extend MFN for more than one year. This law was directed particularly against Soviet restrictions on Jewish emigration. (He noted that in the past 4 or 5 months emigration of Jews from the USSR was double the figure for the previous period.) Since the law was not directed against Romania he hoped that Congress would be forthcoming in granting a new annual extention for Romania. It would be better to do this on a longer-term basis. There will be no problem of continuing MFN for Romania under existing legislation, however, if the Congress and I feel that the human rights situation in Romania gives no cause for concern. We have no intention to interfere in Romania’s internal affairs, but we recognize that there is a strong interest in this country in family reunification and Jewish emigration which applies to countries seeking MFN. He asked President Ceausescu to inform him if this created particular difficulties.

President Ceausescu said that in practical terms there is no problem with Jews leaving Romania. There are close contacts with the Israeli government and it no longer considers this to be a problem. One cannot speak of a “family reunification” problem since the war has been over for some time and few cases exist of families separated by war. The question is more one of mixed marriages, and such cases generally receive favorable resolution. The wishes of the parents and other factors occasionally make it impossible to grant permission, however. Perhaps an interim solution to the MFN problem would be to have committee discussion but avoid debates in the plenary sessions of Congress. It appears that the sponsor of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment is also thinking along this line.2

The President said it is the desire of this administration to continue MFN for Romania and to enhance trade. If in any private communications you wish to provide information that will help in this regard, it will be used for your country’s benefit. As in the past I will do everything I can to inform the Congressional leaders of the good attitude taken by Romania in order to continue receiving MFN treatment. I believe that it is in our mutual interest to increase trade.

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Africa

The President expressed concern about the increased use of military force and of Cuban forces by the USSR in Africa.

President Ceausescu said that Romania has frequently spoken out against foreign troops on the territory of any independent state. We do not at all welcome the presence of Cuban troops in Africa, although formally it was requested by the respective governments. It would be much better if they were not there.

China

The President expressed interest in President Ceausescu’s forthcoming meetings with the Chinese leaders. We would like to see our relations with China normalized. Our exchange of information through our liaison office has been adequate, but we wish to improve our relations.

It might be useful if, with Chinese knowledge, you could send me a private letter after your visit and with your views about further steps we might take to improve relations with China. We need your good offices in improving that relationship.

President Ceausescu said that the normalization of US-Chinese relations is proceeding with some difficulty. It might be good to think of giving a fresh impetus to the process of normalization through establishing full diplomatic relations. This will require a solution to the Taiwan question by putting into practice something the US has already done, i.e., recognizing Taiwan as an integral part of China and therefore a matter for China alone to resolve. Considering the rapid rate of change in international affairs, it may be of special importance to have diplomatic relations with China. China plays and is bound to play an increasingly important role in international life, to say nothing of China’s economic potential which would give the United States great opportunities.

The President said that the major obstacle is the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Republic of China, and the People’s Republic has not been prepared to state that the dispute over Taiwan is to be resolved solely by peaceful means. If we could find a solution to that problem, we could take rapid action in our relations with China. The Chinese leaders share our wish to see this problem solved, and if that can be done, we shall recognize the PRC.

President Ceausescu said the Chinese leaders have stated on more than one occasion that they seek a peaceful resolution to the Taiwan problem and I think that is their intention. If the US withdraws there will be no need to resort to force, considering the close ties between the people of Taiwan and China. Giving a specific commitment to the US, however, would be difficult. It was apparent in my talks with [Page 633] the Senators this morning that the US itself is reluctant to give such guarantees on similar matters that regard it directly. The same is true with China. Thus things should be resolved without creating additional artificial problems in order to achieve normalization.

The President said it is our policy to work toward normalization, and we shall do so.

President Ceausescu asked if he should inform Chairman Hua of the substance of our talks on these matters. I will certainly inform you of his views and how the Chinese leaders see future developments.3 I think, however, it is urgent to resolve these problems, and you are in a position to bring about their speedy solution.

The President said that we desire to do this. We do not try to use our relationship with the USSR against China, nor vice-versa. We wish to be friends with both countries, and this is a course that Romania has followed so well.

President Ceausescu said that this is a wise course. He said that continuing the present state of affairs generates a certain degree of suspicion with the Chinese leaders. Thus more expeditious steps toward normal relations would demonstrate a willingness to carry out that policy.

Korea

President Ceausescu then raised the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea and Korea in general. During my visit to the Far East I will also visit the PDRK as well as Vietnam, Campuchea, and Laos. Our relations with North Korea are very good and I personally have a friendly relationship with President Kim Il-song. He asked me to convey to you some of his thoughts with regard to a resolution of the Korean problem. They wish to reach a state of improved relations with the US on the basis of your commitment to withdraw American troops from South Korea. They believe that initiation of direct talks on that problem would be most useful. They have given assurances that they will consider US interests in South Korea, and they envisage that reuni[Page 634]fication would take the form of a federation which would maintain the existing social system in the two parts of the peninsula.4

In Kim Il-song’s opinion the main obstacle is President Park Chung Hee. The North Koreans characterize his regime as Fascist and its policies are clearly pro-Japanese. They would agree to deal with any other president in the south that is agreeable to the US such as Yan Bo-sim (a former President of South Korea, 1960–1962) whom they know to have good relations with the United States. Yan Bo-sim is no communist, and he is presently counselor of the New Democracy Party in the South. Of course, that is only an example, but any personality willing to promote a more democratic regime in the South who would also be agreeable to the US will be acceptable for the North.

I present all of this to you in order to give you a picture of how Kim Il-song sees a way to solve the existing problems and open the way to new relations with that part of the world.

The President said it is not my responsibility nor that of Kim Il-song to determine who shall be president of South Korea. That is a decision for the people there, and they have elected President Park in free elections. Will Kim Il-song have a direct meeting with representatives of the US, North Korea, and President Park?

President Ceausescu answered that they will not deal with President Park for the reasons mentioned. Regarding the democratic elections in South Korea, I have been told that the other candidates for the presidency were arrested and were not even able to run for office. The North Koreans believe that if the US no longer supports Park, internal forces in South Korea will be able to resolve the problem in a democratic way. Nevertheless, the North Koreans are ready to talk with the US, and they will talk with any democratically chosen leader after Park has been replaced.

The President replied that North Korea has historically taken that position. The possibility that President Park might be overthrown or changed is very slight. We do not interfere in South Korea’s domestic affairs and we will not change the government by force or intervention. Unless Kim Il-song is willing to meet with representatives of the current [Page 635] government there will be no opportunity for such a meeting; the US will not meet representatives of the North without representatives from the South.

President Ceausescu said that since the US has relations with South Korea it would be wise to also have direct contacts with the North.

The President replied that we are there on the basis of a UN resolution. We favor reunification of Korea and military representatives have been meeting at the 38th parallel, but the US is not the dominant political factor there. We are there to keep a fragile peace and we cannot claim the political leadership of South Korea. To undertake political negotiations with North Korean leaders in the absence of President Park would be to assume a false posture.

The PLO

President Ceausescu then turned the conversation again to a possible meeting of US and PLO representatives. Although this is not now on the agenda, it is important if a new impetus is to be given to the peace process in the Middle East. They will meet with the US either secretly or publicly. I have been specifically assured that the PLO has already mustered a majority within its organization to support such a useful meeting.

The President recalled that he had stated the US position in talks the previous day,5 but indicated his willingness to exchange ideas as the situation develops. Our current desire is for Egypt to propose a new solution and then have Egypt and Israel work together in resolving their differences. At this stage the insertion of the PLO into the process would be a complicating factor. Perhaps later it would be more reasonable.

President Ceausescu said he was not referring to PLO participation in general, but only to its participation in talks on the Palestinian question.

The President felt that Egypt would not be willing to have the PLO involved even on that problem at present, and Israel certainly would not. King Hussein would probably take the same view.

President Ceausescu suggested that President Sadat wishes the PLO to participate in the discussion of the Palestinian problem but not the discussion of Egypt’s problems. He felt that Hussein is of the same opinion; so is President Assad.

The President agreed that Assad may hold that view, but not Hussein.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 36, Memcons: President: 4/78. Secret. The meeting took place in the Oval Office. Brzezinski forwarded the memorandum of conversation to Vance on April 18. (Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 9, Vance Nodis MemCons, 1978)
  2. Vanik met with Ceausescu during his one-day stop in Bucharest, March 31. In telegram 2148 from Bucharest, April 1, the Embassy reported that Vanik told Ceausescu that “1978 was campaign year and 1979 would provide better opportunity to institute different review process for Romania’s MFN renewal.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780142–0238) In telegram 2149 from Bucharest, April 1, the Embassy reported Vanik’s conversation with Andrei, in which the Representative said that “single-year renewal essential this year because there is no time to change procedures, especially in election year, but he hoped change in law permitting committee decision on better handling of renewal would be possible next year.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780143–0268)
  3. Andrei met with Ambassador Aggrey at the Foreign Ministry on June 12 to brief him on Ceausescu’s Asia trip. Andrei asked Aggrey that “account be held in full confidence and not discussed with other Bucharest diplomats” and “noted with a smile” that he would meet with the Soviet Ambassador following his presentation to Aggrey. Aggrey added: “I did not ask whether he would receive same briefing, but I doubt it.” Aggrey reported that, based on the Romanian account, the visits to China, North Korea, and Cambodia were successful although the visit to Vietnam and Laos less so. (Telegram 4075 from Bucharest, June 13; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780250–0932)
  4. In telegram 163243 to Bucharest, June 27, the Department instructed Aggrey to thank Andrei for the report on Ceausescu’s trip to Asia, and to brief him on the conclusions of Brzezinski’s trip to China. Regarding Korea, the Department suggested that “the Romanians, rather than taking a neutral position, are largely seeking to advance North Korean position. For that reason we see little to be gained from entering into a detailed dialogue with them on the subject.” The telegram instructed Aggrey to tell Andrei that “if the GOR is interested in promoting improved relations between North and South Korea, it may wish to make its views known through direct contacts with the Republic of Korea as it already does with the DPRK.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780266–0541)
  5. See Document 200.