69. Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan1


  • Second Soviet Demarche on our Relations with China

When Dobrynin saw me on July 2 he brought in a paper on U.S.-Chinese relations, following up the earlier approach he had made to Walter Stoessel on June 17.2 Both papers were worded fairly sharply, but this new one drops the subject of “assurances” which previous Administrations had supposedly given the Soviets about not arming the Chinese. Nor does the new one repeat the threat that they would consider our arming the Chinese hostile to the Soviet Union.

The new demarche is not, in fact, limited to the question of arms supply but treats our relationship with the Chinese more broadly, claiming that we are guided in developing that relationship solely by hostility toward the Soviet Union. The main point seems to be a warning [Page 202] that we should realize that there is a limit as to how far we can go in developing relations with China without affecting the very nature of our relations with the Soviet Union.

While the June 17 demarche thus appears to have been a quick reaction to the first sensational press reports about our new attitude toward possible arms transfers to China, this second demarche, like some of the more recent Soviet propaganda statements, seems to reflect a more realistic appreciation of the situation. In effect, the message seems to be that the Soviets are waiting to see what we actually do about arms transfers before drawing any firm conclusions. The paper ends with an expression of hope that the USG, and you personally, will take a fresh look at our recent steps toward China and weigh “the real costs and dangers.”

We will be sending a reply directly to Gromyko, using it as a vehicle for our Charge d’Affaires in Moscow to request an appointment with Gromyko.3 This would assure that our message gets through and would also give us a better indication of Gromyko’s current mood. We will remind Gromyko, as I did Dobrynin, that we will develop relations with the PRC on their merits, and that the Soviet Union cannot expect to exercise a veto over our relationship with a nation of one billion people.

A copy of the Dobrynin paper is attached.



The Soviet leadership deems it necessary to touch once again upon the question of US intentions and actions in the field of its relations with the PRC. It appears that the American side has been increasingly guided in that field not by the interests of international peace and stability or even by the logic and dynamics of developing normal relationship between the two States, but exclusively by considerations hostile to the Soviet Union.

Do not, for example, statements pertaining to agreement reached between the USA and the PRC, on coordinating their efforts in order [Page 203] to “limit the Soviet Union’s opportunities”, to co-operate “on a new plateau”, and to expand military ties between them testify to it?

Moreover, the American side openly declared that it was including China from now on into the category of states friendly to the USA while proclaiming its intent to deal with the Soviet Union proceeding from a hostile nature of relations with it. A question is in order—how would the US leadership perceive and qualify declarations of that kind if the United States were in the place of the Soviet Union?

And the matter is not confined to declarations alone. Now on the agenda are already sales of American weapons and military equipment to China. The obvious intent of this decision cannot be disguised or changed by attempts of the American side to present the aforesaid decision as if it were a routine step within the framework of a regular development of Sino-American relations which allegedly does not infringe upon the interests of other states or endanger world peace.

But is it possible to consider it a routine matter to transfer lethal weapons to a country whose leaders openly advocate the inevitability of a new world war and in fact push others toward unleashing it? And is it possible to consider it normal to assist militarily a country which puts groundless territorial claims practically to all of its neighbors and wages armed attacks and incursions on their territories?

The Government of the US ought to know all this. Nevertheless, it invites Peking to address to it its requests for arms deliveries. The American side is obviously far from being disturbed by the flippant way in which Peking is prepared to play with the destiny of the world and to recourse to the military force.

We have already warned the American side of the dangerous consequences that the policy of encouraging the expansionist aspirations of China might have for peace and stability in the Far East and South-East Asia. And it would seem that the leadership of the United States should realize that there is a line in Soviet-American relations in connection with China, crossing which will inevitably affect the very nature of these relations, and to the detriment of not only the Soviet Union.

Reaffirming all that we have said previously in connection with the intentions of the USA to provide China with weapons and military technology, we would like to say quite clearly that whatever the American side is guided by in this matter, it should not deceive itself as to the capability of the Soviet Union to prevent any harm to its security or security of its allies and friends.

The American side should also be aware that any of its practical steps aimed at strengthening China militarily in circumstances when the latter takes an openly hostile stand against the Soviet Union, will be properly taken into account by us.

[Page 204]

The Soviet leadership while frankly stating its views on the matter, would like to express its hope that the US Government and the President personally will once again thoroughly weigh all of their latest steps regarding China, and match them against the real costs and dangers they present to the world and not in the least to the US itself.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Pipes Files, CHRON 07/02/1981–07/07/1981. Secret.
  2. See Document 63.
  3. See Document 81.
  4. Secret; Sensitive. A copy of this paper in the Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Country File: USSR (06/26/1981–07/02/1981), bears a handwritten note at the top: “From Dobrynin to Secretary. 7/2/81.”