179. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary’s Pre-Luncheon Conversation with Shevardnadze


  • U.S.

    • Secretary of State George P. Shultz
    • MGEN Colin Powell, National Security Advisor (at beginning only)
    • Ambassador Jack F. Matlock (at beginning only)
    • Alexander Vershbow, EUR/SOV Director (notetaker)
    • William Hopkins, interpreter
  • USSR

    • Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze
    • Aleksandr Yakovlev, Chairman Foreign Affairs Commission, CPSU Central Committee (at beginning only)
    • Anatoliy Dobrynin, Advisor to Chairman Gorbachev (at beginning only)
    • Mr. Groshev, interpreter

Foreign Minister Shevardnadze began by handing over the text of an oral message from the North Korean government. The Secretary said the U.S. had sent the North Koreans a message recently and noted that the Soviets had helped in delivering it. We would study the North Korean reply closely.

The Secretary said he had listened with interest to Chairman Gorbachev’s UN speech. It was as Shevardnadze had described it in their morning meeting,2 and seemed to be an important and constructive [Page 1228] contribution. Naturally, he would want to study the speech carefully. But his first impression was that there was a great deal in it.

Shevardnadze commented that he didn’t think there was anything in the speech that would make the U.S. uncomfortable.

The Secretary agreed. It was very constructive and thoughtful. There were good proposals and the human rights material was very interesting. He thought the relationship between perestroyka and human rights actions had been spelled out quite clearly, just as Shevardnadze had been doing in private for some time. The U.S. would follow up; Ambassador Matlock would want to discuss the details and their implications so that we have a firm grasp of the significance of Gorbachev’s proposals.

Shevardnadze agreed that Matlock should follow developments closely. Yakovlev interjected that the Soviets would be following Matlock’s perestroyka. The Secretary pointed out that Matlock would be returning to the Soviet Union before Shevardnadze and would be able to report to the Minister on what was going on.

The Secretary expressed sympathy for the victims of the morning’s earthquake in the Caucasus, noting that it had taken place near to Shevardnadze’s home republic of Georgia. Shevardnadze said the earthquake had mainly hit Armenia. Thousands had been killed, as the earthquake measured 8 on the Soviets’ scale. Gen. Powell said that he understood it was 6.9 on the Richter scale. The Secretary commented that coming from California, where people are preoccupied with earthquakes, he knew that 6.9 was a very high reading.

The Secretary noted that Shevardnadze had promised to fill him in on his discussions with the Chinese Foreign Minister on Cambodia.

Shevardnadze said that the visit of Foreign Minister Qian had been good in many respects. They had agreed on a summit meeting; the details would be worked out at some time in late January. The Secretary asked whether the summit would take place in the first half of 1989 and whether it would be in Moscow. Shevardnadze said that this was the planned timing, but the venue would be Beijing. This was in part an effort to take into account the health of Chairman Deng Xiaoping.

The Secretary commented that despite his health one should not underestimate Deng’s vigor. Shevardnadze agreed that Deng was a very clever, wise man. The Secretary added that Deng was deferred to by everyone in the Chinese leadership; this was a genuine recognition of his authority. He noted that the Chinese also had deep respect for Chairman Gorbachev. Shevardnadze commented that there is false authority and recognized authority. Deng’s authority clearly was in the latter category.

Regarding Cambodia, Shevardnadze said the Chinese had become more actively involved and the discussions with Qian had been very [Page 1229] constructive. The Chinese and Soviets were more and more coming into agreement and had the same attitude toward the same issues. First, they agreed on the goal of a four-party coalition as a condition for the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops. They also agreed on the cessation of arms supplies at a certain stage. The Chinese were insisting on a more prompt Vietnamese withdrawal. The Soviets, however, did not think this was a complex matter because in principle the timeframe for withdrawal had been defined: the Vietnamese had said they would withdraw their troops by 1990 even if there were no agreement among the four groups.

The Secretary asked whether this meant the end of 1990.

Shevardnadze replied that the Vietnamese were ready to withdraw even earlier—for example, if an agreement among the Khmer groups were reached in January 1989, Hanoi was prepared to withdraw its troops earlier. But if there were no agreement at all, all troops would still be out by the end of 1990.

The Secretary noted that he had spoken previously with Shevardnadze about the critical importance that the Khmer Rouge not return to power. It was also important to learn that the Chinese were prepared for an agreement to end arms supplies at some point.

Shevardnadze said there was, indeed, agreement in principle with the Chinese on both these points. The Soviets and Chinese agreed that while the Khmer Rouge should participate in the agreement, they should not be represented in their former sense, i.e. Pol Pot and his clique who had been involved in the infamous events should not take over.

The Secretary asked whether the Chinese were content with this.

Shevardnadze said, yes, they had had very good negotiations including a very important two-hour meeting with Gorbachev.

The Secretary commented that Foreign Minister Qian was very able and well informed. Shevardnadze agreed that he was very qualified and a pleasant man, a businesslike person who thought in concrete terms.

The Secretary said that he believed that the general improvement in relations between the Soviet Union and China could have potential for increasing general stability in the Asia-Pacific region. If tensions around Cambodia could be reduced and the situation on the Korean peninsula settled down, giant steps forward would be possible. This was a region of immense vitality, the Secretary noted, with U.S. trade with the region now exceeding that with Europe.

Shevardnadze said he had told the Chinese Foreign Minister that the better Chinese relations were with the U.S., the better it was for Soviet interests. He had also said that if Sino-Soviet relations became more normal, U.S. interests would not be jeopardized.

[Page 1230]

The Secretary said that this was his view as well. Old ideas of the “China card” and the “Soviet card” had once been prevalent but had become outmoded. What Gorbachev had said in his speech about an integrated world was much more to the point.

Shevardnadze noted that these cards had been played quite recently. The Secretary rejoined that we had tried to play them. Shevardnadze remarked that it was good that we had overcome that approach: this was the new political thinking in practice.

Turning to Korea, Shevardnadze said the Soviets were beginning to establish economic and trade relations with the ROK although they had not established relations at the government level.

The Secretary replied that this was wise and the U.S. favored such steps. The South Koreans had a very dynamic economy. They were very tough people who worked very hard.

Shevardnadze agreed that the ROK economy was very dynamic but said the Soviets were interested not only in the economy but in improving their dialogue with Seoul.

The Secretary replied that such a dialogue would have a major impact on North Korea. But just as we were holding out our hand to the North they were beginning to have some trouble.

Shevardnadze said that the North Koreans were ready to talk with the U.S. The oral message he had presented suggested a tripartite dialogue. If the U.S. were to agree to such a step it would help Moscow enhance its relations with South Korea.

The Secretary said he would study the message, but noted that he was in the position of a person on the way out. His aim was to try and complete things that had already been started; it was up to the new people to start new things.

Shevardnadze remarked that he doubted the Secretary would be able to settle fully into retirement and that he would not be able to abandon politics altogether. The Secretary said it was true that the President-elect, Secretary-designate and Treasury Secretary3 were all close personal friends. At the same time, they would want to do things by themselves rather than Shultz’s way. Shevardnadze said they would not, however, be able to find a better advisor.

The Secretary commented that he and Shevardnadze had managed since their first meeting in Helsinki to help things along in important and useful ways. They had developed trust and confidence in one another. Thus he had told Secretary-designate Baker that, when Shev [Page 1231] ardnadze said he would do something, Baker could count on it. By the same token he had told Baker to be very careful in telling Shevardnadze he would do something. This was the only way to build trust.

Shevardnadze said he agreed. His relationship with the Secretary was unique.

The two Ministers then discussed some gifts that had been exchanged among their children. The Secretary, recalling his visit to Soviet Georgia, noted that a sculptor from Tbilisi had recently visited the U.S. He had explained his attempt to commemorate the INF Treaty by turning destroyed missiles into a statue. Shevardnadze said he had heard of this project and had discussed providing material from a destroyed Soviet weapon. The sculptor now wanted part of a U.S. missile. The Secretary quipped that this would represent a real defense conversion plan.

The discussion ended as the President, Vice President and Chairman Gorbachev emerged from their private meeting,4 after which the Secretary and Shevardnadze joined the leaders for lunch.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Records, Memoranda of Conversations Pertaining to United States and USSR Relations, 1981–1990, Lot 93D188, December 1988 Governor’s Island. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Vershow; cleared by Simons, Collins, and Haines. An unknown hand initialed for the drafting and clearing officials. The meeting took place in the Admiral’s House on Governor’s Island.
  2. See Document 178, footnote 6.
  3. Reference is to Vice President Bush, James Baker, and Nicholas Brady, who replaced Baker as Secretary of the Treasury on September 16.
  4. See Document 180.
  5. See Document 181.