Press Release - 27 February 2002
Contact: William Burr - 202 / 994-7032

September 1970-July 1971
Washington, D.C. -- Today the National Security Archive publishes for the first time the verbatim transcripts of Henry Kissinger's secret trip to China in July 1971, as part of a world wide web briefing book of 41 recently declassified U.S. documents on Sino-American communications that led to Richard Nixon's historic visit to China in February 1972, 30 years ago.  The transcripts of meetings between Kissinger and premier Zhou Enlai contradict Kissinger's memoirs and show Kissinger readily acknowledging Beijing's position that Taiwan was part of China.  Kissinger declared that "we are not advocating a `two Chinas' solution' or a `one China, one Taiwan' solution."  Only after Kissinger had taken this position would Zhou declare that he was "hopeful" about prospects for U.S.-China diplomatic relations.  In other words, without conceding to Beijing's position on Taiwan's status, it would have been most difficult for substantive discussions to continue and a presidential visit would have been most unlikely.  Kissinger made other commitments on Taiwan, e.g., to withdraw two-thirds of U.S. forces from the island once the Vietnam War had ended, but nowhere in his memoirs does he discuss these dramatic concessions.  Instead, Kissinger wrote on p. 749 of White House Years (1979) that "Taiwan was mentioned only briefly during the first session."

Besides the transcripts of the Kissinger-Zhou meetings (which covered a range of issues, including Vietnam, South Asia, and Japan), the briefing book includes the first publication of U.S. records of the secret channel that the Pakistani government to provided to expedite Sino-American communications during 1970-1971.  The briefing book also documents some of Kissinger's efforts to find other channels of communication with Beijing, such as the Romanian government and French contacts with the Chinese embassy in Paris.  A record of a conversation between Nixon and Kissinger on 1 July 1971, before the secret trip, shows the president urging Kissinger to press the Chinese to keep U.S. "political visitors"--Democratic senators--away from China until Nixon had made his trip (giving an ironic twist to the notion that "only Nixon could go to China").  Nixon is also shown urging Kissinger to manipulate Chinese fears of a "resurgent Japan" and the "Soviet threat on their flank."

The documents in this briefing book were compiled by William Burr, editor, The Kissinger Transcripts: The Top Secret Talks with Beijing and Moscow (New Press, 1999), for a conference on the Sino-American rapprochement that was sponsored by the George Washington University Cold War Group of the Elliott School of International Affairs, on 8-9 February 2002.  Among the participants in the conference were three veterans of the Nixon National Security Council Staff, Winston Lord, William R. Smyser, and Helmut Sonnenfeldt.  Both Lord and Smyser accompanied Kissinger during the July 1971 secret trip. Today's posting includes an audio recording of their public discussion of their experience.

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