Wednesday, April 14, 1971 - 8:05pm - 8:12pm
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
White House Telephone


President Nixon: Hello?

Operator: Dr. [Henry] Kissinger.1

Henry Kissinger: Mr. President?

President Nixon: Hello, Henry. I was wondering how the, uh, if you checked in to see how they played the Chinese thing today?

Kissinger: Oh, yeah, it was tremendous. It was the lead item on every — I didn't see it myself. I was with Bob Griffin, but I talked to Haig.2

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: But he says it's been a tremendous thing on television. It's been the lead item on every television thing and—

President Nixon: Rather than Vietnam, for a change.

Kissinger: [laughs] Yeah, it's gone on and on and on.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And I've found it helpful, also, with these Michigan editors.

President Nixon: How'd it go with them?

Kissinger: Well, they asked the usual questions about Vietnam, and I just said, “Look, we know what we're doing and, uh, there are always more things going on,” and they were very intrigued with China.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: They, uh, they asked the usual questions about Vietnam. Do we think the South Vietnamese can stand on their feet? But they were not hostile.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: They just had heard so much stuff about the Vietnamese not being able to make it and so on —

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: — and so forth.

President Nixon: Yeah. Well, this is one thing we're sure that, while we're not as confident about the Vietnamese as, uh, as some may be, we're a hell of a lot more confident than the press has led them to believe. You see?

Kissinger: That's right, and really, these were, many of them were small news, newsm—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: — small town newsmen, Muskegon and —

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: — and Kalamazoo and Flint and stuff like that. And they were, on the whole, very, uh, eager to, they weren't asking hostile questions. They were asking informational questions.

President Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: We spent about a third of the time on Vietnam, a third on China, and then the third was miscellaneous stuff.

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm. Now, on the China thing, what we have to realize, Henry, is that in terms of the American public opinion, it is still against Communist China, you know.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: So we're not, uh, we're not making any [boosts] with this. But I, but I –

Kissinger: [Unclear] the intellectuals and the —

President Nixon: The intellectuals will worry. They'll worry about something but as we know from the October 7th thing, that doesn't mean that we get much from them. It'll just worry them. [They'll] think that something else is up. And the whole, the whole thing has got to be well-played in terms — we don't — how about the Taiwan thing? That's sort of worrisome. I don't, not a damn thing we can do about though, is there?

Kissinger: What Taiwan thing?

President Nixon: Well, I mean, they're concerned about what we've said.

Kissinger: Right, but they haven't expressed it yet, have they? I don't think so.

President Nixon: Oh, I think there was something in the paper indicating that Taiwan was concer—

Kissinger: Well, but that's inevitable. They have to say that. And Bob Murphy3 going out there, I think, of course, they'll be concerned. It's a —

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: It is bound to be a worrisome thing to them.

President Nixon: Well, Henry, uh, the thing is an historic change is going to take place. It has to take place. And it better take place when they've got a friend here rather than when they've got an enemy here.

Kissinger: That's right, and —

President Nixon: Because [if some] —

Kissinger: Well, it's a tragedy that it has to happen to Chiang4 at the end of his life.

President Nixon: Yeah, but, uh . . .

Kissinger: But we have to be cold about it.

President Nixon: Yeah. We have to do what's best for us. And, uh, we'll —

Kissinger: And in the long term, it is essential for the values that he represents that there be continuity in our government here.

President Nixon: Yes, and that he has here an administration that it is not going to just stand by and let Taiwan go down the drain. We're trying to hold our position as best we can.

Kissinger: Exactly.

President Nixon: And, uh, but the, uh —

Kissinger: For every reason, we've got to have, uh, a diversion from Vietnam in this country for a while.

President Nixon: That's the point, isn't it? Yeah.

Kissinger: And we need it for our game with the Soviets.

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger: And it would be absolutely impossible if — we would be doing the Soviets the greatest favor if we rejected this overture, and we would get nothing for it. It would lead to tougher relations between —

President Nixon: Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: — them and the Soviets rather than easier.

President Nixon: That's right. That's right. That's what they'd like for us to do. They'd like for us to sort of slap the Chinese in the face, but we're not doing it. We're being, uh, we're not going overboard, but we're saying, well, if they open the door, we'll open the door.

Kissinger: That's right.

President Nixon: And, uh —

Kissinger: And actually, now one would have to expect a hiatus of a few weeks.

President Nixon: Oh, of course, nothing's going to happen for a while, but, uh, that's all right. Just let this rest a while. Let people, you know, mutter around about it for a while, and, uh . . .

Kissinger: And of course, with some luck, uh, we'll get some nibble on the Soviet front now.

President Nixon: Yes, we might. Mmm-hmm.

Kissinger: Well, it isn't even luck so much. It —

President Nixon: Yeah

Kissinger: — really logically ought to happen.

President Nixon: It ought to happen logically, that's right. If they are all logical, they damn well better, or they're a lot more rigid than we, and stupid.

Kissinger: I mean there's nothing new they're going to learn about SALT.5 They're either going to move on that or not.

President Nixon: That's right.

Kissinger: The other one, a summit, we've been kicking around for a year.

President Nixon: I talked to, uh, Colson and I told him to do what he could. Dole6 was in and said that both Case7 and Brooke8 were making speeches on the floor today about a necessity to set a date and all that sort of thing, and I said to get a hold of Brooke and to tell him to keep shut for a month, you know —

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: — that's all you can ask of Brooke —

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: — and, uh, without promising a thing, just say, “Look,” just tell him, “just wait a month,” and then, then wait, you know what I mean. You can't expect him to do more than that.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: But, uh, if we —

Kissinger: Actually, it doesn't make any difference what Case and Brooke say, because they've been saying that for a year.

President Nixon: True, but if we could just get a few of our own to quiet down and, uh —

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: — the, uh, it's very important and the others, the other thing, as I said, is to, and you've got to talk about this, too, is the whole thing of, that Dole expressed is the, the POW wives, we must not let them go off on a tangent here.

Kissinger: Well, that's why we've got to keep that residual force thing alive.

President Nixon: I know that, but I meant, they've got to not bite on one of these withdrawal programs or something like that, you see?

Kissinger: I don't think they will.

President Nixon: Well, don't be too sure. Just remember, everybody's working on them and, uh, and, uh, we've got to just watch that as closely as we can.

Kissinger: Well, I'm seeing them again in the middle of May, and if there are any danger signs, I'll see them before.

President Nixon: Yeah, but we don't want them to move before then. You think, uh, [unclear] —

Kissinger: But what makes anyone think they're moving?

President Nixon: Well, I, uh, Dole was concerned about it, you know, he sees and hears from them and so forth and, uh, we, uh, 'cause, boy, we just don't want these gals who have so much at stake —

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: — and their husbands and so forth, they just can't throw it down the drain just for that.

Kissinger: That's right. Well, McGovern9 has been after them. I know that, and I don't suppose, I wouldn't be surprised if Clifford10 also were.

President Nixon: He's working on ‘em. That's right.

Kissinger: Yeah

President Nixon: But let's, uh, keep our eyes very closely peeled on that. And, uh, in the meantime, we'll work the other thing as well as we can. OK, Henry, thank you.

Kissinger: Right, Mr. President.


1 Henry A. Kissinger was national security adviser. (↑)

2 Senator Robert P. Griffin (R-MI) was the senate minority whip. Alexander M. Haig, Jr., was the deputy national security adviser. (↑)

3 Robert D. Murphy was an ambassador and presidential adviser. (↑)

4 Chiang Kai-shek was president of Taiwan. (↑)

5 SALT refers to the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks. (↑)

6 Robert J. Dole was a Republican senator from Kansas. (↑)

7 Clifford P. Case was a Democratic senator from New Jersey. (↑)

8 Edward W. Brooke was a Republican senator from Massachusetts. (↑)

9 George S. McGovern was a Democratic senator from South Dakota and a presidential candidate. (↑)

10 Clark M. Clifford was secretary of defense for President Lyndon B. Johnson. (↑)

Original tape courtesy of the Nixon Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.