002-052

Date: 
Tuesday, April 27, 1971 - 8:16pm - 8:36pm
Participants: 
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
Location: 
White House Telephone
Listen: 


 

President Nixon: Hello?
Operator: [National Security Adviser] Dr. [Henry A.] Kissinger returning your call, sir.
President Nixon: Hello?
Operator: There you are.
President Nixon: Hello, Henry?
Henry Kissinger: Mr. President.
President Nixon: I had a couple of thoughts on this . . . one which, with regard to the [Ambassador David K. E.] Bruce thing, which it seems to me may pose for them a difficult problem because of his being so directly involved in the Vietnam negotiations.1 That's something we have to think about. Now, we may—
Kissinger: Right.
President Nixon: We may want it that way. The second point is that I've been trying to think of whether there is something else. And let me just throw a real wild one out. How about [New York Governor] Nelson [Rockefeller]?
Kissinger: No.
President Nixon: Can't do it, huh?
Kissinger: Well, he wouldn't be disciplined enough.
President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.
Kissinger: Although he—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: He's a possibility.
President Nixon: You see, the point is that it's a way to really engulf him completely in a big deal, and then, of course, an absolute, you know—
Kissinger: Well, let me think about this.
President Nixon: He's outside of government, you see.
Kissinger: I might be able to hold him in check—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: —for a—
President Nixon: Yeah. And the idea being that he's not there to love the Chinese, but for the purpose of getting something done for us. I mean, the war and all—
Kissinger: It's—
President Nixon: See?
Kissinger: I, on second thought, Mr. President—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: I'd like to—
President Nixon: It's intriguing.

NARA Excision
Category: Privacy
Duration: 14s
Editors' Note: According to a memorandum of this telephone (known as a Telcon) prepared separately by Kissinger's office, the following exchange occurred:

President Nixon: How about [UN Ambassador George H.W.] Bush?
Kissinger: Absolutely not, he is too soft and not sophisticated enough.
President Nixon: I thought of that myself.2

President Nixon: But don't—
Kissinger: I thought about [Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Elliot L.] Richardson. He'd-–
President Nixon: Well—
Kissinger: He wouldn't be—
President Nixon: It.
Kissinger: —the right one.
President Nixon: No, well, it's still too close to us. I mean, if we're going to go close, then you have the [Secretary of State William P.] Rogers problem.3
Kissinger: Yeah.
President Nixon: On Nelson, just thinking it out loud, you have a man who's, you know, I mean, that the Chinese would consider him important. And he would be. And he . . . it could do a lot for us in terms of what could happen, you know what I mean, in terms of the domestic situation. Of course we know Nelson's sort of a wild-hair when he gets running around, and he'd get some silly staff with him. That's the problem that I see with him.
Kissinger: Well, I'd think for one operation I could keep him under control.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: And he has the advantage, I mean, to them, of course, a Rockefeller is a tremendous thing.
President Nixon: That's right. Well—
Kissinger: And—
President Nixon: Let's just put it in the back of your head and keep it—
Kissinger: Now, that I think actually now [unclear]—
President Nixon: See?

NARA Excision
Category: Privacy
Duration: 7s
Editors' Note: The Telcon prepared in Kissinger's office continues:

Kissinger: Bush would be too weak.
President Nixon: I thought so, too, but I was trying to think of somebody with a title.4

President Nixon: I think . . .
Kissinger: Nelson has possibilities.
President Nixon: He's a possibility, yeah, yeah. That, of course, that would drive state up the wall, but they couldn't really complain a hell of a lot about that.
Kissinger: Well, he'd have to take someone from state along, but he despises them so much, he'd take—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: —our direction.
President Nixon: Yeah, well, we'd have to find somebody to go along with him, to tell him. I mean—
Kissinger: Well, I'd get somebody from my staff to go along with him.
President Nixon: I'd send [Deputy National Security Adviser Alexander M.] Haig.
Kissinger: Yeah. That's what I think.
President Nixon: You know. Really. Really. And you know, somebody like that. I mean, real tough.
Kissinger: That's right.
President Nixon: But—
Kissinger: That's right. And he knows Haig.
President Nixon: All in all, of course, the whole thing that you can take some comfort in, you know, we talk about how this happened, it wouldn't have happened if you hadn't stuck to your guns through this period, too, you know you-–
Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, you made it possible.
President Nixon: We have played a game, and we've gotten a little break here. We were hoping we'd get one, and I think we have one now. If we—
Kissinger: Well—
President Nixon: —play it skillfully, and we'll wait a couple of weeks and then—
Kissinger: But we set up this whole intricate web over—when we talked about linkage, everyone was sneering.
President Nixon: Yeah, I know.
Kissinger: But we've done it now.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: We've got it all hooked together.
President Nixon: And—
Kissinger: I mean, we've got Berlin hooked to SALT, and-–
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: Now, I think, Nelson might be able to do it.
President Nixon: You see?
Kissinger: He might follow—particularly if I send Haig along.
President Nixon: Oh, we'd have to have Haig. Yeah. I agree.
Kissinger: He might [unclear].
President Nixon: Haig and a state guy. I wouldn't let that fellow [Assistant Secretary of State Marshall] Green, go, of course.
Kissinger: No, no, one could send Green, because Nelson-–
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: I think, if Nelson goes at all—
President Nixon: Yeah. If he were to go, well, maybe—
Kissinger: —because on foreign policy, he would take my advice.
President Nixon: Yeah. On that, you could have a Green go along and warble around. But that is a special envoy, in a sense. He's—
Kissinger: Well, that's, actually, Mr. President—
President Nixon: You see?
Kissinger: —a very original idea.
President Nixon: You see? It's—
Kissinger: And he's tough.
President Nixon: And we—well, I think so, and particularly if, you just have to get him right in on the mountaintop and say, “Now, look, here, this is going to make or break you, boy. This can't be like Latin America or anything else. This is the one where everything is in the balance.” You see?
Kissinger: Oh, he'd do what I tell him on this. For one operation, you know. For a long period, he'd be hard to keep under control.
President Nixon: That's right.
Kissinger: But for one operation he'd follow his script.
President Nixon: Well, if [former Governor] Dewey [R-New York] were alive, he could do it. You know, he'd . . . . but—
Kissinger: I think Nelson actually would be a little better.
President Nixon: Yeah. But he's—Dewey's not alive, so we consider—
Kissinger: And they dodged off Dewey. That was given to them.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: And—
President Nixon: Yeah.

NARA Excision
Category: National Security
Duration: 1m 16s
Editors' Note: The Telcon continues, but is incomplete regarding this section of the conversation and includes a transcriber's paranthetical note:

Kissinger: If you can hold on a minute, I can get you—I have the oral note that the Pakistans sent me. Here it is—the Pakistan note to Yahya which Yahya passed onto the Chinese that asked him (read portion of note—In reply to questions from me, Mr. Kissinger said . . . )5

President Nixon: Well, they've opened that up, that it is not to be just Taiwan, haven't they?
Kissinger: Well, they've given one of these very ambiguous formulations, but we could fix that. We could make that clear in the exchange and in the announcement.
President Nixon: [Pause.] Yeah, I suppose their reply is one that we will come over and talk about Taiwan. Well, that we can't do.
Kissinger: No.
President Nixon: We, that—there's—if we limit to that, there isn't going to be any meeting, you know?
Kissinger: Well, Mr. President—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: —the difference between them and the Russians is that if you drop some loose change and try to pick it up, the Russians step on your fingers and fight you for it. The Chinese don't do that. I've reviewed all the communications with them. And all of it has been on a high level. I mean, if here you look at the summit exchange, they haven't horsed around like the Russians.
President Nixon: No, they haven't.
Kissinger: And compared to what the game was, the Russians squeezing us on every bloody move has been just stupid.
President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Kissinger: And so I think that they probably figure they cannot trick us out of Taiwan, that they have to have a fundamental understanding.
President Nixon: Yeah. Well, we'll put Nelson in the back of our minds as one possibility.
Kissinger: That's right.
President Nixon: Incidentally, what did Haig think of this?
Kissinger: Oh, he thinks this is one of the great diplomatic breakthroughs.
President Nixon: Does he really? Yeah?
Kissinger: Oh, yeah. And he thinks if we play it coolly and toughly and with the same subtlety we've shown up to now, we can settle everything now.
President Nixon: He thinks you go—he goes that far? Oh, really?
Kissinger: Oh, yes. I have absolute—I've never said this before. I've never given it more than one in three. I think if we get this thing working, we'll end Vietnam this year. [Pause.]
Kissinger: The mere fact of these contacts is one of—
President Nixon: Another thing, of course, that is important is, you know, we do have a little problem of time in terms of wanting to announce something in this period of time. And-–
Kissinger: Yeah, but we ought to be able to announce this by the end of the first week of June, anyway.
President Nixon: Well, we'd have to, if you're going to be there in June.
Kissinger: And—
President Nixon: If we could—
Kissinger: If we have the SALT [Strategic Arms Limitation Talks]—
President Nixon: If we could get it get it earlier. Now, the thing is, is the SALT going turn them off? No. No?
Kissinger: No.
President Nixon: No, particularly . . . yeah. But I must say, we're going to drag our feet on that summit with the Russians, though. They're—
Kissinger: Well, nothing can happen on that for a while now.
President Nixon: No. No. The ball's in their court and-–
Kissinger: Yeah.
President Nixon: —they're sitting there piddling around. All right, they can piddle. And-–
Kissinger: They won't, they won't move fast-–
President Nixon: No.
Kissinger: —and they'll be confused by the protest in this country. I told you, Mr. President, that the most sophisticated analysis of the World Report was made by [Chinese Premier] Chou En-lai. You remember, I said that-–
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: —two months ago.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: He's the only fellow who's understood it.
President Nixon: Yeah. Well, his analysis, in effect, realized what we were doing, yeah.
Kissinger: That's right. But it was a very subtle analysis of the international situation.
President Nixon: Well, anyway, there's another, there's another player we can keep in. Bruce is a possibility, too. I mean, Bruce is a possibility [unclear]. It would be quite dramatic, you know. It would have a hell of an effect on the North Vietnamese, if you were to pull Bruce out of Paris and send him to Peking. [Laughs.]
Kissinger: That's right.
President Nixon: You know? Boy, just that very move-–
Kissinger: That's right.
President Nixon: —that'd just shake the living bejeezus out of them. And—
Kissinger: For that reason, they might not take him. But I think they would take almost anyone. As long as he's very senior.
President Nixon: Yeah, well, we'd say he is—
Kissinger: [Unclear] Rockefeller.
President Nixon: You could put it in terms of, if he were Bruce, he's our senior career ambassador. He's been to, ambassador to, you know, dih-dih-dih-did-duh, all this, and we feel he's the best-qualified man to participate in this. He has our complete confidence and so forth. Then-–
Kissinger: And they'll jump at Rockefeller, which is another-–
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: That's, of course, a high visibility one.
President Nixon: Visibility? Oh, boy. The visibility there would be enormous. However, what that would do to the the libs in this country would be [laughs] absolutely . . . Wouldn't that do them in? Oh, God!
Kissinger: [Unclear.]
President Nixon: Send a Rockefeller over there, you know, Jesus Kee-rist. I mean-–
Kissinger: That has really great possibilities—
President Nixon: See?
Kissinger: —the more I think of it, Mr. President.
President Nixon: You see, it shows that here's Rockefeller, he is lined up with us all the way. It nails him in on the foreign policy thing all the way.
Kissinger: That's right.
President Nixon: And . . . well, anyway, that's something to think about, too.
Kissinger: A good problem to have.
President Nixon: Yeah, we got to we got a little more luxury than we usually have.
Kissinger: [Laughs] That's right.
President Nixon: Normally, we haven't got much to move with, but-–
Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, once this thing gets going, though, this is one of those occasions where everything is beginning to fit together.
President Nixon: Well, we hope so. We hope so. And—
Kissinger: We'll have to hold hard on Vietnam on Thursday. That's the—
President Nixon: Oh, hell, don't worry, I plan to. I don't plan to give a goddamn inch.
Kissinger: Because—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: [Unclear.]
President Nixon: Did you think of anything to do on the prisoners?
Kissinger: Yes, we have three proposals which I'm writing up for you.
President Nixon: Right. Right. Well, I'll look at them tomorrow. Don't, no hurry.
Kissinger: [Unclear] releasing a thousand and they're opening their camps for a foreign inspection and call—which they've never done before in South Vietnam-and calling on the North Vietnamese to do the same. And a proposal to move all prisoners to neutral countries.
President Nixon: Now, that's good. That's a good move.
Kissinger: Those are three big steps.
President Nixon: Yes, and well that should be announced—
Kissinger: That would be announced by Bruce in the morning.
President Nixon: That's right.
Kissinger: And you could pick it up in the evening.
President Nixon: That's right. That's good. That's good. And then he hits that and I could hypo it in the evening if they don't give it the play. Although they are likely to give that a play if we build it up a bit.
Kissinger: Right.
President Nixon: We'd build it up by saying that, by having it announced that, you know, indicate that Bruce is going to make a major proposal at the . . . they'll all think it's about bugging out and it'll be on prisoners.
Kissinger: But actually, Mr. President, with this thing cooking, these doves can go out on a limb now as much as they want to. I think we're beginning to hold the cards.
President Nixon: Yep. That's true. True, it's—except, as you know, we've got the—well, we're going hold and we shall see. The demonstrators may overplay their hand, too.
Kissinger: Well, [NBC Anchorman] John Chancellor, with whom I had lunch today, said he thought that the tide had turned.
President Nixon: Did he really?
Kissinger: Yeah.
President Nixon: What turned it?
Kissinger: Well, he—
President Nixon: [Unclear.]
Kissinger: —said he didn't think that the demonstration on Saturday was all that spectacular.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: And he said what's happening this week is gonna ruin it completely.
President Nixon: They're, you know, overplaying, huh?
Kissinger: Yeah.
President Nixon: Well, Chancellor loves the China thing, doesn't he?
Kissinger: Oh, he's absolutely crazy about it.
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: And he's beginning to think that you've set up—he said he doesn't quite know yet what you're doing, but you've got some great ploy up your sleeves. You're much too cool, he said.
President Nixon: Well, we're going to play it awfully cool on Thursday night. I'm just going to just—I'm not going to—and incidentally, I'm not going to say anything about China policy.
Kissinger: [Unclear.]
President Nixon: I'm just going to say, “No, this matter is now in a very sensitive stage, and I don't intend to comment further on it. I mean we're, doing—our goal has been set forth, we have begun this, and I'm not going discuss it any further. What's the next question, gentlemen?”
Kissinger: Right.
President Nixon: I mean, just not say much about it. Don't try to. That's the way to handle that one.
Kissinger: Right.
President Nixon: Rather than to get into the business of—see, I don't want to get into the business of, well, what are we going to do about “two Chinas” and what are we going to do about the UN and what are we going to do about Taiwan and do we still stand by Taiwan, et cetera, et cetera. I'm just going to finesse all questions on China by saying this: “There have been some developments here that are significant and that I don't think the interests of the nation would be served by commenting publicly on them at this time.” Just—
Kissinger: Right.
President Nixon: Just—what do you think? Don't you think just-–
Kissinger: I think that's right. That would be the best-–
President Nixon: Just be enigmatic as hell.
Kissinger: That would be the best possible position to take, Mr. President.
President Nixon: And let them thump around and squirrel and squeal as they will. OK. Yeah, so Haig was pretty pleased, was he?
Kissinger: Oh, yes. Well, this isn't—it's—if anyone had predicted that two months ago, Mr. President, we would have thought it inconceivable.
President Nixon: Yeah, yeah. That's what I mean. What is really intriguing about this is that after Laos, when these bastards were all saying, “Well, this broke it off with the Chinese and their—”
Kissinger: Cambodia, they were saying the same thing.
President Nixon: Yeah. But here comes Laos, though. Let's look at that one, where, after Laos, when the people over two-to-one think it failed and all of that, you know, they've had all the polls show that and so forth, and we know that. And yet, here comes a Chinese move, the ping-pong team, and now something that is so much more significant, that that looks—pales into nothing.
Kissinger: Exactly.
President Nixon: And that's the kind of thing that if we can play it cool, can have an enormous significance. An enormous significance. And, well, look, I'm sure, too, that it is not any accident that Mao Tse-tung [Zedong] made that statement to Edgar Snow.6 I mean—
Kissinger: Of course.
President Nixon: Yeah. Now there's a couple of other things. We got to get the [Senate Majority Leader Michael J.] Mansfield [D-Montana] thing turned off some way or other.7 I don't know how we can do it, but . . . One way we could do it would be to, if we get this game going, is to, you know, you could invite him to go along.
Kissinger: No.
President Nixon: He will not do it?
Kissinger: Why give this to him?
President Nixon: Hmm?
Kissinger: Why give this to him?
President Nixon: I know. I know. I'm not speaking—
Kissinger: [Unclear] take him along with you when you go.
President Nixon: Oh, that's what I mean.
Kissinger: Oh, but not when your emissary goes.
President Nixon: Oh, Christ, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I mean, that is that invite him and maybe [Senate Minority Leader Hugh] Scott [R-Pennsylvania]. See? See my point?
Kissinger: Right.
President Nixon: [Unclear.]
Kissinger: If you want to share it with the Democrats.
President Nixon: You don't have anything share. [laughs] Doesn't mean a thing. They'll just be, I mean, the Chinese will treat them very well, but they'll know where the power is.
Kissinger: Yeah.
President Nixon: We know that. When it comes.
Kissinger: Yep, that could be done, Mr. President, at that point.
President Nixon: The only thing is that the Chinese seem to be grabbing so much, now, that—
Kissinger: Yeah, but they haven't actually invited anyone yet.
President Nixon: Mansfield or—well, to an extent haven't they really, through that—
Kissinger: Well, I think I can get some oral message to them together with that reply.
President Nixon: Well, but that's two weeks away, Henry. I just wonder if they'll move on Mansfield—
Kissinger: I doubt it.
President Nixon: You don't think so.
Kissinger: But they may. They may do that.
President Nixon: Well, could you get the message on—could you get that message out now? What I was thinking of was just as a temporary delaying action to say that the President is in California or something like that and that we will be replying in-–
Kissinger: That I've already said, that—
President Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: —there'll be a constructive reply in two weeks.
President Nixon: In two weeks? Oh, you've told—you told that to the . . . yeah. Well, if you could add to that reply is that in the meantime that we feel that any other visits, I mean, any other visits should beheld in abeyance until they hear our reply. Would you do that?
Kissinger: I'll get something like that across to him, yes.

NARA Excision
Category: National Security—Foreign Affairs
Duration: 4s

President Nixon: —that any other visits should be held in abeyance until, you know, any other—there will be many requests and that we feel that other visits by political people, by representatives of this government or the Congress and so forth should be held in abeyance until we are ready, and that they will have a constructive reply in a matter of a couple of weeks.
Kissinger: Right.
President Nixon: Good idea.
Kissinger: Right, Mr. President.
President Nixon: All right, bye.
Kissinger: I'll get that done tomorrow.
 
1 Bruce led the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace talks with the North Vietnamese. As part of the diplomatic opening to China, Nixon and Kissinger are referring to possible emissaries to send to Beijing to prepare for the President's public visit. (↑)
2 Kissinger and President Nixon, “Telcon,” 27 April 1971, National Security Council Files, Box 1031, Exchanges Leading Up to HAK Trip to China—December 1969-July 1971 (1), Nixon Presidential Materials Project, courtesy of the National Security Archive. A scan of the Kissinger telcon is available at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB66/ch-18.pdf (↑)
3 In other words, Nixon would have to explain after the secret trip was revealed why he had not sent his own secretary of state. (↑)
4 Ibid. (↑)
5 Ibid. Nixon and Kissinger were using Yahya Khan, chief martial law administrator and president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, as an unofficial intermediary with the Chinese. (↑)
6 In December 1970, Mao had told journalist Edgar Snow that he would be happy to talk to Nixon as a tourist or as President. National Security Archive Briefing Book 145. (↑)
7 Mansfield was something of an Asia expert in the Senate and wanted to visit China himself. (↑)

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