Taiwan Communiqué No. 85, March 1999

Kissinger and Nixon's sell-out

Seldom have the secret machinations of two men had such damaging and long-lasting effect. We are speaking of the secret dealings of Messrs. Nixon and Kissinger with the Chinese in the early 1970s. Much new light was shed on these machinations by two books published recently.

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Kissinger with Chou Enlai in 1972

The first book was written by Los Angeles Times reporter Jim Mann, and is titled "About Face; a history of America's curious relationship with China, from Nixon to Clinton" , and the second was compiled by William Burr, and is titled "The Kissinger Transcripts." Below we discuss some aspects from both books, as they relate to Taiwan.

Jim Mann: About Face

The book by Jim Mann details for the first time how Nixon and Kissinger secretly promised Chou Enlai and Mao Tse-tung that they would not support Taiwan independence, in exchange for Chinese pressure on Vietnam to end the Vietnam War. It also shows how Mr. Kissinger secretly undermined the official U.S. policy on membership of Taiwan in the United Nations, which was at the time that the U.S. would support dual recognition for both China and Taiwan.

The Chinese pressure on Vietnam of course never materialized, and the US later realized how little leverage Beijing had in Hanoi: at the end of the 1970s Beijing even went to war against Vietnam.

However, the American promises regarding Taiwan took a strange twist. In the early 1970s, The United States still had diplomatic relations with the repressive Kuomintang regime of Chiang Kai-shek. The Taiwan independence movement had primarily taken root in the overseas Taiwanese community in Japan, the United States, and Europe, where concepts like human rights and democracy could flourish. In Taiwan itself, the idea was harshly repressed by Chiang Kai-shek and his secret police, the Taiwan Garrison Command.

It wasn't until after the lifting of martial law in 1987, and the growth of the democratic opposition movement in Taiwan, that the idea of Taiwan independence could be openly expressed on the island. Between 1992 — the first year that elections were held for all seats in the Legislative Yuan — and the present, the democratic movement grew into a full-fledged opposition, which could gain the majority in any of the upcoming elections.

This growth of democracy in Taiwan has led to considerable paranoia in some circles in the US, in particular the academia and in some parts of the Administration. Instead of applauding democracy, and encouraging the next logical step — Taiwan independence — these circles began to fear a confrontation with China. Of course China knows how to play on these fears, and throws temper tantrums each time Taiwan drifts further in the direction of independence.

Here is where the abovementioned strange twist comes in: In 1972, the US had "acknowledged" the Chinese position, but had itself not taken a position on Taiwan's status. From 1979 onwards, the time President Jimmy Carter de-recognized Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang regime and established diplomatic ties with Beijing, the official US line was that the conflict had to be resolved between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and that it had to be resolved peacefully. This was also laid down in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

However, when President Bill Clinton visited Shanghai in June/July 1998, he became the first US president to pronounce the "Three No's" (no US support for "One Taiwan, One China", for an independent Taiwan, and for Taiwan membership in the UN), and a hot debate ensued whether this was "existing" policy or a reckless and irresponsible swing away from the present policy.

Congress outrightly rejected Mr. Clinton's statements by almost unanimous votes in the House and Senate, and the pronouncements were strongly criticized in editorials in virtually all major US newspapers, while US opinion polls show strong support for an independent Taiwan, and its membership in the United Nations. Still, the Administration continues to defend the "Three No's", and in an August 1998 letter to Congress even had the audacity to state that the position "..dates back at least to Henry Kissinger's 1971 visit to China."

Taiwan Communiqué comment: Mr. Mann makes it excruciatingly clear how at least two of the "Three No's" have their roots in the secret machinations of Messrs. Nixon and Kissinger. They were not expressed openly at that time, and were not discussed with, let alone agreed to by, Congress, and can thus hardly constitute "policy".

Even more importantly, because of the prevailing lack of democracy in Taiwan, in 1971-72 the people on the island did not have any say in the deliberations regarding their future. Congress should thus continue to make strong objections to Mr. Clinton's "Three No" policy, and insists that it be discarded: it is in violation of the basic U.S. and international principles of human rights, democracy and self-determination.

In Taiwan today, the Taiwanese have crafted a new nation with a democratic government, a vibrant economy and political system, and a desire to be accepted by the international community as a full and equal member.

Thus, like the secret machinations of Messrs. Nixon and Kissinger, the "Three No's" should be relegated to the past, and a new "Three Yes" policy should be established, based on the basic principles of human rights, democracy and self-determination:

1) the Taiwanese have the right to determine their own future, 2) China should accept Taiwan as a friendly neighboring state, and 3) Taiwan should be accepted as a full and equal member in the international family of nations.

The Kissinger capers

The second book, titled "The Kissinger Transcripts", was assembled by William Burr of the Washington-based National Security Archive at George Washington University, and is based on transcripts of Kissinger's conversations in the 1970s.

The book shows how Mr. Kissinger tried to manipulate, and was manipulated by, his Chinese hosts. He even offered China secret satellite data about the Russians from the U.S. early warning system.

The compilation of Kissinger's conversations with Chinese and Soviet leaders shows that President Richard M. Nixon's "triangular diplomacy" with Moscow and Beijing involved a much higher level of U.S. strategic assistance to China than has been officially acknowledged.

The Washington Post reported in an article by Michael Dobbs ("Kissinger offered China Satellite Data in 1973", Washington Post, 10 January 1999) that both Washington and Beijing took pains to conceal their level of cooperation both from Moscow and public opinion in their respective countries.

The report states that Mr. Kissinger agreed to provide China with satellite intelligence of a Soviet military buildup, and also agreed with Zhou Enlai to keep it secret. Their conversation is recorded in a "Top Secret/Sensitive/Exclusively Eyes Only" memo for Nixon. The memo is one of hundreds of Kissinger conversations assembled by the National Security Archive.

The Washington Post states that besides showing important gaps in Kissinger's published recollections, the documents also demonstrate that the United States began sharing intelligence with Beijing much earlier than officially acknowledged. This in turn evolved into a broadening security relationship that has included providing the Chinese with sophisticated computer technology, setting up electronic listening posts along the Chinese-Russian border, and using Chinese rockets to launch U.S. satellites.

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