Richard Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger on 1 July 1971


Transcript

Edited by Ken Hughes, with Kieran K. Matthews and Marc J. Selverstone

After a brief discussion of the possibility of reshuffling ambassadorial appointments in the aftermath of the upcoming announcement of Nixon’s trip to China, the President turned to the size of the entourage he wished to accompany him to the summit in Beijing.

President Nixon

The press will be limited. We will select the press. That’s the one condition. We have to select the press. Tell them [unclear]—we have—because [unclear] put us in an impossible position if they do. And it’ll be the three networks, the two wires, and one pool man for the specials. One. That’s all we’re going to take. OK? You understand?

Henry A. Kissinger

Oh, yes.

President Nixon

We’re going to play [unclear]. This way we screw the New York Times and we screw the Washington Post. I’m not going to have the Times and Post going if we go. Never. You understand?

Kissinger

Right. Then what I want from them is to limit the facilities.

President Nixon

I want facilities limited for the press and for the delegation, and we want a very small press pool and a very small delegation.

Kissinger

So you are not the one—

President Nixon

Huh?

Kissinger

So that you are not the one who did it.

President Nixon

Henry, listen, let me tell you something. So we take a thousand press. Do you think it’s going to get a bigger story?

Kissinger

No!

President Nixon

Do you realize that three networks—it’ll be so big on those networks, these sons of bitches [can’t] even handle it. We’re going to screw the New York Times

Kissinger

No, no.

President Nixon

—and the Post. I understand—now, I just told [H. R. "Bob"] Haldeman that anybody in the White House staff who ever again—ever again—talked socially or otherwise to any reporter for [unclear] Post is fired. I’m never going to allow it again. We’re cutting them off now. They are finished. Now. Kaput! Why? The reason is very important. It hasn't anything to do with personal things. But the idea is that we cannot—they can participate in press conferences. They can be present at briefings with other reporters. They are never to be talked to alone, they’re never to have a backgrounder, because they have broken the rules. Now, that’s the reason.

Kissinger

I couldn’t agree [unclear]. .

President Nixon

Now, a very small delegation—limit press [unclear]

Kissinger

No, the only reason I said, Mr. President, that they should . . .

President Nixon

Or, whatever you want.

Kissinger

Rather than for you to say you’ll only take five people—it’s a lot better if they can say they can only handle seven press.

President Nixon

Now, on the visit to China, tell them that the President would like to do—would like to make it very business-like. He’s mainly there to talk to the leaders. However, that, as you know, he has enormous respect for the Chinese people and he’s [unclear]—he's met the Chinese communities all over the world, probably more than any world figure, and would like to visit one other city other than Peking, if he could. He’d like to go to Shanghai, if that would fit. But if they do not want that, that’s fine. Fair enough.

Kissinger

Now, is that—you want really only one city or would you visit more if they made it available?

President Nixon

Well, I don’t want it to be like a . . . I think it’s more—better to have a business-like—look, Shanghai is the place for the Chinese, not Peking, you know. [Kissinger acknowledges.] Peking is—

Kissinger

I think, Mr. President, your instinct is very wise.

President Nixon

Yeah, and I don’t want to go sightseeing.

Kissinger

I think if you go junketing—if you go junketing—

President Nixon

[speaking over Kissinger] And then—they don’t want me to sightsee. I don’t want a junket. Tell them that this is a business-like thing. [Kissinger attempts to interject.] I believe in that. But I’d like to go to Peking and I’d like to see Shanghai because of its enormous—the interest in it that I’ve always had.

Kissinger

[Unclear], Mr. President, actually, they may well want to show you in a lot of cities, because it’s an unbelievable coup for them.

President Nixon

Yeah.

Kissinger

But I think your instinct is the right one.

President Nixon

Well, [unclear]. Now, let me say that just a few other odds and ends as I read this thing. As I say, it’s a brilliant job. You just tell your staff to get together something like this. Enormously impressive. [Unclear] damn thing.

Now, you’ve got to put in, more than you have here, a very real fear.[note 1] It sounds like Nixon taps the briefing book to emphasize almost every word of the phrase, beginning with “in.” Now, I want to say, “The President has been generous.” This general thing comes through as me being too soft. And puts—it talks about—I’m a very reasonable man, I’m not trying to do this, I’m trying to have a position where we can have less presence and more permanence, and so forth. That’s all nice, and so forth and so on. But I want you to put in that this is the man that did Cambodia, this is the man that did Laos, this is the man who will be—who will look to our interests and who will protect our interests without regard to political considerations.

Kissinger

Exactly.

President Nixon

Without regard to political considerations. And that on Vietnam, that we have made an offer. Now, you can look at it either way. We’d like to—it must be ended—we’ve got to have it cooled off before we come to the visit, but if it isn’t cooled off, we just want you to know that anything we do to Vietnam is not against you. Slip that by them. Anything we do to Vietnam, because we have to move in other directions. In other words, put the threat very, very strongly.

Kissinger

Let me get this down, Mr. President, because these are important. These are crucial—

President Nixon

Oh, well, they’re not that [unclear].

Kissinger

No, no. No, no, but I—

President Nixon

[Unclear.]

Kissinger

Yeah, but I know, I want to get them in your language.

President Nixon

“That anything [Kissinger attempts to interject] we do in Viet”—go ahead.

Kissinger

“Without regard for political considerations.”

President Nixon

“Without regard for [unclear].” And I want them to know that anything—that it—that we, of course, why we—that we believe Vietnam should be settled before the visit occurs. But in this period, when we are trying to negotiate, that if we run into just simply obstinate recalcitrance, that eventually the man that ordered Cambodia and the man that ordered Laos will have to move to protect the interests of Americans, and he will do so. And when he does that, he wants to assure you and people that you know that it is not directed against you. It’s only directed against protecting our interests and will not be directed against China. It will not threaten you in any way. Just as Laos did not. Just as Cambodia did not. Say words to that effect, see? [Pause.]

Actually, I want to put in the fact that we give them two reasons to end Vietnam: One, the fact that we might escalate. Two, obviously the one you’ve already got in here: I can’t take a trip over there if Vietnam is boiling along.

Now, I think without being obvious about it . . . I mean, without being—without saying it in so many words, but you should put in a little more about the necessity for our moving toward the Soviet [Union]. In other words, “With regard to the Soviet we have to realize something, that we are seeking détente with the Soviet. It is not directed against you. But we have a—we—our interests clash in Europe. Our interests clash in the Mid-East. Our interests clash in the Caribbean. We intend to protect our interests. But we are going to seek it. And our interests clash, of course, [unclear] in a competition on arms.”

Nixon turned the discussion to the possibility of negotiating an accidental war agreement with China.

Cite as

“Richard Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger on 1 July 1971,” Conversation 534-003 (PRDE Excerpt A), Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Fatal Politics, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4006741