In June of 1971, Nixon ordered the opening of
trade with China.
Join a discussion about this story or section, or create one of your own.
President Agrees to Visit China
Groundwork Laid By Kissinger
By Carroll Kilpatrick
San Clemente, Calif., July 15 -- President Nixon announced tonight in a dramatic television broadcast to the nation that he had accepted an invitation from Premier Chou En-lai to visit China sometime before May 1972.
The invitation was extended to the President by the Chinese leader through Henry A. Kissinger, assistant to the President for national security affairs, who visited Peking on his recent round-the-world tour.
This was first time a high American official has visited the Chinese capital since the Communists gained control of the country more than two decades ago.
It was believed that Kissinger had been in Pakistan on July 9 to 11, but in fact, the President disclosed, Kissinger had gone to Peking.
Mr. Nixon said in his extremely brief statement, delivered from the NBC studios in Burbank, Calif., that he would undertake the journey to the Communist capital because of this "profound conviction that all nations will gain from a reduction of tensions and a better relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China.
"It is in this spirit that will undertake what I deeply hope will become a journey for peace, peace not just for our generation but for future generations on this earth we share together."
The announcement caught official Washington by surprise but the reaction was generally favorable," House Republican Gerald Ford of Michigan called it singularly significant in the pursuit of world peace." Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (Mont.) described himself as "flabbergasted ... but very pleased and happy that the President has accepted Peking's invitation."
No advance text of any kind had been distributed and no one outside an extremely small group knew what the President would say when he began speaking shortly after 10:30 p.m. EDT. Kissinger accompanied the President from his San Clemente home to the studios in Burbank.
The disclosure came in the fourth sentence when Mr. Nixon said that in pursuance of the goal to establish more normal relationships between the United States and the People's Republic of China, he had sent Kissinger to Peking to have talks with Premier Chou.
The President then read an announcement which he said was being issued simultaneously in Peking.
It disclosed that the two men met in Peking at a time it was being said in Pakistan that Kissinger had become ill and would delay his flight to Paris by a day to rest.
Mr. Nixon said that the meeting is "to seek the normalization of relations between the two countries and also to exchange views on questions of concern to the two sides."
The President emphasized that his action in seeking better relations with the Communist regime, which controls some 750 million persons, "will not be at the expense of our old friends," meaning the Chinese under Chiang Kai-shek on Taiwan.
He also said the new relationship is "not directed against any other nation." This was believed to be a reference to both the Soviet Union and Taiwan, which are expected to view the new turn of events with obvious concern and dismay.
"Any nation can be our friend without being any other nation's enemy," the President declared.
The extraordinarily well-kept secret of the Kissinger visit together with the astonishing announcement tonight will have repercussion world-side as well as in domestic politics in the United States.
No other trip the President could make, even one to the Soviet Union, could attract so much attention as a visit to China, and it will be on the eve of his reelection campaign.
After the Ping-Pong match in a Peking between U.S. and Chinese table tennis teams in April, Mr. Nixon told a news conference that he hoped to visit China in some capacity during his lifetime and that he hoped his children would be able to go there.
At the time, no one expected that he might be able to undertake such a visit while still in the presidency. And even after the liberalization of trade announced last month, high administration officials were dubious about a U.S. presidential visit.
Kissinger departed Washington July 1 for an announcement visit to Vietnam, Thailand, India, Pakistan and Paris. He went in one of the presidential jets and arrived here Tuesday morning after a nonstop flight from Paris. He has conferred extensively since then with the President and Secretary of State William P. Rogers and almost no one else.
The story of how the secret of his visit was kept has not been told, but it may be disclosed Friday. White House press secretary Ronald L. Ziegler has scheduled an early morning briefing.
It was considered almost certain that Kissinger would have discussed U.S. Vietnam relations while in Peking. Only yesterday, Gough Whitlam, the Australian opposition leader, who had been in Peking at the same time as Kissinger, reported that Premier Chow indicated a willingness to revive the Geneva conference on Indochina.
Kissinger and Chou also may have touched on the highly important subject of nuclear disarmament. China has never been represented in any of the disarmament talks and is not a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty.
Kissinger has long been noted as an expert on disarmament, and nothing would please the President more than to engage the Chinese in disarmament talks or to associate them in some way with efforts to control nuclear arms.
They have been highly suspicious of the U.S. Soviet SALT negotiations now being held in Helsinki to impose limitations on offensive and defensive nuclear weapons.
One thing that the President's statement is likely to forestall is the suggested move of U.S. nuclear weapons from Okinawa to Taiwan. The Washington Post reported last week that the Defense Department had urged such a decision on the President but that the State Department had advised against it.
With Mr. Nixon's impending trip to Peking, there is little likelihood that the President will accept the Pentagon view.
That Kissinger and a small group of aides could go undetected in Peking is no surprise. But it is a surprise that no one along his route knew of his plans.
The United States still does not have diplomatic relations with the Peking government. But it has made clear it will not oppose any longer Peking's bid to membership in the United Nations. The United States has led the opposition to Peking membership for many years, including last year, but the President said on June 1 he would announce a decision regarding the U.S. stand toward China's admission before the United Nations convenes again in the fall.
It has been widely believed that Mr. Nixon has spent much of his time since he came here July 6 on Vietnam policy. And Kissinger's visit to Vietnam obviously has been a major topic of discussion. There was no reason to believe China was on the agenda although it was assumed the President was readying a statement on U.S. policy toward the admission of China to the United Nations.
The President scheduled a National Security Council meeting here Friday morning. The announcement of the meeting was made before the announcement that he would speak.
Attending will be Secretary of State William P. Rogers, Under Secretary for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson, Assistant Secretary for Near East and South Asian Affairs Joseph J. Sisco, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard, Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Central Intelligence Agency Director Richard M. Helms, Henry A. Kissinger, assistant for national security affairs and Brig. Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr., deputy assistant.
The White House announced that the meeting with Secretary of the Treasury John B. Connally and George P. Schultz, director of the Office of Management and Budget, originally planned for this week, would be held next week in Washington. The President plans to return to the capital Sunday.
Sports | Style | Washington World | CareerPost
Back to the top