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Sultan Mohammed Khan, Foreign Secretary, Pakistan, on:
the Chinese response
After the initial exchange of messages there was a long gap, and no-one knows the reasons why the Chinese, after first accepting the American initiative and receiving an American response, went totally silent for about three months. I can only make a guess that it was probably the outcome of the pressures under which Chou En-lai was working. The cultural revolution and his own position was under serious threat by a faction of the red guards. But when a message came from China in April -- second or third week of April -- it talked of the willingness of the Chinese to receive President Nixon. This was conveyed to Washington and, after five or six days, was sent from here. This time it was in the form of a message from Nixon to Chou En-lai, saying he was delighted to accept the invitation to visit China and was deputing Dr. Kissinger to meet Mr. Chou En-lai to discuss the details of his visit and the agenda for the talks. In this message it was said that, until another secure channel was established between China and Pakistan, the Pakistani channel should be the only one to be used and all other initiatives should be avoided to keep the information from leaking prematurely. And it added the phrase, secrecy is of the utmost importance. |
We were surprised by the promptness with which a reply came from China -- a day or two later. A very sharp response saying, if President Nixon is ashamed of being known to be talking to the Chinese, what can we expect as a result of these talks? We explained to the Chinese the political set-up in the United States -- for example the tug of war between the White House and the Congress, the rivalry between the State Department and the National Security Council, the role of the news media in the United States, and that if they got hold of this story and published it, there would be unmanageable national and international pressures on Nixon, who abhorred the whole idea. He couldn't go with it because there was a very powerful Taiwan lobby in this country. We never conveyed this message to Washington; we just dealt with it bilaterally between ourselves and China. After that, the Chinese never took objection to the stress of secrecy while these plans were being made. And the reply from China to the last message of Nixon was a very gracious one. Chou En-lai said, "I welcome you in the name of Mao to visit Beijing." They went a long way from the initial limitation put on discussions confining it to Taiwan only, and Chou En-lai said that all political issues of interest to each side may be raised.
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