Tue, Mar 05, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Lifting the `Kissinger curse'

Documents released last week by the US National Security Archive, an independent research group in Washington, made public transcripts of the 1971 meeting between then-US national security advisor Henry Kissinger and then-premier Zhou Enlai (周恩來) of China. These are the most important declassified documents to emerge from the period of relations-building between the Nixon government and China that began in 1970. The newly-released documents reveal Kissinger's and Richard Nixon's willingness to sacrifice Taiwan's interests in order to curry favor with Beijing. Kissinger's pro-China genuflections set the mold for another 30 years of unbalanced US-China-Taiwan relations. Not until President George W. Bush's visit to Beijing last month was the "curse of Kissinger" finally lifted.

The most significant of the documents released last week are the transcripts of the seven-hour Kissinger-Zhou meeting that took place on the afternoon of July 9, 1971. Nine of the transcript's 46 pages involve discussions of the Taiwan question -- or 20 percent of the meeting. Thus, Kissinger's comment in his memoirs that the Taiwan question was merely touched upon has been proven false -- reinforcing his image of a man who cannot be trusted.

When Kissinger traveled secretly to Beijing to meet with Zhou, the Chinese leader was adamant on the Taiwan question. Kissinger promised that the US would recognize the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China. He did not agree to Zhou's "Taiwan was a part of China" but he might as well have, since he said that the US would not back a "two Chinas" or a "one China, one Taiwan" solution or Taiwan's independence. As the National Security Archive notes in its introduction to the material, Kissinger's comments prompted Zhou to voice optimism about the prospects of US-China diplomatic relations.

Another example of Kissinger's willingness to sacrifice Taiwan occurred when he visited Beijing in November 1973 to meet with Zhou again. Kissinger told Zhou that within the next year, the US would begin to dismantle nuclear weapons, U-2 reconnaissance planes and F-4 Phantom fighters deployed in Taiwan in order to remove obstacles to the establishment of relations with China. Taiwan was not informed of the US decision until April 5, 1974.

That the Nixon administration was so willing to sell out a close ally to appease a long-time enemy is one of the darkest moments of US foreign policy. Kissinger's promises became the cornerstone of Sino-American relations. The three Sino-US communiques were built on his promises and former president Bill Clinton's "three nos" policy was also grounded upon them.

It would appear that Taiwan owes a debt of gratitude to the Watergate burglars. But for their ineptitude, Nixon might have completed his second term and Kissinger would probably have been able to complete the process of normalizing relations with Beijing.

The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) came into being because the American people and the US Congress were unhappy with the secretive maneuvers of Nixon and Kissinger. It was aimed at balancing the US administration's tilt toward Beijing and safeguarding Taiwan's security and interests.

When Nixon sent Kissinger to China 30 years ago, his main objective was to build an alliance against the Soviet Union. Bush recently traveled to Beijing in the hopes of winning continued Chinese support for his war on terror. But Bush has so far proven firmer than his predecessors about not betraying an ally. When pressed, Bush has repeatedly stressed the importance of the TRA to Washington and refused to reiterate either the "three nos policy" or the three communiques. The leadership Bush has demonstrated in the fight against terrorism and his determination to stick to his principles are reminders of what made the US respected as a superpower.

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