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Sunday, January 10, 1999 Published at 10:26 GMT

World: Americas

Kissinger played China overtures

President Nixon meets Chairman Mao in Chungnanhai in 1973

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger secretly offered to give China intelligence about the Soviet Union during the early 1970s, according to previously unpublished transcripts.

The notes of conversations that may have changed history are being published by the National Security Archive of George Washington University, for release on Sunday.

They were obtained through freedom-of-information requests and other means, the private group said.

Kissinger advised Chinese leaders that the Soviets were determined to amass enough nuclear weapons to destroy their country. He offered the Chinese US satellite information and a hot-line long before the Communist government gained American diplomatic recognition.

"We would be prepared, at your request, through whatever sources you wish, to give you whatever information we have about the disposition of Soviet forces," Kissinger told Huang Hua, the Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations, in 1971.

'No secrets'

The specific reference was to Soviet forces deployed during the war that year between India and Pakistan. But in meetings with Chinese leaders including Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Premier Chou En-lai in November 1973, Kissinger offered a web of intelligence sharing

"There are no secrets with (you about) the Soviet Union," Kissinger told Mao. "There is nothing we are doing with the Soviet Union that you do not know."

According to the transcripts of the talks Kissinger held as US national security adviser and as secretary of state under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in the 1970s, he played China against Russia with inventive triangular diplomacy.

Interspersed in the documents are flashes of Kissinger's celebrated wit. Chou told him, for instance, that China was giving only limited support to revolutions in Latin America.

[ image: Kissinger: Humorous and tough-talking]
Kissinger: Humorous and tough-talking
Chou said: "We are still learning." Kissinger quipped: "I hope you don't learn too fast." Tough remarks also are attributed to him.

He told British Foreign Secretary James Callaghan in 1974: "As everyone knows, the Soviet leaders belong to the most unpleasant group one can deal with. Their capacity to lie on matters of common knowledge is stupendous."

A document from 1976 quotes Kissinger as saying to President Ford about the Chinese leadership: "They are cold, pragmatic bastards."

During the 1970s, President Nixon was pursuing a policy of detente with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The aim was to lessen tensions in various areas of the world, while competing actively in others.

At the same time, Nixon was preparing for US diplomatic recognition of China, which eventually happened under President Jimmy Carter in 1979. A secret Kissinger trip to Beijing in 1971, then Nixon's highly publicised visit in 1972 set the course for the historic change.

Co-operation offer

Briefing Chou on the Soviets on Nov. 10, 1973, in the Great Hall of the People, Kissinger said it was in the interests of the United States to prevent a Soviet nuclear attack on China.

"They want us to accept the desirability of destroying China's nuclear capability," Kissinger said, according to a transcript of the conversation.

Instead, he offered China secret military co-operation with the United States, including "ideas on how to lessen the vulnerability of your forces and how to increase the warning time" before a Soviet attack.

Three days later, Kissinger told the premier, according to a transcript: "Any help we would give you in our mutual interest should be in a form that is not easily recognizable.

"With respect to missile launches, we have a very good system of satellites, which give us early warning.

"The problem is to get that to you rapidly. We would be prepared to establish a hot line between our satellites and Beijing by which we could transmit information to you in a matter of minutes."

Chou asked: "Through the satellites?" Kissinger explained the information would go to Washington and then to Beijing in ways that "would not attract attention."

While Chou was interested in the proposal and met Kissinger several times to discuss a hot-line to provide China with strategic U.S. intelligence information, the Chinese did not respond to the offer, wrote William Burr in a commentary on the transcripts.

It was not until 1998 that China signed a hot-line agreement with the United States.

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