Richard Nixon photo

The President's News Conference

October 12, 1971


THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Be seated, please.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement which is embargoed till 12 noon Washington time and 7 o'clock Moscow time. In order for you to have the chance to file before the 12 o'clock deadline, I have asked Mr. Kempster [Norman Kempster, United Press International], who has the right to end the conference, to break it off at 5 minutes till 12. Between that time and the time that I read this announcement, of course, I will take questions on this announcement or any other subject that you would like to have covered.

The announcement is as follows:

"The leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union, in their exchanges during the past year, have agreed that a meeting between them would be desirable once sufficient progress had been made in negotiations at lower levels.

"In light of the recent advances in bilateral and multilateral negotiations involving the two countries, it has been agreed that such a meeting will take place in Moscow in the latter part of May 1972.

"President Nixon and the Soviet leaders will review all major issues, with a view towards further improving their bilateral relations and enhancing the prospects of world peace."

We will go to your questions.



[2.] Q. Mr. President, what relationship does this have to your visit to China?

THE PRESIDENT. The two are independent trips. We are going to Peking for the purpose of discussing matters of bilateral concern there, and I will be going to the Soviet Union for the purpose of discussing matters that involve the United States and the Soviet Union. Neither trip is being taken for the purpose of exploiting what differences may exist between the two nations; neither is being taken at the expense of any other nation.

The trips are being taken for the purpose of better relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and better relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China. And any speculation to the effect that one has been planned for the purpose of affecting the other would be entirely inaccurate.

Q. Mr. President, why announce a trip of this nature so far in advance?

THE PRESIDENT. It is vitally important, both in the case of 'this trip and the trip to the People's Republic of China--which, as you know, we announced far in advance, the date yet to be selected. Mr. Kissinger will work out that date on his trip, which will take place within the next 2 or 3 weeks.1

1 The announcements of Dr. Henry A. Kissinger's second visit to Peking and the itinerary for the visit were read by Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler during his regular news briefings at the White House on October 5, 1971, and October 14. The announcements are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 7, pp. 1374 and 1407).

But it is vitally important that the meeting accomplish something. It is, therefore, important that the preparation for the meeting be adequate in every respect. And in the discussion that I had with Mr. Gromyko when he was here, and at discussions prior to that time that were had at other levels with regard to the setting up of this trip, it was felt that May of 1972 would be the time when progress on a number of fronts in which we are presently involved with the Soviet Union would have reached the point that a meeting at the highest level could be effective.


[3.] Q. Mr. President, do you expect to be able to sign an agreement on strategic arms when you go to Moscow next May?

THE PRESIDENT. As you will recall, we at the highest level, in May, indicated that our goal would be to try to achieve an agreement on strategic arms this year. We are making progress toward that goal. We will continue to move toward achieving that goal, either at the end of this year or as soon thereafter as we possibly can.

If the goal can be achieved before May of 1972, we will achieve it, and that, incidentally, is also the view of the Soviet Union.

I will not speculate as to failing to achieve that goal. If it is not achieved, certainly that would be one of the subjects that would come up.


[4.] Q. Mr. President, what would you expect other items on the agenda to be in addition to anything that is concluded at the SALT talks?

THE PRESIDENT. I have already indicated that we will review all major issues. Now, to indicate what the issues will be is quite premature. For example, the question that has just been raised with regard to the SALT talks is one that may be behind us at that point.

Both governments are working toward that end. And then the question would be: What do we do in arms control going beyond simply the limitation of strategic weapons at this point? And the same would be true of the Mideast, which is a possible subject. The same is true in a number of other areas where presently the Soviet Union and the United States are having negotiations.

The fact that we are going to have a meeting in May does not mean that the negotiating tracks that we are engaged on with the Soviet Union, in a number of areas, are now closed or that we are going to slow down.

We are going to go forward in all the other areas so that in May we can deal with unfinished business.

Q. Mr. President, would this include Cuba?

THE PRESIDENT. The questions as to whether peripheral areas--and I mean by "peripheral areas," areas that do not directly involve the Soviet Union and the United States--would be involved would depend upon the situation at that time.

For example, Cuba is one possibility. The question of Southeast Asia is another. As far as Southeast Asia is concerned, I would emphasize there, again, however, that completely without regard to this meeting and completely without regard to the meeting that will take place with the Chinese leaders at an earlier date, we are proceeding both on the negotiating track and on the Vietnamization track to end American involvement in Vietnam. We trust that we will have accomplished that goal, or at least have made significant progress toward accomplishing that goal, by the time this meeting takes place.


[5.] Q. Can you tell us the mechanics, sir? How did the meeting come about? Did their Ambassador come here? Was it hotlined? And can you tell us, sir, when the ball started rolling toward this meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. The ball started rolling toward this meeting, I think, in my first press conference when, you recall, the inevitable question came up, "Are we going to have a summit with the Soviet Union?"

I pointed out then that I did not believe a summit would serve a useful purpose unless something was to come out of it. I do not believe in having summit meetings simply for the purpose of having a meeting. I think that tends to create euphoria. It raises high hopes that are then dashed, as was the case with Glassboro. We are not making that mistake. Both in our meeting with the Chinese which is being very carefully planned, as evidenced by Dr. Kissinger's visit to help prepare the agenda and the final arrangements, and in our meeting with the Soviet Union, we have agreed to summit meetings only on the basis that we would have an agenda in which there was a possibility of making significant progress, and also on which items would be on the agenda on which progress could best be made, and in some instances might only be made, by decisions at the highest level.

Now, I stated that, or at least made that point, in several press conferences, including my first one. In the spring of last year there was some discussion with the Soviet Union at lower levels with regard to the possibility of a summit. There was further discussion of the possibility of a summit when I met with Mr. Gromyko in the fall of last year when he was here to the United Nations.

Those discussions have continued on and off, not at my level, but at other levels, until Mr. Gromkyo arrived for his visit with me on this occasion. On this occasion he brought a formal invitation.

Let me say on the Soviet side that they agreed basically with my principle, which is also theirs, that a summit meeting should be held only when both sides are prepared to discuss matters of substance. And it is because both of us have been waiting for the time that we felt there were matters on which major progress could be made that the summit meeting is being held at this time, rather than at an earlier time.

I should also point out the very significant areas in which we have made progress in Soviet-American relations, both on our part and on their part. We have felt unless we were able to make progress in this era of negotiation rather than confrontation and other areas, that a meeting at the summit might mean simply an impasse; but when we look back over the record of the last 2 years, 2 1/2 years, significant progress has been made.

We have had a treaty with regard to the seabeds. We have had one with regard to biological weapons. We have had an agreement coming out of the SALT talks with regard to the hot line and accidental war and, of course, most important of all--and I think this is the item that, for both us and for them, led us to conclude that now was the time for a summit meeting-we have had an agreement on Berlin. The Berlin negotiations, of course, are not completely wrapped up; but on the part of the Soviet Union and the United States and, of course, the other two powers involved, this agreement had historic significance.

In view of the progress that we have made, Mr. Gromyko, speaking for his Government, I, speaking for ours, agreed on the occasion of his visit that this was the time for a summit meeting.


[6.] Q. Mr. President, this then was the reason you announced you would go to Peking before May? You had this May date in mind at that time?

THE PRESIDENT. No, Mr. Theis [J. William Theis, Hearst Newspapers and Hearst Headline Service], when we announced that we would be going to Peking, we did not have an understanding with the Soviet Union that we were going to have a visit to the Soviet Union. However, I should point out that as far as the announcement with regard to the Soviet summit is concerned, that the Government of the People's Republic of China was informed that this announcement would be made today and is aware of the date of the Soviet visit that I have mentioned, the latter part of May.

I should also point out that the Government in Peking is aware of the fact that we will be working toward agreement on a date with them, which will be prior to the meeting with the Soviet leaders.


[7.] Q. Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Horner [Garnett D. Horner, Washington Evening Star].

Q. Mr. President, with which Soviet leader do you expect to have your most significant talks, Kosygin, Brezhnev, Podgorny, or with all three of them or any two of them?

THE PRESIDENT. Generally speaking, in the Soviet system, the talks that take place will, of course, cover all three, but the Chairman, in this case Mr. Brezhnev, is the man with whom I would expect to have very significant talks. I would expect certainly to have significant talks, also, with Kosygin and perhaps Mr. Podgorny.

But in the Soviet system, as I pointed out--the same is also true of the People's Republic system--in any Communist system, the Chairman of the Communist Party is the man who is the major center of power.


[8.] Q. Mr. President, at the time that the Red China trip was announced, sir, I believe we were told that it was going to be before May I because you didn't want to get it involved in domestic political politics. I wonder how this differs, since this is after May I, as far as domestic political politics is concerned?

THE PRESIDENT. We have this just as close to May I as we possibly could. This was the best date that the Soviet Union and we could agree upon, and it will come, as I said, in the latter part of May.

We both deliberately agreed that it should not come--which would generally have been their first choice, because June or July is a better time to go to Moscow than May, I understand--we agreed for the reasons that we have mentioned that it should be in May.


[9.] Q. Mr. President, you said that it is your goal to end the American involvement in South Vietnam or at least make significant progress towards that by the time you meet in Moscow. Is it your goal that you can end at least the American ground combat involvement by that time?

THE PRESIDENT. I will have another announcement on Vietnam in November. That announcement will speak to that question, and other announcements after that will also speak to that question.

I will not speculate further on that. The American presence in Vietnam, both in terms of our residual forces, the ground combat forces to which you refer, and the use of our air power, will be maintained to meet the objectives that I have oftentimes spelled out, including among others, the return of our POW's and the ability of the South Vietnamese to take over the responsibility themselves. But I would strongly urge the members of the press not to speculate as to what I am going to say in November.


[10.] Q. Mr. President, a question on Phase 2, sir. Are you prepared to give the tripartite Pay Board complete autonomy in order to gain labor's cooperation?

THE PRESIDENT. A meeting is taking place at this moment, and perhaps may be nearing conclusion, in which the AFLCIO Council is discussing their participation in the tripartite Board and the question as to the extent of their cooperation with our efforts to control inflation.

I believe, first, that Secretary Connally answered your question--and that is our position--in his press conference. As far as any further discussion with regard to the role that labor will play, and the relationship of the Board to the Cost of Living Council, I think it would be well to wait until their meeting has been concluded.

If they make a statement today, I will issue a statement from here commenting upon that specific matter, if it is raised.


[11.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us what consultations were made with the NATO allies or Japan on these two visits?

THE PRESIDENT. All were informed.


[12.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us when you may make a nomination or nominations to the Supreme Court and is Senator Byrd of West Virginia on the list of those you are considering?

THE PRESIDENT. He is definitely on the list, and I will make the nominations next week, bath.

Q. Both?


Q. Sir, you are going to have a woman on there, aren't you? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I would simply add that I don't rule out Senator Byrd, and I certainly don't rule out a woman for consideration.

Incidentally, the speculation with regard to the Court, I know, is naturally a subject of very great interest, but I can assure you that the dope stories that a man is certain to get it and then a dope story this morning, he is out of the running-both are wrong.

Senator Byrd, as a result of several of his colleagues recommending him, is one that is being considered. And I will also say in answer to Mrs. McClendon's [Sarah McClendon, Sarah McClendon News Service] question that at least two women are under consideration at this time.


[13.] Q. Mr. President, to clarify your expectations on the Moscow visit, it would be equally your expectation to have significant talks with Chairman Mao in Peking rather than meetings with Chou En-lai or ceremonial meetings with the Chairman?

THE PRESIDENT. The question as to what kind of meetings will take place in Peking will be worked out by Dr. Kissinger when he is there. There will, of course, be meetings with Chou En-lai. I would assume that there would be meetings with the Chairman. However, in each system, the Soviet system and the Chinese system, the question as to which individual should cover which subject varies, and, of course, I will be prepared to meet with whatever leader in the Soviet Union or whatever leader in the People's Republic of China has the responsibility for the particular subjects that we have in mind.

For example, take the Soviet. It may well be that Chairman Brezhnev may have the responsibility in certain political or foreign policy areas. It might be that Prime Minister Kosygin would have responsibility in trade areas. I am not trying to say what they have decided, but we are prepared, and both governments know that we are prepared, for me to meet with the head of government or the Chairman of the party, or any other that they designate who has responsibility.

I should also point out that the Secretary of State will accompany me to both Moscow and Peking; Dr. Kissinger will accompany me, and it will be a small working group. And meetings will take place not only between the President and various leaders on their side but between the Secretary of State and their people designated by them on their side.

We expect to have a very busy, working visit, not a ceremonial visit. Ceremony, I should indicate, will be at an absolute minimum in both the Soviet Union and in the People's Republic.

I emphasize again, the purpose of both visits is not simply cosmetics. We are not taking a trip for the sake of taking a trip. The purpose of these visits is, at the very highest level, to attempt to make progress in negotiating in areas where there are very significant differences--differences between us and the People's Republic, differences between us and the Soviet Union.

I should emphasize, too, that in pointing out the progress we have made with the Soviet Union, that Mr. Gromyko and I agreed that we still have very great differences. We do not expect all those differences to be resolved, but there is one thing in which we agree at this point and that is that the interests of neither country would be served by war.

If there is another world war, if there is a war between the super powers, there will be no winners. There will be only losers.

Also, I think we can both agree that neither major power can get a decisive advantage over the other, an advantage which would enable it to launch a preceptive strike or an advantage because it was able to launch a preemptive strike which might enable it to engage in international blackmail.

It is because we have reached the point that the competition in terms of escalating arms race cannot gain an advantage--and both of us emphasized this in our meeting-it is for that reason that now the time has come to negotiate our differences, negotiate with regard to our differences, recognizing that they are still very deep, recognizing that, however, there is no alternative to negotiation at this point.


[14.] Q. Mr. President, are we going to have textile agreements this week in advance of the October 15th deadline which, reportedly, the Administration has set down for mandatory quotas?

THE PRESIDENT. At the present time very intensive talks are going on with the Japanese on the textile question. We are hopeful that those talks will produce a mutual agreement. In the event that there is not a mutual agreement, and in the event by October 15th there is either not an agreement or a process underway which points to the negotiating of an agreement, then the United States will move unilaterally.2

2 The transcript of a news briefing by Peter G. Peterson, Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs, on textile agreements between the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, and the Republic of Korea was released by the White House on October 15, 1971, and is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 7, P. 1408). On the same day, the White House released a fact sheet on the U.S. textile and apparel industry.


[15.] Q. In connection with the agenda for the Moscow talks, what is the position of the United States at present on the question of a European Security Conference and, specifically, is it the U.S. position that we will not agree to a European Security Conference until there is a final agreement on Berlin and a first-stage agreement on SALT?

THE PRESIDENT. The European Security Conference is a matter that has been very widely discussed between our two governments. As a matter of fact, it was one of the subjects for discussion, I think it is proper to reveal, when I met with Mr. Gromyko. I have noted that the press has so speculated, and the press, in this case, is correct.

With regard to the European Security Conference, you are correct in saying that, until the Berlin matter is wrapped up, the discussions with regard to the possibility of a European Security Conference would not serve a useful purpose. After it is wrapped up, then we shall go forward with preliminary discussions to see whether or not a European Security Conference could serve a useful purpose.

Both governments agree, with regard to a European Security Conference, that it, like a summit conference, should not be held unless there are areas where there can be substantial chances for agreement. The Secretary of State will have the primary responsibility, after the Berlin settlement is totally wrapped up, to explore with our allies, as the Soviet Union will be exploring with theirs, whether or not the European Security Conference should be held, and if it should be held, when it should be held.

I should also point out, because it does raise the other question I mentioned in answer to an earlier question, that our allies had been informed and that Japan had been informed. Prior to the visit to the Soviet Union, there will, of course, be extensive consultations with our allies on matters which may affect them. For example, mutual balanced force reductions, European Security Conference, and matters of this sort, if they are to come up at a summit conference, will, of course, be discussed with our allies, just as we expect the Soviet Union to discuss those matters with their allies.


[16.] Q. Now that the South Vietnamese election returns are official, will you be sending your congratulations to the winner, and do you have any comments on those elections?

THE PRESIDENT. On September 16, I indicated my view about the elections, and I stand by that view. I believe, that as the Secretary of State pointed out in his television appearance Sunday, that we have to keep this matter in perspective. We would have preferred, just as we would prefer in all countries of the world, a contested election somewhat along the lines that would meet our standard.

On the other hand, the situation in South Vietnam has been that they have made great progress toward representative government there. They have a very lively opposition in both the National Assembly and in the Senate.

As far as President Thieu is concerned, he is aware of my statement of September 16, and I will be sending a representative, of course, to his inauguration. Let me say in that respect that if the United States followed the practice of not sending representatives to inaugurations unless the president or the prime minister was there as a result of a contested election, we would only have one-third as many delegations to send, and we wouldn't want to do that.

MR. KEMPSTER. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Nixon's twentieth news conference was held at 11:30 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House on Tuesday, October 12, 1971.

Richard Nixon, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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