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Release No: 326-97
June 23, 1997


In a letter to President Clinton, ten former Secretaries of Defense have confirmed their support for the renewal of most favored nation trading status with China. The letter, delivered to the White House today, outlines the signatories' belief that renewal of MFN trade status will promote the national security interests of the United States.

Text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. President:

We, the undersigned former Secretaries of Defense, strongly support renewal of Most Favored Nation (MFN) trading status with China.

In our view, American interests are best served by a secure, stable and open China. While we recognize there are several thorny and disturbing issues in this complicated relationship, nonetheless, we believe the most promising way to reach the goal of a stable China is for the US to continue to build a relationship of mutual engagement with China, a critical element of which is normal trading relations. More broadly, contact and engagement with China will better serve our long-term security interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States has areas of agreement and disagreement with China. Where we agree, engagement allows us to pursue common interests together. Where we disagree, engagement allows us to address differences honestly and constructively.

Engagement with China has enabled the US to pursue our national security interests by building important relationships between our two militaries. High-level visits, like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John M. Shalikashvili's in May, allow both sides to increase their understanding of each other's strategic outlook. Regular working-level meetings between Department of Defense personnel and their counterparts in the Chinese military lessen the chances of miscalculation and misunderstanding. The American and Chinese navies are participating in exchanges such as ship ports of call. As a confidence building measure we are working to develop "rules of the road" for our ships to operate under in the Western Pacific. These activities should help to create a more secure future for citizens of both countries.

Denial of MFN to China risks undermining our overall strategy of remaining politically, economically, and militarily engaged in the Asia-Pacific region. Failing to extend MFN could harm Hong Kong and Taiwan. Both of these economies depend heavily on US-China trade and regional stability.

Finally, China would undoubtedly interpret the denial of MFN as the adoption of a policy of confrontation by the United States. Such a reaction could well have negative implications not only for Hong Kong and Taiwan, but also on a host of other issues important to US security, including curbing the spread of weapon technology and promoting a peaceful unification of Korea.

Mr. President, we believe revoking MFN trade status will hurt US interests, including security interests in the Asia-Pacific region. Engaging China provides an opportunity to continue to maintain peace in the Pacific and to further develop a relationship in which mutual security interests are critical. We believe renewal of MFN trade status for China will promote the national security interests of the United States.


Dr. Harold Brown

Frank Carlucci

Dick Cheney

Clark Clifford

Melvin Laird

Robert S. McNamara

Dr. William J. Perry

Elliot L. Richardson

Donald H. Rumsfeld

Dr. James Schlesinger

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