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Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961–1963
Volume XXII, Northeast Asia, Document 12


12. Draft Memorandum from the Counselor of the Department of State (McGhee) to Secretary of State RuskSourceSource: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 67 D 548, China, 1959-1961. Secret. It is not clear whether the memorandum was sent to Rusk. The source text is an unsigned copy. A handwritten note dated March 10 reads: “Discussed with IO/FE/L. IO and FE to prepare papers.”

  • SUBJECT
  • A New Basic Approach to the GRC

There is attached a paper11. Not printed; dated March 10 and entitled “A New Basic Approach to the GRC.” proposing that the U.S. should seek to arrive at a new basis in its relations with the GRC under which we would be willing to support Taiwan, but not the GRC's mainland ambitions. It is a principal thesis of this paper that continued pursuit of those ambitions would endanger both the GRC's base on Taiwan and the U.S. itself.

The best long-term political and military defense of Taiwan will require that the GRC continue to be represented in the UN; that a consensus be developed in the free world that the people on Taiwan are entitled to a separate existence from the mainland; and that the U.S. commitment to defend Taiwan be spread among our allies. We would hope to use the widespread conviction among members that Taiwan deserves continued representation in the UN, and the ChiComs' objection to sitting in that body with another Chinese regime, to transfer to their backs the monkey of unreasonable opposition, and thus keep them out. We see the liquidation of the dangerous confrontation around the offshores as a means whereby the civil war might be turned into a period of a de facto peace, with 100 miles of blue water between the contestants, in which the needed free-world consensus about Taiwan's right to a separate future might grow; and would seek to use evacuation of the offshores as an inducement which might be offered our allies for sharing our commitment to defend Taiwan.

We recognize that bringing about the readjustments we propose will at best be a most difficult task: President Chiang is too deeply and publicly committed to a return to the mainland to publicly disavow that ambition; and his leadership cannot be greatly damaged without also disrupting the GRC itself. Hence those readjustments will only be possible if we give all possible consideration to the requirements of his “face”; hold out the inducements of greater U.S. assistance; and be prepared to press on the sensitive nerve which is GRC dependence on us for its continued existence.

The underlying memo does not have FE concurrence. It was discussed with officers of FE in an earlier version22. The earlier version, dated March 6, is attached to the source text. A handwritten notation indicates it was not cleared in FE and was not sent. Another handwritten notation states that a memorandum of March 10 from Parsons to McGhee suggested an FE/S/P task group to discuss differences with an FE draft papenote. which envisaged an overall approach to the GRC: We felt that a new administration can most easily alter policies while it was new; that our two governments might as well reach a basic understanding sooner rather than later; and that some elements in an overall approach can be mutually supporting. It is the feeling in FE, which faces the difficult practical problems of dealing with the GRC, that we should not embarrass chances of getting it to cooperate in the UN membership problem by presenting it at the same time with the much larger dose of bitter medicine which evacuation of the offshore islands would represent. The memo in its present form does not choose between these alternatives, but they need to be faced as alternatives and a choice made.

* Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 67 D 548, China, 1959-1961. Secret. It is not clear whether the memorandum was sent to Rusk. The source text is an unsigned copy. A handwritten note dated March 10 reads: “Discussed with IO/FE/L. IO and FE to prepare papers.”

1 Not printed; dated March 10 and entitled “A New Basic Approach to the GRC.”

2 The earlier version, dated March 6, is attached to the source text. A handwritten notation indicates it was not cleared in FE and was not sent. Another handwritten notation states that a memorandum of March 10 from Parsons to McGhee suggested an FE/S/P task group to discuss differences with an FE draft papenote.