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Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961–1963
Volume XXII, Northeast Asia, Document 174


174. Memorandum of ConversationSourceSource: Department of State, Central Files, DEF CHINAT. Confidential. Drafted and approved by Johnson. Copies were sent to McGeorge Bundy, Nitze, Taylor, and McCone. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 67 A 4564, 092, Republic of China)

  • SUBJECT
  • Return to the Mainland
  • PARTICIPANTS
  • General S.M. “Tiger” Wang, Chinese Delegation to the UN (Military Staff Committee)
  • Chinese Air Attache, Col. Hsiung-sheng Hwang
  • Deputy Under Secretary, Mr. U. Alexis Johnson

General Wang, whom I have known for a long time, called on me today. He said that he had spent about 40 days in Taiwan and was extremely concerned over the attitudes that he found there on the question of the return to the mainland. He said that we should not underestimate or minimize the problem. He impliedly agreed with my observations that an attempt could only result in disaster but emphasized that the leadership on Taiwan is in an increasingly desperate frame of mind and feels that it is “this year or never”, regardless of the risks. He implied that we had not been sufficiently blunt in talking with Taiwan and that, unless we were more blunt than in the past, they may misinterpret our attitude.

In reply to his direct question as to my “personal view” as to what the reaction of the United States Government would be in the event they were to seek to mount an invasion of the mainland without concurrence of the United States, I said that the reaction would be uniformly most seriously adverse. I said that we had, in our treaty with the GRC, undertaken very clear and definite obligations with respect to the defense of Taiwan, and the GRC had in turn undertaken very definite obligations with respect to us. If the GRC disregarded its reciprocal obligations it could not but call into question the validity of the obligations we had undertaken. I had Colonel Hwang translate this so that there would be no misunderstanding.

In reply to his direct question, I said that, in spite of the undoubted economic difficulties Peking was having, we had no information whatever which would indicate its hold on the mainland had weakened sufficiently to give any hope whatever that a landing by the GRC could be successful. I pointed out that the first indication of the weakening of Peking's hold would be the GRC ability successfully to carry out extensive intelligence operations on the mainland. He, as a soldier, well appreciated the importance of intelligence and nothing that he had said, or other information that I had, indicated any increased GRC capability in this regard. General Wang admitted that this was correct.

General Wang also said that many people and “scholars” in Taiwan were saying that the question of the GRC seeking to land on the mainland was purely an “internal matter”. I said that this, of course, was also exactly what I had heard from Wang Ping-nan at Geneva for three years, and was the consistent Peking line. I said that I could not see how Taiwan could take this attitude without also reviewing whether it desired to maintain its treaty relationship with the United States. Under our present treaty, what affected the security of Taiwan affected the United States, and for Taiwan to undertake offensive operations against the mainland clearly involved the security of Taiwan. Apart from the attitude of the GRC, the security of Taiwan was of great interest to the United States and we had invested heavily in its maintenance.

In reply to General Wang's question on the outlook for military aid this next year, I pointed out the extreme resistance that aid was meeting in the Congress this year, the Clay Report,11. Reference is to the report of a committee chaired by General Lucius D. Clay entitled The Scope and Distribution of United States Military and Economic Assistance Programs: Report to the President of the United States from the Committee to Strengthen the Security of the Free World, March 20, 1963 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1963). The committee's recommendations are also printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 1148-1163. and said that it seemed to me doubtful that the present level could be maintained.

While General Wang's influence is now limited, I spoke to him as I did with the hope that something of what I was saying would get back through him and/or Colonel Hwang.

* Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF CHINAT. Confidential. Drafted and approved by Johnson. Copies were sent to McGeorge Bundy, Nitze, Taylor, and McCone. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 67 A 4564, 092, Republic of China)

1 Reference is to the report of a committee chaired by General Lucius D. Clay entitled The Scope and Distribution of United States Military and Economic Assistance Programs: Report to the President of the United States from the Committee to Strengthen the Security of the Free World, March 20, 1963 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1963). The committee's recommendations are also printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 1148-1163.