Eisenhower Library, Dulles papers, “White House Memoranda”

No. 292
Memorandum Prepared by the Secretary of State 1

top secret

I.

1.
Quemoy cannot be held indefinitely without a general war with Red China in which the Communists are defeated. The Reds might agree to the independence of Formosa, but never the alienation of the off-shore islands like Quemoy.
2.
If we want such a war, Quemoy can be made to provide the issue.
3.
However, it is doubtful that the issue can be exploited without Congressional approval. Probably, Congress will be acquiescent in the Executive sustaining the 1950 order to the Seventh Fleet to defend Formosa. Undoubtedly, there would be serious attack on the Administration, and a sharply divided Congress and nation, if the Executive sought to use his authority to order U.S. forces to defend also Quemoy, Tachen etc., which are not demonstrably essential to the defense of Formosa, as shown by the fact that for four years they have not been included in the area the Fleet is ordered to defend.
4.
Probably, but by no means certainly, Congress and the nation would respond to an all-out appeal to the Congress, on the broad issue that we cannot afford to be acquiescent to any more Communist gains in the area. However, this acquiescence is less likely during the campaign than subsequently.
5.
Almost certainly a committal under present circumstances to defend Quemoy etc. would alienate world opinion and gravely strain our alliances, both in Europe and with ANZUS. This is the more true because it would probably lead to our initiating the use of atomic weapons.

II.

1.
If we do not want an all-out war with China, that does not necessarily require an immediate or public disassociation of ourselves from the off-shore islands. It does not seem that any all-out ChiCom assault is likely in the near future because of (a) early adverse weather conditions; and (b) uncertainty as to US reaction.
2.
However, the longer uncertainty of US action is perpetuated—coupled by US aid and MAAG activity on Quemoy etc.—the more this develops an implied obligation and the greater would be the loss of US prestige if the Island is later lost while the US stands by.
3.
Probably the monsoon season will be used for air and land buildups of such a character that the issue will be formidably and inescapably posed in a few months.
4.
The problem, if we want to avoid all-out war with China, is to do so on terms that will avoid a serious loss of ChiNat morale and US prestige.

III.

1.
It is suggested that the US should take the situation to the UN Security Council, on the ground that ChiCom action is a threat to international peace. It would be pointed out that action against Quemoy is avowedly part of a program to take Formosa by force, which the US is publicly committed to defend. Therefore, the situation is not purely domestic, civil war.
2.
The US would seek “provisional measures” to “prevent an aggravation of the situation” (Article 40).2 These measures could, in effect, be an injunction against ChiCom efforts to disturb the present situation by the use of force.
3.
This move could put a serious strain on Soviet-ChiCom relations. If the SU vetoed the move, that would gravely impair its “peace offensive” and then the US would win a measure of support from allies and world opinion now lacking. If the Soviets did not veto, the ChiComs could react adversely, and might, indeed, defy the UN. In that case the ChiComs would again become an international outcast.
4.

It would have to be recognized that the US could not wholly control the situation in the Security Council, and there would have to be preliminary work. This would particularly involve the UK, to assure a tolerable result in the Security Council; and the ChiNats to be sure they would not veto the program in the SC.

Probably a temporary injunction, which restrained the Communists from disturbing Quemoy, Tachen, etc., would also embrace preventing ChiNat attacks on the mainland and ship seizures, and it might end the embargo on Red China to the extent that it exceeds the restrictions against strategic goods to the Soviet Union.

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However, both Britain and Japan have put us on notice that they will seek this equalization, in any case. Also, the ChiNats are already counselled by the US to desist from attacking the mainland, now that the ChiComs have halted their assault.

5.
A probable ultimate outcome of UN intervention, if the Soviet Union permitted it, would be the independence of Formosa and the Pescadores.
6.
If the jurisdiction of the UN was rejected, or its recommendation vetoed by the Soviets or ChiComs, then the moral position of the free world against the Communist world would be reinstated, and military measures could be taken with a larger measure of moral sanction from the world community.
  1. A notation in Dulles’ handwriting on the source text reads as follows: “Prepared as talking paper for Denver NSC, but not read or submitted in this form. JFD
  2. Charter of the United Nations, signed at San Francisco June 26, 1945; for text, see Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776–1949, compiled under the direction of Charles I. Bevans, vol. 3 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1969), p. 1153; Department of State Treaty Series (TS) No. 993; or 59 Stat. 1031.