Reports of additional troop movements over the weekend lead us to take a
somewhat more serious view of Chinese Communist intentions than we did
In brief, our conclusions are as follows:
1. We still feel that the primary purposes of the reported movements are
to deter the Chinese Nationalists from attacking the mainland and to
ensure that defenses opposite Taiwan are adequate for all
2. However, we are now inclined to believe it is also likely that the
Chinese Communists have decided to exploit the troop movements
politically by creating a new offshore island crisis. To the Chinese
Communists a new crisis may appear useful for several reasons: to
exacerbate the visible strains in relations between the U.S. and
Nationalist China; to divert attention from domestic economic
difficulties and justify stringent measures at home; and to demonstrate
that Peiping's power and interests are something the world must reckon
3. We cannot rule out the possibility that the Chinese Communists are
preparing for a sudden, all-out effort to take either or both Quemoy
(Kinmen) and Matsu, perhaps utilizing equipment not available in 1958.
However, in the absence of evidence that the Chinese Communists are
massing the necessary transport (e.g. motorized junks), we do not think
a sudden, all-out attack is either imminent or likely.
II. Implications for the U.S.
This Chinese Communist military buildup opposite Kinmen and Matsu brings
to the forefront not only the problem of the offshore islands themselves
but also of Chiang Kai-shek's
intentions to “counterattack” the mainland. A direct confrontation of
the U.S. and Chinese Nationalist interests seems very likely.
If the Chinese Communists attack, the US will be faced with pressure from
Chiang, from his friends in Southeast Asia, and
from his friends here in the United States to participate in the defense
of the islands. A decision will be immediately required on whether or
not the attack is a preliminary to an attack on Formosa, as specified in
the Formosa Resolution, and Chiang undoubtedly will
make public all sorts of “intelligence” designed to show that it is.
If the Chinese Communists do not actually attack, but create a 1958-style
politico-military crisis, the situation is only slightly better.
Chiang's demands will be urgent, and if support
is not forthcoming, they will undoubtedly become both public and
The Chinese Communists have considerable incentive to exacerbate
US-Chinese Nationalist relations and can begin at any time.
Chiang, on the other hand, has always had among
his high priority objectives involvement of the US in reconquest of the
mainland. Once the Chinese Communists are in position, he may provoke an
attack or in other ways take the initiative to exploit the situation for
his own purposes.
Thus the initiative would appear to be with the Chinese, either Communist
or Nationalist, once Peiping's troops are fully in position. If
preventive or interposing action should be necessary to safeguard US
interests, it would appear that such action may be a realistic
alternative for only a very limited time.
* Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries
Series, China. Secret; Noforn; Limited Distribution. Filed with a
covering memorandum of the same date from Forrestal to
Bundy, which reads as follows: “I will
check with Averell to see if
he agrees with this rather alarmist estimate. I will also ask CIA what its guess is.” A note in
Bundy's handwriting on Forrestal's memorandum reads, “Hold
for 6 pm meeting.” Reference may be to the June 20 meeting recorded
in Document 122.