Taipei, February 25, 1961, 9 p.m.
513. For Secretary. Deptels 4011. and 412 and Embtel 510.2Telegram 510 from Taipei, February 24, reported that when Ambassador Drumright requested an appointment with President Chiang, Foreign Minister Shen told him Chiang was busy. Drumright gave Shen the substance of telegram 401 in the hope that this would prepare Chiang for swift action and make the confrontation less embarrassing. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.551/2-2661) Telegram 412 to Taipei, February 24, directed Drumright to renew his request to see the President personally. (Ibid., 611.93/2-2461) President Chiang summoned me to his residence at 5 p.m. today. Foreign Minister was present. President was calm in attitude and conciliatory in approach.
President started by saying that Foreign Minister had reported in detail to him yesterday on my representations of same date to Foreign Minister. President went on to say relations and cooperation between China and US had heretofore been as close and harmonious as possible. Nothing should be done, he said, by one country to cause harm to the other or to make difficulties. If any difficulty arose it was up to two governments to make adjustments and for each to help the other.
President then said that when I had made previous representations (February 7),3Reported in telegrams 459 and 461 from Taipei, February 7 and 8. (Ibid., 751J.00/2-761 and 751J.00/2-861) irregulars were in midst of engagements with Burmese and ChiCom forces. He believed at time no harm was being done to US interests. Moreover, attempts at that time to evacuate irregulars would have affected fighting spirit and morale of forces. In view of these factors, President said he felt at time he could do or say nothing regarding evacuation. President added hatred of irregulars for ChiComs was such, his attempts at that time to persuade irregulars to withdraw would have been to no avail. What was true of irregulars was true of all patriotic Chinese civilian and military alike—a common hatred of and enmity for ChiComs.
President continued as follows: But after irregulars withdrew from Mong Pa Liao and more particularly after plane incident in northern Thailand on February 15,4A Chinese Nationalist plane apparently seeking to drop supplies to irregular units in Burma was shot down by Burmese fighter aircraft on February 15 and crashed on the Thai side of the border; see the paper cited in the source note, . he for first time realized situation was actually causing inconvenience and embarrassment to US. GRC had therefore ceased airdrops thereafter. He had felt bad after Burmese and ChiComs had seized opportunity to embarrass US. He was especially sorry about demonstrations before US Embassy in Rangoon.
President then said GRC is prepared to evacuate “those elements responsive to our influence” to Taiwan since their presence where they now are is of no benefit to GRC and a cause of embarrassment to US. But there was one matter of which US Government should be aware: There are irregulars not responsive to GRC orders. With regard to such elements, GRC will disassociate itself from and no longer supply them. President then said inasmuch as such elements may want to continue struggle, they may refuse to disarm.
President summed up that foregoing was what he had decided to do. As to arrangements, he said details would be subject to discussions between two governments. He said he would look to US Government for assistance in carrying out arrangements. He concluded his statement with request that I promptly take up implementing details with Foreign Ministry.
I thanked President for his response which I knew to be painful and difficult one, adding I thought it appropriate to our requirements. I said I was at disposal of Foreign Ministry to help in working out evacuation. I urged speed in implementation of evacuation and asked President to use his influence to get greatest number to lay down arms. He responded faster evacuation carried out the better but repeated what he had said earlier about determination of some irregulars to fight on no matter what he might say or do. I also suggested early GRC discussions with Laos and Thailand and he said these would be taken care of.5A report of a similar conversation with Chiang Ching-kuo was sent to President Kennedy with a covering memorandum of February 25 from Allen Dulles. (Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, China, Security 1961)
After concluding with President, I had a conversation with Foreign Minister who leaves February 27 for visit of about one week's duration to Korea and Japan.
Minister Shen stated he had gone to see President yesterday as soon as he could put into Chinese representations I had made to him yesterday (he took them down almost verbatim). After a long discussion with President, Shen and several high officials including President's Secretary General Chang Chun and President's son Chiang Ching-kuo had met until 2 a.m. to hammer out recommendations for President. Shen had reported early this morning to Vice President-Premier and then had met for further long session with President. It was not until 1 p.m. that President had taken decision he communicated to me at 5 p.m.6An unsigned memorandum for the record, March 31, states that when Rusk's message (see ) arrived in Taipei on February 23, Drumright showed it to [text not declassified], who had been discussing the subject regularly with Chiang Ching-kuo, and asked him to convey the seriousness of the U.S. demand to Chiang Ching-kuo, in the hope that he might persuade his father to agree without a difficult confrontation or loss of face. The memorandum states that Drumright and [text not declassified] agreed the use of this procedure, involving close cooperation between them, was the best way to get U.S. views, especially unpalatable ones, to Chiang Kai-shek without the embarrassment and formality of diplomatic admonitions by the Ambassador. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China)
Shen said to his knowledge this was first time President had ever acknowledged irregulars in Burma were of no benefit to GRC cause. He said he was sure President meant what he said and would sincerely cooperate to return to Taiwan those willing to come back. He was also certain no further attempt would be made to supply irregulars who choose to remain behind.
Shen was obviously relieved and pleased with outcome of what has been until recently an obscure nightmare to him. I believe he played an important role in bringing President around and I congratulated him warmly.
I asked Shen if he had any idea what cooperation would be required of us and he said he frankly could not say. He said he had been so busy working on President he had not yet had time to give implementing measures thought. He seemed to agree orders would have to go to irregulars through military channels and he appeared to think this would be done through hands of Chiang Ching-kuo. He also agreed GRC would find it necessary to discuss evacuation and asylum problems with Lao and Thai Governments but said proposals would require some thought and care.
In response to my urging that speedy implementation be undertaken, Shen intimated Chiang Ching-kuo would be instrumental in this regard. He suggested in his absence I keep in touch with Vice Foreign Minister Hsu and perhaps Chiang Ching-kuo. At close of conversations Shen urged that both governments exercise greatest care regarding publicity. Apparently having in mind assurances made in 1953 and 1954, he said he believed both governments should avoid statements harmful to other and which could give comfort to Communists who would do all in their power to create difficulty and embarrassment. In this regard, Shen also obviously had in mind difficulty GRC would have in ever admitting it had sent forces or arms to Burma in violation of earlier pledges. I believe GRC is hopeful public statements regarding disarming and evacuation of irregulars be kept to absolute minimum. I hope we can meet GRC wishes in this respect.
We recognize here only first step has been surmounted and we face a long and rocky road to completion of implementation of President's new assurances. I propose to press matters through Foreign Ministry and Chiang Ching-kuo where necessary. I would of course appreciate Department's guidance in fulfilling this task.
I assume Department will inform Vientiane, Bangkok and Rangoon as appropriate of developments reported in this message. Successful evacuation and/or resettlement will be dependent in considerable measure on level of cooperation accorded by Lao and Thai Governments.