893.50 Recovery/1–1449

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Truman

Subject: U.S. Armed Forces at Tsingtao; Problem of Formosa

The Department of State recommends, in accordance with the decision of the National Security Council on December 24, 1948,12 subsequently approved by the President, that Admiral Badger13 be instructed to base aboard ship the U.S. Armed Forces at Tsingtao before the termination of the withdrawal of the Chinese Naval Training Corps and the Chinese Naval Academy from Tsingtao and that he be authorized temporarily to retain ashore the recreational facilities now being used by his command.

The Department of State also recommends the implementation of the decision of the National Security Council on December 24, 1948, subsequently approved by the President, that the existing program for training units of the Chinese Navy should be suspended upon the removal of the Chinese naval training activities from Tsingtao and [Page 266] should not be reestablished at this time either on Taiwan or at Amoy. This recommendation is based upon the following considerations:

The Department of State concurs in the Joint Chiefs of Staff conclusion that it is in our strategic interest that Formosa be denied to communists.
The communist threat to Formosa does not lie in amphibious invasion from the mainland. It lies in (a) the classic communist technique of infiltration, agitation and mass revolt, and (b) the classic Chinese technique of a deal at the top.
The dispatch of U.S. naval vessels and Marines to Formosa is not likely to prove effective in countering these techniques. A show of American military strength in this manner is more likely to provide Formosan fuel for the communist fire and rally public opinion behind the Chinese Communists on the mainland.

In the light of the Joint Chiefs of Staff conclusion that political and economic measures should be taken to deny Formosa to the communists, the Department has prepared a paper on this subject14 which is now under consideration in the National Security Council. It should be noted that U.S. military aid supplies are being diverted to Formosa and that the Chinese Air Force and Navy are establishing their headquarters on the island. These actions, together with the evacuation of the families and effects of important Government officials to Formosa, indicate that the Chinese Government is building up the island as a bastion to which it may withdraw from the mainland.

Should the Chinese Communists attempt to gain control of the island by forceful means contrary to the wishes of the Formosan people, or if the Formosans themselves should revolt against their Chinese rulers, justification would exist for action by the United Nations both on the grounds that the situation represented a threat to peace and on the basis of the de facto status of Formosa. The Indonesian case would afford some useful parallels from the United Nations point of view. Intervention by the United Nations might be requested by the Australian or the Philippine Governments with a view to arranging for a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Formosan people.

The Department of State fully recognizes that it may be necessary at some stage for the United States to take military action if Formosa is to be denied to the communists. It strongly believes that for political reasons, internally in Formosa and internationally, the United States should go to great lengths to avoid crude unilateral intervention. But that time is not yet upon us. The United States has not exhausted all of the political possibilities. It may still be able to foster a Chinese non-communist local government which will itself successfully deny Formosa to the communists.

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Meanwhile, the United States should, as it is now doing, prepare for the failure of the above contingency and put itself in a position to intervene with force if necessary. Such intervention should be publicly based not on obvious American strategic interests but on principles which are likely to have support in the international community, mainly the principle of self-determination of the Formosan people.

This involves the fostering of a Formosan autonomy movement which can be called into full action should it become evident that the Chinese regime on the island is unlikely to be able to deny the island to the communists.

In the light of the foregoing, the Department of State recommends that the Joint Chiefs of Staff be requested to reach a decision, in the event that the United States is unsuccessful by political and economic means in preventing Formosa from falling under communist control, whether they regard Formosa as sufficiently vital to the United States national interest that they would be prepared to advocate that the United States go to war to prevent such a development.

Robert A. Lovett
  1. NSC 11/3, not printed; substance contained in telegram No. 1895, December 28, 1948, to the Ambassador in China, Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. viii, p. 344.
  2. Vice Adm. Oscar C. Badger, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces. Western Pacific.
  3. See NSC 37/1, January 19, p. 270.