CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 152: Pre Mins 1–5

United States Delegation Minutes, Fourth Session, Preliminary Conversations for the September Foreign Ministers Meetings, Washington, August 30, 1950, 3:00 to 5:30 p. m.1

top secret

[Part 2]

Delegations: British: Graves, Burrows, Greenhill
French: Daridan, de Margerie, Millet, Fequant
United States: Yost, Clubb, Bancroft, Jackson, O’Shaughnessy, Raynor, Emmerson, Bacon, Stein, Hackler, Ranney (Recorder)2

Subject: Formosa

In opening the discussion on Formosa, Mr. Clubb presented the American position.3 He began with a brief outline of the historical [Page 1159] developments beginning with the Cairo Declaration of December 1, 19434 and noted that General Order No. 1 of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters had provided for the surrender of Japanese forces in China (excluding Manchuria) and Formosa to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. He remarked that the President’s and Sectary’s statements of January 5, 19505 reiterated the traditional American position of non-intervention in the affairs of China. On June 27, in view of the events in Korea, the President had ordered the United States Seventh Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa, and as a corollary to that action, called upon the National Government on Formosa to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland, with the Seventh Fleet charged to seeing that that was done. The President’s action was further clarified in his statement of July 19 to Congress.6 The U.S. was subsequently charged by the Chinese Communists with aggression against Formosa. The position of the U.S. was set forth in a letter of August 25, 1950 from Ambassador Austin to Trygve Lie and the President in a letter of August 27 to Ambassador Austin confirmed that Mr. Austin’s letter summed up the fundamental position of the U.S. Government.7

The U.S. and other Powers were fighting Communism in Korea under U.N. mandate. A Chinese Communist success respecting Formosa would constitute (1) a military threat to American, British and French positions in Asia and (2) a great political fillip to the Communist cause which was designed to achieve the conquest of Asia.

The U.S. desired to obtain friendly aid for the “military neutralization” of Formosa for the common good. The Chinese Communists on their part rejected the idea of neutralization and had announced their determination still to effect the “liberation of Formosa”. In these circumstances, the United States was considering some aid to the Nationalists to improve their position of self-defense (1) on a short-term basis by supplying some materiel through the use of existing appropriations to meet known deficiencies and (2) through a military survey designed to determine (a) existing Nationalist stocks and (b) possible longer-term needs. This was for the purpose of discouraging a Communist attack and was definitely not designed to boost the Nationalists in their back-to-mainland drive. There was no political commitment to the National Government or Chiang Kai-shek from either the U.S. Government as such or any Government official.

The statements of the Chinese Communists and their present moves vis-à-vis the U.N. indicated that the question of Formosa remained [Page 1160] very much in being. It was therefore desirable to discuss the matter with the U.K. and France for, first, a clarification of the U.S. position and, second, a harmonization, if possible, of our several views on the subject.

The U.S. had, prior to the Communist submission of the Formosan question to the UNSC, envisaged possible action more or less along the following lines: (1) raising of the question of Formosa by a friendly State in the GA before the Soviet Bloc had opportunity to do so; owing to evident interest of many States in the problem and present circumstances regarding the island, the matter might be raised under Article 11, paragraph 2, or Article 14;8 (2) appointment of a U.N. commission to look into all phases of the problem and report its recommendations to the next GA; and (3) declaration by the GA calling on all parties to desist from hostilities while the GA commission has the matter under study. A U.N. formula along those lines would be welcome.

The question of Formosa had now been brought before the U.N. by the Chou En-lai note charging American aggression.9 The matter was now on the agenda by a vote of 7 to 2. Mr. Austin’s reply to the charge indicated our willingness to have the matter considered by the U.N. If the U.N. so desired, it might be appropriate to have a commission look into the matter, to determine the facts of the case and the best procedure for a peaceful solution.

The short-term objective of the U.S. was the military neutralization of Formosa. Long-term possibilities for solution would appear to be (1) incorporation of Formosa with mainland China, (2) restoration to Japan, (3) independence, (4) trusteeship under the U.N., or (5) a U.N. plebiscite to determine which of the foregoing is desired by the Formosan people. Action along these lines might make clear that present measures undertaken by the U.S. with respect to Formosa, far from being directed toward a forcible solution of the question of Formosa’s long-term political status, in fact operate to prevent a solution of this question by force and to provide an opportunity for peaceful discussion and settlement of it.

In conclusion, Mr. Clubb stated that the foregoing were tentative proposals and did not necessarily represent the final U.S. position. [Page 1161] Consideration of the Formosan question in the U.N. had evident dangers. Acrimonious debate could be expected. A substantial prior agreement with other friendly States regarding the course of action to be taken was desirable if there were to be avoided serious disputes with public manifestation of division among non-Communist Powers. However, if the matter were not dealt with on the initiative of a friendly State, it might be raised by the USSR or one of its satellites with evident disadvantages. As the SC was now seized of the problem, and it was projected that the GA might likewise take cognizance of the matter, the U.S. desired to have the frank opinions of the British and French delegations as to (1) whether they could support action in the SC and GA along the general lines now laid down and projected, (2) whether they believed action of this nature would receive sufficient support to make it feasible, and (3) what modifications might be made to increase the acceptability of that line of action.

In the U.S. view the present proposal did not exhaust possibilities, and in making it there was no intent of discouraging presentation by the British and French of alternative proposals which they might believe would lessen the unilateral nature of American measures for military neutralization of Formosa during the Korean crisis or which might at least gain wider political support for those measures. Mr. Clubb suggested that a proper beginning for the consideration of the problem would be a weighing of the significance of present Chinese Communist and Soviet moves in Asia as those moves might concern Formosa, and defined the problem as being one of finding a way toward the solution of the problem of joint security in the West Pacific and particularly of Formosa.

The British commented that the U.S. position merited profound consideration, and could not be studied exhaustively at the present meeting. For the British Government, the starting point was the Cairo Declaration, by which they considered the signatory Powers were bound to assist the restoration of Formosa to China. The Cairo Declaration, the British representative said, was considered, “basic” by his Government. The U.K. was thus pledged to a definite line of action and must honor its obligation. The Chinese Nationalists and Communists alike considered that Formosa belonged to China and the racial affinity between Formosa and the mainland made union natural. The British agreed that recent developments in the military situation had made rendition to China difficult and that U.S. neutralization of Formosa made sense as a military decision. This neutralization, however, could only be a temporary expedient. There was a difference between military neutralization and freezing of the political situation, and an attempt to do the latter would lead to difficulties. [Page 1162] The question was one of our long-term intentions regarding the island.

With regard to the various possibilities which had been put forward for the ultimate disposition of Formosa, the British believed that a plebiscite would be ineffective under present conditions with Chiang Kai-shek in control, and and was out of the question. Independence would be irreconcilable with the principle of union with China, although some degree of local autonomy might be possible. Independence would be unpalatable to both Communist and Nationalist Chinese.

The U.K. emphasized that military neutralization imposed the obligation to neutralize all military elements, including the Chinese Nationalists. Since June 27, the Chinese Nationalists had continued “provocative actions” against China, such as attempting to maintain the blockade, interfering with shipping, and distributing leaflets over the mainland. If these activities were continued the inference would be drawn that the U.S. was supporting the Nationalists in this measure of interference, and putting the Nationalists into a position to return to the mainland.

The British said that these criticisms were intended in the most friendly manner to show the difference of approach between the two Governments, a difference which was natural because the U.S. and U.K. recognized opposing Chinese parties. The U.K. was not averse to U.N. consideration of Formosa and probably the only way out of the difficulty was to have U.N. discussion. The British welcomed the U.S. suggestion that the GA should study the problem, although they felt that there should be reaffirmation of the Cairo Declaration, that Formosa should be returned to China, though how and when was subject to study.

In response to a question from the U.S. representative as to whether the British thought the U.S. should make a unilateral statement reaffirming the Cairo Declaration, the British said that the more general the support for such a statement the better it would be, but that one from the U.S. alone would be welcomed. A GA statement would be good. They believed that the Cairo Declaration should be reaffirmed before GA discussion of the problem, if possible, in order that the principle of return to China could be clearly accepted in advance. The U.S. representative inquired whether such a statement should mention return of Formosa to China without specifying which Chinese Government was meant; to which the British replied that it might not be necessary to go into details and probably the statement need only reiterate the basic principle of return to China.

[Page 1163]

The French representative began his remarks by citing recent intelligence regarding Chinese Communist plans for action against Indochina, and said that his Government had been prevented from recognizing the Peiping regime because that regime had recognized Ho Chi Minh in Indochina. The French Government did not contemplate recognizing the Chinese Communists. They had the impression that the USSR did not wish to facilitate Chinese Communist entry into the U.N. The French position was simple: they did not wish any step to be taken which might bring on war with the Chinese Communists. The French concurred with the neutralization of Formosa, and approved the explanation of our position contained in Ambassador Austin’s letter of August 25, 1950 to Trygve Lie. They approved bringing the matter before the U.N. and thought that U.N. discussion offered the only hope for solution. Although without instructions on the point, the French representative was inclined to share the U.S. and British views that the GA was the best body in which to seek a general settlement. Formosa was not a French responsibility.

In replying to these statements from the British and French representatives, the U.S. representative agreed that a clarification of our position regarding the future status of Formosa was called for. There was as yet no fixed U.S. position, although undoubtedly we would have to start from the Cairo Declaration in our consideration. There remained open the question whether the guiding principle for political action should be that Formosa must inevitably be returned to China. We hoped for progress on this matter as the subject developed in the SC and the GA. The U.S. representative raised the question as to the nature of any obligation to keep the peace which the Chinese Communists may have incurred by bringing their complaint before the SC. The British felt that whatever the legal obligation, it would probably have little effect upon the actions of the Peiping regime.

It was agreed that SC consideration of Formosa should be confined to short-term questions such as the Chinese Communist complaint against the U.S., and that the GA was the best organ for general discussion of the problem. The British believed that the degree of U.N. support for any solution would depend on how the resolution was framed and presented. On the whole, however, the range of opinion was very well on our side, and a reasonable solution would get a lot of support, particularly if preceded by a statement that the island would ultimately return to China. Negotiations in the SC would be helped or hindered according to whether or not the U.S. was able to make a general statement of its intentions. The British representative [Page 1164] said it would be improper for them to offer advice as to our conduct in the SC, and emphasized that his comments on U.S. policy were purely personal, in reaction to the problem as presented. The French agreed that the U.S. outline of proposed U.N. action was good.

There was some speculation regarding probable Chinese Communist intentions toward Formosa. The U.S. representative said an estimate of the probabilities of early attack would be helpful to our thinking and schedule for action. The British and French had little information on this point, beyond expressing the view that the Communists still have an attack in mind, but may not have the means to put one in operation. It was agreed that should the attempt be made, it would come soon, rather than later in the year, because of the impending change in weather. In the event an attack is launched before settlement of the question, the British expressed the view that much would depend on how the Seventh Fleet dealt with the situation. For example, the invading force might be shepherded into a port, more drastically, we might blast them and the Communist ports from the air. The more violent our action, the less support we would gain in the U.N., particularly among Asian Powers: the less cause the Communists have for complaint, the weaker their case. The French believed that we would gain the most sympathetic reaction if the fight were not brought to the Chinese mainland. The U.S. representative inquired how the other Governments thought that the SC would best be seized of the problem in the event of an attack on Formosa. The British replied that they thought the SC would continue the present process of consideration along somewhat new lines. The French feared that consideration of Formosa in the SC might create a precedent which could be applied in the future to advocate SC consideration of the problems of Indochina and Hong Kong. The U.S. representative pointed out that there would have to be a measure of express general interest before the SC would take up any subject of that kind.

As for what could be done to help the situation outside the U.N., the British and French believed that the making of the neutralization equally effective to both parties, with prevention of further “provocative action” by the Chinese Nationalists, was the most important single item. The British also felt that the type of military assistance given to Formosa would have a bearing on future developments: if it were clearly for defense only, that was one thing, if for offense, it was another. Recent statements from U.S. sources had increased the skepticism of Chinese Communist leaders as to U.S. intentions and for this reason, also, it would be helpful, as a second measure to meet the situation, for the U.S. to issue a statement of intentions regarding Formosa.

  1. The source text was attached to the U.S. Delegation minutes, supra.
  2. O. Edmund Clubb, Director of the Office of Chinese Affairs; Eric Stein, of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs.
  3. Series SFM D–7/2, Formosa, comprised four papers, SFM D–7/2, 2a, 2b, 2c, at least two briefs of 2c, and one annex, none printed (CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 152: SFM Documents).
  4. Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943, pp. 448449.
  5. For the texts of these statements, see Department of State Bulletin, January 16, 1950, pp. 79 ff.
  6. For the text of the President’s statement to Congress, see ibid., July 31, 1950, pp. 163 ff.
  7. For the texts of these two letters, see ibid., September 11, 1950, pp. 411 ff.
  8. Article 11, paragraph 2 provided that the “General Assembly may discuss any questions relating to the maintenance of international peace and security …” except those under consideration by the Security Council; Article 14 provided that the General Assembly might “…recommend measures for the peaceful adjustment of any situation, regardless of origin, which it deems likely to impair the general welfare or friendly relations among nations …” unless the situation was already under consideration by the Security Council.
  9. For the text of Chou En-lai’s note to Secretary-General Lie of August 24, see Department of State Bulletin, October 16, 1950, p. 607.