Conference Files: Lot 59 D 95: CF 49

United States Minutes, Truman–Attlee Conversations, Second Meeting, The Presidential Yacht “Williamsburg,” Washington, December 5, 1950, 2:45–4:45 p. m.

top secret

US Min–2


United States United Kingdom
The President Prime Minister Attlee
Secretary of State Acheson Sir Oliver Franks
Secretary of Defense Marshall Field Marshall Sir William Slim
Secretary of Treasury Snyder Sir Roger Makins
General Omar Bradley Lord Tedder
Mr. W. Averell Harriman Mr. Robert Scott
Mr. W. Stuart Symington Mr. Denis Rickett
Ambassador at Large Philip Jessup Sir Edwin Plowden
Amb.-designate Walter S. Gifford Mr. Kenneth Younger1
Assistant Sec. of State Perkins
Assistant Sec. of State Rusk
Mr. George Elsey

[Here follows a table of contents.]

The President asked Secretary Acheson to open the meeting.

Secretary Acheson said it was hoped that the President and the Prime Minister could give immediate guidance on certain steps which need to be taken in the UN. They had had some talks since the meeting adjourned yesterday afternoon and had some recommendations to submit. The purpose was to get started in the UN. They had already reached agreement on certain matters and had put in the new [Page 1724] item on the agenda. At the same time they had circulated a rather colorless memorandum concerning the item which does not disclose the next steps we will take. Agreement had been reached with representatives of the UK on two further steps. The first step was the reintroduction of the six-power resolution which was vetoed in the Security Council. The main purpose of this step was to hold the international political front. It was difficult to change our position at this stage and while the resolution is not quite responsive to the present situation it shows that we have not gone either backward or forward from our old position. The second step would be a cease-fire resolution which might perhaps be taken up in the General Assembly before the other resolution. This resolution would merely say that the shooting should stop. Further steps beyond this could not be determined until the President and the Prime Minister had finished their discussions. The two indicated steps, however, were recommended. Secretary Acheson then read the specific language of the recommendations as follows:

  • “1. That the 6-Power Resolution vetoed in the Security Council should be filed and circulated as soon as the six powers can agree on the minor editorial changes to put it in shape for General Assembly action.
  • 2. If a cease-fire resolution were introduced in the General Assembly, the United States and the United Kingdom should, in principle, be prepared to support it.”

The Prime Minister asked if it were possible to read the 6-power resolution in question. He thought it might need some amendments to bring it up-to-date.

Secretary Acheson then read the text of the resolution. (UNDoc S/1894) He said it was true that the resolution was now out-of-date but the great trouble was in trying to get agreement on amendments. It was quite clear that it needs some editorial changes; for example, the Korean Commission which is urged by the resolution to proceed to Korea is already there, but if you start to change the text you either must say that the Chinese intervention is aggression which must stop at once or else you weaken the resolution which raises serious problems. There is an advantage in saying that this is the same resolution which was vetoed in the Security Council, subject to minor editorial changes. If we try to wait until we get agreement on a satisfactory new resolution, considerable delays will be involved.

Secretary Snyder said the resolution was appropriate when it was introduced in the Security Council, to which Secretary Acheson agreed.

The Prime Minister asked Mr. Younger, who had just come from the General Assembly, to speak on his estimate of the situation there.

[Page 1725]

Mr. Younger said that if any resolution was to be introduced, he thought that Secretary Acheson was right in sticking as closely as possible to the previous text. There were a few things which should be altered. For example, the original resolution says that “Chinese Communist military units are deployed for action against the forces of the United Nations” and there were other slight changes such as the one which Secretary Acheson had mentioned. In general, however, this resolution would get support and it would serve to initiate the debate. It would fit the mood of the General Assembly for the next few days.

The Prime Minister said he thought this was quite so.

The President said that while the debate on this resolution was going on the General Assembly itself might put in changes which would make it more desirable.

Mr. Younger commented that the changes might also be less desirable.

The Prime Minister asked what the view was on the timing of this step.

Secretary Acheson said that as to the exact day and hour he thought we should leave this to our delegations at Lake Success. The theory is to get something to show there is no difference of counsel between the UK and the United States and no uncertainty as to what we should do. It should not be put in too soon to discourage those who are talking with the Chinese Communists. We can introduce it and then start the debate as events develop. It might perhaps be introduced tomorrow with the debate started on the next day.

The Prime Minister questioned the title of the original resolution which reads “Complaint of Aggression upon the Republic of Korea”.

Secretary Acheson noted the new agenda item which had just been introduced reads “Intervention of the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China in Korea”.

The Prime Minister said he thought the suggestions made were along the right lines.

The President said that this was the only procedure we can follow under the circumstances. It is necessary that we should do something.

The Prime Minister said this would be followed up with a cease-fire resolution.

Secretary Acheson said that this was correct and that we would hope that someone else would put in such a resolution simply calling for a cease-fire and saying that when the Chinese stopped fighting the UN would do the same. This would be put up and passed as soon as possible. The Chinese would know in advance what we were doing [Page 1726] so that they would not be taken by surprise. If we delay the whole problem gets complicated by the question of negotiations.

The Prime Minister thought this was right.

The President repeated that this was all we could do under the circumstances and asked Mr. Younger if he had anything to add.

Mr. Younger said that he had really nothing to add. The Indians were the ones most likely to introduce the cease-fire resolution. They might want to put more into the resolution in terms of conditions but perhaps it would be possible to persuade them to limit it. This was not a question, however, which could be settled at the present meeting.

Secretary Acheson suggested that Mr. Younger and Mr. Hickerson2 could settle these details.

The Prime Minister agreed.

The President said that if it met with the Prime Minister’s approval we would proceed on that basis.

The Prime Minister asked where we would go from there.

The President replied that we should hold the line in Korea if that can be done. His military advisers told him that the line was too long to be held with the forces at our disposal. However, we cannot voluntarily back out of Korea. If that is to be the result we must be forced out. He hoped that if there were a cease-fire we could hold the line. He thought that if we abandoned Korea the South Koreans would all be murdered and that we could not face that in view of the fact that they have fought bravely on our side and we have put in so much to help them. We may be subjected to bombing from Manchuria by the Russians and Chinese Communists which might destroy everything we have. He was worried about the situation. He did not like to go into a situation such as this and then to admit that we were licked. He would rather fight it to a finish. That was the way he had felt from the beginning. He would like that to be on the record. He wanted to make it perfectly plain here that we do not desert our friends when the going is rough. He thought that the Prime Minister felt the same way in his heart.

The Prime Minister said “We’re in this with you and we stand together.” He spoke of the participation of British forces in the common effort in Korea. He said the question of how long we can hold is a matter of military opinion.

The President pointed out that we must not give up voluntarily. He was still optimistic that we can hold.

The Prime Minister said this depended on whether we get a cease-fire.

The President said this was correct.

[Page 1727]

The Prime Minister said we should try to get some kind of situation in which the whole matter could be carefully considered. He said that the President can understand that the UK stands in with the United States and was with them in this whole affair.

The President expressed his appreciation for this very fine declaration which the Prime Minister had made.

The Prime Minister said we would have to watch how the matter goes on the question of a cease-fire but we should be clear in our minds on where we go from there if a cease-fire is accepted.

The President said that then would be the time for negotiations.

The Prime Minister said this was true which brought us back to the discussion yesterday on whether we stand pat as Secretary Acheson said yesterday. He wished to ask certain questions. We had started by looking at the immediate position and have decided on the next steps in the UN. While we are partners in this matter and while our position is very important, we must remember that we are acting as members of the UN. What will the UN say next? The UN took a firm line against aggression. It is vitally important to the whole future of the UN that it should not admit any condonation of aggression but we must all admit the limits on what we can do. We were all agreed yesterday on our major strategy in that we do not wish to be bogged down in an all-out war with China.

The President agreed.

The Prime Minister continued. We therefore do not want to bomb the industries in Manchuria and the various centers in China. As a matter of fact the Chinese get on without large industrial centers. In this respect they are like the Huns. They can also be supplied by the Russians. He wondered whether it was agreed that we had ruled out that kind of a war.

Secretary Acheson inquired whether we could go along a little further with the development of the Prime Minister’s idea.

The Prime Minister recalled that Secretary Acheson said that if we had to withdraw this should be the result of our having been forced out. Should we then attempt to count our losses or would we be planning to return. He thought that we had little chance of success on that. He also thought there was little chance of success in striking the Chinese elsewhere. Secretary Acheson had said we might be in a position in which while not at war with the Chinese we would not recognize them and would do all we could to impede them. The Prime Minister thought that if we were to do that it must be under some UN resolution which would be difficult to obtain. If one asked what the Chinese would do under these circumstances, the answer would be that they would cause all the trouble they can. If we pulled out of [Page 1728] Korea they would certainly have their armies and could take some of them to Indochina, Malaya, or Hong Kong. One had to consider the balance of forces. He doubted if the Chinese were very vulnerable to the kind of pressure which the Secretary of State had suggested. In regard to a blockade it should be noted that the Chinese were not greatly dependent upon the West and they could hurt us more on this than we could hurt them. It would be very hard to hold our own people and UN opinion on such a policy directed more against the civilian population than against the armed forces of China. We would be led gradually into a shooting war against China or into negotiation. The suggestion which had been put forward seemed merely to hold the line without getting us anywhere. He said that he thought we should talk very frankly about these matters in this meeting.

The President entirely agreed.

The Prime Minister continued that their appreciation of Chinese intentions differed from those of the United States. The United States thinks that the Chinese are completely subservient to the USSR and that they are not only Communists but Stalinists. There was a great difference here. They can be Marxists and yet not bow to Stalin. He agreed that it was quite true that the Chinese are hard-shelled Marxist–Leninists but it was quite possible that they were not Soviet imperialists. There was a chance of Titoism. The case of Tito was of very great importance as Stalin himself thinks. Stalin had gone ahead with his imperialist policy believing that wherever a Communist nucleus was established they had a unit fully subservient to them. In every case where the country owed its delivery to the Soviet and not to its own efforts, as in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and other satellites, this had been true but Yugoslavia was the one case where the people claimed that they had delivered themselves. Accordingly, Tito, while remaining a communist, was not a satellite. The Russians have not given very much help to China. The Chinese do not owe them very much. There is a strong mixture of Chinese nationalism in their communist attitude. One had to recognize that the old Chinese regime had become rotten and corrupt.

The President interposed to say that was true and that was what the Communists had built on.

The Prime Minister said when you have such a regime the Chinese believed that communism offered them the only alternative to the old corruption. He had discussed this situation at length with Nehru.

The President said that he had also.

The Prime Minister recalled that Nehru said that the communists took advantage of economic and social conditions to appear as deliverers. They failed in Europe where the standard of living was high but in Asia they had allied themselves with nationalism. In Burma [Page 1729] and other countries, the UK had allied itself with nationalism and those countries resisted communism. In China all of the conditions were in favor of communism. It is easy to say that China is entirely in the hands of the Russians. This is a fatalistic attitude. At least you can hope that if you back nationalism you can get Chinese imperialism opposed to Russian imperialism. Therefore, the UK had tried to drive a wedge between China and Russia. We cannot lose by trying that. We may be wrong but if so we will find it out. If we can try this without losing too much we may set up China as something independent. China had been made a great power by Franklin Roosevelt.

The President agreed.

The Prime Minister said that at the time they had not agreed thinking that China was still an inchoate mass. However, what had been theory had now been accomplished by the Chinese Communists who were emerging as a great power with a strong military force. They had faced Chinese expansionism in Malaya, in the East Indies and in Burma. All over the East the Chinese had expanded as the dominant race. To this factor was now added their military force which gives them to a large extent the leadership in Asia. They had hoped that this leadership would go to India which had absorbed so much of the West. Accordingly, they had tried to create some division between China and the USSR because opinions do change when people get some of their objectives. The Indian nationalists had waged a violent campaign against the British. The British gave them what they wanted and a very considerable change had occurred, and the Indians now recognize the values of western civilization. He had seen a very great change in the orientation of leading Indians. It is not hopeless that the Chinese are not fully imbued with Soviet ideas. They will no doubt go quite a way in the communist direction as the only alternative to a rotten regime. But Chinese civilization is very old and is accustomed to absorbing new things. They may wear the Red flag with a difference. The question was what we could do to prevent the Chinese looking to the USSR as their only friend, as a result of which they would be completely absorbed in that huge land mass. If we say that China is just part of the USSR, we link them together and play the game of Russian imperialism. The longer we can hold out without a major war the more likely it is that people behind the Iron Curtain will object to Stalin’s iron rule.

The President indicated agreement with this last point.

The Prime Minister wondered whether it was wise to follow a policy which without being effective against China leaves her with Russia as her only friend. This he said represented the general line of their thinking.

[Page 1730]

The President asked Secretary Acheson if he cared to comment.

Secretary Acheson said that he would like to make a few comments merely for the purpose of assisting the President and the Prime Minister in building up the background. We did face a very definite fork in the road if a cease-fire is adopted in the UN. If this were accepted by the Chinese Communists, hostilities would stop. Then all of the talk of our possible military action against China would not be in point since we could not start what had been stopped. Under these circumstances, as had been stated, we would enter the period of negotiation. What kind of negotiations would these be? Negotiations on the future of Korea should not be complicated by saying that we cannot start them until we seat the Chinese Communists in the UN and deal with Formosa and similar questions. Korea must be the subject of the negotiations.

The Prime Minister asked what would come after that. He had not intended to give the impression that he favored delivering all of Korea over to the Communists.

At this point Mr. Rusk handed the Secretary a report of a telephone call from Mr. Ross of the United States Delegation to the United Nations which reported that all of the Asiatic states were joining in calling upon the Chinese and North Koreans to issue a statement that they would not cross the 38th parallel.3 Sir B. N. Rau had asked Mr. Ross to ascertain whether the US and UK would object to this proposal.

Secretary Acheson said that this was a matter which was of sufficient importance to interrupt the discussion and he read the message aloud.

The Prime Minister asked what Asiatic states were included.

Mr. Rusk said he had been told that it included all of the Arab states and the states to the east of them.

The President asked whether Turkey was included and Mr. Rusk said he had no information on that point. In answer to further questions he said that he understood that both Siam and the Philippines were included.

After a brief discussion of the President with his advisers and the Prime Minister with his, The President said that if this proposal were unanimously made by all the Asiatic peoples and the Chinese refused to accept it would be a favorable development. He thought it would not be wrong for us to accept it.

The Prime Minister agreed. He said it would revise the timetable we had been discussing. It linked up with the discussion of the cease-fire [Page 1731] resolution but comes at an earlier point. This proposal might be followed by a proposal for a cease-fire.

The President agreed.

Secretary Acheson inquired whether we could say we were in favor of the suggestion.

General Marshall remarked that we had not been asked to say we were “in-favor” of it but merely whether we saw any objection. He thought it better to phrase any comment in that way.

The President and Secretary Acheson agreed and said they thought we should say that we do not see any objection.

Sir Oliver Franks inquired whether this proposal was made within the UN framework or outside.

Mr. Rusk explained that it was being discussed by delegations to the General Assembly at Lake Success but it was not planned as a resolution to be adopted by the General Assembly. It was framed as an appeal by the delegations.

The President suggested that they might decide to put it in a resolution.

Mr. Rusk said that was not, at the moment, the proposed course.

Secretary Snyder said it was merely a declaration.

Sir Oliver Franks suggested that in transmitting word to New York it would be helpful if word could also be sent to Sir Gladwyn Jebb4 that the Prime Minister and the President had agreed on this point.

The Prime Minister inquired whether this action had been taken by the delegations on their own initiative or by instruction of their governments.

Sir Roger Makins thought that they would not have acted without instructions.

Mr. Younger said that was true of most of the delegations but some of them are free to act without instructions.

The President said that he understood there was no objection to the proposal and then called on Secretary Acheson to proceed with his comments.

Secretary Acheson recalled the points he was making were thoughts which had been brought out by the remarks of the Prime Minister. He had remarked that if we got a cease-fire a period of negotiation would follow and the pattern of his thought was that such a negotiation should center on Korea. He would return later to give his reasons for this. If a cease-fire were not accepted and the fighting went on we would hold as long as we could and until we were [Page 1732] forced out. At that point we would have to consider the possibility whether we would engage in warfare against China or would take some other action which would not be friendly but which would be hostile to China. These indicated the two general courses of possible developments. Before coming to the long-range consideration regarding China, there was one important thing which ought to be mentioned and that was the attitude of the American people. He was not referring to the short-range political activities but to things which were deeply believed by sensible people. As the President said yesterday no Administration in the United States could possibly urge the American people to take vigorous action in its foreign policy on one ocean front while on the other ocean front they seemed to be rolled back and to accept a position of isolation. The public mind was not delicate enough to understand such opposing attitudes and even if it were that difference would be wrong. We were up against a fundamental proposition: if we accepted the proposition that because an aggression is a very large one we can submit to it we have changed our attitude very deeply. This would affect our attitude toward other things. This was not a question of logic but of the very integrity of the people. In common with other members of the UN we went out after a small aggressor. We are now faced by a big aggressor and we have been licked in this campaign. If we face that by saying that we adjust ourselves to it it affects the whole stand of the people. In that case we must adjust ourselves to power and aggression everywhere. This was not the whole story but it was an important point to keep in mind.

The Prime Minister inquired whether we hadn’t been forced to an attitude of saying where we could stand. The rape of Czechoslovakia was carried out under legal forms. They were not prepared to go in at that time and had to sit down. When the Berlin Blockade came along we went in. Now that we are involved in a matter including major powers we have to decide where we stand.

Secretary Acheson said there was, however, a great difference between “taking it” and “liking it”. There are indeed limits to power and we must adjust ourselves to those limits. Returning to the Prime Minister’s remarks on China, he thought that he would not find much disagreement among the President’s advisers on many of the fundamental points. He pointed out that he had probably been more bloodied by announcing these views than anyone else. He had stated them in his Press Club speech in January.5 The question was not whether this was a correct analysis but whether it was possible to act on it.

[Page 1733]

The Prime Minister said this was quite so. He thought we should be clear that the presence of Chiang Kai-shek adds difficult problems. The problem of Formosa would be very different were it not for him. The Chinese Communists regard him as their principal rival but the fact is that he is on Formosa.

The President said that this was quite a political issue in the United States since Chiang had many converts here.

The Secretary agreed that we must face the fact that Chiang was on Formosa. The question was, however, whether the Chinese would act differently in the time period which was vital to us, namely 1950 to 1954, regardless of what we do to reach a settlement. If we could act during the next four years without vitally affecting our interests then perhaps in ten or fifteen years we might see a change in the Chinese attitude but we do not have that time available. It seemed to him that the Chinese would act in the same way although it had been suggested that there would be a difference of tempo if we now give them all they asked. This might or might not be true. The question was what you have to pay and what the consequences are. If in taking a chance on the long future of China we affect the security of the United States at once, this is a bad bargain especially if our security would be affected by the influence of these steps on Japan, the Philippines and other countries. All that the Prime Minister had said was correct if we had time but we can’t buy our way into this poker game; the cost of coming in is too high.

The Secretary stated that he had wanted to give the President and the Prime Minister the flavor of this way of thinking and he also wanted to point out that we must link this problem with the problems of Europe. Whether there was a cease-fire or not a possible line is one not necessarily involving us in the bombing of the Chinese and similar military actions but merely stating frankly that our attitude is one of hostility. For fifty years we have tried to be friends with the Chinese. They have now attacked us with their armies and have denounced us violently. They have done great harm to the work of the fifty years. It may be a decade before the American people are ready to forget it, and to take the attitude that they will overlook this conduct just as if it were a question of the Chinese Communists not having learned to have good table manners. If the Chinese Communists take an attitude of hostility to the United States they will suffer more than we do. Instead of our making an effort to prove that we are their friends we ask them to prove that they are ours. Formosa is too dangerous a thing for them to have to play with. We must hold the islands. We must also proceed with vigor to our armament efforts in Europe. We must settle the questions now in dispute with the French and the [Page 1734] Germans, we must appoint the Supreme Commander and have troops in actual formation rapidly. This would provide a better chance to get our people behind the effort and to draw on the power from the United States which actually is the only source of power. It is vitally important to hold the United States in this effort as such a source. We had furnished these ideas not for the purpose of arguing with the Prime Minister but to bring out certain points.

The President remarked that we could not separate our discussion from the political problems we face. Mr. Acheson had brought out the need to carry our people with us. Our interest in the Pacific is too great to desert Japan, the Philippines, Canada or Alaska and to run out on it because we have been licked in a campaign in Korea.

The Prime Minister said he was very sensible to those points but he would note that it was also important to consider the UN and the importance of Asian opinion.

The President said there was nothing more serious than Asian opinion.

Secretary Acheson suggested that to weaken the security of the United States would be even more so.

The Prime Minister agreed that this was an important part of it. We want to keep Japan and the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Pakistan and all the other Asian powers. We need to hold the line in the UN. He agreed strongly concerning the European question. The best line was to keep marching together. There was, however, a danger of a deteriorating situation in the East. He did not know enough of Japanese feeling to comment upon that. He thought, however, that the Japanese might think America’s real objection to meeting with the Chinese was that China was an Asiatic power and that we were not willing to treat them as an equal. Of course, we must consider political opinion in both the UK and the United States. He was frank in saying that opinion in the UK had no sympathy with Chiang Kai-shek or on the question of Formosa. The United States must consider its opinion but both the United States and the UK must act as members of the UN.

Sir Oliver Franks said he thought a good deal had been agreed upon in connection with plans in the UN. If a cease-fire is suggested without strings, we like it. If there is no cease-fire we don’t wish to contemplate a voluntary withdrawal from Korea and allowing for our very different roles in Korea, the UK wanted to go along with the United States and therefore their units help to carry out the task. If resistance can be continued in Korea we may get to the negotiating stage later. If the cease-fire were not accepted there would be no chance for negotiations. The Chinese troops, by sheer force of numbers, may [Page 1735] compel an honorable withdrawal. We would not then be giving away. Then the UN and the United States which had suffered most would have done all they could for Korea even though that was not enough. The UN would have failed with honor. It had been said yesterday and elaborated by Secretary Acheson that we should follow up our attitude against aggression with determination to defend Korea as long as we could. We should maintain our attitude against aggression in the face of the greater aggression. In that connection, it had been suggested we should think of economic sanctions and aiding movements in China which might break down the Chinese Communist Government. For his part he was undecided and not convinced now that that attitude and that course of action was in the best interest of all of us. He did not see how even if we were both agreed on this course we could get much UN support. If there is little support in the UN, it is a ground for questioning this policy. It would be hard to go ahead without UN sanction. It would not be easy to bring damage to China quickly. On the other hand, considerable and rapid damage could be done to the UK in Hong Kong and Malaya. Would not the proposed course tend to provoke the Chinese to see what they could do against us in those places. It would increase the tempo of their action and he wondered whether we wished to do this. This made him, and he thought the Prime Minister, doubt whether the policy suggested by Secretary Acheson was the right one to follow. He thought this should be clarified in these discussions. He wished to return to the question of negotiations if there were a cease-fire or if continuing resistance proves to be possible in Korea without a cease-fire. He understood some of the American public opinion which had been referred to and had no comment to make on that. On the question whether or not Formosa should be involved in any negotiation, if he thought that this involved a stride on the slippery slope, he did not want to do that. Another question was Chinese Communist membership in the UN. This would probably come up in any negotiation on the Korean question and many Asiatics would support them. The United Kingdom had followed that position and was not changing it. They might be wrong but the point was bound to arise in any negotiation. He hoped that all views on this question would be brought out.

The Prime Minister noted that these questions were already on the table in the UN.

Mr. Younger said that both the question of seating the Chinese Communists and the question of Formosa were on the agenda but were in a quiescent state.

The Prime Minister said that accordingly, this would not be entering a new negotiation but going on with an old one. He wondered [Page 1736] whether we should not continue to discuss the question of seating the Chinese Communists in the UN.

Secretary Acheson said this was connected with the previous discussion. He did not say very much about it but hoped to provoke General Marshall to speak. He thought that Sir Oliver Franks had very forcibly raised the question of what we did do against the Chinese. He didn’t think it was possible to know at this point. One aspect of the present situation was that any one who put up an idea subjected himself to powerful attack. It was hard to suggest any position which could not be successfully attacked. He agreed there might be great trouble in bombing China. This might lead to a chain of circumstances which had to be carefully considered. The question was not so much the ends of a policy but whether you start by accepting the results of aggression and say to the aggressors that they had licked us and can collect their price. Would we go on and say that we are friendly to the aggressors, that we want to trade with them and seat them in the UN? The proposal had that flavor. If there is a cease-fire and a negotiation, the approach should be that we would negotiate on the future of Korea. If the Chinese were intransigent on this point, he hoped that no one would be favorable to seat them in the UN.

The President remarked that this certainly would not be good from the point of view of maintaining our position in American opinion.

Secretary Acheson added that it was not so much the unreasonable political attacks in the United States—the President has successfully bucked that kind of attack, but it was a body of sound opinion on this question to which he had already referred.

General Marshall said that with the failure of the campaign in Korea with the attitude of the Chinese in their triumph and with what goes on behind the scenes, we are greatly weakened if Formosa goes to them. As a military matter only, with Japan to the north and the Philippines and Indonesia, the problem which would confront us would be the driving of a wedge in among these island defenses. They could make it awkward for us and we could be greatly weakened.

General Bradley added that when we started in Korea we had felt we must draw the line somewhere. We may fail in Korea but if so, we must draw the line on Formosa. People could not understand why we changed so much if we yielded entirely.

General Marshall stated that we must look at Formosa as a wedge. We would be taking a step to liquidate our position in the Pacific if we surrendered it. It is hard enough any way to settle the Japanese question. From the military point of view it was very dangerous to give up Formosa. There were other dangers in Indochina, Malaya, and Hong Kong, but if we split the island chain that would really be serious.

[Page 1737]

General Bradley added that the loss of Formosa would cut our line of communication. Planes which now fly directly from the Philippines to Okinawa would have to detour and would not have the range. The holding of Formosa by the enemy would also supply him with submarine bases and increase the range of their aircraft.

The Prime Minister said these were sound military points but that as a military matter it was not in accord with the Cairo Declaration in which we said that Formosa belongs to China.

Secretary Acheson said this was more of a problem for the UK than for the United States. The United States says it does belong to China and that the Chinese actually have it and are in possession of it. He recalled that the Cairo Declaration also talked about Korea. The Russians and the Chinese were violating the Cairo undertakings about Korea. In effect, they were saying that all their promises mean nothing but that we must give full performance on ours. He recalled that the doctrine of failure of consideration was an old legal proposition. At Cairo we had been talking about another Chinese Government not one equipped with Soviet planes and pilots. This is a very different situation.

Mr. Scott inquired whether it would be possible to separate Formosa from the question of the recognition of Chiang Kai-shek. The arguments on the military aspect of Formosa seemed to him to be very strong ones but Chiang was a definite provocation.

Secretary Acheson said it would be helpful to explore this point and wondered if General Marshall would speak since he was the expert on Chiang Kai-shek.

Mr. Scott said in settling the Korean question we must settle the matter of the Chinese seat in the UN which requires a change in our attitude toward Chiang. At the same time it might be possible to safeguard Formosa. That question could be separated from the recognition of the government.

General Marshall said that from his knowledge he could say that it would be difficult to find a replacement for Chiang with his stature as a leader. It had been brutally evident that there was no aggressive leadership aside from him in his own or in independent parties, except perhaps for Mao Tse-Tung, who was then in the hills. He was now out of touch with the situation but the question depended on who would step into Chiang’s place and fill his role vis-à-vis the Chinese Communists. General Marshall had held Chiang free from personal corruption but his followers and party were corrupt. Chiang was well-intentioned and was not personally getting rich but was the victim of his associates with whom he would not or could not break. It might be that the Prime Minister thought that no replacement was needed but then what would happen on Formosa.

[Page 1738]

Mr. Scott suggested that it might be put on ice with a UN Commission.

General Marshall said that might be all right if you could do it but there would be heavy pressure against you.

Secretary Acheson recalled that we had hoped that the Formosan question could be carried on in the UN but no UN Commission could defend Formosa against the Chinese Communists, only naval and air force could keep them out. There would not only be no right but a positive wrong in doing this. We would be merely going through a form and then letting them take it. He wondered whether the suggestion had been to leave Chiang on the island as a local leader or to take him off.

The Prime Minister suggested that a UN Commission on the island could hold it until the Chinese Communists behave.

Secretary Snyder inquired whether he meant a UN Trusteeship.

The Prime Minister said that he had in mind something like that.

The President said this was worth considering.

Secretary Snyder said this pre-supposed that Chiang would cooperate.

The Prime Minister inquired whether he would not have to do what he was told.

The President remarked that the conversations had been most interesting and constructive. He hoped they would continue. He had to attend a Cabinet meeting at 5:00 and if it were agreeable they would adjourn until 11:30 the next morning and seek to reach agreement on the matters which had been talked about.

Secretary Acheson said there was one matter which he wished to mention before they adjourned. The French Cabinet was to meet tomorrow morning. A proposal had been made that he should write a letter to Schuman explaining our attitudes on the French proposal. The UK had not been sympathetic with this but in our view something must be done to move the matter along. He was sure that the Prime Minister would want to communicate with London on the suggestion and wondered if it would be satisfactory for us to continue talks with Sir Oliver Franks.

The Prime Minister and The President agreed.6

Sir Oliver Franks said that the matter was urgent and that they would need to send a cable to Mr. Bevin.

Sir Roger Makins said that only last Monday, Mr. Bevin had spoken in Parliament and there was a very marked difference of opinion in what he had said and in the proposed line. He thought some discussion would be useful. The French position had changed in the last few days. On Saturday they had favored a proposal for a [Page 1739] High Commissioner as an alternative to a European Defense Minister but now they had swung back to the latter alternative and were asking US blessing on that.

Secretary Acheson said that any solution to move forward was better than doing nothing.

The President said he thought that something could be done. He then read a proposed press statement which was approved by the Prime Minister:

“The President and the Prime Minister held their second meeting this afternoon on board the Williamsburg. They resumed their discussion of the situation in Korea and of steps to be taken to meet it.

There will be a further meeting of the President and Prime Minister at 11:30 tomorrow, Wednesday morning, at the White House.”7

  1. Sir Edwin Plowden, Chairman of the Economic Planning Board; Kenneth G. Younger, Minister of State.
  2. John D. Hickerson, Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs.
  3. For the text of the appeal by the Asiatic states, see vol. vii, p. 1488.
  4. Sir H. M. Gladwyn Jebb, British Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
  5. For the text of Secretary Acheson’s speech before the National Press Club on January 12, see Department of State Bulletin, January 23, 1950, pp. 111–118.
  6. No record of further discussion between Secretary Acheson and Ambassador Franks has been found in the Department of State files.
  7. Attached to the source text was a copy of the six-power resolution, U.N. Doc. S/1894, not printed here.