The British Embassy to the Department of State 1

top secret

Message From Mr. Bevin to Sir Oliver Franks Dated 7th July 1950

If the Soviet Government genuinely desire a peaceful settlement, it is possible that they in fact would agree to use their influence in the manner suggested. I cannot foresee precisely how they would extricate [Page 330] themselves from the difficult position in which they have placed themselves, but Soviet ingenuity could no doubt find some face-saving device.

We must expect however that if the Soviet Government do show a readiness to co-operate in re-establishing the status quo in Korea, they will almost certainly raise the question of Formosa, having regard to the situation which the President’s declaration of 27th June creates. It also seems to us, that the question of Chinese representation in the United Nations would be raised and become acute, the Russians arguing that they could not play their part in the Security Council with China not represented.

I think that Mr. Acheson and the United States Government should appreciate, and I put it to them very frankly, the way I see the situation which is as follows.

The United States have the whole-hearted backing of world opinion in the courageous initiative they took to deal with the aggression in Korea. I do not believe they could rely on the same support for their declared policy in connexion with Formosa. Not only would many powers, particularly Asian powers, dislike the prospect of an extension of the dispute which might follow if the Central People’s Government were to attempt an attack on Formosa, but some undoubtedly feel that, now that the Central People’s Government are in control of all Chinese territory, it would not be justifiable, in view of the pledge under the Cairo declaration,2 to take steps which might prejudice the ultimate handing over of the territory to China. India especially, as Mr. Acheson will have heard from the United States Ambassador at Delhi, is very sensitive on this aspect of United States policy. In general I think that the United States Government would be wise in their public statements to concentrate on the Korean issue and play down the other parts of the President’s statement of 27th June, otherwise there may be a risk of a breach in the international solidarity happily achieved over Korea.

Thus the latest Soviet move has forced us to ask ourselves the question what the attitude of the United States would be if the Russians agreed to help in restoring the status quo in Korea in return for United States readiness to reconsider their present declared attitude in regard to Formosa.

Finally I want Mr. Acheson to know that I am keenly alive to the possibility, and even likelihood, that this Soviet move has a sinister significance. For example, the Russians, knowing there is a divergence of policy between Great Britain and the United States in regard to China, may well calculate that their move may increase the divergence. We must both be on our guard against this. Moreover the move may be no more than a manoeuvre in the Soviet peace campaign, launched [Page 331] with the object of courting a refusal, though personally I am inclined to doubt this. Finally we must bear in mind that a restoration of the status quo in Korea may merely result, in the long run, in a development similar to that in Czechoslovakia. Clearly there can meanwhile be no relaxation of the military effort.

Mr. Acheson will understand my feeling that this is a time for us to be frank with each other. I know he will answer me with equal frankness.

  1. This message was handed to Mr. Acheson by the British Ambassador at 3 p. m. on July 8; see telegram 177 to London, July 11, 8 p. m., p. 365.
  2. Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943, p. 448.