Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Merchant)

top secret

Subject: KMT Troops in Burma

Participants: Mr. Christopher Steel, Minister, British Embassy
Mr. F. S. Tomlinson, Counselor, British Embassy
FE—Mr. Merchant
PSA—Mr. Lacy1

The British Minister and Mr. Tomlinson called on me today at 3 p. m. at their request. Mr. Steel described his Government as deeply disturbed by the attitude of the Burmese Government towards the [Page 278] reported presence in Burma of Chinese Nationalist troops. He said that as a consequence of their eagerness to drive Chinese Nationalist troops from Burma, the Burmese Government was dispatching armed contingents to the northern border of the country, thereby leaving important areas in central Burma unprotected (In this connection he referred to certain oil installations which the British Government wished protected by Burmese troops). Mr. Steel went on to say that the Burmese were convinced that the United States is involved in equipping and possibly directing the Chinese Nationalist troops in Burma and that his Government feared that unless every possible measure were taken to get the nationalist troops out of Burma we might well face, in the near future, the unpleasant contingency of Chinese Communists and Burmese troops operating in concert against Chinese Nationalists. [It was inescapably clear that the British Government like the Burmese Government is convinced that the United States Government is involved in equipping the Kuomintang contingents.]2

Mr. Steel, making reference to previous assurances from Departmental officials that American personnel was not involved with the Kuomintang troops, suggested that “bygones be bygones” and that American and British undercover agents “get together” on his matter in Burma to the end that common action to solve this problem be taken.

I assured Mr. Steel and Mr. Tomlinson that, as they had been previously assured by Mr. Lacy, I had no knowledge of the involvement of any American nationals with the Kuomintang troops in question. I told my visitors that we had done everything possible to induce the Chinese Government at Taipei to direct Li Min and his troops to pass over from Burma to Yunnan; that we understood the Taipei Government to have done so; that we supposed the Government at Taipei had virtually no control over these troops; but that we believed most of them had passed over the Burmese frontier into China where they had been joined by defectors from Chinese communist ranks and had successfully engaged Chinese communist contingents in Yunnan. I said that I assumed the British would share our pleasure upon learning that the Kuomintang troops were successful in causing the Communist troops trouble.

There followed some discussion of the position and number of the Kuomintang troops at this moment: Mr. Steel was unable to say whether his Government believed that Li Mi retained bases in Burma or whether there was a significant number of Kuomintang troops left on the Burmese side of the border.

I told Mr. Steel that I would assemble all available information concerning this problem and communicate with them within a few days [Page 279] concerning our estimate of the situation. Having assured Mr. Steel that my Government shared his Government’s concern that this troublesome problem be solved this discussion was brought to a close.

  1. William S. B. Lacy, Director, Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs.
  2. Brackets appear in the source text.