S/P Files: Lot 64 D 563

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, Prepared in the Department of State

top secret

Participants: First Party and Second Party.

Second Party called First Party about 9:00 p. m. on January 29. He passed along a message from Third Party.

Third Party had had “quite a bit of contact” with his principals in Peiping. Third Party reported that he had received a letter written by [name deleted]. It was dated two weeks previously. It indicated that those “at the top” had come to accept the view, as relayed by Third Party, that an accommodation between the United States and Peiping was possible and that war was not inevitable (note by First Party—this presumably represents a revision of the estimate … to the effect that the United States was obdurately antagonistic toward Peiping and that an accommodation was impossible even were Peiping to make concessions).

Second Party said that Third Party quoted [name deleted] letter as saying that the top level in Peiping took very seriously the suggestion that the Peiping Government should give evidence of a desire to reach accommodation by making the first move. Accordingly Chinese forces in Korea would proceed to break contact and to withdraw in order to provide the foundation for a solution that would save face for everyone concerned. This was the best that the Peiping régime could do inasmuch as “their friends” (the U.S.S.R.) were looking over their shoulders.

Third Party said that the letter from [name deleted] had stated that Peiping felt that the retraction northward of its forces would be the first move and that Peiping would be awaiting the United States’ reaction thereto. Peiping was most anxious to get together with the United States and talk. First Party inquired of Second Party whether any indication had been given as to where Peiping wished the talks to take place—in or out of the United Nations. Second Party said that he was sure that either arrangement would be acceptable. Second Party quoted Third Party as saying that the letter from [name deleted] went on to state that it would be necessary for Peiping to “talk big” so as to keep its partner (the U.S.S.R.) happy. This would have to continue.

[Name deleted] letter was quoted as saying that Peiping recognized the problems which would confront the United States in attempting to bring about a detent and an accommodation. The letter was quoted as saying that those within the United States Government attempting to [Page 1531] work out this problem with Peiping would also need to recognize that Peiping had similar problems, particularly its problems with its big brother (the U.S.S.R.).

The letter was quoted as emphasizing that those in power in Peiping meant business in this approach. They were said to wish to withdraw completely from Korea and to be determined to avoid an all-out war with the United States.

Second Party passed on the information that Third Party believed that the spokesmen for Peiping meant everything they said regarding the “present United Nations resolution”.1 (This apparently referred to the pending resolution calling for the naming of the Peiping régime as an aggressor).…

On January 30, about 10:20 a. m., First Party called Second Party to clear up certain elements in the conversation as recorded above.

The first question raised was as to who was meant by the earlier reference to the “top level” in Peiping. First Party raised the question whether [name deleted] was passing on Chou En-lai’s reactions or the views of the Government, including those of Mao Tse-tung. First Party referred to the consideration that it seemed unlikely that a démarche of this character would be undertaken without the approval of Mao. Second Party said that the letter as quoted to him had given no direct indication one way or the other as to whether Mao’s views were reflected in [name deleted] letter.

The question was raised also as to the meaning of the retraction northward. Second Party said definitely that the letter had declared Peiping’s intention to give up Seoul without a fight and to withdraw all of its forces north of the 38th parallel without giving appreciable battle to the UN forces.

Second Party gave two points not specifically covered in the earlier report on the letter. He said he had had them in mind but had forgotten to put them across in the earlier conversation. The first point was to the effect that the domestic situation on the Chinese mainland had deteriorated badly and that the Peiping régime was not confident of popular support in pursuing an intransigent line vis-à-vis the UN and the United States. The second point was that those in power in Peiping were taking a “now or never” attitude—that is to say, they believe they were badly over-committed, that they face the danger of a war [Page 1532] which they could not afford to fight and could not successfully conclude and that they believed it necessary to push forward arrangements for a peaceful conclusion as rapidly as possible so as to avert the imminently threatened war.

First Party said that the factor of the timing of Third Party’s communications with his principals was most important. He raised the question how long it required for a message to go from Third Party to Peiping. He asked Second Party to get definite information on this.

First Party called Second Party at 7:30 p.m. on January 30. He told Second Party that it was important for him to get three points over to Third Party.

The first point was that the whole record of the communications involving First Party and Second Party was being given closest study at high and authoritative levels in the United States Government. Third Party’s report quoting his letter from [name deleted] had been carefully reviewed. It was regarded as of the highest importance.

The second point was that the report of [name deleted] letter had reached the United States Government too late to make it possible to call off or defer the pending action on the resolution to pin the aggressor label on the Peiping Government. This led to a question as to whether the United States attitude might have been different if the message had arrived earlier. First Party said that it was pointless to speculate along this line. Second Party said Third Party had been most gravely distressed over the delay in receiving the letter. He said that Third Party had reflected an understanding that in view of the delay it would be impossible to arrest the course of events at Lake Success. The action would have to move forward. The wheels of government, once set in motion, are almost impossible to stop in a hurry. The United States public posture in relation to the aggressor resolution should be judged on this statement and in light of the statement that [name deleted] letter was taken very seriously.

The third point was that Third Party should expect another important message through the same channel in a very short time.

First Party stressed to Second Party that he should impress upon Third Party that the current message and the important message to follow should be communicated to his principles with all possible speed. First Party also said that those in high authority in this Government understood Peiping’s problems of having to take public postures which were quite different from the undisclosed intentions. It was essential that those in determining positions in Peiping should have the same understanding of the problems of the United States Government.

In this light it was important that the action on the aggressor resolution [Page 1533] not be interpreted as foreclosing an eventual amicable settlement of issues with Peiping. First Party said that it was not impracticable to speculate that a double chain of events might be set up so as to permit both Peiping and Washington to work their way covertly toward the peaceful solution which both apparently wished to bring about and at the same time to dissimulate their course of action by the public attitudes which their respective situations required.

  1. Sir Benegal Rau, the Indian Representative at the United Nations, had stated on January 29 that his government had been informed “on the highest authority” that if a condemnatory resolution passed, there was no hope of a peaceful settlement. See U.N. document A/C.1/SR.435, pars. 37–38; see also telegram 1190 to New Delhi, January 30, p. 148, telegram 1888 from New Delhi, January 31, p. 149, and telegram 4195 from London, January 31, p. 1545. For text of the draft resolution introduced by Ambassador Austin on January 20, see editorial note, p. 115; for text of Resolution 498 (V), passed by the First Committee on January 31 and by the General Assembly on February 1, see p. 150.