Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 185

United States Delegation Minutes
top secret
strictly limited distribution

The President opened the meeting by saying that he understood that it was desired to have additional members of delegations present when the questions of security guarantees and Indo-China were discussed, but that the meeting should be restricted for the discussion of Far Eastern and Middle Eastern problems. Sir Winston Churchill then said he would like to discuss what was to be done if the truce were to break down.

The President then said that he would ask Secretary Dulles to express our position on this. He understood that the French would want additional members of the delegation in for the discussion on Indo-China. They could discuss the Far East in the first place, then the Middle East and finally follow with a discussion on Indo-China. Sir Winston then stated that he hoped the meeting would be held particularly secret. He said he wished to bring up the question of the Suez Canal in which the French also had a historic interest as well as a financial interest. The President then said that they might begin discussion by having Secretary Dulles make a statement on the Far East.

Secretary Dulles said that the Far Eastern situation was a very confusing one for our policies were at variance with each other. This was not surprising. The Soviets were also somewhat confused and, as [Page 1809] M. Bidault had mentioned, they had had three ambassadors to China in eighteen months.1 The Secretary felt the Chinese Communist rule was pretty solidly established, though less so in the South and North. There did not appear to exist in an open form resistance forces seriously threatening the Communist rule over the mainland. In the question of relations between Communist China and the USSR, it was difficult to come to a clear conclusion but he thought we were justified in believing that there was strain. This would seem logical. Mao Tse-tung was himself an outstanding Communist leader in his own right. His prestige, while less than that of Stalin was greater than Malenkov’s. It was natural, therefore, that there should be a certain unwillingness on the part of Mao to be dictated to by Moscow as had been possible with Stalin because of the latter’s enormous prestige resulting from his internal and external victories. Stalin’s prestige had been such that Mao could be second to him. This was not the case with Malenkov. The very fact that the Soviet Communist leaders went to such extremes to eulogize Mao and push him forward as a major figure in the international scene was partly because of self-interest and partly because of the necessity of treating Mao as an equal partner on the world scene. The fact that this relationship exists is important and may eventually give us an opportunity for promoting division between the Soviet Union and Communist China in our own common interest.

There were major differences between the three powers in their approach to this problem, especially as between the United Kingdom and the United States. It was the view of the United States that the best hope for intensifying the strain and difficulties between Communist China and Russia would be to keep the Chinese under maximum pressure rather than by relieving such pressure. There were two theories for dealing with this problem. One was that by being nice to the Communist Chinese we could wean them away from the Soviets, and the other was that pressure and strain would compel them to make more demands on the USSR which the latter would be unable to meet and the strain would consequently increase.

The United States adhered to the latter view that pressure should be maintained on Communist China both politically and economically and, to the extent possible without war, military pressure should likewise be maintained. In the view of the United States this was the course to be followed rather than to seek to divide the Chinese and the Soviets by a sort of competition with Russia as to who would treat China best. This would put China in the best of worlds. The Secretary felt that if contradictory policies were applied to China, none of [Page 1810] them could make progress toward success and each would cancel out the other’s efforts. He felt a very serious effort should be made to try to bring policies on China into closer harmony than was the case at present. We recognize the fact that the United Kingdom had given political recognition to the Communist regime in China. The Secretary had understood from what the Prime Minister had said the other day that this did not carry moral approbation. The British had said that one must recognize even one’s enemies. This was true, but the fact that they were recognized did not mean that you had to give them aid of a political, moral or economic nature. The conduct of Communist China as a proclaimed aggressor in Korea, promoting aggression in Indo-China and generally attempting to arouse all Asia against the Western Powers created a situation which brought up the question as to whether they should be given de facto recognition. The Secretary did not feel that we should give them aid and comfort as was the case when some seemed to promote the admission of Communist China to the United Nations despite the standard of conduct required of members of the United Nations, i.e., to be peace-loving countries willing to undertake the obligations of the Charter. That seemed to be carrying recognition far beyond the conditions of the recognition of a de facto government. The Secretary felt that if we could align policies in the United Nations, taking the position that Communist China was an aggressor in Korea, as well as a promoter of aggression in Indo-China, and she had not proved her willingness to be peace loving and faithful to the obligations of the United Nations Charter, this would be helpful in establishing a common policy with some chance of success. As things stood now, some opposed the admission of Communist China to the United Nations while others were supporting it, despite its derelictions. This cleavage could be exploited by our enemies so that the policies of neither of us would be effective.

The Secretary said that he was mentioning the point at this time because the moratorium agreement at present in effect on preventing this issue from coming up in prolonged debate would expire at the end of December, and the whole question of future policy on this subject would force itself on our attention. The first thing we could expect after this recess would be the resumption of the move by Vishinsky for acceptance of the credentials of the Communist regime in China and we must have agreement on that point.

The Secretary said that he had spoken of political relations with Communist China, but it was important also to consider the question of commercial relations. All of us were at present carrying out a trade program involving an embargo on the shipments to China of strategic materials. The United States for its part embargoed all trade with [Page 1811] Communist China. This was a difficult and complicated subject. As the President had often said in talking over similar problems with the Secretary, there seems to be a generally accepted belief that trade benefits the other fellow and not you. This is not correct. Trade needs to be appraised on its merits as to whether it will benefit you or the other more. We recognize that there were some special situations such as Indonesia and Malaya where there were, so to speak, single crops which we were not anxious to buy ourselves but did not wish them to sell to Communist China. The rigor of our policy might defeat their purpose by creating economic conditions in these countries that would drive them into the arms of the Communists. It should be within our ability to find a rational answer to this problem. If we could do away with the impression in the United States that the United Kingdom was doing what it did because it loved Communist China, and if a common political approach could be achieved, it would be a great deal easier to obtain acceptance for what we do in the economic field in our own interest and it would not be believed that we were helping the Communists.

In Korea, said the Secretary, we had an armistice.2 When he said we, he meant the United Nations whose mandatories we were. There were many people in the United States who believed this armistice had been a mistake because it took the strain off Communist China. In connection with the United Nations in Korea, the United States had not declared war. Constitutionally, the President could not continue the war without action by Congress except within the limits that the United Nations thought correct. The United Nations had decided by resolution, before President Eisenhower had been elected, that if we could get an armistice along the terms of the Indian resolution, this would be desirable if the terms reflected defeat of an aggressor who had been driven back beyond his starting point and the Communist surrendered on the issue of the non-forcible repatriation of prisoners. Under these conditions the United Nations felt the armistice should be accepted. We were able to obtain it under these conditions. The principal reason we were able to obtain the armistice was because we were prepared for a much more intensive scale of warfare. It should not be improper to say at such a restricted gathering that we had already sent the means to the theater for delivering atomic weapons. This became known to the Chinese Communists through their good intelligence sources and in fact we were not unwilling that they should find out. The Secretary said that he wished to emphasize that the armistice [Page 1812] had been obtained from a position of strength and not of weakness. The armistice was in effect and we would do all we could to honorably preserve it and prevent a renewal of the fighting.

He said there was, however, a danger of a breach. Such a danger arose from two quarters, from the Communists and from the ROK, meaning Syngman Rhee. Rhee was a problem of considerable difficulty. This, added the Secretary, was probably the understatement of the year. He did not think that any nation had ever exerted itself as fully with such a great combination of generosity on the one hand and threats on the other, as we had done to keep Rhee in line. Mr. Robertson had negotiated with him at great length, as had the Secretary himself.

Mr. Dulles felt that there was at least a high degree of probability that Rhee would not unilaterally resume hostilities even if no political conference were held or if it were to fail. He made this prediction with some hesitation as President Rhee was rather unpredictable. We had acted effectively in many ways to create a situation where it was highly unlikely that he would implement the threats he so often made of resuming war. The Secretary said that he felt he should add that no statement of this kind dealing with the problems of handling Rhee should be allowed to obscure the fact that he was a great patriot and leader of anti-Communist forces, that he had sustained the spirit and morale of his people under most difficult conditions and for this the whole free world owes him a debt of gratitude.

The Secretary then said he would like to tell M. Bidault an amusing story in this connection concerning Indo-China. He (the Secretary) had asked a Frenchman from Indo-China what was needed to win the war there, and the answer had been “Syngman Rhee”. M. Bidault broke in to say, “It’s a deal.”

There was likewise the danger that the war might be resumed by the Chinese Communists. Over this we had no direct control. The Seccretary said if this should happen, he felt the others ought to know that it would not be our intention to allow the war to persist as it had prior to the armistice with troop movements on the ground and fighting from entrenched positions with little chance of effective results for either side other than attrition of men and money. If there had not been an armistice, we intended to make a stronger and more vigorous effort and if hostilities were resumed we should do this. It was not our intention to do anything that would probably lead to a general war or which would bring the Soviet Union overtly into the conflict.

We would expect to attack with the most effective means the air bases the enemy was using for his effort in Korea. We would implement the doctrine of hot pursuit without being limited by the boundary [Page 1813] between North Korea and Manchuria. We would expect to take such action as seemed best to us to achieve a decisive result in Korea. There was some question as to whether it would ever be possible to hold indefinitely the line of the boundary of North Korea which was over 600 miles long running from a point close to Port Arthur to one near Vladivostok. This might not be readily defensible, but there were positions north of the present line which in case of military success could be held more advantageously. The knowledge that we intended to do this could be the greatest preventive to a resumption of hostilities. It was the knowledge of our willingness to use force that had brought about an end to the hostilities. A knowledge by the other side of our willingness and ability to wage a more intensive and vigorous war than had been the case up to the armistice. We were convinced that their knowledge of that intention on our part was a primary reason for the end of hostilities. The fact that we had such resolution was most likely to prevent a recurrence.

We knew that the Communists were taking steps to strengthen their position in North Korea by building air fields and taking other measures and they could readily create a situation where they might feel that it might be advantageous for them to resume the kind of war that had been going on up to the armistice. We doubt, said the Secretary, that they would like the kind of a war we would fight if the armistice were broken, and we would hope that if that should develop we would have both the moral and military support of the British Commonwealth. We knew that France was engaged in a major struggle in Indo-China and needed her forces there. Mr. Dulles understood that the French had withdrawn their battalion from the United Nations Command in Korea and this had been done with their full approval. We consider this an appropriate redeployment. We would hope that the British Commonwealth would share in the renewal of hostilities if the armistice were broken. That knowledge would be an added deterrent. We shared strongly the philosophy Sir Winston had so often expressed that much could be avoided if we were strong, vigorous and united and let this be known in advance so that there would be no miscalculation of weakness and division on our part. Secretary Dulles felt that the First and Second World Wars might well have been avoided if the enemy had known in advance of our unity and determination. He would hope for a similar show of unity by all three powers, and that if this should occur that the Commonwealth forces in Korea would operate in that theater while the French in association with the associated states were waging a hard battle in Indo-China.

The Secretary then said that he would like to add two more thoughts. First that we anticipate, in view of the present quiet in Korea, that it [Page 1814] might be desirable for us to withdraw from Korea part of the ground forces there as they are replaced by newly organized ROK units. Our program for the ROKs had been for twenty divisions—there were now seventeen. Three of them were awaiting training and equipment. Under the armistice we had undertaken not to increase our net strength. As more ROK divisions are created we would have to subtract from our overall forces. From every standpoint one or two United States divisions might be better located elsewhere. If this were done as envisaged, it would serve as a warning to Rhee that he could not commit us on land and it would be notice to everyone that if the war were resumed, we would probably resume it with more sea and air power and less land forces in Korea.

The second thought the Secretary would like to express was that everything he had said about deterring Rhee from any action to reopen hostilities applied equally strongly to Chiang Kai-Shek on Formosa. Our ability to influence the latter situation is greater than is the case in Korea because Formosa is an island. Chiang needs help and we have given him additional air, on condition that it not be used for more land adventures without our prior agreement. One might ask what was our purpose in aiding Chiang. There were two purposes, one was that this aid helped to hold the island which would probably fall without it to the Communists, and this would be a serious breach in the off-shore island chain anchored on the Korean and Indo-Chinese peninsulas and running through Japan, Formosa and the Philippines.

If contrary to all our hopes, expectations, and plans, general war were to break out the threat from Formosa would tend to concentrate a large measure of Communist strength opposite Formosa. There were at present some 400,000 Communist Chinese troops stationed opposite Formosa guarding against invasion. The Communists were unwilling to expose their seacoast. This was another of the measures we liked to pursue on the theory of exerting maximum strain causing the Chinese Communists to demand more from Russia and thereby placing additional stress on Russian-Chinese relations.

Mr. Eden then said that they had listened with the greatest interest to every word in the masterly survey of Far Eastern problems by the Secretary of State. Mr. Eden said that it was a puzzling question to know how far we can by our actions help to foster a division of opinion between the Chinese Communists and the Russians. It probably to some extent exists and will grow. History was on our side, for these two had never worked harmoniously together for long, but it might be long for in China things take centuries which require but years elsewhere. They were trying to divide the three of us, just as we were trying to divide them, and that in itself was in a measure an excuse for [Page 1815] argument for not thinking it wise to break off all contacts, however unsatisfactory our relationship with the Chinese Communists might be at present. The Foreign Secretary said that he would not go into the question of recognition at that time, all were familiar with the reasons for which it had been done and how it had been done. We should freely admit that we had a problem to face at the United Nations in February and we should immediately start talks. He would, of course, like to consult the Commonwealth Governments so that we might work out a common line to be used in February. It would be very bad if we found ourselves in disarray.

Another problem which worried Mr. Eden was the question of trade. He was certain that the Prime Minister agreed with him that recognition never meant that we should give comfort and aid to China, but in the question of trade we should give comfort and aid to ourselves and our friends and try to prevent the worst from happening. He was worried about some aspects of this situation. In the matter of rubber, Malaya was selling none, while Ceylon and Indonesia were. Malaya was aware of this and was restive. The only other product they had to sell was tin and the United States well knew the difficulties inherent in marketing this. It was quite true that if some trade could not be carried on this might well create conditions in these countries which would help the Communists. This was the dilemma before which we found ourselves. While trying not to aid China we might create difficult conditions for these countries. This was a matter about which Mr. Eden felt the three powers should talk further. He understood that this situation was charged with dynamite in the United States, but on the political side they also had difficulties at home.

Concerning the Korean problem, Mr. Eden recognized how hard the United States had worked in trying to deal with Syngman Rhee since the armistice. He felt it fair to say that the United States which had borne, the chief burden of the fighting had also borne the chief burden in the diplomatic field in trying to restrain Rhee to a reasonable line of conduct.

It had been with a view to meeting the dangers of a rupture of the armistice from the other side that the British had joined the United States and the other sixteen countries which had forces fighting in Korea in issuing a warning which had been put out some time ago.3 The Secretary of State had given some indication of United States action if there were a breach of the armistice by the Communists. He had made it clear that the United States Government did not wish to return to the type of war that had been fought before the armistice, [Page 1816] nor would they wish to provoke a general war. Mr. Eden felt it might be extremely difficult to draw the line on this point. He would suggest that the United Nations whose mandatories we were be brought in at the earliest possible moment and their consent or approval obtained for the steps which the United States thought necessary. On some things there would be no difficulty, such as hot pursuit which had always been contemplated if there were fresh hostilities. Some of the other matters were new. The British regarded the question of the use of other weapons as new. The United States on the other hand was more and more inclined to regard these as conventional. However, neither the British nor the United Nations had had a chance to consider these aspects of the problem, nor how to assess military targets other than those immediately across the Yalu. Would not something of this nature bring the Soviet-Chinese Treaty into effect? This was something that would have to be carefully considered. There was also the matter of a blockade. The present British Government opposed this as much as its predecessor, because it did not believe it could be effective unless Soviet ports were included, and he said this would do more harm than good, particularly so in view of the fact that the main means of supply in this area was by railway. Mr. Eden went on to say that this subject should be probed much further between the three powers so that they could be ready whatever happened. They had not, of course, consulted the Commonwealth on this and could speak only for themselves. They did not believe, however, that the others would disagree. They would only want to plan what their part would be in a renewal of hostilities if they were satisfied that there was agreement on the manner in which it were to be done. Until this were done, they must reserve their position on some of the new items that had been brought up in the discussion previously. They had not had a chance to examine these either with their colleagues or with the dominions and could not, therefore, commit themselves on that question this morning.

M. Bidault then said that France could only view the problem of China across a battlefield. For them, China was the country giving sympathy and material aid as well as training facilities to the enemy that France had been fighting for seven years—Communism in Indo-China. Insofar as trade was concerned, the Secretary of State would recall that at Washington certain decisions were taken which brought an embargo on certain products to which French business people attach some importance.4 On one or two points there had been misunderstandings. M. Bidault had been advised of the shipment of some metals to China and he had had the cargoes unloaded at Saigon. It was the [Page 1817] ardent wish of the French that they could make progress toward holding and obtaining effective results from a political conference on Korea, and that they might then hope for a conference of a similar nature that would give them an honorable way out of Indo-China.

The perspective of a renewal of hostilities from the other side, which the Government of the United States had shown them, had contained some factors that were also new for them. M. Bidault said that he had no doubt that the persevering efforts of the Secretary of State to restrain the more warlike elements of the ROK were a proof of the desire of the American people to end the hostilities there and in Indo-China in a peaceful way.

M. Bidault said that his colleagues would recall that the French Government believes that there can be no normalization of relations between the United Nations and Communist China without a settlement of the Indo-China war and that until this occurred they could not undertake any normalization of these relations so long as the Chinese continued to support the war in Indo-China. The French Government felt that the admission of China to the United Nations should not be something to be accomplished before peace had been restored, but that it should only be considered after this had happened.

President Eisenhower then said that before leaving this subject he had one or two observations to make himself. He could certainly understand the views that had been expressed by his colleagues. There was no disposition on the part of the United States to do anything recklessly and without prior consultation. He was not sure of the language of the mandate of the United Nations under which we were fighting in Korea and was not sure exactly what authority the United States had. However, the question of atomic energy should be viewed in a larger field. Some interest had been expressed in the course of the meeting in connection with the deployment of United States troops around the world. Like other countries, we had to face the problem of the clash between budgetary possibilities and the amounts to be spent for defense. This year every man, woman, and child in the United States was spending $300 for security alone—more than fifty billion dollars. When we allowed troops to remain in Korea after the armistice, and we have there eight divisions and some 275,000 men who are maintained at tremendous expense, this inevitably increased the pressure on other deployment. How could we be responsible for the safety for all allied forces in Korea if we have to face this almost insoluble problem of how to reduce forces and yet keep troops in the areas where their presence is most significant and at the same time lift a little of this burden from the shoulders of our people. The President said that he did not know how many billions we had spent to develop [Page 1818] the atomic bomb. Our people would say why were we not ready to use it if attacked. We had never indicated that we would use it other than against aggression. We would not react hysterically but only against a clear-cut breach of the armistice and were attacked on a basis that made it clear that the Communists were flouting the armistice and moving in. Any prior decision that did not recognize the need for using what we had in a limited military situation would work for our discomfiture. It was not possible to go into all the details of this problem at that time, and the experts should consult further together, but the President felt that we should not allow ourselves to be cramped by trying to guess exactly what Russia would do. We must see this problem within a broad frame of reference.

Sir Winston then asked what were the prospects that the armistice would be broken. The President replied that he did not know but did not think that they were very high. Sir Winston then said that this was not being discussed because the United States had any information that led them to apprehend a breach of the armistice by the Communists and asked whether the United States foresaw any special direct emergency. The President replied not outside of a continued build up in North Korea. The President then said he should add for M. Bidault that we had never proposed attacking cities such as Chungking, Peking, or Shanghai, but merely military installations such as air fields being used to support directly the conflict in Korea, if the armistice were broken by the Communists.

. . . . . . .

The experts then joined the National Delegations and the meeting continued as a plenary session.5

  1. Documentation on U.S. policy toward the People’s Republic of China is presented in volume xiv .
  2. Further documentation on U.S. policy with respect to Korea is presented in volume xv . A British minute of the discussion on Korea is in the Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 186.
  3. Documentation relating to the 16-nation declaration, July 27, 1953, concerning the armistice in Korea is presented in volume xv .
  4. For documentation on the Tripartite Foreign Ministers meetings held at Washington, July 10–14, 1953, see pp. 1582 ff.
  5. For a report on the plenary session, see infra.