Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

No. 185
Memorandum of Discussion at the 193d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, April 13, 1954 1

top secret
eyes only


Present at the 193rd Meeting of the Council were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Acting Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; the Acting Director, Foreign Operations Administration; and the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Attorney General (for Items 1 and 2); the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; the Assistant to the President; Mr. Cutler, Special Assistant to the President; the White House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

The following is a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the main points taken.

. . . . . . .

3. (U.S. Strategy for Developing a Position of Military Strength in the Far East (NSC 5416)2

Mr. Cutler summarized the content of the JCS report, and noted the recommendation that it be transmitted to the Planning Board for preparation of a comprehensive report on the Far East. He expressed the opinion that the JCS report went a little further in some respects than the courses of action set forth in the agreed policy papers on the various countries and regions of Asia. He then invited Admiral Radford to comment on the JCS report.

Admiral Radford noted that there were two great difficulties in the way of formulating a comprehensive U.S. policy for the Far [Page 409] East. The first of these was the virtual impossibility of developing a regional defense organization which would include all the non-Communist nations of Asia. The second great obstacle was Japan, which had not yet been received back into the Asian community of nations. Also, we must realize that in the long run Japan was going to look out for itself. It will not remain an ally of the United States for any sentimental reason. There was danger, therefore, that if a rearmed Japan became too strong, she might in her own self-interest shift to the other side. Accordingly, certain restraints on Japanese rearmament were obviously necessary, particularly in the sphere of offensive armament in the Air Force and Navy. Quite a lively discussion had developed on this subject in the course of the formulation of the present report. The Joint Strategic Survey Committee, unlike the Chiefs themselves, had gone all out for Japanese rearmament. The Australians likewise were opposed to too rapid and strong a revival of Japanese military power. They wished to see a Japan strong enough to participate in joint action for the defense of Asia, but not strong enough to permit unilateral action against an Asian country.

The President inquired, apropos of the objective of splitting Peiping from Moscow, whether the Joint Chiefs of Staff had developed any views as to the efficacy of certain kinds of trade as a means of straining the existing relationship between Communist China and the Soviet Union. The reason he asked this question, continued the President, was that if the Joint Chiefs of Staff, instead of the Foreign Operations Administration, went to Congress and argued the case for trade as a means of weakening the bonds between Soviet Russia and Communist China, it might be possible to get somewhere in the use of this weapon. Congress would not be in a position to call this a give-away program, as it always does when State and FOA argue the thesis. The trouble was that so many members of Congress want to crucify anyone who argues in favor of permitting any kind of trade between the free nations and Communist China. On the other hand, the President could discern no other effective means of weakening the tie between these two nations. Admiral Radford pointed out that the objective of splitting China away from Russia was of course a very long-range objective.

Secretary Humphrey asked whether we had sufficient information available to determine whether China was better off or worse off under its Communist regime. Admiral Radford replied that the Chinese masses were certainly no better off and might be worse off. There was evidence of severe famine in various parts of China, while the Chinese government was actually exporting food in order to secure the wherewithal to advance its industrialization. Admiral Radford thought we got pretty good information on the condition of [Page 410] the people of China out of Hong Kong, and concluded that while the condition of the masses throughout the country had probably changed but little, the population in the cities was a good deal worse off.

Mr. Allen Dulles expressed the opinion that the Communists had achieved greater success in the maintenance of public order, but that otherwise he was inclined to agree with Admiral Radford’s statement.

Secretary Humphrey said that he had put his original question with a view to formulating the basis for a long-term United States policy toward Communist China. If we estimated that the Chinese Communist regime was there to stay, we would be well advised to give up the effort to destroy this regime and concentrate instead on trying to separate it from the Soviet Union.

Secretary Wilson said that he had the feeling that this whole discussion was not very realistic. We ought to sit down and list the various pressures and frictions that interfere with the smooth relationship between Russia and China, and then estimate in each case what we could do to capitalize on these pressures. But the problem was terribly complicated because we were at one and the same time engaged in virtual hostilities with China and discussing, at least, the desirability of trading with the Chinese. This made no sense to him.

Secretary Humphrey reiterated his opinion that the initial decision by the United States was whether we wanted to set up the Chinese Communist regime or knock it down.

The President indicated some impatience with Secretary Wilson’s criticism of the view that trading with the Chinese would be advantageous, and said he was not talking about the government but about the people of China. If we opened up trade the whole population of China would benefit and might actually be induced to upset the ruling Communist clique. Accordingly, the President said, let’s start a traffic of all the goods and commodities which appeal to the ordinary Chinese. We can sell the Chinese things that the Russians are in no position to sell them. To do so, said the President with great emphasis, was good psychological warfare, and if we don’t get down and explore this possibility in the greatest detail we would not be doing our duty.

Mr. Dulles stated that the CIA had under study a report on ways and means of creating and exploiting friction between China and Russia.3 This report would be ready soon. The President said that this was precisely what he meant and what he wanted as a means of breaking China and the other satellites away from their dependence [Page 411] on the Soviet Union. To send them supplies of food and clothing would be a very good means.

Secretary Wilson repeated his inability to understand the direction of the President’s argument, although he could understand it if we weren’t at the same time refusing to recognize Communist China, refusing to admit China to the UN, and supporting Chiang Kai-shek, and indirectly waging war against Communist China.

With considerable heat, the President replied to Secretary Wilson that his argument was made in the context of peoples, not governments. He was insisting upon some way of reaching the mass of the Chinese people. We would be lacking in imagination if we could not devise some method of doing this.

Mr. Cutler then pointed out that the Planning Board believed that, in its forthcoming comprehensive report on a Far Eastern policy, India should likewise be included. Admiral Radford, however, said that India was a problem by itself, and its inclusion would complicate the formulation of the Far Eastern policy. The President agreed with Admiral Radford, and Secretary Wilson said that the President’s ideas on trade would work much better in India than in China.

The Vice President commented that the United States had not recognized the Soviet Union until 1937 [1933], but had nevertheless done a lot of trading with Soviet Russia. While he believed it was impossible for the United States to recognize Communist China now, he could see no reason not to expand trade with Communist China as a negotiating point. It was necessary to be calculating and hard-boiled. If we did not make use of trade as a negotiating point with the Chinese Communists, what do we have to use? If and when Communist China clearly abandons her present aggressive policies, a hardheaded study should be made as to whether or not trade should be opened up. Certainly the time had come to sit down and determine under what conditions, what level of trade, would best serve the interests of the United States vis-à-vis Communist China.

Secretary Wilson said that there was, of course, yet another problem. How can the United States or other free nations trade with a Communist country whose government controls all commercial transactions? The President replied that he would let the Chinese junks sail over to Japan and fill up with everything they could buy. That’s the best way to influence the Chinese people against their Communist government. Secretary Wilson replied that in his opinion these Chinese Communist traders would buy from Japan just exactly those materials and commodities which would do the most to advance Communist China’s war potential. [Page 412] This was the aspect of trade with Communist China which particularly worried the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Secretary Humphrey said that he could easily see how we might do things which would wean the Chinese people away from their government or even wean the Chinese Communist leaders away from Moscow. He did not see, however, how we could undertake to make use of these measures until, to repeat, we decided whether we proposed to live with the Chinese Communist government or to bring it down. If we decided to live with the Chinese Communists we would have to abandon the Chinese Nationalists.

Mr. Cutler stated that he would provide guidance to the Planning Board from the Council’s discussion of the JCS report and would see what the Planning Board could come up with.

The National Security Council:4

Discussed the subject on the basis of the reference report by the Department of Defense.
Referred NSC 5416 to the NSC Planning Board for the preparation of a comprehensive statement of policy on the subject for early Council consideration.

. . . . . . .

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Drafted by Gleason on Apr. 14.
  2. NSC 5416 consists of a memorandum of Apr. 10 from Wilson to Lay and a memorandum of Apr. 9 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Wilson; for the text of both, see vol. xii, Part 1, p. 411.
  3. No such report has been found in Department of State files.
  4. The lettered subparagraphs constitute NSC Action No. 1091. (S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95, “Record of Actions by the National Security Council, 1954”)