Rankin files, lot 66 D 84

No. 186
The Ambassador in the Republic of China (Rankin) to the Deputy Operations Coordinator (Berry) in the Office of the Under Secretary of State


Dear Dick: I gather from Drumright’s letter of March 30, 1954,1 that either you or Bob Strong 2 had a hand in preparing it. The careful consideration given to mine of February 20 is much appreciated. Lest that letter be misunderstood in certain particulars, however, I shall pursue three points in the paragraphs below.

. . . . . . .

[Page 413]

Other than for very recent instructions to hold everything for the present,3 MAAG has no adequate directive on how to handle the “guerrillas” or the interdiction of maritime traffic. Moreover, I understand that serious differences of opinion exist in Washington among the Army, Navy … as to the implementation of the Executive Order,4 which is very brief—simply an enabling order. I had hoped that the Department would be in on these discussions, since the general manner of implementation involves policy scarcely less than the basic principle itself.

I agree that the Chinese Reds are unlikely to act against Formosa except on their own timetable, but the offshore islands lie outside our announced defense perimeter. These islands undoubtedly are on their list for conquest, and the date may be subject to determination in the light of future events. In any case, it is almost certain that the offshore islands are ahead of Formosa on the list. As matters stand today the Communists can take all of those islands if they wish, unless we are prepared to help defend certain of them, which are of particular importance, with U.S. naval and air forces. Are we prepared to do this, or shall we simply dare the Communists to attack them and risk their loss in the near future, with consequent damage to the defenses of Formosa and serious loss of face by both Free China and the United States?

. . . . . . .

The third and final point relates to the distinction drawn in Drumright’s letter between things being known but not being susceptible of proof. This would apply under certain circumstances, but hardly to most of the projects we have been discussing. The significant factor in most of these cases is what people believe. For example, I have good reason to assume that the Generalissimo believes the worst about the second group of two projects mentioned in the previous paragraph. Yet he is unlikely to attempt public proof of his beliefs, and neither are we likely to seek an opportunity to disillusion him. Moreover, Americans in general are so little [Page 414] security minded that things so obvious to everyone out here as to require no proof still are imagined by some to be deep secrets.

Returning to my main point, I realize that a chain of small islands along the Chekiang and Fukien coasts may seem unimportant today in comparison to Indochina and Korea. But they are a part of the same picture, and we in Formosa regard them as having considerable significance for good or ill. If the matter were entirely in the hands of Admiral Radford, and he had sufficient time to devote to it, I should be quite content. He is fully cognizant of the problems involved and I believe that he and I would agree as to the best course. However, we are about to take the matter out of the hands of one agency and divide it among three (Army, Navy …) with no apparent agreement among them as to what our practical policies should be. It seems to me that the Department and the Embassy have certain policy coordination responsibilities under such circumstances.

Everything is fine here in Taipei, and representatives of all of the agencies concerned are in general agreement as to how things should be handled. But we should not want the American effort to be handicapped in certain cases by more emphasis on security, in a technical sense, than on substance.

Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

K. L. Rankin
  1. Not found in Department of State files.
  2. Robert C. Strong, a member of the Policy Planning Staff, had been Rankin’s predecessor as Chargé in Taipei 1949–1950.
  3. Telegram 011537Z from Chief of Naval Operations to CINCPAC, Apr. 1, 1954, recommended that CINCPAC base his budgetary planning for support of Chinese Nationalist coastal raids on the basis of training and support of one raid of company or battalion strength per month and one raid of half division strength per quarter but also stated:

    “However it is not desired that raids be currently conducted in the magnitude and frequency listed above. Our understanding is that a greatly reduced tempo now exists and it is not desired to materially increase this tempo until receipt of broad policy guidance.” (JCS records, CCS 385 (6–4–46) Sec. 81)

    The Joint Chiefs of Staff were informed of the instruction to CINCPAC in a memorandum of Mar. 31 from the Chief of Naval Operations. (JCS 1735/224, JSC records, CCS 385 (6–4–46) Sec. 81)

  4. Reference is to Executive Order 10483 establishing the Operations Coordinating Board; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, Sept. 28, 1953, p. 421.