Rankin files, lot 66 D 84

No. 294
The Ambassador in the Republic of China (Rankin) to the Director of the Office of Chinese Affairs (McConaughy)


Dear Walter : As you know, Secretary Dulles visited us for five hours on September 9. The time was very short, but the visit was extremely valuable nevertheless. I had no opportunity to see the Secretary alone, and such briefing as I was able to provide was limited to conversation in the presence of others while driving to and from the airport. What the Secretary was able to glean from the visit I cannot say, but the fact that he came here directly from the Manila Conference, together with the sympathetic and considerate attitude which he showed toward the Chinese at all times, served our cause in Formosa very well.

Details of the Secretary’s schedule in Taipei, of his conversation with President Chiang, and of press, including editorial coverage, are being dealt with in separate communications. The present letter is intended to fill in certain gaps and for such limited distribution as you may find desirable.

The Secretary and Senator Smith rode with me from the airport to President Chiang’s office and then to the President’s house for luncheon. During the drive I told them that President Chiang had been asked not to stress the question of a bilateral treaty in the impending conversation—as subsequent experience proved, it would have been worse than futile to request that the matter not be raised at all—and that he had been given to understand that the Secretary’s visit was too short for other than a broad discussion. I suggested that if the Secretary found occasion to proffer any general advice to Chiang, he might counsel patience—a Chinese virtue—in this complex Far Eastern situation, and as a corollary mention the importance of training young men and bringing them into public service. Regarding Kinmen, I suggested that the Secretary might wish to compliment the President on the resolute and [Page 625] effective action which the Chinese Armed Forces were taking. I proposed that he then express the hope that these attacks on Communist territory would be continued no longer and over no wider an area than necessary for the actual defense to Kinmen.

The Secretary mentioned the Soviet tanker, Tuapse. …The entire subject of the Soviet tanker and its crew had been handled very largely outside normal Department and Embassy channels. …In the present case there was little to attract possible defectors; they would have no future worth mentioning on Formosa, and no one here was authorized to promise asylum in the United States. At this point the Secretary turned to Senator Smith with a smile and indicated that account had to be taken of Congressional legislation and of Senator McCarran 1 in particular.

The Secretary subsequently made no mention to President Chiang either of tapering off attacks on the Communists around Kinmen or of the Soviet tanker.

When we left the President’s house to return to the airport, I asked Senator Smith and General Chase to exchange cars so that the latter could brief the Secretary on the military situation at Kinmen, which so far had been mentioned only incidentally. As a result, Chase and I were with the Secretary during a 35-minute drive to the airport. Chase gave him a full and rather optimistic description of the military situation, and added the recommendation that we announce our intention to help the Nationalists defend the offshore islands. I remarked that of course this would entail certain difficulties; for one thing some of the islands probably were indefensible militarily. I thought that it would be best simply to keep the Communists guessing and to give authority to United States military commanders to extend assistance wherever it was considered necessary and desirable (my telegram 153, September 5, 1954), most likely in the form of air support from carriers. General Chase added that naval gunfire also would constitute very valuable support under certain conditions.

Referring to what had been said in conversation with President Chiang about the scope of application of a bilateral treaty, I remarked to the Secretary that it should be possible to find a mutually satisfactory formula. For example, I thought that the treaty might specify only Formosa and the Pescadores by name, but could extend also, “subject to mutual agreement, to any territory which is now or may hereafter be under the control of the Government of the Republic of China”. By “control” I meant de facto and, in our view of course, de jure as well.

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After the Secretary’s departure from Taipei, Foreign Minister Yeh expressed to me some concern over the former’s reference to the present “Mission of the Seventh Fleet” having practical advantages over a formal bilateral treaty. I said that of course any instructions to the United States Armed Forces presumably would be governed by the provisions of a treaty, if one existed, but that whatever complications this might introduce, a treaty would not be something that could be reversed by the stroke of a pen. I did not foresee any reversal of United States policy in regard to Formosa, but I pointed out that the constitutional power of our President over the use of our Armed Forces was not too clearly defined. If, for example, the Korean War were officially ended, would the Seventh Fleet’s mission be ended automatically?

I had no occasion to go more deeply into the question of the Soviet tanker and the offshore islands in conversation with the Secretary. You will recognize these as typical of the cases which cause us so much concern. As you know, the United States Government utilizes three principal channels in dealing with the Chinese Government: diplomatic, military and intelligence. This is by no means an ideal situation, but the complexities of our relationships with the Chinese are so great that some such division seems unavoidable. As a practical matter, well over 90 percent of American exchanges with the Chinese through military and intelligence channels involve no significant policy decisions and might be described as “technical”. On occasion, however, whether by accident or design, questions of high policy are dealt with through these channels, while the Embassy not only is bypassed but is left in the dark as to where the Department stands and whether it is even aware of the question at hand.

Under the circumstances, the best we can do at this end is to keep our eyes and ears open, to cultivate the confidence of those representing other United States Government agencies, and to call to the Department’s attention any development which seems to us of major significance no matter who appears to be handling it. Except when instructed to the contrary in specific cases, we shall continue to follow this course.

A corollary difficulty is well illustrated by the Tuapse case. Assuming that the United States Government really wants the Chinese to release the tanker, how are we to convince them of this? Our senior intelligence representative here quite naturally is not regarded by the Chinese as having authority in matters of policy, while our senior diplomatic and military representatives were bypassed at the outset in this case—as were also Admirals Radford and Carney, I am told—and therefore may be presumed to have nothing to do with the matter. As in the case of the troops in [Page 627] Burma for so long, it therefore is taken for granted by the Chinese that representations made by the Embassy about the Tuapse are for the record only and do not represent the true wishes of the United States Government. I should not be surprised if a personal message from President Eisenhower to President Chiang would be required eventually in the present instance.

As regards the desirability of tapering off Nationalist attacks in the Amoy region as soon as enemy action permits, I believe you will agree that this is a matter which conceivably could represent the difference between a continuation of the present situation and the involvement of our country in open war with Red China. Last week, prior to the Secretary’s arrival and entirely on my own initiative, I expressed to the Foreign Minister on two occasions my concern lest the Nationalist attacks be carried further than could be justified. He took up the matter with the Acting Chief of the General Staff, who remarked that he understood our military representatives to be taking quite a different stand. I then discussed the question with General Chase, and some two days after the Secretary’s departure MAAG received instructions from Admiral Stump 2 to follow much the same line I had taken. Fortunately, our Government now seems to speak with one voice in this important case, although I have heard nothing from the Department.

I prepared the attached memorandum,3 in telegraphese, for General Chase to transmit to Admiral Stump in reply to the latter’s requests for a statement of Chinese commitments to the United States as regards offensive operations. Whether this request from the Admiral, and his instructions to Chase about operations against the Amoy area, were connected with the Secretary’s stop in Honolulu, I do not know.

Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

K. L. Rankin
  1. Senator Patrick A. McCarran (D–Nevada).
  2. Presumably telegram 102044Z from CINCPAC to Chief MAAG Formosa, Sept. 10, 1954; see footnote 13, Document 301.
  3. Not printed.