793.00/10–254: Telegram

No. 315
The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Bohlen) to the Department of State


483. Khrushchev’s speech in Peking (Embassy telegram 478)1 not only goes farther than previous press comment, but is first really official declaration of solidarity by Soviet Government with Chinese pretensions and threats in regard to Formosa. While Khrushchev’s speech does not directly commit Soviet Government to any form of action in this regard, it nevertheless, following right after Chou En-lai’s bellicose statement, puts Soviet Union solidly behind Chinese position. It is noted, however, that Khrushchev’s statement that “United States is in every way hindering (preventing) Chinese people from liberating … Island of Taiwan” is susceptible of two interpretations. It could mean that as long as United States maintains its present attitude Taiwan will not be “liberated” by Chinese or that this obstacle must be overcome by any means. Khrushchev is also careful in strongest statement of support to ascribe this statement to Soviet people rather than to Soviet Government. It is not possible from here to obtain any clear indication of how far Chinese with Russian support are prepared to go in achievement of announced objective of liberating Formosa. Soviet press today reports even more bellicose speeches made in Peking by various Chinese officials at October 1 parade and demonstration, including direct statement that it is duty under Chinese Constitution of Chinese Army to liberate Formosa.

I find it difficult to believe that Soviet Government would be prepared to run serious risk of involvement in major war over Chinese claims to Formosa, but as in past, it is always possible that there is some area of doubt in minds Communist rulers concerning firmness United States determination to defend Formosa. In any event, increasingly threatening tone of Chinese Communist utterances now supported by Soviet Union are not to be lightly dismissed. In past, campaigns [have] been developed by Communists without necessarily intention of going beyond a definite point, but momentum and commitment involved could under certain circumstances have [Page 675] self-intoxicating effect. Also, if carried on in increasing intensity, this campaign could have international psychological effect damaging to United States position in regard to Formosa. Certainly one of main purposes is to acerbate difference in United States-United Kingdom views on question and judging from comments of Attlee and others, it is already having a certain effect. It might, therefore, be worthwhile to give serious examination to what moves we could undertake to counteract this campaign before it goes too far and to remove any shadow of doubt that there might be in Communist minds despite President’s statement on subject of United States determination to fight if armed force is used by Chinese against Formosa. The following measures might be considered:

Propaganda exploitation of glaring contrast between Soviet professions of co-existence, relaxation of international tension, et cetera and open support of and appeal to armed aggression in case of Formosa. (For this purpose we would be quite entitled to take at face value Chinese Communist threat of such action and Soviet support thereof.)
Opportunity might be found for President to repeat previous warning that an attack on Formosa would involve conflict with United States Seventh Fleet.2 This statement might be amplified by making it clear that it would not be Seventh Fleet, but in effect, mean war with United States.
If campaign continues to grow in intensity and volume, consideration might be given to a private message to Soviet Government concerning seriousness with which United States Government takes these bellicose threats from Chinese Communists and indication consequences if they are in any sense translated into action.

Foregoing measures it is recognized involve the delicate and unclear question of the status of the offshore islands and I am not aware of exact degree to which United States feels it is committed to defend them. While as indicated above, there are no grounds here for anticipating any early military action and main purpose of campaign appears to be to undermine position Chiang Kai-shek and United States, I do feel that some measure of prophylaxis might be worth considering at this juncture.

  1. Telegram 478 from Moscow, Oct. 1, reported Soviet press coverage of speeches given in Peking on Sept. 30 by Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and Chou En-lai. Khrushchev was the head of a Soviet Delegation in Peking for the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. (661.93/10–154)
  2. Eisenhower had stated in response to a question at a press conference on Aug. 17 that “any invasion of Formosa would have to run over the Seventh Fleet”. His statement and the question to which it replied are quoted in Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953–1956 (Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1963), pp. 462–463.