No. 342
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs (Bond)

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  • China Item: Consultations with the United Kingdom and New Zealand


  • Mr. Douglas MacArthur, II, Counselor
  • Mr. David McK. Key, Assistant Secretary
  • Mr. Edwin Martin, Acting Director for Chinese Affairs
  • Mr. Niles W. Bond, UN Political and Security Affairs
  • Sir Robert Scott, Minister, British Embassy
  • Miss Barbara Salt, First Secretary, British Embassy
  • Mr. Hunter Wade, First Secretary, New Zealand Embassy

The above-listed representatives of the UK and New Zealand came to the Department this evening at 7 o’clock at Mr. MacArthur’s request to receive from him a report of his conversations with the Secretary earlier in the day at Duck Island. Mr. MacArthur opened the meeting by saying that the reply which we had received from Taipei had made it clear that the attitude of President Chiang Kai-shek with respect to the proposed China item was strongly negative, although not necessarily hopelessly so. He said that the Secretary wished to have his views on this general question passed along in full to the UK and New Zealand representatives for transmittal to Mr. Eden and the New Zealand Government, and that he had consequently made extensive notes on the Secretary’s remarks from which he would read. Mr. MacArthur then read to the UK and New Zealand representatives from the attached paper (Tab A).

After Mr. MacArthur had finished his presentation, Sir Robert Scott expressed his appreciation for the frankness and fullness with which the Secretary’s views had been presented, and said that the Embassy would pass them on at once to Mr. Eden.

In response to a question from Sir Robert, Mr. MacArthur confirmed that the Secretary was not linking the proposed mutual defense treaty to the New Zealand resolution, in the sense that our willingness to proceed with the latter was not dependent upon the negotiation of the former. He suggested that the existence of a mutual defense treaty with the Chinese Nationalists might go a considerable way toward meeting the UK desire for a general pacification in the area. He further pointed out, referring in particular to the third paragraph of the attached paper, that this would not involve the creation of a “privileged sanctuary” on Formosa. Sir Robert said that it was his assumption that the UK and New Zealand were not being asked to accept any responsibility in the matter of the conclusion of a mutual defense treaty between the U.S. and Nationalist China. Mr. MacArthur said that was correct. Sir Robert then asked whether the proposed U.S. commitment with respect to a treaty would mean that the Chinese Nationalists would refrain from vetoing the New Zealand resolution. Mr. MacArthur and Mr. Martin replied that, although there could be no absolute [Page 759]assurance on this point, it was our feeling that this was the most effective way of obtaining their acquiescence, and that with the prospect of a treaty in view they might very well decide to lie low and not actively oppose the resolution.

Sir Robert then raised the question of whether the proposed treaty would cover the inshore islands with which the New Zealand resolution was designed to deal. Mr. MacArthur expressed the personal view that it would not but said that we had been working on language which would cover that point. Sir Robert then raised the question of the legal status of Formosa, to which reference had been made in the attached paper, in response to which Mr. Martin explained the U.S. thinking on this question. Sir Robert asked what we would do if the Chinese Nationalists should make a premature announcement of our decision to negotiate a treaty. Mr. MacArthur replied that it was our hope that we could prevent such an occurrence.

After a further discussion of the procedural details involved in going ahead with the New Zealand resolution, Sir Robert summed up by saying that it was his understanding that what Mr. MacArthur had been telling them was (1) that it was the U.S. intention to negotiate a mutual defense treaty with the Chinese Nationalists but that it would be done if possible without publicity, at least for the duration of consideration of the New Zealand resolution, and (2) that so far as the New Zealand resolution itself was concerned, we were willing to go ahead. Mr. MacArthur confirmed that understanding but pointed out that if consideration of the New Zealand resolution should be unduly protracted, we might be obliged to move ahead with our treaty negotiations before the resolution had been disposed of.

[Tab A]

Paper Prepared by the Counselor (MacArthur)1

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The views of the Chinese Nationalist Government are strongly negative. Nevertheless, we are prepared to proceed and to use our best efforts to keep Nationalist opposition within tolerable bounds. However, in this connection, we shall probably have to consider the coming to some understanding with President Chiang Kai-shek with reference to a defensive security treaty. We ourselves desire [Page 760]such a treaty, and have for some time been considering it. As you know, we regard Formosa as an essential link in the off-shore island chain, which includes the Aleutians, Japan, Ryukus, Formosa, the Philippines, and Australia and New Zealand. We have security arrangements with every link in this chain except with Formosa. Now also, Southeast Asia will be included under the Manila Pact. In each case, there is either a direct US interest, as in the Ryukus, or a security treaty which has been approved by the Senate. Such a treaty gives the President a scope for action in emergencies which is not available to him if there has been no prior Congressional action.

In the case of Formosa, the President’s authority derives from the Korean war. With, however, an end to Korean hostilities, the Executive’s authority to order our military forces into action should be made clearer, and we have for some time planned to replace this former authority with the unquestionable authority which would reside in a security treaty ratification by the US Senate.

We have made clear to President Chiang that any such security treaty, if made, would be wholly defensive and that it would not be possible for us to throw defensive protection around Formosa and the Pescadores if at the same time these islands were used as a base for offensive operations.

Chiang has asked that if the New Zealand resolution proceeds, we should at that time make clear our intention to make a security treaty with him. We have told him that we are unwilling to make any announcement on our part coincide with the New Zealand action. However, in line with our policy of the fullest possible exchange of confidence on these matters, I think you should know that it is probable that the New Zealand action will somewhat accelerate the taking by the U.S. of this action to close what is now the only gap in a Western Pacific position which is deemed vital to the U.S.

In this connection, you will of course recall that the U.S. has a juridical position in that these islands have never been ceded by Japan to China. Japan has renounced its own right and title to the islands, but their future status was deliberately left undetermined, and the U.S. as a principal victor over Japan has an interest in their ultimate future. We are not willing that that future should be one which would enable a hostile regime to endanger the defensive position which is so vital in keeping the Pacific a friendly body of water.

The Secretary hopes and believes that the position indicated above will not alter your views with reference to our proceeding. Indeed, the defensive assurances which would couple any security [Page 761]treaty, if and when it were announced, would be a further step toward pacification in the area. It is, however, our purpose to avoid any public step in this matter, at least until we have a chance to see the probable fate of the New Zealand resolution.

  1. The paper’s heading reads: “Substance of Secretary’s Views, to be communicated to UK (for Mr. Eden) and to New Zealand Representatives.”