794A.5 MSP/11–1254

No. 392
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Chinese Affairs (McConaughy)1

top secret
limited distribution


  • Negotiation of Mutual Defense Pact—Fifth Meeting


  • Dr. Wellington Koo, Chinese Ambassador
  • Dr. Tan, Minister, Chinese Embassy
  • Mr. Robertson, Assistant Secretary, FE
  • Mr. McConaughy, Director, CA

Ambassador Koo called at Mr. Robertson’s request to discuss the Chinese counter proposal as to the language of the proposed exchange of notes in connection with a Mutual Defense Pact.2 Mr. Robertson said the Chinese draft amounted to a suggestion that the Chinese Government be given joint control over the use of American forces stationed on the U.S. islands in the West Pacific. He wondered if the Chinese seriously intended to take this position. The Ambassador had been asked to come in before the Chinese draft was transmitted to the Department of Defense to make sure that he actually wished to put forward this suggestion. Mr. Robertson observed that there were no Chinese forces stationed on any of the islands in the West Pacific under the jurisdiction of the U.S. [Page 888] Hence the situation was not the same as on Formosa where U.S. forces could be stationed under the Treaty. He pointed out that U.S. forces stationed on Formosa pursuant to a Treaty could only be used by joint agreement. This provided reciprocity. He felt sure that the U.S. military authorities could never agree to the Chinese Government or any other foreign government being given a veto power over the use of U.S. Forces on U.S. islands in the West Pacific, under its jurisdiction. Reciprocity was established if the two countries exercised joint control over the use of forces based on areas where they had military forces in common. Formosa was the only place where this situation was envisaged. Mr. Robertson said he would regret to see the Chinese proposal submitted for serious consideration since he felt sure it was so unacceptable it would prejudice its case.

Ambassador Koo said that Okinawa was within the treaty area. He felt that the use of force from Okinawa could directly affect the security of Formosa. In principle, there was the same reason for the Chinese to be concerned with U.S. operations from Okinawa as for the U.S. to be concerned with Chinese operations from Formosa. In order to establish real reciprocity there should be a mutual obligation on the two parties to consult as to the use of their forces throughout the area defined by the treaty. However, it was only the appearance of reciprocity which the Chinese Government was really concerned about. The Chinese Government, of course, would not expect to interfere with the use of U.S. forces on West Pacific islands. The Government did entertain some anxiety as to the effect on the Chinese public of a treaty which on the face of it seemed to be one-sided.

Ambassador Koo mentioned an editorial in a Hong Kong Chinese paper of independent editorial policy, the Kung Shan Jih Pao, based on a November 5 Reuters dispatch from Washington, which he summarized as follows:

If the Chinese Government agrees not to undertake any operations against the Mainland, this would have the most serious repercussions, both politically and militarily. The effects on the prestige of both the Republic of China and the United States would be most undesirable. It would imply an acceptance of the right of the Peiping regime to remain in possession of Mainland China, and would embolden Communist China to pursue a more aggressive course in Southeast Asia. It would tend to confirm that U.S. assistance to Nationalist China was extended solely for the purpose of maintaining a strong U.S. military position on Formosa. It would be a deadly blow to the hopes of all people who are behind the Communist curtain. If the U.S. is motivated principally by a desire to avoid any conflict with Communist China, a revelation of this attitude through a treaty would tend to bring about the very situation of danger which the U.S. seeks to escape. A freeze of the [Page 889] present situation of free China would encourage the Chinese Communists and would result in the two hostile sides confronting each other indefinitely with no prospect of solution. Peiping is strongly opposed to the neutralization of Formosa or a UN trusteeship for Formosa. Any Treaty which made a distinction between Formosa and the Mainland would tend to confirm Peiping’s Charge of U.S. alienation of Formosa from Mainland China. Restrictions against the Chinese Nationalist Government cannot serve U.S. interests. The anti-Communist objectives of the Nationalist Government cannot be confined to the defense of Formosa. If this is done the Chinese Nationalist Government and its people on Formosa become merely the instrument of U.S. purposes as a link in the Asian offshore island defensive chain of the U.S. The Chinese Government should not blindly accept U.S. wishes in this matter. China had followed U.S. policy after World War II and it resulted in the loss of the Mainland. If such restrictions are insisted upon, it would be better not to have a Treaty.

Ambassador Koo said that this article of course was not a statement of the official Chinese view, but it represented a point of view which needs to be taken into account.

Mr. Robertson said that the writer of this article was under a misapprehension. He had written the article on the basis of distorted reports, probably growing out of the Chalmers Roberts article. There was no point in getting involved in press speculation based on erroneous premises. The press leaks had created quite a problem. A Collier’s correspondent had said that Foreign Minister George Yeh briefed Washington correspondents fairly fully at the Chinese Embassy around November 3.

Ambassador Koo confirmed that there had been a dinner for the press at the Embassy residence on November 3 but he denied strongly that the Foreign Minister had revealed any classified information as to treaty negotiations. There was no formal question and answer period. It was merely an informal social affair. Foreign Minister Yeh had avoided all leading questions. However, Ambassador Koo admitted the discussion period with the press had gone on for 45 minutes after the dinner and that Chalmers Roberts had stayed on for an additional chat after the other correspondents left. Foreign Minister Yeh stuck closely to what the Secretary had said in his press conference. One of the correspondents had complimented Foreign Minister Yeh for his cleverness in “saying a lot without revealing anything”.

Mr. Robertson said we had not known before that the Foreign Minister had met the press in this way. It was probably unfortunate that the meeting had taken place. Any publicity was undesirable at this time. Already, misguided editorials based on fragmentary and partly incorrect information are beginning to influence public opinion.

[Page 890]

Ambassador Koo said that the reference in the U.S. draft note3 to “disposition of forces” was giving some difficulty to the Chinese Government. Joint control over “disposition of forces” between Formosa and the off-shore islands had not been proposed in the earlier stages of the negotiations.

Mr. Robertson said that we were concerned with the disposition of forces which might be involved in offensive actions over which we had no control. If the lack of provision for any Chinese control over U.S. forces on Okinawa created a problem for the Chinese Government, we would be willing to eliminate all reference to the U.S. islands of the West Pacific in the Treaty. We thought that reciprocity was established; it was a mutual defense pact and mutual meant reciprocal. Free China benefited from all the efforts of the U.S. to defend the Free World. Formosa was involved in unresolved civil strife and was in imminent and constant danger of attack. The situation was different from that in other countries covered by defense pacts. The arrangements needed to be somewhat different.

Ambassador Koo said he had received a telegram from the Generalissimo on the night of November 11. Apparently the Generalissimo did not object to a U.S. veto on the use of Chinese Nationalist armed forces, but he did emphasize that it was essential to use the same language in reference to U.S. armed forces in the treaty area. This was necessary in order to satisfy the Chinese people that the sovereign equality of their Government had been maintained.

Mr. Robertson said that we could not use U.S. forces which would be stationed on Formosa without Chinese consent any more than the Chinese could use their forces without U.S. concurrence. There was reciprocity. In order to make the treaty more responsive to the needs of the situation and the wishes of the Chinese Government, the U.S. was volunteering to make a change in Article V, substituting “an armed attack in the West Pacific area directed against the territories of either of the parties” for “armed attack… on the territories.…”4 This would broaden the provisions of the article by making it clear that a Communist attack on territory other than Formosa was covered if such an attack appeared to be eventually aimed at Formosa and the Pescadores. The chief difficulty was how to make some provision for the off-shore islands. This language represents an attempt to give some coverage to the off-shore islands and to keep the Communists guessing as to what U.S. intentions are as to the off-shore islands. The Defense Department appeared to be willing to accept these broadened provisions. [Page 891] But its reaction to the latest Chinese proposal would be another matter.

Ambassador Koo said the Generalissimo had no intention of vetoing the use of U.S. forces on Okinawa and Guam. He merely wanted the reciprocal provisions for appearance’s sake in order to forestall the wave of discontent, despair and criticism which would come from a unilateral restriction against Nationalist China. Ambassador Koo thought at the very least the reference in the U.S. draft note to “military dispositions” could be eliminated.

Mr. Robertson pointed out that we would be involved with the Chinese in the defense of the treaty area. The U.S. would have major responsibilities. If nearly all Chinese troops could be moved to say, Quemoy, leaving few Chinese forces to defend Formosa, the U.S. in principle might be compelled to bring in U.S. infantry to defend Formosa. Such a necessity of course should never arise, and even though the possibility was remote, it seemed appropriate for the treaty to recognize the vital interest of the U.S. in the disposition of Chinese forces in an area for the defense of which we have joint responsibilities. The Treaty should realistically cover all contingencies so far as possible, even if they were remote. The Chinese Nationalist military strength was small compared to that of the Chinese Communists. Both the U.S. and Chinese Governments should work for the best disposition of available forces to meet the threat.

Ambassador Koo thought the off-shore islands commanded the invasion routes from the Mainland to Formosa and greatly decreased the danger of attack so long as they were held by the forces of his Government. Mr. Robertson questioned this, pointing out that an invasion attempt could bypass the off-shore islands, and that the off-shore islands could not eliminate the threat of air bombing of Formosa.

Ambassador Koo said that his government desired reciprocity and an elimination of formal U.S. control over Chinese Government military actions, mainly for political reasons. In practice the U.S. had ample controls through the presence of the MAAG Mission on Formosa and control over the supply of practically all the essentials of war. There were many practical ways in which the U.S. could restrain the use of Chinese forces. Since any Chinese Mainland operation without U.S. support in practice was out of the question, it was unnecessary to invoke diplomatic language for this purpose.

Mr. Robertson remarked that the matter of military dispositions was fundamental. Provocative actions could involve the U.S. in war.

[Page 892]

Ambassador Koo said that other provisions of the treaty and the exchange of notes adequately controlled the use of force. The reference to “military dispositions” within Chinese held territory was superfluous.

Mr. Robertson said that the U.S. could not renounce its exclusive control over its forces stationed at a vital base such as Okinawa which had been won from the Japanese in World War II by U.S. arms at terrible cost in U.S. blood and treasure. It was impossible for us to give up our freedom of action in this area as requested by the Chinese Government. Some alternative language would have to be sought.

Ambassador Koo reiterated that his Government did not wish actually to claim the right of veto on the use of U.S. forces in Okinawa.

Mr. Robertson pointed out that the language proposed by the Chinese would provide precisely for this, and oral disclaimers of course carried no weight. The U.S. would be willing to strike out all reference to the U.S. territories in the West Pacific if this would make the exchange of notes more acceptable to the Chinese. We had thought that the reference to U.S. territory would give more of an aspect of mutuality to the treaty, and would be very welcome to the Chinese. If we were wrong, we would like to be informed, so that the treaty could be made applicable solely to Formosa and the Pescadores.

Ambassador Koo said that his Government of course welcomed the inclusion of U.S. territory in the West Pacific in the provisions of the Treaty and did not want the references to U.S. territory taken out of the Treaty. He did hope that Mr. Robertson would recommend to the Secretary of State deletion of the reference to “military dispositions”.

  1. Initialed by Robertson, indicating his approval.
  2. The Chinese counterproposal, delivered to the Department on Nov. 11, stated that the use of force by either of the parties to the treaty from any of the territories referred to in Article VI would be a matter of joint agreement, subject to emergency action which was clearly an exercise of the inherent right of self-defense; it further stated that the Republic of China effectively controlled both the territory described in Article VI and “other territory” and possessed with respect to all territory now and thereafter under its control the inherent right of self-defense. (793.5/11–1154)
  3. The draft note under reference has not been found in Department of State files.
  4. Ellipses in the source text.