No. 402
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Chinese Affairs (McConaughy) 1

top secret


  • Mutual Defense Treaty—9th Meeting


  • Dr. George Yeh, Chinese Foreign Minister
  • Dr. Wellington Koo, Chinese Ambassador
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Robertson, Assistant Secretary, FE
  • Mr. Phleger, Legal Adviser
  • Mr. McConaughy, Director, CA

With reference to the Foreign Minister’s query about the relationship of the exchange of notes to the ship interception activities of the Chinese Navy, the Secretary said that the circumstances under which shipping might be interfered with were so varied it was not possible to cover all cases by a blanket agreement. If interception activities seemed likely to provoke retaliation, the U.S. Government would expect joint consultation.

Dr. Yeh said that he brought the question up, perhaps unnecessarily, because he did not want to leave unclarified any point of possible misunderstanding. The port closure policy of the Chinese Government had been in effect for over five years. On only one occasion had a merchant ship been fired on, and that was in 1949. The delay in the disposition of the Tuapse case was unfortunate in some respects. The Chinese Government carried out interception solely as a measure of self-defense. It has been shown that any strategic material delivered along the Fukien coast has been used [Page 928] almost at once to attack Chinese Government positions. The manifests of all ships involved have been carefully checked and every case of actual interception has been clearly based on the right of self-defense. The Chinese authorities have never gone so far as to risk involvement of the U.S. or impairment of Sino-U.S. relations. The Foreign Minister said he preferred a somewhat different basis for handling ship problems than problems of action against the Mainland. He felt there should be no hard and fast rule as to shipping. We should continue consultations on a flexible basis as in the past.

The Secretary agreed that there was no need for a hard and fast rule.

Amb. Koo said he would expect the U.S. Government to inform the Chinese Government if the former thought that any given shipping problem called for the agreement of the U.S.

The Secretary indicated his assent to this view.

Dr. Yeh said that he accepted. He then asked when the Secretary would be ready to sign the Treaty.

The Secretary said almost immediately.

Mr. Phleger said there was a translation problem. We needed to check the Chinese translation.

Dr. Yeh said translation was difficult but the Chinese have a 2,000 year old legal tradition. Treaty language has been used for over 250 years and Chinese treaty language is highly developed.

The Secretary said that in case of any dispute as to meaning, it would be expected that the English text would govern.

The Foreign Minister said that there should not be much variance between the English and the Chinese versions.

Amb. Koo said that the Chinese representatives here were held responsible for the correctness of the translation.

Mr. Phleger said that the U.S. would look to the English text as the governing one.

The Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister then proceeded to initial the copies of the Treaty and the notes.2

  1. Initialed by Robertson, indicating his approval.
  2. The texts of the notes, signed at Washington on Dec. 10, 1954, are printed as attachments to the Mutual Defense Treaty in 6 UST 433; TIAS 3178.