No. 55
Memorandum of Conversation, by Frederick E. Nolting, Special Assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary of State1



  • Discussion with Defense on Desirability of Attempting Total Embargo against Communist China


  • Dept. of Defense: Mr. Frank Nash
  • Dept. of State—Deputy Under Secretary: Mr. Matthews
  • FE: Mr. Johnson
  • EUR: Mr. Bonbright
  • E: Mr. Linder
  • CA: Mr. McConaughy
  • S/P: Mr. Stelle
  • G: Mr. Nolting

Mr. Matthews said that he had requested Mr. Nash to come over in order to start wheels moving in Defense to enable the Government to reach a decision on the desirability and feasibility of stepping up the present embargo against Communist China to the point of a total embargo, or as near to that as we can get. He said [Page 112] that we have been taking a hard look at this problem; that there are many angles from which the problem must be considered; and that one of the chief angles is the effect such a move might have upon Hong Kong. It was pointed out that in several conversations recently with the British in an effort to persuade the British to tighten up further on their restrictions against trade with Communist China, the British have always raised the question of the effect of such action upon Hong Kong. In this connection, Mr. Matthews asked Mr. Nash to request the JCS to consider the two following questions:

In the event it is decided to urge the British to increase their embargo measures against Communist China, and in the event that they in turn raise the question of what help we will give them if Hong Kong is attacked, what commitments would we be able to give the British with respect to aid in the defense of Hong Kong? Similarly, what commitments or assurances could we give the Portuguese with respect to Macau?
In the light of such commitments and other factors, what is the military view of the balance between advantages to be gained from increased embargo against China on the one hand and the additional risk of spreading war in the Far East on the other?

Mr. Nash undertook to start consideration of these questions in the Pentagon.

In the course of subsequent discussion, it was made clear that the problem of Hong Kong was only one of a number of factors entering into a decision to attempt to bring about a total embargo; that Macau also would present a problem of a similar kind; that among the principal non-Communist shippers of goods to Communist China are Pakistan, Ceylon, India and Indonesia, and that an approach to the British would be only an opening attempt to get a fuller degree of cooperation from other countries; and that, if a decision were taken to try to tighten the present embargo, we would first attempt to do so by bilateral conversations, and then probably seek UN ratification of bilateral understandings already arrived at.

  1. Previously unidentified participants listed below are: James C.H. Bonbright, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs; Harold F. Linder, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs; and Charles C. Stelle of the Policy Planning Staff.