Memorandum of Conversation, by the
Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Allison)
- President’s Intention to Change Mission of the 7th Fleet
- Ambassador Koo—Chinese Embassy
- Mr. J.M. Allison—FE
- Mr. Edwin W. Martin—CA
Ambassador Koo called at 10:30 a.m. February 2 at my request. I explained to the Ambassador that I wished to discuss with him a statement which President Eisenhower would make in his message to Congress on the State of the Union at 12:30 p.m. that day announcing his decision to change the present mission of the 7th Fleet. I told Dr. Koo that Mr. Rankin had informed President Chiang of this decision on January 31, and that President Chiang had welcomed it. The following day Mr. Rankin had discussed the subject further with the Generalissimo and Foreign Minister Yeh at luncheon. I then handed Ambassador Koo a copy of the advance text of President Eisenhower’s State of the Union message turned to the paragraphs relating to the Far East.
When Ambassador Koo had read these, I pointed out that the intended change in the mission of the 7th Fleet related only to that part of its mission concerned with prevention of attacks against the mainland from Formosa. The 7th Fleet would continue to be charged with preventing any attack against Formosa. When Ambassador Koo asked why this was not clearly stated in the President’s message, I replied that the President’s intention was quite apparent, since his speech first recalls the dual mission of the 7th Fleet and then specifies that only that part of the mission which resulted in shielding the Communist-held mainland would be revoked.
I pointed out to Dr. Koo that the President’s message contained a statement that the 7th Fleet decision did not mean that the United States had any aggressive intent against the mainland. This statement [Page 138]had been included in the speech in order to allay any fears that the United States and the Chinese Nationalists were preparing for an early invasion of the mainland. It was, of course, impossible to foresee what the future held in store in this respect, but for the present any indication that the United States is expecting to attack the mainland should be avoided.
I told Dr. Koo that the U.S. Government had not consulted other Governments before making the decision to revise the mission of the 7th Fleet since it was President Eisenhower’s and Mr. Dulles’ feeling that as the original decision was a unilateral one this Government should take full responsibility for any changes made in it. In addition to informing the Chinese Government in advance, the Governments of all nations having troops in Korea were also given advance notice as well as the Governments of India and Japan. In response to Ambassador Koo’s query as to what the reactions of other Governments had been, I said that there had not been time to get official reactions from any Governments except the UK, which was unenthusiastic though it did not protest.
Ambassador Koo stated that as I had indicated President Chiang welcomed the decision of President Eisenhower to revise the mission of the 7th Fleet. He then mentioned three points which he said represented Foreign Minister Yeh’s reaction to this move:
- As this matter was, of course, one of vital concern to the Chinese Government, he had hoped that advance consultation could have taken place. However, he was glad that his Government had been notified in advance, even though a little late. I replied that President Chiang was informed on January 31 and that the instructions had gone to Mr. Rankin before the news had been published in the press, adding that, of course, it had not been our intention that any publicity be given to this matter before the President’s speech.
- The intended change in the mission of the 7th Fleet pointed up the weakness of the Chinese Navy and Air Force. It was hoped that the U.S. could take some action to strengthen these two branches of the Chinese armed forces.
- While Ambassador Koo said that he did not know to what extent the change in the mission of the 7th Fleet was an indication of the adoption of a more “positive” policy in the Far East, he felt that eventually some sort of general review should take place of U.S. military assistance to China, both with respect to quantity and to category of arms aid. The Ambassador assumed that this kind of review would take place in any event. I assured him that the question of military assistance to the Chinese Nationalists was reviewed periodically.
Reverting to my remark that President Chiang had welcomed the change in the mission of the 7th Fleet, Ambassador Koo stated that the Chinese Government was planning to issue a brief statement [Page 139]to this effect following the delivery of the President’s message to Congress. I replied that Mr. Rankin, in his report of his luncheon meeting with President Chiang and Foreign Minister Yeh, had said that the Generalissimo wished to make an announcement expressing gratification and that he would avoid any reference to possible aggressive action against the mainland. I further said that Mr. Rankin had reported President Chiang’s awareness that the decision to change the mission of the 7th Fleet did not represent an invitation to China to request increased military assistance. I also mentioned that President Chiang had raised a question as to whether the 7th Fleet would continue to be charged with the protection of Formosa only, or whether the protection would extend to the Chinese Nationalist-held islands adjacent to the mainland. I told the Ambassador that I was not clear on this question but would give it my attention.
Ambassador Koo stated that there was one more question which he had in mind to discuss in connection with the 7th Fleet. Pointing out that Chinese Nationalist forces could be expected to increase their raids against Communist-held islands and against the mainland, he stated that such raids would undoubtedly provoke Communist retaliation against Formosa. Would the 7th Fleet under its new directive take action against such Communist forces engaged in such retaliatory raids? I replied that my off-hand judgment was that the 7th Fleet would go into action against the Communists under such circumstances but that I would have to check the question further before I could give a positive assurance on this matter.
Inquiry as to U.S. Ambassador to China.
Stating that he did not wish to embarrass me with a question I was not in a position to answer, Ambassador Koo wondered whether there had been any decision as to the appointment of an Ambassador to China.1 I replied that a definite decision had been made to appoint an Ambassador to China and that a tentative decision had been made as to who would get the post. I hoped within the next few days to be able to give him the name of this person and to ask his Government’s agreement.2