11. Telegram From the Representative at the United Nations (Lodge) to the Department of State1

358. For the Secretary. Re: UNSYG’s talks with Chou En-lai. I met with Hammarskjold at his apartment at 8 p.m. Waldock2 his British legal adviser was also present.

Hammarskjold said that the meeting was on the whole satisfactory. The main problem was to crash the gate and put the matter in proper context. The spy issue was cleared up and Hammarskjold believes that Chou spoke in good faith.

Chou was suspicious concerning the spy issue for three reasons: [Page 27]

  • First, Downey and Fecteau had been caught in a flagrant situation in 1952.
  • Secondly this gave Chou the idea that the 581st Wing, while on a UN mission, also had other tasks. This impression was created because of extra personnel in plane. They were also misled by type of radio set—the UCR–4—which they had found with agents in other places.
  • Third, the lists in Geneva3 did not include Downey and Fecteau, which made the Chinese suspicious. And the fact that at Geneva we did not object to their statement that they were going to try all these people confirmed their idea.

It was the general political situation, Hammarskjold believes, which led the Chinese to treat the American cases different from the Canadian and other cases, but there is no doubt in Hammarskjold’s mind that Chou never expected the reaction which occurred in the United Nations.

Hammarskjold feels that he has clarified all of the points concerning the prisoners. He said several times “the medicine is in the body; their suspicions are dispelled; our arguments are understood and respected”.

Chou made a statement that “our views cannot be reconciled”, but he only made it once and that was on a pro forma basis. Our views were presented orally and in writing to him.

Chou says the United States used this “spy issue” to stir up an uproar in order to take attention away from the United States-Chiang Treaty. It was clear to Hammarskjold that Chou said this for propaganda purposes.

What really impressed Hammarskjold was that Chou appeared to use every means to avoid tying his hands negatively for the future. Hammarskjold said this was particularly marked in connection with the fact that Chou did not want to overstate his case in the communiqué. He “avoided everything to make it more difficult for him to release the prisoners in the future.”

At their last meeting Hammarskjold flatly told Chou—and it seemed to annoy him—that he should release the prisoners.

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To that Chou said, in Hammarskjold’s words, that “he definitely wanted the possibility of releasing the prisoners but it must be in such a way as not to make him lose face in Asia”.

Hammarskjold then suggested to Chou that he could do it on the basis of good behavior. Chou said he liked that idea.

Hammarskjold said “my personal conviction is that he will do it”.

When I asked what the next move should be, Hammarskjold said “lie low. This thing must above all be worked out in his own mind”.

There was, said Hammarskjold, never at any time any hint of bargaining or of direct negotiations with the United States. Chou is not at all interested in the Chinese students from a trading viewpoint. He has a long list of grudges and the students are on that list but he does not want to use them to trade with.

Hammarskjold thinks that we should strive together to create a situation in which Chou will work out a solution in his own mind.

I said, “in other words, we must arrange it so that newspapermen will not act as newspapermen and that Senators will not act like Senators”. Hammarskjold and Waldock smiled rather ruefully at that, and Waldock said that that was about it.

I said, “Can’t we give some hope, can’t we hold out some definite promise of some kind?”

Hammarskjold said this thing must look spontaneous. He pointed out that Chou had said that the four had not been convicted and that he differentiated the four jet pilots very definitely from the eleven. Hammarskjold said that he looked for prompt action on the four and that he was absolutely positive that Downey and Fecteau were safe. Chou told Hammarskjold that the death sentence was completely justified for both Downey and Fecteau but he said “they will come back home one day”. Hammarskjold is sure that the four will not be convicted.

He said that the fifteen aviators were in prison in Peking and that Downey and Fecteau were in prison in the northeast. Hammarskjold has photographs and documentary material concerning all the prisoners which he is going to furnish us. He also has a confidential report which he is going to send to us in addition to the official report which he will make to all UN members.

Chou offered visas to the members of the families of all of the seventeen—that is, the 11 B–29 men, the 4 jet pilots and Downey and Fecteau—to come to visit them and to see for themselves how well they were treated. Chou said that he would give visas to the families of the 66 whose names were on the list at Geneva and said that this would have to be worked out with the US Consul General in Geneva.

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Hammarskjold said that in his press conference tomorrow4 he was going to play the whole thing down, that he would not mention the matter of the visas to the families, but would bring out the fact that no deals of any kind had been made and that his trip was a beginning. He feels that his visit has put our prisoners in a very protected position and that they are as safe as men could be at the present time.

Describing the drafting of the communiqué,5 he said that Chou did not want one but that Hammarskjold wanted a joint communiqué to show that the matter was under control. He said that Bokhari6 did the first drafting. Hammarskjold wanted the words “in the meantime” inserted. Chou objected and wanted the words “in the spirit of the UN Charter” inserted. Hammarskjold objected to this because he felt that it might be regarded as constituting de facto recognition. The result was that the first sentence in the communiqué which mentioned the prisoner issue by reference was Hammarskjold’s and that the second sentence contained phrases which Chou wanted. These were: “at the same time”, and “pertinent questions”.

Hammarskjold said these were purely face-saving words because 90 per cent of the 16 hours that he spent with Chou was on prisoners of war. He said that for face-saving reasons Chou could not admit of any questioning of the Chinese courts.

Chou’s main grudge, according to Hammarskjold, was certain clauses in the treaty with Chiang, that guarantees could be extended to other areas. This Chou interprets as referring not only to the islands but to the mainland.

Chou’s only reference to the confessions was at the end and was incidental. Hammarskjold is sure that Chou does not want to make it too difficult to release the prisoners.

Hammarskjold is much impressed with Chou’s intelligence. He says he has certain marks of greatness and also of ruthlessness. He said that he referred to him at the Tokyo airport as having the manners of a “grand seigneur”, and that the Swedish Minister at Tokyo said, “yes, but a grand seigneur from the early renaissance”.

Hammarskjold feels that there was no alternative to having him go, that Chou ignored the UN resolution all the time, but justified his conversations with Hammarskjold on the basis of the UN Charter which in Article 99 gives the Secretary-General the right to interest [Page 30] himself in matters which could reduce international tensions and contribute to world peace.

Hammarskjold wanted Chou to get the real facts. He feels this was accomplished without any commitment on his part whatever. He would like some time “later” to see the President.7

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.95A241/1–1355. Top Secret; Niact; Limited Distribution.
  2. Humphrey Waldock, Professor of International Law at Oxford University, had accompanied Hammarskjöld on his trip to Peking.
  3. Discussions between representatives of the United States and the People’s Republic of China concerning U.S. nationals detained in China and Chinese nationals detained in the United States had been initiated during the Geneva Conference of 1954. Four meetings had been held in June 1954 by U. Alexis Johnson, American Ambassador to Czechoslovakia and U.S. Coordinator for the Geneva Conference, and Wang Ping-nan, Secretary General of the PRC Delegation to the Geneva Conference. Two meetings had been held subsequently at the staff level, and, after the conclusion of the Geneva Conference, five meetings at the consular level had taken place in Geneva, the most recent on November 29, 1954. Lists of U.S. nationals detained in the People’s Republic of China had been given to the Chinese representatives.
  4. The transcript of Hammarskjöld’s press conference of January 14, 1955, is printed in Public Papers of the Secretaries-General, vol. II, pp. 441–455.
  5. For text of the communiqué issued by Secretary-General Hammarskjöld and Premier Chou on January 10, 1955, see ibid., p. 436.
  6. U.N. Under Secretary for Public Information Ahmed S. Bokhari, who accompanied Hammarskjöld on his trip to Peking.
  7. Lodge reported his meeting with Hammarskjöld by telephone to Secretary Dulles, who reported it to the President by telephone the same evening. The President’s press secretary, James C. Hagerty, recorded in his diary that the conversation, as the President had described it to him, “added up to this:

    That Hammarskjold believed that the Chinese were going to release our airmen eventually but they would probably keep them in jail for several months and then commute their sentences. Of course, they are doing this deliberately to see how much trouble they can cause in this country, and the President said, ‘How we’re ever going to keep those fellows on the Hill from shooting off their mouths for two months on this I don’t know, but we’ve got to do it.’ “ (Hagerty Diary, January 13, 1955; Eisenhower Library, Hagerty Papers)

    A statement issued by the President on January 14 expressed disappointment that the airmen had not been released but urged restraint and support for the U.N. efforts; for the text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1955 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1959), pp. 15–16.