116. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, February 17, 1955, 2:34 p.m.1

SUBJECT

  • Further Security Council Proceedings on Offshore Islands

PARTICIPANTS

  • The Secretary
  • Sir Leslie Knox Munro, New Zealand Ambassador
  • Mr. G. R. Laking, Minister, New Zealand Embassy
  • Sir Robert Scott, Minister, British Embassy
  • G—Deputy Under Secretary Murphy
  • L—Mr. Phleger
  • FE—Assistant Secretary Robertson
  • EUR—Assistant Secretary Merchant
  • IO—Deputy Assistant Secretary Wainhouse
  • UNP—Mr. Popper

The Secretary remarked that Operation Oracle should not be discontinued merely because the Chinese Communists would not appear in the Security Council. This would make things all too easy for the Communists. The Secretary felt we should maintain the pressure on them, not necessarily by voting on the tripartite draft resolution,2 but in any event by tabling it. The prestige of both the New Zealand Government and the UN was involved. The Security Council operation should not be pushed to a point where it would become unproductive or break down, but a slight but steady pressure should be maintained.

. . . . . . .

[Page 287]

The Secretary noted that tabling a resolution, perhaps the latter part of next week, would help to meet speculation regarding what we had in mind by crystallizing our intentions. He thought the resolution might possibly be modified by leaving out specific reference to the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China, so that the first paragraph would read:

“Having noted the occurrence of armed hostilities [between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China] in the area of certain islands off the coast of the mainland of China;…”3

Mr. Wainhouse asked whether it would be desirable to add a new paragraph referring to the Chinese Communist refusal to accept the Security Council’s invitation. The Secretary did not think it would be helpful, and Ambassador Munro agreed.

. . . . . . .

The Secretary said he had not been aware of these Chinese Nationalist views. He had been thinking in terms of the reaction of the Chinese Communists. Clearly the concept of “two Chinas” was equally repugnant to both. The point was not terribly important, however, because this resolution would very probably never come into force. At the moment the point was that the three governments should not allow themselves to be so quickly and easily diverted from their purpose by the refusal of the Chinese Communists to attend.

. . . . . . .

The Secretary doubted that we would feel it wise to take the question to the General Assembly. The subject was so complicated and delicate, and the Assembly so unwieldy and so difficult to manage, that we would be reluctant to raise the matter there. The Secretary suspected that some other state might bring it up at the next regular session but did not envisage our pressing for Assembly action in the near future.

Sir Robert Scott stated that he was not sure his Government would favor early resumption of Security Council proceedings. With reference to the text of the resolution, he asked what was the purpose of the penultimate paragraph recommending “resort to peaceful methods in order to prevent the recurrence of …4 hostilities”.

Mr. Phleger pointed out that the language referred to the injunction upon the parties to a dispute, in Article 33 of the Charter, to seek a peaceful settlement by various methods. Sir Robert thought [Page 288]the clause was open to all sorts of interpretations. Ambassador Munro thought its retention would be in accord with the general tenor of the debate in the Security Council.

The Secretary asked why the United Kingdom tended to feel the matter should be dropped in the Security Council.

Sir Robert said that, while he was speaking without instructions, he thought his Government would not feel the matter should be dropped, because that would leave the Russians free to push their own item. However, he wondered what would happen after the tripartite resolution was vetoed. He thought his Government would prefer to see the views of the various parties clarified in the diplomatic discussions now going on all over the world. Meanwhile a military lull might set in. In time some kind of conciliation machinery might be established, possibly through UN procedures. The alternative possibility would be that if fighting broke out, and if the resolution had been voted upon, those who had supported it would be jockeyed into a position where morally, though not legally, they would be committed to support Chiang Kai-shek.

The Secretary said that recent intelligence estimates led him to believe we would be operating under an illusion if we thought the Chinese Communists had any objective except to capture Formosa. The idea that a solution was possible in terms of the coastal positions seemed to him incorrect. He believed the Chinese Communists’ objective was to get rid of a rival Chinese Government whose existence would be awkward for them if they engaged in hostilities, say in South East Asia or Korea. The Secretary did not think the Chinese Communists expected to take Formosa by military means alone, but mentioned the possibility that they might first undertake subversive operations to bring about defections in an exposed area, and then launch military operations in that area. In sum, he was inclined to think that the real problem was the security of Formosa itself. The offshore islands were important because of the effect their loss would have on Chinese Nationalist morale. We had to remember that the political stability of Formosa could conceivably be impaired.

In reply to a question from Ambassador Munro, Mr. Robertson explained that there were differing reports on the state of morale on Formosa. On the one hand there was a sense of relief as a result of recent developments. On the other, there was the possibility that in the future Chiang Kai-shek would progressively lose face; that dissidents might be encouraged by unfavorable developments; and that the Generalissimo’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo, with his Soviet training and Russian wife, might be one of them. On the basis of his own contact with Chiang Ching-kuo, Mr. Robertson did not agree with this estimate of him. He did believe, however, that it was possible the Chinese Nationalists might conceivably be pushed to a point [Page 289]where a collapse might occur. This would confront us with most crucial decisions.

Sir Robert Scott admitted that Chinese Nationalist morale might indeed be threatened but reached a different conclusion: namely, that the current American position on the offshore islands would give the Chinese Communists an opportunity to destroy that morale through the capture of successive island outposts.

The Secretary asked his visitors to inform their Foreign Ministers of the discussion, since he would want to consider further steps with the Ministers at a meeting in Bangkok.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/2–1755. Secret; Limited Distribution. The time of the meeting is from Dulles’ appointment diary. (Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers)
  2. See footnote 5, Document 42.
  3. Brackets and ellipsis in the source text.
  4. Ellipsis in the source text.