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

366. For the Secretary. Re: HammarskjoldChou En-lai talks. I told Hammarskjold this afternoon that I was very much worried about the reaction in Washington to the newspaper stories which have occurred since his return from China. In particular the story which mentioned United Nations membership for ChiComs2 and the Hamilton story in the New York Times this morning3 which mentioned the Formosa treaty as quid pro quo for prisoners’ return. I said that while I thought that Hammarskjold’s actual record of performance was good, the publicity was very bad and could have reactions [Page 36] in Congress which would endanger the very existence of the United Nations itself.

I urged him to impress upon his staff the vital importance of not leaking. I also said that I thought he had been off-base in telling representatives of other countries about those portions of his meeting with Chou which related to American policy, to wit the visit of the fliers’ parents and the Formosa treaty.

Believe the matter of press release of Chou’s proposal is in better shape. Hammarskjold now agrees to split it up into two letters.

One will transmit material covering the fliers.4 Hammarskjold has had that opened so as to be sure he was not transmitting propaganda. It contains films taken of the prisoners recently to show what good condition they are in. It seems better for this to be in a separate letter that the Secretary could release at any time he wishes so as to blanket the news story regarding the second letter.

The second letter concerns the issuance of visas to the prisoners’ families to visit them in China.5 Hammarskjold agreed to ask Chou to release it at 10:30 p.m. Peking time on Friday, January 21, which is 9:30 a.m. New York time. Hammarskjold will not release it at the same time but will follow along with texts for the press of what happened.6 So it will not be a UN story fundamentally it will have a Peking dateline. It was hard to get him to agree to this.

Hammarskjold does not think that Chou really expects any of the families to come, but is doing it to try to get away from the Ghengis Khan reputation which the ChiComs have achieved.

Hammarskjold says that after a reasonable period of quiet he will put on the pressure through the Indians, the British and even the Russians, if there has been no progress towards release. He believes the Russians think the whole thing was a great mistake and that even Chou thinks so.

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I suggested possibility that any families that do travel to China do so under UN auspices. I believe it could be done under the resolution under which Hammarskjold is operating.

I suggested that the one transmitting the films be made into stills and released for the afternoon papers on Friday, and that it might kill—or at least take edge off—the other story.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.95A241/1–1755. Top Secret; Priority; limited Distribution.
  2. Hammarskjöld had stated in response to questioning at his January 14 news conference that it would be “useful” if the People’s Republic of China were directly represented in the United Nations. The transcript of his news conference is printed in Public Papers of the Secretaries-General, vol. II, pp. 441–455.
  3. The reference is to a report by Thomas J. Hamilton with a U.N. headquarters dateline, which stated that according to “reliable sources”, Hammarskjöld believed the chances of the airmen’s release would be improved if the United States clarified the defensive nature of its treaty with the Republic of China.
  4. A letter from Hammarskjöld to Lodge, dated January 17, 1955, which transmitted information and photographs concerning the imprisoned Americans, is filed with a covering letter of the same date from Lodge to Dulles. (Department of State, UNP Files: Lot 58 D 742, American Fliers in China—General Correspondence)
  5. A second letter of January 17 from Hammarskjöld to Lodge, transmitted to the Department and filed with the letters cited in footnote 4 above, stated that Chou had offered to facilitate the visit to China of relatives who wished to visit the men under detention. The offer applied primarily to the 15 military personnel and to Downey and Fecteau, but if the relatives of any other Americans under detention wished to visit them, the question should be taken up with the Chinese Consul General in Geneva.
  6. A statement issued at U.N. headquarters on January 21 confirmed an announcement made that day in Peking that the Government of the People’s Republic of China would provide facilities for the relatives of imprisoned U.S. military personnel to visit them. For text of the U.N. statement, see Public Papers of the Secretaries-General, vol. II, pp. 456–457.