21. Telegram From the Ambassador in the Republic of China (Rankin) to the Department of State1

468. Taipei despatch 46 July 24, 1953 and telegrams 50 and 51 July 22, 19532 and 467 January 18, 19553 also Department’s telegram 76 July 30, 1953.4

Defense Minister Yu Ta-wei called on me this afternoon and stressed “extreme gravity” of situation developing in Tachen area. Repeating substantially what he has told General Chase recently and latter has passed on to Admirals Radford and Stump,5 Yu predicts offensive actions of Reds in Tachen region unavoidable will produce chain of mutual retaliation and consequent expansion of war. He considers it already perhaps too late to break this chain and stabilize front but believes important to try and that only US is capable of effective action in this sense.

Minister Yu feels he has shown great restraint in withholding retaliatory action while awaiting US concurrence which has been denied after delays of week or two.6 In case of yesterday’s attack on Ichiang (or Yikiang) however, US approval received quickly7 and Chinese Air Force today bombed shipping at Swatow, Pintang and [Page 54] Amoy. He noted his restraint again evidenced by absence of request for agreement to bomb targets on mainland.

Official US statement to effect 7th fleet would extend appropriate air support in Tachen area against further Communist attacks would, Minister Yu believes, offer only chance of stopping spread of conflict. With prospect of US air cover if needed, Chinese Navy could again command Tachen waters which should obviate necessity of direct US naval support. (Yu also suggested to Chase that US show of naval force in Tachen area would be useful.)

Failing some positive action by US, Minister Yu is convinced Reds will push southward with their command of air and consequent ability to use otherwise inferior naval power, taking Nanchi Matsu, et cetera, in due course. By that time frequent alerts in Taipei would be unavoidable, due to nearness of enemy air activity, and direct involvement of Formosa in conflict must be expected.

Comment: Conflicting military views on importance of offshore islands provide no satisfactory basis for me to express opinion except from political or psychological standpoint. In latter connection I believe loss of Tachen or others among more important islands would have most unfortunate effect on Chinese and other Asian opinion by undermining confidence in US strength and determination. Subject to opinion of US military authorities, therefore I recommend most sympathetic consideration of Minister Yu’s request for statement re air support.

If on other hand it now definitely decided islands in Tachen area not particularly important, I believe US should so inform Chinese and assume formal responsibility for advising their evacuation before excessive losses of men and material have been incurred. Such advice should be considered in light of earlier US urging that “all feasible steps should be taken to strengthen” island defenses.

Further consideration often overlooked in this complex situation is that present Communist attacks represent clearcut case of new aggression against UN member with which US has just signed defense pact. Simply calling for cease-fire, without at same time branding aggressor, would therefore encourage world opinion to assume sponsors of cease-fire proposal find little to choose between two belligerents in present case.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/1–1955. Secret; Priority. Passed by the Department to CINCPAC at Rankin’s request; also passed to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
  2. For text of telegrams 50 and 51 from Taipei, July 22, 1953, and for information concerning despatch 46 from Taipei, July 24, 1953, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xiv, Part 1, p. 232 ff.
  3. Telegram 467 from Taipei, January 18, 1955, reported an amphibious attack on Ichiang and bombing attacks on the Tachen Islands that day. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/1–1955)
  4. Telegram 76 to Taipei, July 30, 1953, is summarized in footnote 1, Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xiv, p. 242.
  5. In telegram 181030Z (MG 5240) from Chief MAAG, Formosa, to CINCPAC, January 18, 1955. (JCS Records, CCS 381 Formosa (11–8–48) Sec. 17)
  6. Minister Yu’s proposal of January 11 (see footnote 3, Document 10) had not received U.S. concurrence. Telegram 142155Z from CNO to CINCPAC, January 14, 1955, reads in part as follows:

    “Because of the time which unfortunately but necessarily has elapsed consider operation should not be conducted now. However it is considered to be within the revised NSC policy and therefore an approved type of operation. It should be prepared for and executed promptly following the next incident which meets your criteria with regard to ChiNat retaliation. In this connection and to avoid insofar as possible damage to neutral shipping consider operation should be conducted under conditions good visibility. The foregoing concurred in by JCS and SecDef.” (JCS Records, CCS 381 Formosa (11–8–48) Sec. 17)

  7. Telegram 181251Z from CINCPAC to Chief MAAG, Formosa, January 18, 1955, authorized the execution of a Nationalist proposal to attack Communist shipping in the areas of Swatow, Amoy, and Fuchow in retaliation for the Communist attacks on Ichiang and the Tachens that day. (Ibid.)