231. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Murphy) to the Secretary of State 1

The President in his Wednesday’s2 press conference has indicated that the U.S. would be willing “to talk with Red China about a Formosa cease-fire and anything else not affecting Nationalist China’s own affairs”.3 You indicated in your press conference that [Page 532] we would try to find out more about Chou En-lai’s intentions relating to his public comments at Bandung.

No doubt the President’s and your remarks have not gone unnoticed in Peiping. It would be reasonable to suppose Chou En-lai awaited with some eagerness a reaction of the Washington “barbarians” to his initiative at Bandung. No doubt also his was a carefully studied move into which could be read a whole complex of Chinese fears, hopes and aspirations.

Volunteer intermediaries are not wanting, i.e., Mohammed Ali, Prince Wan, Romulo and the British who lost no time despatching Trevelyan to the Foreign Office in Peiping on the theory that “there will have to be an intermediary simply to bring the two parties together to start their talks on a Formosa settlement.”4 This might be profitable brokerage for them and no doubt would be in the most friendly spirit.

Supposing our objective is a favorable psychological impact at Peiping which could eventually lead to an improvement of the specific question of Formosa, and also to other features including a release of imprisoned Americans, it would seem unquestionable that a direct, secret contact would perhaps stimulate Chou En-lai and company to further elucidation.

We have no reason for haste in establishing the contact. Having announced our willingness to talk, we are for the present in a good position. It is the Chinese Communists, not ourselves, who wish to force a change in the status quo. The announcement of our acceptance in principle of the idea of conversations tends to keep the onus for any worsening of the situation on the Chinese Communists.

The case for proceeding deliberately is reinforced by the fact that we have not yet obtained any favorable action from the Chinese Communists in regard to the American prisoners. While we cannot make the release of the prisoners an absolute precondition for holding the talks, we are undoubtedly in a poor position to enter talks if none of our prisoners has been released first. Pursuant to this line of thinking a circular telegram has been drafted (Tab A)5 to a number of our missions at capitals where an interest has been shown in the prisoner issue.

It is believed that Chinese Consulate General at Geneva is suitable place for an initial contact with the Chinese Communists. The Chinese Communist Consul General at Geneva has no particular rank, authority or influence so far as we know and he could be nothing [Page 533] more than a post office box, but that would serve the immediate purpose. We have used this channel for direct talks regarding the American prisoners which provides useful cover.

It is believed that either Wang Ping-nan, Chinese Communist Ambassador at Warsaw, or Huan Hsiang, Chinese Communist Chargé in London, could eventually provide channel for discussions of a substantive nature should they develop. Both men were on the Chinese Communist delegation at the Geneva Conference, apparently enjoy the confidence of Chou En-lai, and are accustomed to dealing with Westerners. Wang Ping-nan was Secretary General of the Foreign Office before he was appointed Ambassador to Poland. He dealt with Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson at Geneva on the prisoner question. Trevelyan had spoken rather favorably of Huan Hsiang, with whom he dealt regularly at Geneva. Wang Ping-nan, for example, later could be met by our Ambassador at Warsaw, Joseph E. Jacobs, who was a China language officer many years ago (but who has had no China service since 1930). Alternatively, Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson at Prague, who is well qualified through his long background of Far Eastern negotiating and experience could make an unobtrusive trip to Warsaw or London to meet either official.

It is recommended that after a decision is made as to where and with whom we wish the contact made, we use Gowen at Geneva to request the appointment through the Chinese Communist Consul General at Geneva.

If an approach of this type is considered wise, our representative at Geneva making the initial contact should limit his efforts to probing Chinese Communist tactics and objectives looking to a cease-fire understanding. He might make his initial approach along the following general lines:

We hope that through this channel you may be able on a confidential basis to amplify the interesting statement made by your Prime Minister at Bandung. Does he have in mind any special procedure or plan? His remarks lead us to suppose notwithstanding many things which have been said in various places that your principals really desire tranquillity in the Formosa area as we do.
Your principals no doubt fully appreciate that the U.S. has a long and honorable tradition of loyalty to its allies. In the war against Japan, Chiang Kai-shek fought a terrible and costly struggle. Your principals are well aware of the part played by the U.S. forces in the liberation of the Chinese mainland and the American conquest of the many island positions in the Pacific, including Formosa. Have your principals forgotten that the U.S. enabled Chinese nationals to occupy Formosa? Do they recognize this proof, if proof is needed, of lack of American interest in the occupation of Asiatic territory?
In the eyes of your principals is our loyalty to our ally, the Republic of China, an alliance formed to liberate China from the Japanese invader, to be a bar to some reasonable form of modus vivendi [Page 534] in this area? This alliance does not in any sense constitute intervention in internal Chinese affairs, or an infringement of Chinese sovereignty.
The basic prerequisite to relaxation of tensions and restoration of tranquillity in the Taiwan area is a renunciation of the use of force by all parties. This can be done without prejudice to their asserted rights or claims. My principals may be willing to consider such a renunciation and to urge our allies to do the same. Are your principals willing to make such a declaration? If so, a basis will have been laid for the termination of hostilities in the Taiwan area.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/4–2955. Top Secret. Also sent to Hoover. A handwritten notation by Phyllis Bernau on the source text indicates that it was seen by the Secretary. Another notation in an unidentified handwriting states that the Secretary made no decision.
  2. April 27.
  3. The quotation is not exact but expresses the substance of the President’s remarks. For a transcript of the press conference, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1955, pp. 425–440.
  4. Foreign Secretary Macmillan stated in the House of Commons on April 27 that Trevelyan had been instructed to discuss the situation with Chou En-lai. For text of his remarks, see Parliamentary Debates, vol. 540, cols. 911–913. He did not make the statement quoted here.
  5. Not attached to the source text. No such telegram was sent at this time.