111. Telegram From Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson to the Department of State1

1241. 1. Believe yesterday’s developments reflect major tactical shift in Peiping which will require corresponding decisions on our part. Whatever their motives their draft almost completely meets position I have been taking.

2. Their acceptance renunciation force concept, and agreement to apparently indefinite extension these talks probably stems in part from Peiping estimate repercussions these developments on Taiwan as well as on our allies. Postponement demand for FonMin conference probably influenced by our firm rejection this proposal at present stage, by failure obtain support of Molotov (as well as Macmillan and Nehru) and realization their public position of pistol-to-head demand on this issue was not good. Believe Secretary’s communications to U Nu,2 substance of which undoubtedly passed on, also played important part.

3. At any rate PRC has now presented draft which very closely follows line of argument I have been taking in meetings. They therefore have grounds for anticipating its acceptance with little modification. If not accepted they are in very strong negotiating as well as public position and will probably not hesitate quickly to go to public if they consider it desirable bring pressure on us.

4. One question is whether in context negotiations thus far there would be commitment by U.S. to discuss in some form “relaxation and elimination of tension in Taiwan area”. Refusal in any way to admit to discussion these talks would be difficult to defend publicly and would support their demand for FonMin meeting. Acceptance will increase strains our relations with GRC but possibly to lesser extent than FonMin meeting. Possibly we can find some subject we can introduce or some unilateral action we can take that would give us at least temporary initiative in this general field.

5. Another question is what other subjects could be introduced or discussed in effort keep talks going so as postpone coming to grips with thorny Taiwan area questions. Trade is now only remaining question and particularly if I must continue indicate complete firmness on U.S. embargo this offers little scope for meetings. While lowering CHINCOM levels fairly promptly following issuance any declaration renunciation force would be useful move, it cannot provide much in way of subject for discussion in meetings.

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6. In light of above I will need as well as much background guidance as it is now possible to give me on what we desire concerning future course of talks.

7. With respect Wang’s draft believe situation precludes my introduction new counter draft or return my first draft. On other hand I should have clear idea whether we willing accept his draft with or without such amendments we might suggest. I need not necessarily give final approval at next meeting but will desire avoid taking any positions from which I might later be required to retreat.

8. With respect his draft it seems to me principal question is whether I should press for specific mention of Taiwan. It seems to me from standpoint our relations with GRC and degree to which we are committed to discussion Taiwan area questions with PRC there is much to be said for omission any specific reference to Taiwan in declaration. This also related to whether we are to regard any such declaration as primarily legal or political statement. While statement as presently drafted may contain legal loopholes with respect Taiwan area, regarded as political statement it seems to me it would be extremely difficult for Peiping issue this statement and then turn around and attempt justify attack in Taiwan area on grounds unexpressed fine print. In eyes of world both friendly and enemy, major dispute between U.S. and PRC is in Taiwan area.

9. With respect second para Wang’s draft, important note re accurate and literal translation of Chinese original would be PRC and U.S. “are determined that they should settle disputes between their two countries through peaceful negotiations and also will not resort to any (and all) threat (intimidation) of military force”. (Chinese text operative portion this para and last para being transmitted by separate tel.)3 This of course much stronger and preferable from our standpoint to English translation given me by Wang, there not being any conditional relationship between negotiations and renunciation of force.

10. Therefore believe that, subject to whatever views Department may have with respect to specific reference to Taiwan, I can and should at next meeting probe on substitution of “and also” for “without” in English text. Wang will probably not commit himself but question will inevitably arise as to whether we prepared accept if they agree our English version.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/12–255. Secret; Priority; Limited Distribution.
  2. Reference is apparently to the message transmitted in Document 70.
  3. Johnson’s telegram 1243 from Geneva, December 2. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/12–255)