458. Telegram 1524 to Geneva1

[Facsimile Page 1]

1524. For Johnson.

Following statement being released by Department 11 a.m. January 21:


The Chinese Communists issued a misleading statement on January 18 regarding the Geneva discussions which have been taking place between United States Ambassador Johnson and Chinese Communist Ambassador Wang. It is thus necessary that the record be set straight.

These conferences were started last August to discuss the repatriation of civilians and other “practical matters at issue”.


On September 10, 1955 the representatives of both sides, by agreement, issued statements that civilians were entitled to return to their own countries (Annex A).

The Communist declaration stated:

“The Peoples Republic of China recognizes that Americans in the Peoples Republic of China who desire to return to the United States are entitled to do so, and declares that it has adopted and will further adopt appropriate measures so that they can expeditiously exercise their right to return.”

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As of today, four months after this declaration was made, only six out of the nineteen for whom representations were being made on September 10 have been released. Thirteen Americans are still in Communist prisons.

As for the United States, any Chinese is free to leave the United States for any destination of his choosing, and not a single one has been refused exit. The Indian Embassy which was designated to assist any Chinese who wished to leave, has not brought to the attention of this Government any case of a Chinese who claims he is being prevented from leaving, nor has it stated that it is impeded in any way in carrying out its functions under the terms of the September 10 Agreed Announcement.

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After this Agreed Announcement was made, the two sides proceeded to discuss “other practical matters at issue between them”.

The Communists suggested the topics of the termination of the trade embargo against Communist China and the holding of a meeting by the Foreign Ministers of both sides.

Ambassador Johnson at the October 8, 1955 meeting, pointed out that progress in further discussions could not be expected in the face of continuing Communist threats to take Taiwan by military force, and suggested that both sides agree to announce that they renounced the use of force generally and particularly in the Taiwan Area and agree to settle their differences by peaceful means. The United States representative [Facsimile Page 3] made clear that this renunciation of the use of force was not designed to commit the Communists to renounce pursuit of their policies by peaceful means with respect to Taiwan. These proposals were in the terms shown as Annex B.

Three weeks after the United States proposal to renounce the use of force, the Communists on October 27 proposed a draft, a copy of which is shown on Annex C. In this proposal, the Communists pointedly omitted any reference to the Taiwan Area, or to the recognition of the right of self-defense, and inserted a provision for an immediate meeting of Foreign Ministers.

This proposal was unacceptable because it would have made it possible for the Communists to claim that the proposal did not apply to the Taiwan Area, which is the very place against which the Communist threats are directed, and to claim further that the United States had renounced the right to use force in self-defense. Ambassador Johnson further pointed out that consideration of higher level meetings was neither appropriate nor acceptable under existing circumstances.

On November 10, 1955, Ambassador Johnson, in an attempt to reach an acceptable form of declaration, submitted a new draft declaration (Annex D). This made clear that the renunciation of the use of force was without prejudice to the peaceful pursuit of its policies by either side; [Facsimile Page 4] that it had general application, but applied particularly to the Taiwan Area; and that it did not deprive either side of the right of self-defense.

The United States proposal was rejected by the Communists, who, on December 1, 1955, made a counter-proposal (Annex E). This represented an advance over their previous proposal in that it dropped the provision for talks on the Foreign Minister level in favor of the continuance of Ambassadorial talks, but still pointedly omitted any reference to the Taiwan area and to recognition of the right of self-defense.

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In a further effort to reach agreement, Ambassador Johnson, at the January 12 meeting, suggested two simple amendments to the Communist counter-proposal. These were the insertion of the words “without prejudice to the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense” and of the words “in the Taiwan Area or elsewhere”. This United States revision of the Chinese counter-proposal is shown in Annex F.


This was the status of the discussions when the Communists released their public statement of January 18.

The Communist statement apparently rejects the United States proposal. It states “Taiwan is Chinese territory: there can be no question of defense, as far as the United States is concerned. . . . Yet the United States has demanded the right of defense of the Taiwan Area. Is this not precisely a [Facsimile Page 5] demand that China accept continued occupation of Taiwan and that the tension in the Taiwan Area be maintained forever.” And further, it states: “The American side continues to demand that our side accept that the United States has ‘the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense’ in China’s Taiwan Area. This is what our side absolutely cannot accept.”


Two points must be made clear. First, the United States is not occupying Taiwan, and Taiwan has never been a part of Communist China. The claims of Communist China and the contentions of the United States with respect to this area are well known and constitute a major dispute between them. It is specifically with respect to this dispute that the United States has proposed the principle of renunciation of force and the settlement of differences by peaceful means. This is the principle which the Communists say they have accepted.

In this connection the United States has made completely clear that in renouncing the use of force neither side is relinquishing its objectives and policies, but only the use of force to attain them.

Secondly, the United States has rights and responsibilities in the Taiwan Area; also it has a Mutual Defense Treaty. Accordingly, it is present in the Taiwan Area. The Communist refusal to state that the renunciation of force is without prejudice to the right of self-defense [Facsimile Page 6] against armed attack can only be interpreted as an attempt to induce the United States to agree that if attacked it will forego the right to defend its lawful presence in this area.

The right of individual and collective self-defense against armed attack is inherent; it is recognized in International Law: it is specifically affirmed in the Charter of the United Nations. No country can [Typeset Page 678] be expected to forego this right. Indeed the Communists should be as anxious to preserve this right as is the United States.


The present exchange makes clear that:

Four months after the Communists announced that they would adopt measures to permit Americans in China to return to the United States, 13 Americans are still held in Communist prisons.
The United States proposed that the parties renounce the use of force without prejudice to the right of individual and collective self-defense against armed attack, in order that the discussions might take place free from the threat of war.
The United States made clear that this renunciation would not prejudice either side in the pursuit of its objectives and policies by peaceful means.
The Communists, while stating that they accept the principle of the renunciation of force, have deprived such acceptance of its value [Facsimile Page 7] by refusing to agree that it is without prejudice to the right of individual and collective self-defense against armed attack and that it is applicable to the Taiwan Area.

In short, the Communists so far seem willing to renounce force only if they are first conceded the goals for which they would use force.

The United States for its part, intends to persist in the way of peace. We seek the now overdue fulfillment by the Chinese Communists of their undertaking that the Americans now in China should be allowed expeditiously to return. We seek this not only for humanitarian reasons but because respect for international undertakings lies at the foundation of a stable international order. We shall also seek with perseverance a meaningful renunciation of force, particularly in the Taiwan Area.


  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/1–2056. Official Use Only; Priority. Drafted by McConaughy; cleared by Sebald and White (ND).