459. Letter 21 from Johnson to McConaughy1

Letter No. 21
Dear Walter:
[Facsimile Page 1]

Thank you very much for your letter of January 16 and especially for your forethought in sending me a copy of the Shepley article. As you will see the subject came up in a very major way at yesterday’s meeting and I was able to handle it against the background of full knowledge of the contents of the article.

I do not think there can be any question but that the article stung Peiping and that at the minimum they felt they had to react as least verbally. I have tried to kill much speculation among the correspondents here that the article called forth the Chicom statement on the talks, letting it be known that Weng had informed me at last meeting before the furor concerning the Shepley article had started, that they were going to issue the statement. Whether or not the Shepley article in fact had any effect on their final decision, it gave them a convenient peg on which to hang their release.

I had to handle my reply to Wang entirely off the cuff but believe I made the major points. I had not anticipated quite this kind of presentation from him and thought it would more likely be a passing reference such as his reference to Quarles’ statement the preceding meeting which I could, if I chose, ignore. [Facsimile Page 2] However, his presentation with regard to the Shepley article was such I felt it incumbent to reply at some length.

I have tried fully and frankly to cover my views with regard to the situation in my telegrams and have little to add.

You can be sure that I more than share your concern over the possibility, and I think even probability, that eventually some Chinese in jail that desires to return will turn up. I am a little concerned over being too specific in my statements each of the persons mentioned in his lists is free to return, just on the chance one of them might turn out to be imprisoned, deceased, or some other such thing.

I agreed with him yesterday on changing the date of meeting after I had verified that it was not an attempt to step-up the frequency of the meetings. Knowing your schedule on getting my instructions to me, as well as the likelihood that little new would be needed for the next meeting, it should not present any problem to you back there. By agreeing to it of course enabled me somewhat to balance off his agreeing to my [Typeset Page 680] Christmas recess and puts me back in the position of being able to ask for any change that we might desire in the future.

As a sidelight, as promised, Wang promptly furnished me copies of their January 18 statement and his interpreter just called Ekvall and asked that I furnish them copies of any statement that the Department may issue, which I agreed to do.

I stayed here last week-end in order to be on hand if and when they issued their public statement and I am staying here this week-end because of the meeting on Wednesday. However, I hope to leave Wednesday night so that I can get back to Prague on Thursday as things are piling up back there.

Regards to all.


U. Alexis Johnson
American Ambassador
  1. Source: Department of State, Geneva Talks Files, Lot 72D415. Secret; Official–Informal. Johnson signed the original “Alex.”