767. Letter 51 from Johnson to McConaughy1

Letter No. 51
Dear Walter:
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I am again not sending any comment telegram as there is really nothing new to say and much can happen before the next meeting.

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I must confess that the news stories from India certainly make my prediction that Nehru would not talk much about Communist China look entirely wrong. It now looks as if he might do much talking about it, and may be carrying some messages. Therefore, I presume that what happens at the next meeting will to a considerable degree depend on what is or is not said during the Washington visit.

Do you see any significance in Wang’s persistence on the January 18 date? I do not have Chou’s schedule here and wonder if it could be related to the post-Washington meeting between Chou and Nehru and Chou’s return to Peiping.

I pressed for the January 17 date as Swissair is no longer flying to Prague on Saturdays and Sundays and I have to go back by Czech Air on those days for which I have no stomach. (They have had too many crashes with their old Soviet planes and the week preceding my last return by Czech Air, killed a whole plane full taking off from Zurich.) I agreed to Saturday with the thought I could lay-over here Sunday and go back Swissair on Monday [text not declassified].

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I am sorry I failed to reply to you about Helenka. However, as I had talked over with her the suggestion you made regarding leave without pay and as she was agreeable I had dismissed it from my mind as finished business. Nevertheless, I should have said something to you.

I pressume you have by now received my letter about extending Ekvall beyond December 30. (My letters to you seem to take an extraordinary time in transit).

As a side light Wang was with me on the plane coming down Tuesday and while we were in the airport at Zurich I showed him two articles and pictures in the New York Times of Chou’s Indian visit. In a little while he came over and gave me the Prague English news bulletin of NCNA giving the account of Chou’s Calcutta interview. It was to that I was particularly referring this morning and he knew it as I had it on the table.

I didn’t feel as pleased with today’s meeting as I had with the last meeting in that I wasn’t able to keep it as exclusively on the ten Americans as the last meeting. However, I felt it was time to call him on their tactics with respect to the Chinese students and this inevitably led us somewhat down that road. However, all in all, I think I was successful in continuing to keep him on the defensive.

I am very glad you accepted my suggestions on the contingency statements in the event of any releases. I just felt we were giving the Indians entirely too much credit.

I did not put too much stock in Menon’s statement as indicating knowledge by him of an early release, but would be inclined to give [Typeset Page 1289] considerable credence to Mehta’s remarks if Kuh was correctly quoting him. (Incidentally thanks very much for the press account of Mehta’s statement on Chinese in the U.S. As you will have seen I made very good use of it.) I would be most surprised if they released all 10. If they are going to make any gesture I think it much more likely they will at the most let 8 go.

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If and when I bring up the missing servicemen again I suggest I should also include some blanket inquiry that would cover not only the 11 Coast Guard and Navy personnel but the recent weather plane incident in the Japan Sea on which I forwarded you a reply to a letter from Mrs. McLaughlin. That is, without individually mentioning all such incidents an inquiry framed in such a way as to attempt to draw from him a disclaimer of knowledge of survivors of any such incidents so that we could assure inquirers we have done our best for them.

Holiday greetings and best wishes for all. May 1957 be more productive than 1955 and 1956.

Sincerely yours,

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