230. Memorandum of the Conversation at the British Breakfast, Eden’s Villa, Geneva, July 22, 1955, 8:30 a.m.1


  • Secretary Dulles
  • Sir Anthony Eden
  • Foreign Minister Macmillan
  • Mr. Phleger

Eden said that he would like to discuss the China situation.

The Secretary recalled that the ChiComs had not yet agreed to the Geneva meeting. Their stated objection was the use of the word “Peiping” in the communication, which seemed out of proportion; perhaps it indicated that they had changed their minds. Macmillan said their acceptance might have been to get to Geneva when the Conference was in session, and when the date was put after its adjournment, they might have decided not to go ahead.

The Secretary explained the U.S. position. The offshore island situation was serious. The ChiComs were building up positions, and threatening to take the islands by force. The US had been attempting to pacify the situation by influencing the ChiNats not to be provocative.

Eden said the President had expressed the view that it was not wise to build up forces on the islands so that they assumed a prestige aspect, but they should be placed more in the position of outposts. The Secretary said this was so and the US had tried to convince the ChiNats of the wisdom of not continuing to build up the islands, so as to make their holding a matter of importance and prestige. Assistant Secretary Robertson and Admiral Radford had gone to Taipei to urge this but with negative results.2

The Secretary said the situation in China was no different than in other countries that were divided, like Germany and Korea, where no attempt was being made to use armed force. Time would be necessary to bring a solution. Many things could happen with the passage of time. Those who had influence with the ChiComs should point this out and the danger of attempting to force the matter by military means. Others do not resort to force, why should the Communists? “Because they have the means”, Eden remarked.

Macmillan asked if the offshore islands were attacked, would the U.S. intervene. The Secretary said this could not be answered [Page 467] categorically. If they were overrun in 48 hours, the U.S. would not have time to act. However, if the ChiNats made a heroic defense and held out, public opinion for intervention would build up and might well get to the point where action by the U.S. would follow. U.S. reaction was strong about Dien Bien Phu where U.S. interests were not nearly so great. These islands might well be considered by the U.S. people as a symbol, somewhat like Berlin was considered when blockaded.

The Secretary said that if the ChiComs wanted to make progress, they should act like civilized people, that their attempts by pressure and violence to achieve their ends was the wrong way to go about it so far as the American people were concerned. When Nehru had suggested there should be some quid pro quo for the release of the prisoners, the Secretary had pointed out that this was like paying a kidnapper and would have a very bad effect on the American public view of the ChiComs. Both Eden and Macmillan agreed with this.

The question was raised as to what had become of the Soviet suggestion for Six-Power Talks to include the Big Four, the Chinese Communists and India. Eden said that he thought this had been dropped, because when Nehru was in Moscow3 and the Soviets brought the matter up, he had said that he did not think well of it.

The Secretary told of U Nu’s statement that the ChiComs desired direct negotiations with the U.S. on matters affecting the U.S. and direct negotiations with the ChiNats on matters affecting the ChiNats. He was not sure that this correctly represented the ChiCom’s view, although there had been some rumors to this effect. Macmillan said it was quite possible, and he also had heard such rumors. This was the way deals were made in the old days, and the ChiComs would make Chiang a Marshal in their Army.

The Secretary told of his talk with Bulganin in which Bulganin had said that the Soviets were not furnishing any military aid to the ChiComs at this time.4 He also said that Bulganin did not seem to have any previous knowledge of the offer of the U.S. to have direct talks in Geneva with the Communists.

Before the meeting broke up, Eden said that when he had dinner with the Soviets tonight5 he would point out the seriousness of the situation and of the consequences that might result were the ChiComs to resort to the use of armed force.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/7–2255. Secret. Drafted by Phleger.
  2. Walter S. Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, and Admiral Radford visited the Republic of China at the end of April 1955.
  3. Nehru visited Moscow in June 1955.
  4. See Document 227.
  5. For Eden’s account of the Soviet dinner, see Full Circle, pp. 340–342. That part of the conversation at dinner dealing with Indochina is also summarized in telegram 293 to Saigon, July 26. (Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/7–2655)