115. Memorandum of Conversation0
MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE PRESIDENT, SELWYN LLOYD, FOREIGN MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM, AND SIR HAROLD CACCIA, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES
The President arrived at his Fort Adams quarters at Newport at 12:25. Mr. Lloyd and Sir Harold were already there and were visiting on the sun porch with Mrs. Eisenhower. The President joined this informal and light discussion for five minutes, and then asked Mr. Lloyd, Sir Harold and myself to step into living room.
At the start of the conversation the President thanked Mr. Lloyd for the support that the United Kingdom had been giving the United States on the Far Eastern situation and asked Mr. Lloyd to personally extend his thanks to Harold Macmillan.
Mr. Lloyd then asked the President if he thought there were any immediate crisis in the Taiwan area. The President replied that he did not think so and that he would be very happy indeed if the United States could make some arrangement with Chiang Kai-shek which would not lose face for him but which would get his troops off the islands of Quemoy and Matsu.
Mr. Lloyd said that his government fully supported the position of the United States—that these matters could not be settled by force but must be settled through negotiation. He said that if it were settled by force, then the free world would be the loser and that the free world would not know when the next territory would be occupied and taken by force. He added that his government was wondering about the outcome of the Warsaw talks and what would happen if those Warsaw talks were to fail. He asked the direct question: What would be the next move?
The President replied that he could not be sure what the next move would be but that the United States was hoping that some good could come from the Warsaw talks although frankly, we were not optimistic about it.
Mr. Lloyd then said that public opinion in his country was in favor of continuing such talks at a higher level should the Ambassadorial talks fail. By that, he explained, he did not mean Heads of Government, but possibly Foreign Ministers.[Page 250]
The President replied that that was a difficult decision for the United States to make, because our public opinion, he was confident, would not fully support our Secretary of State sitting down at the same table with Chou En-lai. He added, however, that it was something that should be considered.
Mr. Lloyd then said that his government was concerned about what would happen if the Chinese Nationalists and the United States were forced into a “counter battery” position. He also asked that if this situation were to develop, how soon would it become a nuclear situation.
The President did not answer this directly but merely said that the United States was taking this step by step, that we were opposed to the use of force and that we were trying to settle it through negotiation. However, he said that if the Chinese Communists were to start any attack on our fleet, that would be different.
He said that it was a dismaying thing to him that the orientals—both Nationalists and Communists—were creating a situation built around force and that it was hard for the United States to get out of this situation or to keep it from spreading.
Mr. Lloyd responded that in Indo China the free world got out of the situation without a loss of face.
The President responded that the free world got out pretty well but that he did not completely agree with Mr. Lloyd’s statement that no loss of face was suffered.
The President responded that probably what was needed were discussions among ourselves—the United States and the United Kingdom—on just what Khrushchev was up to.
Mr. Lloyd said that his government believed that it was a matter of personal vanity on Khrushchev’s part. He said his government believed that Khrushchev was angry that there had not been a Summit Meeting and that he was angry that Mr. Macmillan had not returned the visit that Khrushchev and Bulganin made to London several years ago.
[Here follows discussion of unrelated matters.]
Mr. Lloyd then returned to the Formosa Straits problem and said the immediate problem as far as his government was concerned was the islands of Quemoy and Matsu and asked flatly what the United States was going to do about those islands.
The President responded that he could not go beyond the public statements that the United States had been making, but that he would add one thing, and that was that the United States was not going to be kicked out of that area by force. He said that it was essential that the free world keep control of the island of Formosa and that if Formosa were lost, then a hole would result in the very middle of the island chain of defense. [Page 251] Should the Reds eventually control Formosa, that, in the President’s opinion, would be a real Munich.
Mr. Lloyd said that his government agreed very much that a loss of Formosa to the Reds would be devastating but he raised the question of whether or not Formosa could be neutralized with an independent Formosa government, not a Nationalist China government.
The President responded that the trouble with that suggestion was who was going to neutralize it, and who was going to keep it neutralized. That would be a job, he said, that would have to be done by the United States and should we get out of the area, no other nation was strong enough to assure this neutralization. The President added that he thought the United States and the United Kingdom should explore every possible solution to the-problem in an attempt to find something that was logical and sensible and that the whole world could accept.
Mr. Lloyd then came back to his former thesis that if the Warsaw talks did break down, it would be a good idea, in order to get public opinion in the world on our side, to suggest some other means of negotiation. In this instance he said that Nehru could be of great help. He said he had talked to Dulles on this suggestion, namely, that it might not be a bad idea for the United States to propose a five-power conference on this subject, consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Communist China and India.
The President said that we would have a great difficulty here in the United States in getting public acceptance to go into a conference with Red China on that basis. He said that the feeling of the American people against Red China was so strong that it would be almost impossible to have such a meeting. The President reiterated his previous statement that the United States and the United Kingdom should talk together, get down to basics—to fundamentals—and see what we could come up with in the way of a solution.
The President said this was not just a question of Quemoy and Matsu. It was not just a question of China. It was fundamentally a question of what Russia feels she has to do for Red China. He said what would have to be determined was whether the Communists—both Russia and China—were determined to throw the West out of the Far East.
Mr. Lloyd agreed with this and said that if that were the case, it would be quite probable that the Communists’ ultimate aim was to throw the West or the Western influence out of Japan, the Philippines, Malaya, Vietnam and all the other countries. Mr. Lloyd said he had a good talk with the Japanese Delegate at the United Nations and that this Delegate was worried about Quemoy and Matsu. He said he had talked with Mr. Dulles about this conversation.
The President said that in connection with Quemoy and Matsu, it was important that a solution be worked out which would be acceptable [Page 252] to Chiang Kai-shek. He pointed out that if Chiang Kai-shek were to quit and Formosa went to the Reds, then the overseas Chinese would have no place to go except to the Communist camp.
Mr. Lloyd said that was true and that was one of the reasons why his government was supporting the United States on its position of trying to work out a peaceful solution through negotiation, rather than resort to force. Mr. Lloyd added that the British government and its people had a frightful dilemma over the question of the use of nuclear weapons. He said that there would be no doubt that if the United States used nuclear weapons in that area, then there was “going to be hell to pay”.
The President responded that in his opinion, if nuclear weapons were going to be used, it would have to be an all-out effort rather than a local effort. He said that he did not plan to use nuclear weapons in any local situation at the present time.
Mr. Lloyd responded that he was relieved to hear the President say that.
The President continued that he believed nuclear weapons were not a police weapon but that you use nuclear weapons only when you wanted to destroy the enemy’s will to resist.
At that point Mr. Lloyd said he was sorry that he had kept the President longer than he expected to do, thanked him for seeing him, and started to leave.
It was unanimously agreed that I merely say that Mr. Lloyd and Sir Harold were in Newport for the races, that they had paid a courtesy call on the President, and that naturally the Far Eastern situation had come up in their talks.
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Top Secret. Drafted by Hagerty. A copy bearing the notation “Sec saw” is in Department of State, Central Files, 793.5/9-2158.↩