257. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Republic of China0

542. Assistant Secretary Robertson reviewed with Amb. Yeh January 291 US attitude toward Ta-Tan and Ehr-Tan Islands. He first recalled similar discussion with Yeh last September2 in which he had made clear US view that Tans were not worth defending and that Yeh had agreed but had requested that recommendation to GRC for evacuation of Tans come from him rather than US. Yeh confirmed foregoing and said that he had made such recommendation to President Chiang by telegram and had followed up with personal discussion with Gimo when he went back to Taipei at time of Secretary’s visit. Generalissimo had however turned down recommendation as had Chinese General Staff.

Robertson reiterated US opinion Tans were military liability and cited opinion expressed by CINCPAC (CINCPAC’s 241904Z Jan 59)3 as indication US military thinking. He pointed out also that after evacuation of Tans they could in opinion our military effectively be denied to Communists by GRC artillery. While acknowledging that decision whether evacuate Tans solely up to GRC, Robertson stressed importance of GRC military being informed of US views re Tans and of fact that US would not become involved in any way in their defense. In response question from Yeh, Robertson denied US had any indication imminent Communist attack on Tans, emphasizing that US decision re Tans taken last August and based purely on military considerations. Decision does not represent any change in policy and does not affect in any way US attitude toward defense big and little Quemoy.

In response to Robertson’s request for Yeh suggestion how best convey US attitude to GRC, Yeh recommended Admiral Smoot discuss matter with Tiger Wang. It was agreed that US military view re Tans should be presented to Chinese in order minimize political effects.

Re COMUSTDCMAAG Taipei’s telegram 310456Z4 we do not intend “negotiate” with GRC for withdrawal from Tans. Decision is up to [Page 520] Chinese. But we believe it important that GRC should know US thinking re Tans as outlined above. As stated to Yeh our military considers islands can be effectively denied to Communists as a means for Communists to project their power closer to the Kinmens. Reduction or withdrawal of Tans garrisons would merely represent redeployment of forces within Quemoy group.

JCS instructing CINCPAC to instruct Smoot to discuss military considerations with Tiger Wang.5 Embassy should not initiate discussion but if Generalissimo (or other GRC civilian official) should raise matter with you as result RobertsonYeh conversation (which understand Yeh has reported to Gimo) you should be guided by foregoing in replying.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.5/2–559. Top Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Martin, cleared by Parsons and in draft by Green and with JCS, and approved by Robertson. Repeated priority to CINCPAC.
  2. The memorandum of conversation is ibid., 793.5/1–2959; see Supplement.
  3. See Document 137.
  4. Telegram 241904Z from CINCPAC to COMUSTDC/MAAG, January 24, expressed the view that “no appreciable price should be paid” for holding the Tans and recommended “discreet inquiries” about GRC intentions concerning them. (Department of State, FE Files: Lot 65 D 497, FE 3500–3699; see Supplement)
  5. Telegram 310456Z from COMUSTDC/MAAG to CINCPAC, January 31, stated that Drumright’s view was that the Nationalists would not withdraw from the Tans and it would be inadvisable to negotiate with them on this subject. (Department of State, ROC Files: Lot 71 D 517, Offshore Islands, 1959; see Supplement)
  6. In JCS telegram 954570 to CINCPAC, February 6, which stated the JCS conclusions concerning the Tans: they should be regarded as possible outposts with GRC personnel markedly reduced or withdrawn, they could be denied to the Communists, and redeployment of GRC forces from the Tans would improve the overall disposition of GRC forces. (Department of State, FE Files: Lot 65 D 497, FE 3500–3699; see Supplement) Smoot reported in telegram 062219Z [sic] from COMUSTDC/MAAG to CINCPAC, February 17, that he had discussed the Tans with Wang, who disagreed with all three of the above points. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.5/2–1759; see Supplement)