259. Telegram From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State0
Taipei, February 11, 1959, 7 p.m.
918. Department’s 543.1
- From time of Secretary’s visit to Taipei in October 1958 until February in keeping with US-urged policy of avoidance provocative actions GRC ceased attacking Communist shipping. In late January, Commander in Chief Chinese Navy informed Commander US TDC he had [Page 524] received orders to commence interception of shipping in offshore island area for purpose of enhancing military security. Since that time, only possible actions in implementation those orders have been two incidents described in Situation Reports 1544, 1545 and 1546.2 (See paragraph 3 below.) Embassy will ask TDC to look into this matter to determine its purpose. Unless it seems justified for military reasons GRC will be asked to desist.
- General Wang Shu-ming’s formal written request of Admiral Smoot for pre-concurrence in CAF attacks on mainland installations in event of Communist attack on Tans3 was delivered in manner which gave impression he was making request for sake of record. However, submission this request was consistent with recent GRC warnings of imminent Communist hostile action against islands (see Embtel 913),4 which probably designed in part to prevent relaxation of US alertness and posture of military readiness with regard to offshore islands. Any resumption by Communists of military pressures on offshore islands in degree similar to that of crisis period would almost certainly cause GRC to make strong effort win US concurrence to CAF attacks. Wang’s letter might in part be effort to prepare ground for later specific request for US concurrence, if contingency arises.
- Prior to crisis, GRC had long used offshore islands as base from which to infiltrate agents into mainland for intelligence collection. US agencies Taiwan not aware of any such effort having been made in past three months. IBMND operation mentioned reference telegram (4), on basis available evidence, does not appear to have been effort conduct mainland operation. In fact, Communist explanation of sinking of vessel as reported by FBIS (i.e., that vessel was interfering with fishing boats) could be accurate.
- Four-point program for mainland operations as outlined by Chiang Ching-kuo ([less than 1 line of source text not declassified] report cited in reference telegram) is still in stage of planning and development. In addition to stated purpose of such planning it also serves (and may be intended) as prop for morale of top GRC operating level. Phases 1 and 2 of projected plan (collection of intelligence and psychological warfare) call for effort to enlarge scope of activities like those already being carried on by GRC with US encouragement and support (in line with US policy as set forth in NSC 5723).
- Phase 3, the promotion of passive resistance and low level active dissidence, is predicated on substantial success (as yet to be achieved) with phases 1 and 2. GRC officials charged with carrying out planning for this phase almost certainly regard it as hypothetical at this time. In their view phase 3 operations would, like two preceding steps, be entirely consistent with established US objectives. Further, GRC clearly sees this phase as part of implementation of reformulation of its mission set forth in joint communiqué of October 23. President Chiang’s New Year’s Day address refers to “the political front on the mainland” in context of “passive resistance”, disillusionment, sabotage, and uprisings on mainland, and says “for this reason, we have based our strategy of counter-offensive and national recovery primarily on political means and secondarily on military force”.
- Phase 4, military exploitation of phase 3, even more hypothetical than phase 3. In Embassy view, GRC would not reach conclusion time had come for implementation this phase except in approximately situation hypothecated by Secretary Dulles in September 30, 1958 press conference. In such contingency, GRC would almost certainly regard US commitment to assist, or stand ready to assist, as essential prerequisite for opening this phase. It is barely conceivable that situation could arise where GRC thought it could exercise decisive influence on mainland by use of force at its disposal, without active US assistance. If GRC were convinced success possible on this basis, it might go ahead on own. However, even in this case, it would most probably seek US acquiescence.
- GRC policies with respect to Off Shore Islands, activities in Strait, and para-military operations against mainland, diverge from related US policies. GRC desires, if opportunity is presented by renewal Communist aggression, to utilize Off Shore island theater for infliction of maximum military damage against Communists, in hopes that might speed Communist collapse on mainland (this clearly stated in President Chiang’s New Year’s Day speech). GRC is reluctant see Off Shore Island situation crystallize into kind of border line which separates other divided countries. In GRC leadership’s view, Free China is engaged in protracted struggle with Communist insurgents, and Off Shore Islands-Strait area are principal remaining arena for that struggle. GRC regards paramilitary activities against mainland as means of retaining at least limited degree of initiative in pursuit of recovery of mainland. As reported by Embassy in past, GRC regards some degree of initiative this regard as important from standpoint domestic politics, as well as morale here, among overseas Chinese, and on mainland.
- Actions which US desires GRC to perform, such as mainland operations, psychological warfare, and defense of Off Shore Islands (NSC 5723, 3, 12 and 29) can be performed with enthusiasm only if GRC feels [Page 526] actions serve GRC objectives. GRC recognizes fundamental importance of retaining US good will, and as shown during Strait crisis, is willing bend over backward in following US counsel of restraint, even to extent of temporarily subordinating its own objectives. With regard to actions involving use of force, such as interception Communist shipping, GRC will probably continue keep US advised its intentions, and would doubtless heed US request (based on grounds it imperative keep onus for Off Shore Island hostilities on Communists) for cancellation any specific operation. GRC would probably abide faithfully by any revision of so-called “do and don’t list” which US might insist upon. However, GRC could not be expected permanently abandon desires, policies, and objectives mentioned in preceding paragraph, or its “return to mainland” slogan. US effort bring about such abandonment could serve only to impair relations and reduce incentives for GRC to perform actions expected of it under stated US policy. It might also lead GRC to conclude US is moving toward a “two China” policy.
- With regard to next-to-last paragraph of joint communiqué, as Embassy has reported in past, and as clearly set out in President Chiang’s New Year’s Day speech, GRC has interpreted this reformulation of its mission as subordinating, but not ruling out, use of military force in recovery of mainland. President Chiang clearly regards Off Shore Island area as possible arena for application of military force to this end, and considers para-military operations to foment hypothetical dissidence on mainland would be in implementation of, rather than in conflict with, joint communiqué’s emphasis on political means.
- Embassy believes US effort at this time to gain GRC agreement to interpretation of communiqué such as to rule out interception of Communist shipping and para-military activities would appear to GRC to be effort to treat communiqué as “renunciation of force”, and would needlessly arouse serious misgivings on part GRC. If Department desires prevent or further inhibit type of activities mentioned reftel, would be more effective convey US counsel of restraint to Chinese on ad hoc basis, without linking to communiqué.
- Embassy is of view that these para-military activities are expected by Communists and are not likely to provoke incidents leading to resumption of hostilities. On balance, Embassy is of view these activities desirable if carried out effectively and our actions to stop them would be harmful to our interests.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/2–1159. Top Secret; Limit Distribution. Transmitted in two sections.↩
- Telegram 543 to Taipei, February 5, referred to several recent reports from Taipei which seemed to indicate “increasing GRC emphasis on military and paramilitary activities,” stated that the Department considered it “most important that GRC accent peaceful methods of waging anti-Communist struggle and avoid provocative actions involving use of force,” and requested the Embassy’s assessment of the significance of the reports. (Ibid., 793.00/2–559; see Supplement)↩
- Not found. They were apparently part of a series of situation reports from COMTAIWANDEFCOM(US)/MAAG to CNO and other addressees.↩
- Reported in telegram 310455Z from COMUSTDC/MAAG to CINCPAC, January 31. (Ibid., ROC Files: Lot 71 D 517, Offshore Islands, 1959; see Supplement)↩
- Dated February 6. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/2–659; see Supplement)↩