266. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Tan Islands


  • Dr. George K.C. Yeh, Ambassador, Chinese Embassy
  • Walter S. Robertson, Assistant Secretary
  • Edwin W. Martin, Director, Chinese Affairs

During the course of a call on Mr. Robertson, Ambassador Yeh recalled their conversation of January 291 in which Mr. Robertson had brought up the subject of the Tan Islands. He said he had reported this conversation to Taipei. He had now received an instruction from the Generalissimo on this subject. He said the Generalissimo appreciated the concern which the United States Felt regarding the Tans but wished to make it clear that the GRC could not consider withdrawing from Ta-Tan and Ehr-Tan. Ambassador Yeh then summarized the reasons for the GRC’s position and handed Mr. Robertson an informal memorandum containing them (copy attached).2

Mr. Robertson said that the United States position had never been that the Tans should be yielded to the Communists. In the opinion of our military the Communists could be prevented from using the islands against the Quemoys. These islands were simply small rocks of no military value. During the Quemoy crisis last fall, the Communists had been able to interdict them successfully. The GRC could do the same if the Communists tried to utilize them. There was no reason why there should be serious psychological repercussions to withdrawing GRC troops from the islands. There would not have to be any publicity. It could simply be explained as a redeployment of troops to strengthen the overall defensive position of the Quemoys or as a move to withdraw from a position which could not be supplied under attack. Ambassador Yeh replied that some supplies were dropped in by air and there was movement at night by sampan, during the recent crisis.

Mr. Robertson said that he wanted to make it very clear that the United States would not become involved with the Tans. He mentioned the fact that Admiral Radford, who was as opposed as anyone he knew to yielding a square inch of territory to the Communists, advocated withdrawal [Page 538] from the Tans as a matter of military good sense. It was of course up to President Chiang whether or not to withdraw his troops from the Tans. But it should be made clear that the United States was not going to get involved in their defense. This decision did not indicate that we were weakening one iota in our support of the GRC.

Ambassador Yeh asked what was meant when Mr. Robertson said that the United States would not get involved with the Tans. Mr. Robertson said that it meant that we put the Tans in a different category from Quemoy. When Ambassador Yeh asked whether we put little Quemoy in this category, Mr. Robertson replied in the negative. Ambassador Yeh then said that withdrawal from the Tans would make it impossible to hold little Quemoy. Mr. Robertson replied that in the judgment of our military this was not so.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.5/2–2459. Secret. Drafted by Martin.
  2. See Document 257 and footnote 1 thereto.
  3. Not printed but see Supplement.