267. Draft Statement Prepared in the Department of State0
TEN PRINCIPAL CONCLUSIONS AND LESSONS DERIVING FROM THE TAIWAN CRISIS
- As Kissinger1 has pointed out, the Communists are ever likely to pose risks in such a manner that they will always seem disproportionate to the objectives in dispute. Thus the attack made on the “worthless bits of real estate” known as the Quemoy Islands was evidently launched in the hope that the U.S. would not consider the islands worth one American boy’s life and that U.S. failure to support the GRC in defending these islands would not only result in their capture and in the elimination of one-third of the GRC’s fighting effectives, but also—and much more importantly—in the collapse of morale on Taiwan and a Communist take-over of that big island from within. The Chicoms know they cannot capture it otherwise.
- Resistance to such Communist aggression requires U.S. retention of a broad conventional as well as a nuclear capability. Had the U.S. been exclusively dependent upon nuclear weapons in this crisis, then we might have been faced with the grim choice of either Communist seizure of Quemoy or a nuclear war which, though militarily acceptable, would have been politically disastrous and would have risked a wide holocaust. Having had conventional weapons which we were able to turn over to the Chinats (guns, landing and amphibious craft, Sidewinders) as well as other conventional capabilities in reserve (U.S. naval craft gunfire) we were able to undertake at least some degree of graduated deterrent measures which brought the Chicom bombardment at least to a temporary halt. However, we ultimately moved perilously close to having to use nuclear weapons.
- Conventional weapons provide a cushion permitting the containment of attack while diplomatic negotiations, political pressures, and world opinion is brought to bear against the aggressor, or at least against continuation of the fighting. Today we live in a small world where weapons are so destructive that it is mankind’s understandable concern to avoid wars at almost all costs; and, if fighting breaks out anywhere, the world community will concert to prevent hostilities from spreading into an atomic war. This has been clearly demonstrated in the current crisis. In precise measure as the risk of atomic war rose, the demands of the world community for a ceasefire and a lasting settlement rose. Moscow and Peiping were evidently perturbed by world demands for cease-fire. They came to realize that every shell which landed on those islands exploded politically in their own faces. We worked hard and successfully to create that effect and result.
- Strong Chinese Communist opposition to the two-China concept undoubtedly played a role in bringing about the cease-fire. The Chicoms came to see that their aggression was raising a stir in the world at large (significantly within the Afro-Asian world) for some international mediation or arbitration of the dispute. The Chicoms probably sense that any international mediatory body (the UN, the World Court, Hammarskjold or a group of countries) would probably recommend the retention of Taiwan by the GRC or might recommend a plebiscite which would result in excluding Taiwan from Peiping’s domain. The Chicoms let it be clearly known that they opposed any such solutions.
- The issue is not the Offshore Islands but Taiwan. Communist propaganda at the outset of the crisis stressed “provocations” from the Offshore Islands and the necessity to eliminate enemy-held islands so close to their shores. This line soon gave way to statements emphasizing that their real objective was Taiwan, not the Offshore Islands. Communist indifference to the Offshore Islands as such was underlined in their ceasefire announcements, in which they invited the GRC to strengthen its [Page 540] position on them. It is clear from their many public statements as well as from what they have said at Warsaw that what they seek is “liberation” of Taiwan, the Pescadores, and the Offshore Islands as a whole and the withdrawal of United States forces from the Western Pacific. Any part of the package will not satisfy them; they must have the whole thing.
- The GRC is amenable to reasonable proposals which safeguard free China’s basic interests. Again and again during the crisis last fall, we were warned in Taipei statements (and indeed by our Embassy and Defense authorities on the scene) that if the United States acted in such-and-such a way or took such-and-such a public position, the GRC would react in disastrous fashion. There were deeply disturbing reports during the darkest days of this crisis that the GRC was about to strike out on its own against mainland bases. The GRC did not launch such attacks, even though under extreme provocation. The GRC also accepted calmly all the decisions we took in this crisis, once the decisions were taken. Perhaps we should reckon with an ally who is more amenable to realism and reason than we have given him credit for.
- While much Asian public opinion was averse to our protecting Quemoy measures likely to produce a war, each Far East Government seemed nevertheless fearful that the U.S. might disclose through this affair that it would not support FE countries in time of need with the most powerful assistance possible. As a result of this ambivalence, public opinion in FE countries (except Korea, GRC, Viet-Nam, and to a large extent, the Philippines) was generally critical of the U.S. at the outset, whereas most responsible leaders confided their understanding and support of our actions. Many of these leaders did not feel strong enough politically to oppose local public opinion by openly supporting U.S. actions.
- Japan stood the test of this crisis in a most encouraging manner. Last August when the shelling of Quemoy started, we were immediately concerned lest the Japanese might deny us use of our bases in Japan in support of Taiwan Strait operations. The Japanese have not interfered in our use of bases in Japan. Non-Socialist opinion in Japan has been generally favorable to us and it has been highly critical of Peiping’s resort to force. Japanese leaders have scrupulously avoided actions or statements which would embarrass the U.S. All this represents a favorable evolution in U.S.-Japanese relations brought about in part by things we have done to improve relations and, in perhaps equal degree, by things the Chicoms have done to affront and antagonize Japan.
- Communist respect for firmness. The recent crisis has demonstrated that the Chinese Communists respect firmness backed up by strength. We believe that it was the show of strength on the part of the United States and the firm position we took as to possible consequences that induced Peiping not to press home its attack on Quemoy. Chou En-lai’s offer to resume the ambassadorial talks with the United States came [Page 541] only two days after the Newport statement of September 4 in which Secretary Dulles warned that President Eisenhower would not hesitate to invoke the Formosa Resolution if he Felt this necessary and that such a decision would be followed by “action both timely and effective.” There is little doubt that one of the purposes behind the Communist attacks was to test our purposes and that, if weakness had been detected rather than strength, a more general attack might have followed, with fateful consequences for all.
- State–Defense cooperation in developing plans to
cope with Chinese Communist military thrusts. In stating
his thesis last October that “imperialists and all reactionaries are
paper tigers,” Mao Tse Tung
advocated an approach along the line of “battle by battle,” “bit by
bit,” “one by one solution” and “smashing the enemy one by one”.
Likewise, during October the Chinese Communist Minister of National
Defense, in announcing the odd-day firing on Quemoy, said it was
Peiping’s policy to “fight-fight, stop-stop, half-fight, half-stop.
This is no trick but a normal thing.” Fellow-traveling Anna Louise
Strong had a series of interviews shortly thereafter with Red
Chinese leaders, and in a subsequent article published in Moscow’s
New Times she made this frank disclosure
of Peiping’s attitude toward the employment of force:
“Peking intends to achieve its aim by political and moral pressure, mixed with occasional shooting and not shooting, by pressure within the lands of the Pacific and from all the world’s people, without permitting the pressure to develop into a major war. Peking, wise in political strategy, believes this can be done.”
The foregoing quotations underscore the politico-military character of Chinese Communist concepts of warfare. Even when there is a clear recourse to force by Peiping, that force may be applied in varying degrees of intensity interlaminated with “peace” gestures, all part of a manoeuvre to serve definite political goals.
This, of course, has been traditional in Chinese Communist concepts of warfare. It is perhaps accentuated by Peiping’s non-possession of atomic weapons at this time. At least until Red China has atomic weapons, we may anticipate a period of considerable blustering, restraint when it comes to the showdown, inconsistency, ambivalence and preparations for the long haul.
Since the Chinese Communists regard warfare as a politico-military operation, it is all the more important that State and Defense cooperate closely in the formulation of policies and plans for meeting various types of Chinese Communist aggression. Providentially, by the time the August crisis broke out in the Straits, State, Defense and CIA had completed a study on limited war in which these three agencies had considered 12 hypothetical local war situations in the world including a hypothetical situation in the Taiwan Straits. The latter turned out to have [Page 542] many features in common with what actually transpired in August and September. These studies also clarified a number of points (such as likely Chicom responses to U.S. nuclear attacks) which proved to be helpful in our contemplation of actions to meet the attack on the Quemoys.
State–Defense cooperation throughout the crisis was excellent. No instance is recalled where there was failure to consult or to coordinate on major decisions. The results showed it.
State-Defense cooperation should be as close and effective in the field of contingency planning as it seems to be when the proverbial balloon goes up.
- Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 67 D 548, China, 1959–61. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. A March 2 covering memorandum from Boggs to the NSC Planning Board indicates that the draft statement was for the Board’s use in its work on the subject of “Problems Illustrated by Recent Developments in the Near East and the Taiwan Straits.”↩
- Henry A. Kissinger, Director of the Defense Studies Program, Harvard University.↩