274. Editorial Note

British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan visited Washington for informal discussions March 19–24, 1959. A memorandum of conversation by General Goodpaster of a conversation on March 22 between President Eisenhower and the Prime Minister reads in part as follows:

“The discussion next turned to Far Eastern problems. Mr. Macmillan recalled that during the Quemoy/Matsu situation the British Government remained calm. He did not recall Parliament despite loud pressures to do so. He thought the free world gained through Britain’s standing firm. The President said we must expect a series of such pressures. He thought Iraq would be the next major trouble spot with the Soviets making use of the Kurds who live in four countries (Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the USSR) and have never been assimilated into these.

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“The President said that he has tried to get Chiang-Kai-shek to pull a large part of his forces back from Quemoy and Matsu and use these islands simply as outposts. Chiang has committed himself to pull back 15,000 troops but there is some indication that Nationalists are dragging their feet. The offshore islands are a symbol to Chiang and to the Chinese of his ability to go back to the mainland if unrest develops. The President said he had offered to give Chiang an amphibious lift in return for pulling back. With such lift Chiang could exploit any weakness on the mainland; the offshore islands are military useless, in fact, for such a purpose. It is clear that Chiang wants to keep large forces on the islands so as to make certain that the United States would have to intervene in case the islands were attacked.

“Mr. Macmillan asked why we thought the Chinese Communists had stopped or slackened off their attack. The President thought they had just gotten tired of it, and saw no way to bring about any great result without the likelihood of bringing us into full-scale war against them. Mr. Herter said there is no evidence of a significant build-up by the Chinese Communists on the mainland in the vicinity of the offshore islands. There are indications that the Chinese Communists may believe they can defeat the Nationalists internally on Formosa. He added that the islands, like Berlin, are exposed weak points in the Western system. The President added that we should look at our weakness in the Middle East. The Soviets can do the same kind of thing there. Mr. Lloyd commented that they have it within their power to produce crises whenever they want to.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File)

Further documentation on the Macmillan visit is printed in volume VII, Part 2.