303. Letter From President Eisenhower to Chairman Khrushchev0

Dear Mr. Chairman: I have been thinking over what you were saying to me on Sunday1 at Camp David in regard to the question of China. In view of the number of subjects on which our thinking seemed to be coming closer together, the exposition of your views on this one point disturbs me. Consequently, I felt the need to give to you immediately our. views in somewhat more detail than was possible at Camp David, and in the spirit of frank exchange of views which we both agreed would be valuable.

You left me with the clear impression that you thought the People’s Republic of China had the right to seek to take territory of the Republic of China, that is to say Taiwan, the Pescadores and other islands, by force of arms. If I understood you correctly, you further thought that this was a question of civil war and that the Government of the Republic of China under President Chiang Kai-shek should in fact be regarded as a rebel defying the legitimate government of the country. You emphasized that in your view this grave question relating to China was a domestic question and not an international question.

I feel that in the interest of understanding between us I must state in all frankness that I cannot agree that this is purely a domestic question. The China question is important to our common interest in the peace of the world. Some 45 countries including the United States recognize the Republic of China as the legitimate government of that country. As for the United States, we have a formal treaty of mutual defense with the Republic of China. Under these circumstances, the proposition that the People’s Republic is entitled to enforce its will on the Republic of China by force of arms is inconsistent with the needs of peace and is at variance with our common objectives.

The world in which we live is in a sense an indivisible one. I must say that I find a disturbing contrast between what you said to me on China [Page 601] toward the close of our talks and what you said to me with regard to the question of Germany, which is also a great—and divided—country. You spoke of the need for a peaceful solution of the German question but you said the People’s Republic could legitimately use force in China. We, of course, disagree with this view. In my view both are international matters. I have expressed my willingness to discuss the German question seriously with you and the other interested parties in the hope of reaching a peaceful conclusion in the interest of our two countries and mankind as a whole. I think that the question of China2 can, in time, be resolved the same way. At the same time, I agree with you that this question has not, at this moment, matured to the point where rapid progress through negotiation could be foreseen. I feel, however, that this fact makes all the more necessary a policy of restraint and moderation, in order to prevent further exacerbation and threat to peace.

You have also stressed to me that the central question of our times is disarmament and I have agreed with you both privately and publicly. I cannot think of any way in which to destroy our common objective, disarmament, more effectively than to endorse the use of force against the Republic of China. In the case of all the other countries so tragically divided in the post-war years, there has been a renunciation of the use of force on both sides, either as a result of an armistice, and agreement of some other act having practical effect, but in the sole case of China one side continues to insist that the use of force is legitimate.

Having in mind the great effort which you and I have made to take a step which would lessen the chance of international conflict, and having in mind how much the peoples of all countries look to you and me at this time in this regard, I await your reply in the hope that, even with regard to the strained situation that exists in China, we can guide our respective courses in such a way as to help safeguard peace.

In sending this message directly to you, I am sure you will understand that I feel that strictly personal exchanges of views between us can at times be of value in the continuation of the type of frank discussion which we held together at Camp David.


Dwight D. Eisenhower3
  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. Top Secret; Presidential Handling. Drafted by Herter and revised by the President. Herter sent his draft to Eisenhower with a covering letter of September 28, which reads in part as follows: “All day i have been haunted by the statements made by Mr. Khrushchev at Camp David with regard to Taiwan. They are so completely contrary to the spirit of the things for which you, and ostensibly he, are working, that i have taken the liberty of drafting a suggested message from you to him which, if you found it acceptable, should reach him before he leaves for his official visit to China.”

    Eisenhower returned the revised draft to Herter with a covering note of September 29. (Ibid., Central Files, 793.5/9–2959; see Supplement) Telegram 889 to Moscow, September 29, transmitted the text of the letter and instructed that it be delivered immediately. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.5/9–2959)

  2. September 27; see Document 301.
  3. The original draft and the revised draft here read “the two Chinas.” The revision, which appears in unidentified handwriting on the revised draft, was apparently made by Herter or Parsons.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.