42. Telegram From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State0
Taipei, August 24, 1958, 11 p.m.
212. Department pass CINCPAC for information.
- Admiral Smoot and I were conferring today when Deptel 1361 arrived. We agreed it would be desirable to see President Chiang as soon as possible in order to discuss most recent developments and also to convey substance of Deptel 136 to him. We saw President at 6 p.m. today. Also present were Prime Minister Chen, Foreign Minister Huang, Defense Minister Yu, and Chief of General Staff Wang Shu-ming.
- After I had conveyed substance of reftel, President asked specific nature of additional assistance contemplated. I said we would hope to be able to provide him with that information at an early date. He expressed hope highest priority could be accorded Taiwan requirements and earliest possible arrival would be appreciated. Both Admiral and I stressed urgent consideration being given Taiwan requirements in Washington and Admiral gave assurances items already committed for delivery since emergency started are being rushed here as quickly as possible.
- President said GRC is using utmost restraint in face of growing Commie provocations, pointing out GRC has not retaliated against last night’s very heavy bombardments of Kinmen. (Reds are estimated to have fired minimum of 35,000 rounds and caused over 500 casualties.) He said GRC would consult with United States if at all possible before using force against mainland. Here Prime Minister intervened to say if there further attacks on Kinmen which are not met with strong retaliation the morale of the GRC defenders will deteriorate, adding GRC cannot sit by indefinitely while its forces are attacked. I said we appreciated cogency of this argument, but urged GRC to consult US regardless of gravity of emergency before retaliating against mainland. (I consider Chinese have exercised commendable restraint thus far and will make every effort to consult with US before launching attacks against adjacent mainland areas.)
- Defense Minister Yu spoke up to ask again for a formal public US statement to effect defense of Kinmen and Matsu are inseparable from defense of Taiwan and attack on those islands would be regarded by US as threat to Taiwan. I responded that Secretary Dulles’ letter to Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee appeared to address itself to that problem. Yu expressed view letter would not be read or interpreted correctly by Peiping, and a more specific and direct statement is needed if Commies are to be deterred from attacking offshore islands. President indicated he was inclined to agree with Yu and would appreciate a further more directly worded statement from Secretary of State, but he would not insist on it if we did not find it possible or desirable to issue such a statement now. At this point I went over 1955 developments when a similar statement was sought2 and described difficulties President of United States confronted with in issuing such statement. President asked if Kinmen and Matsu could be incorporated within defense treaty area, to which I replied this could be done only by treaty amendment and Senate approval. I followed this with review of provisions of Joint Resolution of 1955 (P.L. 4)3 under which President is empowered to act. (I believe this discussion was useful in clearing Chiang’s mind of some of confusions involved in this problem.)
- Admiral Smoot said he thought it would be useful if he visited offshore islands in near future. President agreed. He asked Admiral to keep in constant touch with Yu and Tiger Wang. Admiral also suggested it would be useful if President would pay visit to Seventh Fleet in near future. President responded he would be delighted to visit fleet. Admiral Smoot will firm up both visits as soon as practicable.
- While we were still conferring, information was received that Reds had resumed artillery bombardment of Kinmen as of 6:20 p.m. today. Ta Tan, Erh Tan and headquarters area of main island were reported to be main targets. Shelling was reported lighter than last evening and ceased after two hours. On our return to TDC headquarters, we were shown report that enemy aircraft had dropped ten bombs at 7:30 this evening on northwest corner of main island.
- Shellings of yesterday and today, plus bombing by air this evening are clear indication of unfolding nature of Commie aggressive designs. Reds probably are still testing US reaction and are at same time deliberately creating additional tensions. Possibly Reds have not yet had opportunity to evaluate import of Secretary State’s letter to Morgan, but if aggressive activities are continued after another day or two, I believe that we should consider issuance of more explicit warning of consequences of such activities. And, in addition to taking concrete steps set forth in Deptel 136 and in messages from CNO, I think we should in some way let ChiComs get an inkling of what we are doing. I believe that if we are prepared to commit ourselves, and I think we have no honorable alternative but to do so, we should by all means make our position clear to Reds. If we do, I believe Reds will draw back. If we do not, Reds are likely to continue probing until we are engaged in hostilities with them.
- President and his chief officers are clearly determined to fight to end to hold offshore islands come what may. It is my definite impression that Chiang is not seeking a fight and would rather avoid same at this time. But he will not be able to wait long to retaliate if Reds continue and expand provocations. President needs our moral and material support most urgently at this critical time. I urge that we strive to utmost to deliver material help soonest and that we be as explicit as we can now in warning Commies of consequences of attacking offshore islands.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/8–2458. Top Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Transmitted in two sections.↩
- Dated August 23, telegram 136 to Taipei summarized the steps agreed upon at the meeting recorded in Document 40 and transmitted the text of Dulles’ letter to Morgan (see footnote 1, Document 40). It instructed Drumright to make clear to GRC officials the U.S. expectation that the GRC would consult with it concerning any use of force against the mainland unless an attack on the islands were such as clearly to require emergency action and that “regardless of gravity and emergency nature of situation GRC would consult us to maximum extent feasible before taking retaliatory action against Chicom positions or forces on mainland.” (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/8–2358; see Supplement)↩
- Prior to the evacuation of the Tachens in February 1955; for documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, volume II.↩
- Dated January 29, 1955; for text, see ibid., p. 162.↩