43. Memorandum of Meeting0
SUMMARY OF MEETING AT WHITE HOUSE ON TAIWAN STRAITS SITUATION
- The President
- Acting Secretary of State
- Acting Secretary of Defense
- The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
- General Twining, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Admiral Burke, Chief Naval Operations
- General Goodpaster, White House
- J. Graham Parsons, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs
After a current intelligence briefing by Mr. Dulles, Governor Herter said he believed the meeting should first know clearly what islands were included in the scope of discussion. He proposed that this meant the two main Chinmen (Quemoy) Islands, and the five larger islands in the Matsu area. This was agreed to and that in other words the United States was concerned only with the major islands which the GRC is seriously committed to hold against attack.1
Noting that while in 1954 we were mainly concerned with Taiwan and the Pescadores, the President remarked that there was now a tendency to extend our protection to all the off-shore islands. Our involvement with these islands would be for one reason and one alone, namely, to sustain the morale of the GRC which had deliberately committed major forces to their defense contrary to our 1954 military advice. In this connection, Admiral Burke remarked that as result of the Chinese commitment of the “heart” of their defense to the islands, they now had acquired a strategic importance which they had not had previously.
Governor Herter informed the President that subject to his authorization State and Defense had approved the transfer of the USS Essex and [Page 74] four destroyers through the Suez Canal to join the Seventh Fleet. The President preferred that no press announcement of this be made but authorized the State Department to inform Ambassador Hare in Cairo and other Embassies as necessary. It was recognized that information given to the UAR Government would quickly reach Moscow and thus Peiping. At the same time the information would make clear that the movement had nothing to do with the Persian Gulf or any other Middle Eastern situation. With respect to the movement of the Essex, the President further directed that in any information given on this subject it be made clear that replacements for the Essex and the destroyers were already under orders to proceed to the Mediterranean.
General Twining submitted a redraft of an operational immediate instruction to the Commander Taiwan Defense Command2 regarding certain U.S. actions to be taken in anticipation of continued Chicom action against the off-shore islands. After discussion, the President authorized informing the GRC of paragraphs 1 (a), (d), (e), 2(b), 3(a, b, and c) but not repeat not paragraphs 1 (c), (f) and 2(a). Paragraph 3(a) was amended by the insertion of the words “certain types of “ before the words “modern equipment”—. With respect to 1(f) and 2(a) which mention possible use of nuclear capability in certain contingencies, the President directed that the matter must be brought back to him again first for decision before any such use.
Mr. Quarles pointed out with reference to paragraph 2(c) of the draft order that statements designed to curb the Chicoms risk inciting the Chinats to go too far for purposes of their own. During discussion of this point The President remarked that the Generalissimo had been good in observance of his commitments to us in this respect.
Governor Herter raised the question of a further public statement additional to the release of the letter from the Secretary of State to Chairman Morgan of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said that several such statements had been prepared including one in the Department which brought out the important fact that on no less than 54 occasions in the Johnson–Wang talks we had to no avail discussed the question of the renunciation of force in the Taiwan Straits. The President indicated, however, that he did not wish any further public statement to be made at this time. Statements could be dangerous as they tended, sometimes unnecessarily, to limit and commit us. He did say, however, that if queried at his press conference this Wednesday, he might make some such statement as the following:
“I think we should read again the Formosa resolution and the letter which the Secretary of State wrote the other day to Congressman Morgan. If you take the two of them together that will show where we stand.”
The Acting Secretary remarked that until intelligence clearly shows that a determined effort is being made against the main off-shore islands, we should avoid public commitments. The President and Admiral Burke agreed and added that one should not get into the question of naming or not naming islands. The President recognized that in effect we were getting closer to the central question posed by the Formosa resolution and expressed his concern.
Mr. Quarles said it appeared that the Communist intention was to blockade the off-shore islands and force the GRC out of them in that way. There followed discussion of the way in which U.S. action to escort Chinats supply vessels would be handled. Presumably these would leave Taiwan at midday and Chinat navy vessels would take over from US escorts at dark in the vicinity of the islands.
Mr. Dulles anticipated that the Chinese Nationalists would raise the question of retaliation for attacks on the islands. There followed a discussion of steps already taken by our Ambassador in Taipei to prevent premature or too extensive reaction. The President expressed the view that if Chinat and Chicom planes were in combat over the Straits or the offshore islands, it would be perfectly normal to follow them in hot pursuit. He remarked, however, that the retaliation question was a most delicate one.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/8–2558. Top Secret. Apparently drafted by Parsons. The time of the meeting is taken from the President’s appointment diary. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File) Goodpaster’s memorandum of the meeting, August 29, is ibid., DDE Diaries; see Supplement.↩
- Telegram 138 to Taipei, August 25, informed the Embassy of this decision but directed that it should not be discussed with the GRC. As corrected by telegram 172 to Taipei, September 2, it identified the islands as Quemoy, Little Quemoy, and the five larger islands in the Matsu area: Kaoteng, Pei-Kan-F’ang, Ma-Tsu Shan, Hsi-ch’uan Tao, and Tung-ch’uan Tao. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/8–2558 and 793.00/9–258, respectively; see Supplement)↩
- Document 44.↩