52. Memorandum of Meeting0
SUMMARY OF MEETING AT THE WHITE HOUSE ON THE TAIWAN STRAITS SITUATION
- The President
- Acting Secretary of State
- Acting Secretary of Defense
- Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
- General Twining, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Admiral Burke, Chief Naval Operations
- General Cabell
- General Goodpaster, White House
- Mr. John M. Irwin, Assistant Secretary of Defense
- Mr. J. Graham Parsons, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs
Mr. Quarles opened the discussion saying that as background for the actions which the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed, he would like to point out that they were discussed in the present somewhat limited phase of operations, that is to say a period in which no clear attempt to capture Quemoy or Matsu has been made. Later if there were massive attacks on the main Off Shore Islands it might be necessary to move into Phase B which would still envisage avoidance of nuclear weapons and of actions beyond the local tactical area but might well include direct assistance by U.S. forces. However, if the Communists themselves extended the area of attack out in the Straits or on the Penghus or Taiwan, which would be a third phase, it would be necessary to seek further instructions. The President agreed that we should probably hold back on nuclear [Page 97] measures at the outset of Phase B and he hoped that it would not be necessary even under those contingencies. He also confirmed that there would be no difficulty in identifying the type of massive attack which might require more drastic action. It was not his opinion that such an attack would be mounted soon and without more thorough preparation.
Turning to the proposed directive to the Commander Taiwan Defense Command,1 consideration of paragraph 1 (a) on U.S. escort of Chinese Nationalist re-supply vessels was deferred to the last. With respect to paragraph 1(c) on “hot pursuit” by GRC aircraft, the President felt that this was all right but this activity should apply to attacks on the principal islands only. He made certain that these were the only islands we were talking about (as outlined in the meeting of August 25).
With respect to paragraph 1(g) in the revised GRC Directive, the President and those present agreed to the State Department proposal to omit the paragraph as drafted and to substitute therefor the text of the separate instruction to Ambassador Drumright.2 The President read and initialed this instruction without change.
When Admiral Burke read several supplemental sections of the directive which had not been previously discussed with the State Department, one which related to “atomic strikes if ordered” was deleted as unnecessary in the light of the directive agreed upon at the earlier White House meeting.
The question of adequate artillery for use on Chinmen to silence the Communist batteries enfilading the beach was discussed with the President participating actively. Admiral Burke indicated that very possibly 8 inch howitzers on Okinawa now would be transferred to insure rapid delivery. The President was interested to know what artillery was available on the islands at the present time.
Discussion of paragraph 1(a) on escort and protection of GRC supply ships was extensive. The President remarked that with this provision activated we would in a sense be crossing a bridge but we could base it soundly in the light of Chinese Communist propaganda. He asked if it was proposed to turn escort over to the GRC Navy at dark. Admiral Burke and Governor Herter both pointed up the danger from ChinCom PT boats was greater at dark, that the turn-over would be a difficult operation, that it would leave our vessels to wait around in the Straits for some hours and, more important, would appear as weakness on our part to the Chinese Communists, while to the GRC it might seem that we were going up to the point of danger and then leaving that to the Chinese Nationalists. Admiral Burke said that he greatly favored the State Department [Page 98] alternative proposal which read “escort and protect GRC supply ships en route to Off Shore Islands to extent you feel it militarily necessary and Chinese Navy unable to carry out this task.”
General Twining inquired if we should lose a ship or have American casualties, were the American people and the Congress adequately prepared? Was such a contingency covered? The President suggested that in international waters we would be covered. Mr. Quarles pointed out that there was not much likelihood that we would wish to bring our naval vessels into coastal waters where they would be under fire from shore based batteries. There would be no advantage in moving in so far. He therefore suggested that we should define the area of escort activities as “within international waters.” The President inquired as to where the batteries were in relation to the beaches and envisaged the possibility that our naval vessels themselves might have to shoot at them. Admiral Burke pointed out that this could be done by massive fire of destroyers passing by at high speed.
The discussion then turned to the fact that Chiang Kai-shek, despite our advice, had put such a large proportion of his strength on the Off Shore Islands and now came “whining” to us. It was not clear just what he was doing. Admiral Burke and Governor Herter both indicated that Chiang was seeking to find out if we were really behind him. The President remarked that in effect he had in fact made his soldiers hostages on those islands. Admiral Burke said that this had been done deliberately and in fact made Taiwan virtually a hostage. Mr. Quarles added that Chiang’s policy in this respect was designed to put leverage on us.
After discussion as to the location of American naval vessels and their activities in the Straits, the President said he was inclined not to give Chiang additional American escort as such but in Phase I to keep clear as we have been. Admiral Burke pointed out that Chiang only had a couple of destroyers and a couple of destroyer escorts and that his convoy capability was weak. In response to the President’s question the Admiral replied that Chiang had a few PT boats but that they were not the answer. It was clear the President wished to find some way of avoiding American close-in escort at this stage, but when Mr. Quarles again spoke of international waters, the President acquiesced in Paragraph 1(a) as amended.
Discussing the crisis in a broader sense, the President remarked that the U.S. was the prime target in the cold war. If we moved in at once on this situation (and attacked the Mainland) we would lend credence to Communist propaganda charging us with aggression. At this stage it should be Chiang Kai-shek who was doing the shooting. The President then raised the question of night supply missions and Admiral Burke pointed out the practical situation with respect thereto. As the beaches were under accurate fire at night, it was necessary to utilize small landing craft which could run in and out quickly and which were being provided. [Page 99] The President expressed the strong view that Chiang’s counter battery fire should not be designed to protect the small islands but rather to neutralize the batteries which enfiladed the beach. There followed some discussion of the Chinese Communist propaganda directed against the Chinese Nationalist army and its potential effect. There was also a discussion of Chiang Kai-shek and of mistakes which have been made over the past twenty-one years despite his fine qualities.
Governor Herter pointed out that one purpose of the instruction to Ambassador Drumright was to get the President out of the letter exchanging business with Chiang. The President expressed hearty approval of this objective.
At one stage of the conversation, the President said that Chiang should be sure not to lose those main islands to bombardment alone, and he spoke of the practical possibilities of defense against such bombardment.
Governor Herter said that we in the Department were hoping to meet the propaganda put out by the other side to the effect that we were being provocative and were causing the tension in the Taiwan area. It was most significant that in the Johnson–Wang talks we had raised on 54 occasions the question of renunciation of the use of force in settling the Taiwan matter. Each time we had been turned down. We thought that we could make use of this. The President said that next Wednesday he might have a press conference and he could very well make a statement using this at that time. He also thought that Cabot Lodge in the opening of the General Assembly should make a pretty strong statement too. Several of those present expressed agreement with this thought.
Following the meeting Mr. Irwin and Admiral Burke agreed to send to FE the final text of the military directive just as soon as it was ready. It was further understood that senior officers of both Departments would be available over the Labor Day week-end.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/8–2958. Top Secret. Drafted by Parsons. The time of the meeting is taken from Goodpaster’s memorandum, August 29. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries; see Supplement)↩
- Not found but see Document 53.↩
- Quoted in full in paragraph 3, Document 53.↩