59. Telegram From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State 0
Taipei, September 1, 1958, 1 p.m.
273. For Acting Secretary. Department telegram 169.1
- See my immediately preceding Top Secret message2 which has an important bearing on questions posed by Department’s message.
- I believe that President was speaking sincerely if with great heat in his August 31 presentation to Admiral Smoot. He truly believes that his prestige and his position as leader of revolution against Communism are being undermined by what he regards as a negative and do-nothing retaliatory policy against Communist assault. Then too he is stung deeply by several press reports from Washington stating that US Government has urged continuing restraint in face Communist aggressive activities. President is extremely sensitive to suggestions that US controls his destiny and keeps him on leash as some kind of puppet. He truly fears that continuation of attitude of passivity to sustained Communist [Page 112] attacks on his Kinmen forces will cause him and his government grave loss of prestige and popular support. He also fears morale of his forces and public will be eroded as time goes by. Indeed, he said as much frankly to Secretary Brucker and me this morning. I think he meant what he said, but I cannot help feeling he laid it on a bit thick and that situation is in nowise as serious to him or his government as he makes out. No doubt a prolonged blockade of Kinmen without most strenuous measures to break it would have very serious psychological and morale consequences, but that time is not here now. I believe that we and GRC are capable of measures needed to break blockade and that when this is done some of President’s anxiety will evaporate, although he is likely to return again and again to charge that more active retaliatory action is required. Any assurance we could give President that we understand his “psychological” predicament, and that we are giving earnest thought to devising measures to help lift Communist attack and attempted strangulation of Kinmen would of course have a reassuring effect.
- I do not regard military situation as desperate and neither does President, in my estimation. In our talks of yesterday and this morning he had little to say of military situation. He was absorbed with psychology of situation, his prestige and personal position and possibility that confidence of troops and public in him might decline and lead to a debacle. Our estimate here is that Kinmen will be able to hold out even under existing interdictions for one or two months. Our information is that material damage has been slight, morale is excellent and General Hu Lien3 is fighting an excellently conceived defense action. President is satisfied with military support we are providing—though he would like to see it here sooner—and said so both yesterday and today. He was not pressuring us yesterday for further military help, although he naturally would welcome all we may be willing to provide.
- In my opinion, President will not in near future take military retaliatory action against Mainland without our concurrence. If situation should become desperate—which it is not at present—and he still was without our concurrence, there is a possibility that he might do so. However he wants to keep his commitment with us and knows value of doing so. Only a most desperate situation would cause him to go ahead. I do not believe we should allow ourselves to be pressured into agreeing to retaliatory action until we are satisfied it is fully justified and necessary, although I think we should tell President we are giving question our constant attention.
- I believe Communists would label GRC retaliation as aggression and play it that way to world. Communists might also use retaliation as justification for further aggressive measures. Communists would of [Page 113] course allege that we were responsible for GRC provocation. However if retaliation was limited and yet effective it might deter Communists and make Communist attacks against Kinmen more difficult and expensive. I do not see that limited retaliation in itself would necessarily spread war beyond local limits. If harassment continues and grows I think we will ultimately be faced with problem of giving concurrence to retaliatory action. But that time is not now in my opinion.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/9–158. Top Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Received at 3:16 a.m. Repeated to CINCPAC.↩
- Telegram 169 to Taipei, August 31, requested Drumright’s evaluation of the motivation and sincerity of Chiang’s emotional plea at the August 31 meeting reported in Document 56. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/8–3158; see Supplement)↩
- Document 58.↩
- Commanding General, Kinmen Command.↩