98. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Cambodian Mediation Offer


  • H.R.H. Prince Norodom Sihanouk—President of the Council of Ministers of Cambodia
  • Mr. Son Sann—Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Amb. Nong Kimny—Cambodia
  • Mr. Walter S. Robertson—Assistant Secretary
  • Mr. James L. O’Sullivan—U.S. Delegation

Mr. Robertson called on Prince Sihanouk at the latter’s suite in the Waldorf. After an exchange of amenities Mr. Robertson, with the Prince’s acquiescence, spoke of the Cambodian mediation offer which had been made by the Cambodian Ambassador Nong Kimny yesterday.1

Mr. Robertson thanked the Prince personally and on behalf of the Secretary for his offer and said that he wished to speak frankly and to explain the United States position. One of the parties in the dispute—Communist China—regarding the offshore islands is an outlaw state and has been an outlaw state since it established itself in control in 1949. Communist China is not eligible for UN membership because it is not a peace-loving state. Mr. Robertson pointed out this was a very serious time in the history of the UN organization because unless the organization which was designed to protect the peace was able to prevent aggression it could well disintegrate. Mr. Robertson continued that the disintegration of the League of Nations stemmed from its failure to apply sanctions to Mussolini for his invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. When the Mao regime seized control of the Mainland in 1949 it promptly repudiated the international agreements of the Government of China. It had not been in power a year before it seized Tibet by force and invaded south Korea. For its Korean [Page 202] action it was condemned by UN resolution2 as an aggressor. That resolution is still outstanding. It has broken practically every agreement it has entered into since it acquired power. It has violated three of the four major provisions of the Korean armistice.3 It has flagrantly violated the Geneva Accords of 1954 regarding Indochina, to which it was a signatory.4 It moved promptly into north Vietnam after Geneva and trained and equipped Viet-Minh troups increasing the divisions from 7 to 20, and bringing in large quantities of additional artillery—all in violation of the Accords. In Laos its Pathet-Lao puppets refused to abide by the Geneva agreements to turn over the provinces of Sam Neua and Phong Saly to the Royal Government. Instead they continued to occupy these provinces and finally used their refusal to obtain participation in a coalition government and other concessions.

Mr. Robertson pointed out the Communists attempted to drive us out of Western Europe by blockading Berlin. What was at stake there was not the possession of a part of a city but rather whether Western Europe could be kept free of Communist control. What is at stake in the Far East in the offshore islands dispute is not sixty-five square miles of real estate, which is the size of all of the offshore islands together. Rather it is whether the Communists will use force and threaten the world with war as a means of achieving its political objectives. If they can succeed in accomplishing their purposes by force and threats in connection with Taiwan and the offshore islands they will repeat the same technique elsewhere in Asia. Mr. Robertson pointed out that there were many territorial disputes in the world such as Germany, Korea, Vietnam, West New Guinea, Goa, and Kashmir. If force is recognized as a legitimate weapon to settle such disputes, it will be impossible to avoid general war.

The Prince said that his talks with the Chinese leaders including Mao Tse-tung, Ch’en I and Chou En-lai indicated that they are concerned by the fact that the offshore islands are being used to mount Commando attacks on the mainland and to impose a blockade. Mr. Robertson replied that shipping has been moving freely out of Chinese ports for the last two years, and he denied that the islands were used for aggressive purposes. He did say that both sides launched propaganda attacks on the other both from the islands and against the islands.

Prince Sihanouk said that Chinese Communists had said many kind things about the United States during his stay in China, and he thought [Page 203] that they would like to become acceptable members of the international community. Mr. Robertson replied that they must begin to behave like acceptable members of the community before they could be considered as such. He said that for three years and through 54 out of 73 meetings in Geneva we have been trying to get them to renounce the use of force to settle disputes and this they have consistently refused to do. They also have refused to comply with the unequivocal Commitment given on September 10, 1955 to release imprisoned American citizens. He added that one thing the Chinese Communists must understand about the United States is that it will not be intimidated by their threats nor will it negotiate with a pistol at its head. He concluded with the statement that in the talks at Warsaw our purpose is to get the Chinese Communists to renounce the use of force to settle disputes. If this is accomplished perhaps an atmosphere can be created which would help reduce the tension in the Taiwan Straits.

  1. Source: U.S. Mission to the United Nations, USUN Files, Formosa (1949–1962). Secret. Drafted by O’Sullivan and Robertson. The conversation was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
  2. The Ambassador extended Sihanouk’s offer to try to mediate or serve as an intermediary in a conversation with Robertson on September 15. He told Robertson that when Sihanouk visited China in August, he met with Mao, Chou, and Chen Yi and gained the impression that they were determined to obtain control of the offshore islands but that there was room for negotiation. The conversation was recorded in a memorandum for the record by O’Sullivan, September 15. (Ibid.; see Supplement)
  3. Resolution 498 (V), adopted by the General Assembly on February 1, 1951 ; see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. VII, pp. 150151.
  4. Signed at Panmunjom, July 27, 1953; for text, see 4 UST 234.
  5. The People’s Republic of China was a signatory of the Final Declaration on Indo-china, signed at Geneva on July 21, 1954; see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. XVI, pp. 15401542.