283. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara0



  • Study of Chinese Communist Vulnerability (U)
Reference is made to a memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), dated 18 February 1963,1 in which he requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff provide their views on the steps which might be applied in order to persuade or compel Communist China to accept the terms of a nuclear test ban or other arms control agreement.
The acts of persuasion, pressure, or coercion which might be applied in an effort to gain Chicom acceptance of a nuclear test ban or arms control treaty run a wide gamut within the diplomatic, political, economic, and military spheres. The United States should seek the cooperation of other nations in any of the actions listed in paragraph 5 below. The courses of action involving direct application of force should not be resorted to until all other actions have been exhausted. If direct action is required the United States should consider the effects not only on the ChiComs but also on the Sino-Soviet relationship.
Although the position of the USSR in specific cases cannot be predetermined with any degree of assurance, the Soviets might be expected to cooperate in the indirect or nonviolent actions listed in paragraph 5 below. They might not participate or intervene where mild economic and military pressures are applied but probably would intervene if the integrity of China or the general cause of Communism were threatened.
Although current intelligence estimates indicate that the ChiComs are not expected to have a significant military nuclear capability until after 1970, they conceivably could detonate a nuclear device by 1963-64. The United States and the USSR have a common interest in insuring that China does not attain a nuclear capability. It should be noted that, even if the ChiComs are forced to agree to a nuclear test ban treaty, there could be no expectation of their continued adherence to such a treaty.

The following actions have been considered as steps that might be taken to persuade or coerce Communist China into accepting the [Page 690] terms of a nuclear test ban, or other arms control agreement, but would not assure Chicom adherence. The details of each are discussed in the Appendix.2

Indirect actions could include the following:
Coordinate diplomatic action on as wide a scale as possible to try to convince the ChiComs that it is in their national interest to accept the terms of a nuclear test ban or other arms control arrangement.
Intensify propaganda and psychological warfare efforts.
Encourage other countries to sever diplomatic relations with the ChiComs.
Encourage other countries to place an embargo on all trade with the ChiComs including denial of the use of foreign bottoms.
Direct actions could include the following:
[1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
[2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
Conduct increasingly severe maritime control measures up to and including blockade.
[1 line of source text not declassified]
[1 line of source text not declassified]
[1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
[1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

Active Soviet support of these proposed actions would of course render them far more effective than unilateral US action or than multilateral action without Soviet overt participation.

The measure or measures selected to compel agreement would have to be determined on the basis of the circumstances at the time. Many of the actions above [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] should be initiated only after all other means have been exhausted, and then only after full and careful consideration of the implications of such action at the time. The advisability of the United States carrying out limited maritime control measures, full blockade, or other military actions would have to be considered in the light of its other world-wide commitments at the time.
The United States has sufficient naval power to impose an effective blockade against Communist China which would exert serious economic pressure on the ChiComs. Allied and/or USSR assistance would be desirable but not mandatory. The United States also has the capability of [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified].
The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the best means of effectively bringing about Chinese adherence to a nuclear test ban treaty lies in joint US/Soviet measures, since the Soviets are in the better position to exercise the leverage on Communist China. They recognize the difficulties [Page 691] inherent in such a cooperative approach but believe this has the major potential for success.
The ChiComs are capable of responding to any actions taken against them in a variety of ways ranging from propaganda, psychological warfare, and threats [1 line of source text not declassified] as indicated in the Appendix. Under most circumstances, the United States has the military forces and capability to counter quickly any military action which may be initiated by the ChiComs. This assumes timely decisions by the United States and a determination to use requisite force as may be determined by the situation.
In summary, the foregoing list of actions is illustrative of the various actions which could be taken to bring about Chicom adherence to a nuclear test ban or other arms control agreement. In every case joint US/USSR action would make the measures more effective. However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff conclude that it is unrealistic to use overt military force to obtain Chicom acceptance of any agreement. As noted previously, there is no guarantee that the actions listed would assure continued Chicom adherence to any such agreement.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Curtis E. LeMay3
Acting Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, ACDA, Disarmament, Harriman Trip, Briefing Book I, Tab H. Top Secret.
  2. Not found.
  3. Not found attached.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates LeMay signed the original.