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126. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Nitze) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (McGhee)0

Dear George: This is in reply to the Department of State request of 17 April 1962 for Department of Defense comments on the draft Guidelines paper on the Republic of China.1

On the basis of a review by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and interested elements of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, it is the Department of Defense opinion that, from a military viewpoint, with the exception of the treatment given U.S. policy with respect to the GRC-held Offshore Islands, and subject to certain other modifications, the paper provides an adequate basis of U.S. foreign policy and operational guidance toward the Republic of China. The specific JCS recommendations on the draft paper are set forth and explained in the first inclosure to this letter.2

We recognize that there are some compelling arguments in support of a policy of seeking an eventual voluntary GRC withdrawal from the Offshore Islands. Nevertheless, before a policy decision on this matter is made, we believe that full consideration should be given at the highest level of the government to the judgments of the Joint Chiefs of Staff regarding both the military significance of the Offshore Islands and their defensibility. The views of the JCS, which were furnished Governor Harriman as an attachment to a letter from Bill Bundy on 5 May 1962,3 were reaffirmed by the JCS in their recent review of the draft Guidelines paper under consideration. I am attaching as a second inclosure a copy of a JCS memorandum of 6 June 1962 (minus attachment) setting forth the latest military judgment of the Joint Chiefs on this question.

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The Department of Defense fully shares the JCS view that a policy decision involving a change of the U.S. position with respect to the continued GRC presence on these islands4 should receive Presidential approval. Accordingly, I recommend that until a policy decision on this matter is obtained in connection with the President’s review of the new statement of Basic National Security Policy,5 references to the eventual withdrawal of the GRC from the Offshore Islands be deleted from the Guidelines paper. Should you feel, on the other hand, that this question must be addressed in the Guidelines document, I recommend that the paper, or at least those sections dealing with an eventual GRC withdrawal from the islands, be referred to the President in a manner that will permit the JCS and the Department of Defense to present possibly differing viewpoints.6




Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara



  • Guidelines of US Policy Toward the Republic of China (U)
Reference is made to a memorandum, dated 21 April 1962, from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA),8 requesting comments or views on the subject paper.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the draft Guidelines of US Policy Toward the Republic of China are in general consonance with US strategic objectives for the Far East except for the paragraphs dealing with the Government of the Republic of China (GRC) Offshore Islands. With respect to the Offshore Islands, the subject paper does not show a proper appreciation of the strategic and military importance of this Island complex to the defense of Taiwan/Penghus and to the attainment of US forward strategic objectives in the Pacific.
The Offshore Islands are closely bound to the defense of Taiwan/Penghus, which form an important link in the defensive chain extending from the Aleutians to Australia. It is of the greatest importance that our policy guidelines recognize this as US policy regarding the GRC. The Offshore Islands themselves have significant military assets. They block the two most important ports between Shanghai and Canton from which the ChiComs could mount an amphibious attack against Taiwan/Penghus. They provide a source of early warning for the air defense of Taiwan/Penghus, and they serve as excellent visual reconnaissance and psychological warfare bases. The withdrawal from a valuable strategic location that enhances our own forward strategy and reduces ChiCom ability to mount an invasion force is militarily unsound. Further, the Offshore Islands are of paramount importance, politically and psychologically, in the minds of Asians as a symbol of successful resistance against communist aggression. Moreover, in event of war involving the United States and China, the Offshore Islands could be a valuable asset in military operations against the South China mainland. Retention of these islands together with the maintenance of the GRC position on Taiwan/Penghus will continue to pose a serious obstacle to the attainment of the communist objective of occupying all Nationalist held territory.
The major islands of the Offshore Islands complex are defensible provided the GRC is given adequate US support. Without US support, the GRC would not be able to defend the Offshore Islands for any prolonged period against a determined ChiCom attack. The Offshore Islands are of significant strategic, military, political and psychological importance to the United States. A GRC defeat here would damage greatly the US prestige and would lessen the credibility of the US determination to stand firm against communist encroachment elsewhere.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the subject paper enunciate a firm policy with regard to support of the GRC in the retention of the Offshore Islands as an integral part of our forward strategy in the Pacific.
In view of the importance of this guideline to US forward strategy in the Pacific, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that this paper, [Page 267]modified as indicated in the Appendix,9 be referred to the National Security Council.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
L.L. Lemnitzer10

Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/6-2162. Secret.
  2. The April 17 memorandum, not found, apparently forwarded for comment a March 1962 draft paper entitled “The Republic of China: Department of State Guidelines for Policy and Operations.” (Ibid., Policy Guidelines Files: Lot 67 D 396, China Nationalist)
  3. Not printed; it is entitled “Recommended Changes in the Draft Guidelines Paper on the Republic of China.”
  4. The JCS memorandum of April 6, enclosed with Bundy’s May 5 letter, recommended that the United States seek to preserve the status quo of the Nationalist-held offshore islands by providing GRC forces with equipment and training to assist them in defending the islands and that the United States be prepared to support the GRC in the defense of the islands with U.S. forces “to the extent required” to ensure the defense of Formosa and the Pescadores. (Department of State, Central Files, 794A.5/5-562) See the Supplement.
  5. U. Alexis Johnson commented in a memorandum of June 26 to McGhee: “Incidentally, I find it surprising that Defense now feels there is not a policy of seeking the withdrawal of the GRC from the Offshore Islands. I thought this had been a consistent policy since 1955, even though it may not have been formally reaffirmed by this administration.” (Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/6-2662)
  6. See Document 129.
  7. A letter of June 30 from McGhee to Nitze reads: “I think you will agree that it would be inopportune now to raise for discussion the question of longer-term US policy towards the Offshore Islands. I also think we could not expect to settle such a question by exchanging correspondence about a Guidelines paper. “Accordingly, instead of considering issuance of the Republic of China Guidelines paper now, we are withdrawing it from interagency consideration.” (Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/6-2162) No “Guidelines” paper on China was ever approved.
  8. Secret.
  9. A copy of the memorandum from Deputy Assistant Secretary Bundy to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is filed with the original copy of the JCS memorandum and a copy of Nitze’s letter of June 21. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, OSD Files: FRC 66 A 3542, 091. China.
  10. The appendix was not sent with the source text. (Ibid.)
  11. Printed from a copy that indicates Lemnitzer signed the original.