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127. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, USSR

W. Averell Harriman, FE

I asked Ambassador Dobrynin to come to my house for a drink at 6 o’clock Friday, June 22. I first gave him Vientiane’s 17831 (unclassified) reporting Souvanna’s announcement that agreement had been reached between the three factions and that the Government of the National Union would be installed tomorrow. I said I thought Mr. Khrushchev would consider this “good news” (this reference to his opening phrase in the message to the President on the Khong-khay agreement among the Princes, June 12).2 After some little discussion of the message and his query as to who the two Phoumis were (General Phoumi Nosavan3 and Phoumi Vongvichet4), he agreed that this was good news and Mr. Khrushchev would be gratified. I pointed out, however, that there were a [Page 268]number of other steps which we would have to watch carefully, such as the withdrawal of North Viet-Nam troops and the integration of military force within Laos. I suggested that this would mean continuation of close cooperation between us. He said that he agreed and would be ready to discuss any matters that might arise. He said that Pushkin5 and I had worked together closely and the relationship established by our governments should continue in the future. I said I hoped that Mr. Pushkin would not create any difficulties in Geneva. He asked whether there was much left for agreement. I replied that the declaration of the Laotian Government was important as the international agreement and protocol were based on it. He again commented that we should have continued cooperation to achieve our mutual objectives. He said that he considered that the fulfillment of the agreement between Mr. Khrushchev and President Kennedy on Laos was most important and he hoped this would lead to understanding in other fields.

I then turned to mainland China. I said we had assumed Mr. Khrushchev was interested in other areas of the Far East, not simply Laos. We were surprised by the build-up of Chinese Communist forces in Fukien and asked him what he knew about it. He said that he had no information other than what he had seen in the press. I said that such information as we had was generally in line with the press reports and that we had no knowledge of the ChiCom intentions. I asked him whether he thought the move was precautionary against possible attack by Chiang Kai-shek or a build-up for an attack on the off-shore islands. Again he replied that he had no information.

I said I assumed Mr. Khrushchev did not want to see a major military engagement break out in the Pacific and, therefore, we considered it important that Mr. Khrushchev should know the U.S. Government’s attitude. Since there had been a good deal of talk from Taipei regarding Chiang Kai-shek’s intention to invade the mainland, I thought Mr. Khrushchev should understand that Admiral Kirk was not being sent as Ambassador because of his experience in amphibious warfare. Dobrynin commented that he had read of this speculation. I explained that Admiral Kirk had been selected because of his standing and the confidence that President Kennedy had in him; also, that we had no intentions under existing circumstances of giving Chiang encouragement or support for an attack on the mainland. It seemed important for Mr. Khrushchev to understand this. I pointed out further that an agreement had been reached between Mr. Dulles and President Chiang Kai-shek which was still in effect, namely, that the ChiNats would take no offensive action without full consultation and prior agreement on the part of the United States. I also stated that in our meetings with the ChiComs since [Page 269]1955 we had consistently been urging agreement that force not be used by either side to change the existing situation and of course we continue to adhere to that position. He said he felt sure Mr. Khrushchev would be glad to learn this. In reply to his question, I told him that Cabot was seeing Wang in Warsaw Saturday6 & would give him same information I was giving Dobrynin.7

I then continued that if for any reason the ChiCom build-up was of a more ominous character, Mr. Khrushchev should understand our treaty with the GRC and I referred to the dangerous situation arising from any aggressive action on the part of the ChiComs. With an air of surprise, he commented “you wouldn’t help defend the off-shore islands?” I replied, “why not?” “But these islands are Chinese territory,” he asserted. I said we believed in peaceful settlement of differences but we could not stand by if the ChiComs took aggressive action.

He then raised the whole question of Formosa and asked whether we were prepared to carry out the Cairo agreement.8 I pointed out that this was an agreement with Chiang Kai-shek, not with the ChiComs. When he attempted to argue further, I asked whether Mr. Khrushchev was prepared to hand over East Germany to Adenauer. He asked if I could tell him anything about our policy toward China. I replied that there was no change from the position President Kennedy had taken last October.9 When he tried to probe into the possibility of change in that position, I said that this was not an appropriate time for a discussion of the future of China and that we should concentrate on the question before us, namely, why the ChiComs were reinforcing their position in Fukien. He said that the Soviet Government maintained Taiwan was part of China and would support that position. I said I was familiar with Mr. Khrushchev’s attitude as he had told me in June, 1959.10 We then discussed this meeting in some of its sober, as well as some of its amusing aspects. Before leaving, he reiterated the importance of Laos and said he hoped we would have further discussions such as the one we had this afternoon. I replied that I would not hesitate to talk with him about the developments and agreed that it was of great importance that our two governments keep in close contact. He left to dress for dinner with the Swiss Ambassador.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, China Security, 1962-63, Secret. Sent to Kennedy on June 24 with a covering note from Bromley Smith.
  2. Dated June 22. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/6-2262)
  3. For text of Khrushchev’s June 12 message to Kennedy, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume V. Also printed in Department of State Bulletin, July 2, 1962, p. 12.
  4. Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance in the new Laotian Government.
  5. Pathet Lao delegate at the Geneva Conference on Laos and Minister of Information and Tourism in the new Laotian Government.
  6. Georgi M. Pushkin, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister for Southeast Asia and Deputy Chief of the Soviet delegation at the Geneva Conference on Laos.
  7. June 23.
  8. This sentence appears in Harriman’s handwriting on the source text.
  9. Reference is to the Cairo Declaration, the communique issued by President Roosevelt, Generalissimo Chiang, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on December 1, 1943.
  10. The reference is unclear. For text of remarks made by Kennedy at a press conference on October 11, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 658.
  11. Harriman met with Khrushchev in Moscow on June 23, 1959; regarding that conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. XIX, p. 568.