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13. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • US/UK Bilateral Talks: China and Chinese Representation in the UN


  • US
    • The Secretary
    • The Under, Secretary
    • George C. McGhee, Counselor
    • Foy D. Kohler, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
    • Harlan Cleveland, Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs
    • James K. Penfield, Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
    • John M. Steeves, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
    • William C. Burdett, Director, Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs
    • James W. Swihart, Officer in Charge, U.K. and Ireland Affairs
  • UK
    • Ambassador Caccia
    • Viscount Hood, Minister
    • Denis A. Greenhill, Counselor
    • R. T. D. Ledward, Counselor
    • Charles D. Wiggin, First Secretary

The Secretary began the discussion by observing one can always hope that the U.S. and the U.K. could get together on the problem of China. In 1949, perhaps, an argument could have been made for either the U.S. or U.K. position. Now it was a tragedy that we had divergent policies. We see no prospect at this time of U.S. recognition of Communist China. Peiping continues its extreme hostility toward this country and its attitude to the new Administration is equally uncompromising. It continues to take the position that Formosa must become a part of Communist China. We feel the possibility of any change in the situation is up to Peiping and not to us. During the last Warsaw talks there was no indication of any change in their position. It was reiterated that the U.S. must get its troops off Formosa which is Peiping’s traditional way of pressing for our abandonment of Formosa. They refused to accept a list of names for an reciprocal exchange of newspapermen, and they will not release our prisoners. Despite these circumstances we plan to continue the contact in Warsaw in order to have a forum for some sort of “dialogue”. We believe that Peiping at an appropriate stage might be brought into the nuclear testing and disarmament talks. If they go successfully, it would be essential to have them included in the discussions and to sign any agreements reached. We have a bilateral security agreement with Formosa. We expect to stand by it and would use force to prevent Formosa from being taken over by the mainland. Our position is not just because of public opinion here but is based also on the strategic situation and the attitudes of our Far East Allies. We recognize this position in itself constitutes an obstacle to normalization of our relations with Peiping. We hope others throughout the Free World will in time recognize the necessity of the maintenance of Formosa’s independence. We are concerned about the off-shore islands problem and will have to take a look at what can be done about it. We regret that Admiral Radford and Mr. Robertson were not successful in their efforts.1

Ambassador Caccia responded the British have always understood our position. They agree the blame for the situation is Peiping’s and the [Page 30]latter’s demands would be too large to swallow. The U.K. agrees furthermore that millions of people “should not be handed around”. The off-shore islands present a different problem from a legal standpoint from that of Formosa which is legitimatized by the Cairo declaration. The Secretary commented he wouldn’t want to spell out the legal problems as far as the Cairo declaration is concerned but he would not suppose that under it, Peiping could really make any claim to Formosa.

The Ambassador at this point inquired whether we might agree to a joint assessment about the following:

  • A) The political and economic strength of China.
  • B) Sino-Soviet differences and ways of exploiting them.
  • C) Probable future trends in Chinese foreign relations, particularly with Japan.

The Secretary agreed. It was understood that the two intelligence communities would be asked to participate in these assessments. The Under Secretary observed that if for any reason we were to agree to discuss possible recognition of Communist China with Peiping, the very first question we would be asked would be to give up Formosa. Right at that point the talks would have to stop. The Ambassador thought this was a good point and one we should make clear around the world. The Under Secretary agreed and believed if really understood, we would be in a stronger position in the eyes of world opinion.

The Secretary then turned to the subject of Chinese representation in the UN. He stated we cannot as of this moment spell out the full parliamentary position. We do not seek as an objective of U.S. policy Peiping’s admission to the UN. Our objective would be to put ourselves in a reasonable light and position in the UN and then leave the problem of Peiping to others. We would not wish to move from what many call our unrealistic attitude to an unrealistic position. If the question of a seat for China comes up as a credentials matter regardless of the vote, the outcome would have an unrealistic result. There are two organisms each claiming they represent all of China. Neither has control over the areas it claims; each have the attribution of statehood and population criteria for admission to the UN. We, therefore, do not look upon the problem as procedural or technical but rather one of a wide-range political character. We believe it would be disastrous if the matter were settled on a procedural vote. It is fundamental to the United States that Formosa retain a seat in the United Nations. If this is unacceptable to Peiping then they are at fault. We don’t believe we should have to pay the ticket for Peiping’s admission at Formosa’s expenses. If Peiping won’t accept admission under these conditions, then that is their choice and we would not be responsible. There is a further complication on how the matter is handled in the General Assembly and the Security Council. On the assumption it couldn’t be dealt with satisfactorily as a credentials matter, the outcome [Page 31]in the General Assembly would probably be satisfactory. This would not be true in the Security Council. The Ambassador inquired how we proposed to proceed, was the moratorium to be continued? etc. The Secretary replied we would have to look at the situation closer to the time. What he had just previously said, however, was based on the assumption that the moratorium has exhausted itself. Unless, because of some new crisis, the situation changes by September, it would appear that the moratorium has “run out of votes”. The Ambassador asked how we prevent the problem from not being handled as one of “who sits in China’s seat”. Could we be sure we would succeed? Heretofore, the moratorium has been handled as a procedural problem at the U.S. request, i.e., a simple majority vote. The Secretary thought that the moratorium had truly been a procedural problem whereas the other involves the important question which country is entitled to sit in the UN. The Ambassador again inquired how we expected to get the votes and wouldn’t we have to line up other governments. The Secretary answered there obviously would have to be consultation, but closer to the time. He observed we would like to start with the U.K. vote. Lord Hood felt that if everyone knew beforehand the U.S. was prepared to see the admission of Peiping so long as Formosa could remain in the UN then it might be possible to get the necessary votes. The Ambassador added there remained the question who would get the Security Council seat. The Secretary observed this issue couldn’t be settled by any action of the General Assembly. Its action would have to be confined to the seating of a member in the General Assembly. The Ambassador asked whether Formosa would continue on the Security Council. The Secretary replied affirmatively.

Mr. Steeves commented that if the moratorium is licked then such countries as Malaya and others would for the first time begin to think twice before throwing Formosa out of the Security Council. The Ambassador commented that the U.K. would be in the following position if the question of who is entitled to China’s Security Council seat came to a vote: The U.K. would have to vote for Peiping because it recognizes that Government. If we had any ideas how the Formosa seat could be retained despite the fact the U.K. would have to vote for Peiping, he would be interested in hearing about them. The Secretary commented the problem could be relieved by the U.K.’s recognition of Formosa. The Ambassador replied they could not do this because the U.K. would be thrown out of Peiping. He believed, therefore, the U.S. should try to get Peiping’s agreement to two delegations. Mr. Cleveland inquired whether the British felt an offer of conditional membership to Peiping was salable subject to the requirement that Formosa retain its membership in the UN. The Ambassador thought this was doubtful but possibly worth exploring. He thought it very important that we should be making our position known to others soon so it could be realized the U.S. wasn’t [Page 32]just standing pat on the moratorium anymore. The Secretary said that for us the problem is not one of finding a place for Formosa, it was rather does the United Nations wish to find a place for Peiping. He added our own tactics will depend somewhat on studies presently underway in Formosa. We will not take our marching orders as a result of these studies but it will be helpful to know whether Formosa continues to take the position that Peiping should not be admitted to the UN. The Secretary observed that we do not expect to consult unduly until our views have crystallized more. The present exchange with the British was because of our exceptionally close relations. He stressed its confidential nature.

Lord Hood inquired if we were content to accept a UN majority decision to admit Peiping so long as Formosa remained, then what would the situation be in the Security Council? The Secretary felt it was possible to visualize both having seats in the General Assembly but that in the Security Council, we would find it difficult to accept that the problem was a credentials matter. If considered on a procedural vote, the Republic of China would probably vote against it. The matter might then be referred to the International Court. If we get into a wrangle in the Security Council, then there would be pressure to open the entire membership of the Security Council. The Ambassador wondered whether there would not be some advantage to starting all over again. Inasmuch as no government represents all of China, perhaps Formosa might stand down or aside and then we could have a new negotiation about membership in the Security Council. The Secretary thought this might be possible and in fact might be the only chance to renegotiate Security Council membership. Mr. Steeves felt the best we could hope for would be that Formosa might choose not to exercise its right to a Security Council seat while the Security Council membership was being renegotiated. The Ambassador reiterated his fear of any breakdown between us if events reached a point whereby the U.K. would have to vote for Peiping’s admission. The Secretary asked whether this was because Peiping would break relations with the U.K. or because of the logic of the situation. The Ambassador replied the latter. Mr. McGhee inquired what would be the U.K. attitude to a resolution stating that Formosa should retain membership in the UN. The Ambassador replied that as long as we didn’t oppose Peiping’s admission he thought the U.K. could abstain. Mr. McGhee asked whether Chiang’s position on the off-shore islands was a critical matter to the U.K. The Ambassador replied yes. Chiang’s withdrawal from the off-shore islands would have a helpful effect on world public opinion. The Secretary asked whether HMG has a positive policy to seat Peiping in the UN or whether its policy is “to be on a better wicket in the UN”. The Ambassador replied the latter. The West has been losing ground and the moratorium has run out of support. The Secretary said then if there was a reasonable posture in the UN and Peiping turned [Page 33]it down, could we assume that the British would not be overly bothered. The Ambassador agreed. The Secretary added that if the dead-lock were on “another basis” would the British feel happier. The Ambassador again agreed.

Mr. Ledward commented that the U.K. would have more difficulty if Peiping had to apply for membership in the UN than if Formosa had to apply. The Secretary observed something quite new might be possible. He pointed out that after the partition of India both India and Pakistan had seats in the UN; India retaining its seat and Pakistan was admitted as a new nation. It was possible the UN could pass a resolution in effect saying what is now one country has become two countries. As for the Security Council problem we might respond to the interest of new countries in renewing the membership of the Security Council. A study could be undertaken. We would be in no hurry.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Swihart and approved in U on March 31. The time of the meeting is from the Secretary’s Appointment Book. (Johnson Library) A U.S.-British agreed minute of this conversation is in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1832.
  2. Reference is to a mission to Taiwan in April 1955 by JCS Chairman Admiral Arthur W. Radford and Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Walter S. Robertson. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, vol. II, pp. 445-543 ff.