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137. Editorial Note

On June 26 and 27, 1962, U.S. press and wire services carried reports from “informed sources” about the June 23 meeting between Ambassadors Cabot and Wang. The evening of June 26 a Department of State spokesman gave a statement to the press confirming that Cabot and Wang had met on June 23, that Wang had raised accusations, and that Cabot had “reiterated our opposition to the use of force and our oft-repeated proposal for the mutual renunciation of the use of force in the Taiwan Strait area.” The statement was approved by Kennedy. (Kennedy [Page 284]Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Poland, Ambassadorial Talks) Press reports are summarized in telegram 786 to Taipei, June 27. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/6-2762)

President Kennedy opened his press conference on June 27 with a statement concerning the situation in the Taiwan Strait area. He stated that there had been large movements of Chinese Communist forces into that area and declared, “Our basic position has always been that we are opposed to the use of force in this area.” In the event of “aggressive action” against Quemoy and Matsu, he declared, “the policy of this country will be that established 7 years ago under the Formosa Resolution. The United States will take the action necessary to assure the defense of Formosa and the Pescadores.”

After quoting a statement he had made in October 1960 supporting the Eisenhower administration position, he continued as follows:

“Under this policy sustained continuously by the United States Government since 1954, it is clear that any threat to the offshore islands must be judged in relation to its wider meaning for the safety of Formosa and the peace of the area.

“Exactly what action would be necessary in the event of any such act of force would depend on the situation as it developed. But there must be no doubt that our policy, specifically including our readiness to take necessary action in the face of force, remains just what it has been on this matter since 1955.” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, page 510)

Under Secretary of State Ball and National Security Adviser Bundy discussed a draft of the President’s statement in a June 27 telephone conversation, recorded in a memorandum of the conversation prepared in Ball’s office. (Kennedy Library, Ball Papers, China (Taiwan)) On June 28 Kennedy telephoned Ball and expressed concern about a report by Max Frankel in that day’s New York Times. According to a memorandum of conversation prepared in Ball’s office, Kennedy thought the Frankel report indicated that “somebody really high up is leaking because it was interpreted in very sophisticated terms.” (Ibid., China (Peking))

Kennedy commented on his press conference statement at a June 28 meeting with McCone, recorded in a memorandum by Helms, which reads in part as follows:

“[Kennedy] explained that he had made his statements at the Press Conference in the context of restating United States policy and emphasizing the ‘defensive’ nature of our treaty commitment. He said that he saw no useful purpose in changing United States policy until such a time as we had some specific reason for so doing, i.e., the possibility of deterioration on the Mainland to a point where it was felt desirable to support Chiang in a military operation. In other words, he indicated that he was not pre-judging developments but simply wanted to prevent the ChiComs from making propaganda capital out of any apparent change in United States posture.” (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80-B01285A, DCI Meetings With the President)