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148. Message From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Harriman) to the Ambassador to the Republic of China (Kirk)0

Out 63801. For Kirk from Harriman. Agree with excellent analysis of our problem with Chiang contained your In 394691 and concur in course of action you propose with following modifications and comments:

In order to minimize possibility of adverse reaction by Chiang, your response on landing ships and bombers should not take form of final turn-down. You should clearly state our unwillingness provide these items under present circumstances, but at same time indicate willingness to reconsider negative decision should changed circumstances warrant.
Only two C-123s should be brought to Taiwan in support of small drop program. Bringing larger number to Taiwan might unduly stimulate GRC hopes of US concurrence in 200-man drops which we oppose under present circumstances. Also, if as seems possible ChiComs have knowledge of 200-man drop proposal, appearance of several C-123s on Taiwan might increase tension in area.
Assume that GRC rather than joint US-GRC propaganda intended. FYI. Our own propaganda of course will be tailored to our own objectives. End FYI.
Regarding your statements that it seems imperative test “as soon as possible” whether mainland deterioration has proceeded point where small clandestine teams could survive and that we should persuade GRC undertake small team drops, would offer following comments: (A) from our viewpoint the need so to test situation is not pressing in the time sense per se, but only in the context of anticipating, containing and diverting GRC pressures for larger-scale operations; and (B) although we do not object to 20-man team drop we would not want press any drops on GRC, in view contents FCT 7903.2 We would of course support any such drops up to 20 men which they propose.3 Assume you also have in mind smaller drops as well.
We leave to your judgment desirability encouraging contingency study of capability GRC as presently equipped undertake amphibious assault in support widespread uprising on mainland. While such study may generate additional requests for US equipment we recognize it may be essential bring home to President Chiang and his advisors realistic appreciation problems involved in overt amphibious operations. Assume your purpose is educational and that every effort will be made to avoid any appearance of joint planning. However, we would oppose similar study capabilities launch amphibious assault as diversionary measure in event ChiCom attack on offshore islands. GRC should not be encouraged think of such assault as acceptable response to such attack. US effort in event of such attack would be to localize and dampen down hostilities.
Regarding Chiang’s possible renewal threat resign: You are probably aware he resigned, early in 1948, but did not fully relinquish control. His recently reported statement he might resign and head a revolutionary movement, if actually made, appears to have posed implicit threat he might free himself from responsibility for govt’s international commitment without giving up ability to influence relevant acts of govt. However, he could not, in good faith to us, thus separate authority from responsibility. Against this background we wonder whether reported statement was more than threat designed influence us to support his programs for return to mainland.
This cable was cleared with highest authority.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China. Secret. The source text does not indicate the transmission time. The message was approved in an August 8 meeting with the President, recorded in a memorandum for the record by McCone, dated August 9. (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80-B01285A, Box 6, DCI Meetings with the President)
  2. Reference is to an August 3 message from Kirk to Harriman recommending that the response to the GRC request for bombers and landing craft should be “either temporizing or frankly negative.” He argued that much preparatory work would be necessary to determine whether overt military action would have any chance of success, and it was essential to give Chiang and his advisers a realistic appreciation of the problems involved. He was “inclined” to state frankly that the United States could not agree to supply the requested items “under present circumstances” and to press for intensified intelligence work and a contingency study of GRC capability for an amphibious assault. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China, Cables)
  3. Not found.
  4. According to a memorandum by McCone of an August 22 meeting among the President, Taylor, and himself, he outlined a Chinese Nationalist proposal for a 20-man drop to gather intelligence and recommended U.S. support of the mission, and the President approved. (Central Intelligence Agency,DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80-B01285A, Box 6 DCI Meetings with the President)