Learn about the beta

164. Editorial Note

President Kennedy addressed the National Security Council at its 508th meeting on January 22, 1963. An unsigned summary of his remarks prepared by a Department of State official reads in part as follows:

“He expressed great concern about the possibility of the Chinese Communist nuclear capability. He thought a test ban agreement might produce pressure against development of such a capability. Any negotiations that can hold back the Chinese Communists are most important, he said, because they loom as our major antagonists of the late 60’s and beyond.” (Department of State, Central Files, 711.5/1-2263)

For text of his remarks, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume VIII, pages 457-462.

Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Harriman commented on the President’s NSC statement in a January 23 letter to Kennedy. It reads in part as follows:

“To my mind, the most important matter in the interest of our security which you touched upon was the question of attempting to prevent Red China from obtaining nuclear capability, and the possibility of working with the Soviets to this end. They undoubtedly would want a similar understanding regarding West Germany.

“This matter has come up in a general way in conversations I have had with several Russians. They always indicated Kremlin concern over the remilitarization of Western Germany, and particularly over the possibility of her obtaining independent nuclear capability. In this connection, I have usually suggested that the Soviets must have similar concern regarding Red China.”

After comments relating to Germany, the letter continues as follows:

“As far as China is concerned, in a conversation with one Russian representative, I asked what was the use of our coming to an agreement on a test ban without Red China. He replied that if the United States and the Soviet Union agreed, world opinion would prevent China from acting independently. The earnest manner in which he spoke gave me the impression that what the Kremlin had in mind was that with such an agreement, together we could compel China to stop nuclear development, threatening to take out the facilities if necessary. In any event, I was glad to learn that you put this subject so high on your priority list.”

Harriman also wrote: “We are making progress in Taiwan in regaining our ‘independence.’” He noted that Ambassador Kirk was to return to the United States for surgery, and stated, “While he is here, I hope we would have a chance to talk with you about Red China, including the future of Taiwan. The Generalissimo seems to be becoming a bit obstreperous and we need some guidance.” (Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Kennedy-Johnson Administrations, Subject Files, John F. Kennedy)