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165. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Mr. McGeorge Bundy
  • Ambassador Alan G. Kirk

After the usual exchange of friendly remarks, I said that we were facing the period of spring fever, that the bellicose statements of the Gimo and others publicly announcing this was the year and that they were ready to go, time was ripe, now or never; and that we knew pretty well what was going on in terms of building LCMs, training parachutists to form an airborne division, etc.

The Embassy plus AID, MAAG and MAP, plus the service attaches, plus Taiwan Defense Command (TDC) ought to warn us of impending unilateral action in forces, but I said it is possible for the Chinese to make a quick airlift employing all their available C-46’s, C-47’s, etc., lifting 5 and 10 thousand men. This kind of force could take off in the dark or early dawn. We would have considerable trouble in detecting it and certainly in stopping it.

While the Gimo protests that he would never violate the terms of the Mutual Defense Treaty, that he was a man of honor, that he resented the Ambassador referring to that Treaty every time (three times) I saw him, yet we are all uneasy. In fact, the Gimo sent a message by Admiral Felt to the effect that President Kennedy should be informed that the Gimo would never violate his word, etc. etc. (I was informed of this after the event.) This poses some problems about the propriety of military and other personalities allowing themselves to be drawn into conversations by the Gimo on political matters. After all the American Ambassador is the channel for such things, and military and others should not allow themselves to be trapped in any such discussions nor serve as a medium of transmission of messages indirectly to the President of the United States. In fact, Mr. Bundy and I discussed how to deal with the paper that Admiral Felt was given at the airport in Taipei, which was the Chinese interpreter’s paper as to what the Gimo had said to Admiral Felt.1 This requires some careful thought as to exactly what should be done by [Page 343]Washington, whether to ignore it or send out word that no such type of messages should be accepted for transmission behind the back of the United States Ambassador. (This is a bit delicate, i.e., do we do it through the Department of Defense or do we do it through the Chinese Ambassador or directly to the Gimo via the Charge?)

Regarding Vice Admiral Melson’s visit on the day after my own departure (January 19),2 it seems to me this was not wholly incorrect as after all Vice Admiral Melson was on the Blue Lion Committee and I must assume, as the cable shows, the meeting was an elaboration of my own report of my talk with the Gimo on the 16th.3 The important item in this conversation of Admiral Melson’s was point no. 6, i.e., that there would be no breach of the Treaty if the Chinese Government decided to land two divisions on the mainland to gain a foothold.4 The argument was that it was a “sovereign right” on their part and not anything to do with the United States, that the United States would not be involved. It does, however, pose the serious question of what is to happen if those divisions get in trouble and have to be rescued. Mr. Bundy agreed that it poses a serious problem and how to stop a large operation of this kind was difficult. A direct warning not to do such a thing in advance might be ignored or might be hard to deliver in person to the Gimo.5 On the other hand, it would not be unreasonable to assume the Chinese Communists [Page 344]might use air attack either to bomb China troops coming by sea or to bomb the port of embarkation and airfield on Taiwan. The question then arises: should the 7th Fleet come to the succor of the Chinese Nationalists or the defense of Taiwan itself? Possibly the ChiComs would refrain from overt attack on Taiwan, the Penghus, or the Offshore Islands in order not to embroil the United States.

“This kind of military action is China’s domestic affair, and is the exercise of her sovereign right as an independent nation, and as such it has absolutely nothing to do with any other country.”

Nevertheless, the U.S. Government must have some plan as to what is to be done on our part in the event the Gimo exercises “sovereign rights” and does something of this kind to our definite discomfiture.

In this connection, we then discussed the delivery of the C-123’s and mentioned the hassle on the alleged bad faith of the United States in not making all five of them available on Taiwan now.6 My position was that the first two should be delivered when they are completely prepared but I was strongly against sending the other three out this spring or summer. Were all five to be on Taiwan, it seems to me a definite risk that they would be employed for large drops with or without our concurrence. If “large drops” were made somewhere inland carrying between two and three hundred Chinese troops, to seize a town or an area disaffected, and then get into trouble, the Gimo would want to go and bail them out willy-nilly. Here again we are in trouble. Consequently, Mr. Bundy and I felt it would be better to give them the two C-123’s as soon as fully ready but not to send the other three until after next fall after the summer period of tension has passed. While we both knew that the other three 123’s might be employed for different types of operations elsewhere, my feeling was they must stay outside the control of the Gimo, i.e., at Okinawa or possibly Clark Field.

I explained that I was under constant pressure to agree that certain things could be done by the Gimo with his own money from his special preparedness tax. Some of these things did not involve the United States. My position had been consistently that use of these sums to buy equipment in other areas used up the resources of foreign exchange, were definitely inflationary to the economy of the Island, and objectionable from many points of view. Here I remarked that it should be remembered that the Vice President, Mr. Chen Cheng, had assured me that special preparedness tax would expire 30 June 1963, and would not be renewed.

We talked about the success of my country team, which I explained was due to the caliber of U.S. military or civil people in charge. They were harmonious and outstanding, we shared our points of view, and worked together shoulder to shoulder. All these men understand they are working for the President of the United States and not for the President of China.

  1. Source: Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Kennedy-Johnson Administrations, Subject Files, Kirk, Alan G. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Kirk.
  2. Reference is apparently to the Chinese record of a January 15 conversation between Admiral Felt and President Chiang, filed as an attachment to a January 30 memorandum from Forrestal to Harriman, which states that Bundy had given it to him on January 29 after talking to Felt. (Ibid., Michael Forrestal)
  3. Melson’s conversation of January 19 with Chiang, with no one else present except a Chinese interpreter, was reported in a message that Clough sent to Harriman on January 21 [text not declassified], filed as an attachment to a January 21 memorandum from William E. Colby of the Central Intelligence Agency to Forrestal. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China) See the Supplement.
  4. According to a memorandum of the conversation that Clough transmitted with a January 23 letter to Harriman, Kirk discussed with Chiang the work of the Joint U.S.-GRC committee to study GRC capabilities for a landing on the mainland (Blue Lion Committee), which he and Chiang had agreed on September 6, 1962 (see Document 151), to establish. (Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Kennedy-Johnson Administrations, Subject Files, Kirk, Alan G.)
  5. Clough’s January 21 message to Harriman, cited in footnote 2 above, reported that Chiang had given Melson an unsigned paper entitled “Important Principles Guiding the Landing of Chinese Government Forces on the Mainland” with six points. The first four points concerned the size of forces to be landed and the area where landings might be made. Point 5 stated that the United States should not be involved. Point 6 reads as follows:
  6. Clough’s January 21 message to Harriman, cited in footnote 2 above, stated that he was to meet with Shen the next day and intended to state that “any action of the character contemplated in Chiang’s paper must be a matter of joint agreement as provided by treaty.” Harriman replied in a January 21 message, filed with Clough’s, concurring in Clough’s proposed statement, authorizing him to state that he was acting under instructions, and adding that he should make it clear that the United States would not agree to a modification of the Treaty and exchange of notes. See the Supplement. No record has been found of Clough’s January 22 meeting with Shen, but he evidently discussed Point 6 with him. A February 15 letter from Clough to Kirk states that he had heard nothing further from Shen about Point 6. (Department of State, FE/EA Files: Lot 66 D 224, R.C., ORG 1)
  7. Kirk discussed the C-123’s with Shen on January 10 in the conversation partially reported in Document 161. That portion of the discussion is recorded in a memorandum of conversation dated January 31 and transmitted in a letter of that date from Clough to Harriman. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/1-3163)