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169. Draft Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Thompson) to Secretary of State Rusk 0


  • Policy re treatment of Sino-Soviet conflict

I have reviewed our policy on treatment of the Sino-Soviet conflict by United States officials which is contained in Circular Airgram 5667, November 22, 1962.1 This airgram was not sent to me for clearance, and I had not previously seen it. There are some statements in it with which I would disagree, but doubt that these are serious enough to attempt to clear a revision.

There are several points to which I draw your attention, however, since they bear on the problem of the extent to which United States officials should initiate public discussions of this problem. For example, on [Page 351]page three of the airgram, it is stated “A general understanding of what is taking place in the communist world would serve both to give impetus to the fragmentation of the communist movement and to diminish the effectiveness of the communist appeal. Accurate publicity given the dispute would exacerbate problems of discipline in the world communist movement and in individual parties.” My own view is that strong emphasis by United States officials tends to increase the pressure of the other communist parties upon the Soviets and Chinese to patch up the quarrel and get together. It seems to me there has been ample publicity in the press about this problem.

The airgram states that officials should avoid any suggestion that the United States is taking sides in the dispute. While I think this is debatable in view of the fact that the Chinese are advocating a more militant, aggressive policy against the West, and the United States in particular, the airgram, in fact, appears to be taking the Chinese side, particularly in the Major Points of Stress, beginning at the bottom of page four. Point one, in particular, states that the great issue in the conflict is the question of Moscow’s authority over the communist camp. While it is scarcely our business to assess blame, we surely should not come down on the side of the Chinese who advocate a policy much more dangerous for us, at least in the short run, than that advocated by the Soviets.

The paper also omits any mention of some of the causes of conflict, such as Soviet concern over the Chinese population explosion, psychological antipathy, etc.

In any event, all I would suggest for the present is that you issue a directive to Mr. Manning, a draft of which is attached,2 that in approving speeches, he keep in mind the inadvisability of giving the impression that we are embarking on a special campaign to exploit the conflict.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files,POL 1 CHICOM-USSR. Confidential. The memorandum was routed through Harriman, Tyler, and McGhee. A covering note to them reads: “To save time, I put down my own thoughts on this, but if you would rather have a meeting and work out an agreed paper, I would be glad to do so.” Harriman returned it with a brief memorandum of March 1 agreeing that the circular should have been cleared with Thompson and stating there seemed to be no need for a meeting. Thompson apparently did not pursue the matter further.
  2. The airgram, sent to all U.S. missions, stated that official treatment of the Sino-Soviet conflict should “(a) insure world opinion aware inconsistency relations communist countries and opportunities this offers West (b) furnish rationale for policy changes US may find desirable in view dispute (c) deny communists monopoly in interpreting their problems and (d) counter communist efforts paper over seriousness differences and therefore maintain fiction of non-existent monolithic unity.” It cautioned against exaggerating the dispute’s impact on cold war problems or suggesting that U.S. interests were better served by one party than the other. (Ibid., 661.93/11-2262)
  3. Not found. Harriman’s memorandum cited in the source note above concurred with his proposed directive, and an unsigned note attached to the source text indicates that it was sent to Manning.
  4. A note on the source text, apparently from a member of Thompson’s staff, states that an airgram suggesting the need for some caution in public statements on the subject was under preparation. Reference is apparently to CA 9675, March 7. (Ibid., POL CHICOM-USSR)