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170. Message From the Charge in the Republic of China (Clough) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Harriman)0

[document number not declassified] Reference: [document number not declassified].1 Pass following to Dept of State for Governor Harriman from Clough:

President’s letter2 and proposal concerning C-123’s appear to have been received very well by President Chiang and Chiang Ching-kuo. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] I believe ill-feeling aroused by C-123 issue has been substantially removed and that arrangements for use of three of these aircraft in Vietnam can be made without too much difficulty.
It seems to me quite clear that in Chiang’s feeler regarding treaty3 he referred to September conversation with Ambassador,4 at which Chiang pled for U.S. devise some means by which he could fulfill his obligation to rescue Chinese on mainland without involving U.S. or violating his treaty obligations. We have had other recent indications that Chiang feels frustrated by limitations placed on him by 1954 exchange of notes and is groping for means to gain greater freedom of action. To what extent he really hopes to get greater freedom of action and to what extent his objective is a public posture of greater freedom of action is unclear. What he seems to be seeking is formula by which U.S. would agree in advance, or perhaps only appear to agree in advance, not to oppose his taking armed action against mainland and once GRC action was underway, to publicly declare a hands-off policy and disclaim any responsibility for it.
It is clearly not in U.S. interest under present circumstances to give Chiang greater freedom of action. Consequently, believe we should avoid getting into discussion of subject with him if possible, as outcome could only be unfavorable to his hopes and likely to result in intensifying [Page 353]his feeling of frustration. Yes, I think it important to find means of exploring his purposes more deeply.
Recommend, therefore [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] be instructed respond to Ching-kuo as follows on this point: Questions relating to treaty should, of course, be taken up through diplomatic rather than intelligence channels. However, Ambassador is away and it would be undesirable in any case put forward any formal proposal which Washington could not accept. Some informal discussion seems called for, as we do not understand why existing treaty and exchange of notes do not provide acceptable framework for action against mainland if circumstances should permit. Perhaps Ching-kuo or Foreign Minister could give Charge a more detailed explanation of President Chiang’s thinking.
If Chiang responds to foregoing suggestion it would not only provide opportunity to explore further his thinking but also to repeat U.S. position regarding treaty and exchange of notes, without the risk to Chiang’s face inherent in confrontation between Chiang and Ambassador.5 (End of message)

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China, Cables. Secret; Priority. The message was transmitted in telegram [document number and text not declassified]. Filed with a covering memorandum of March 11 from Forrestal to Bundy.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Document 167. No record has been found indicating when Clough gave it to Chiang.
  4. The memorandum [text not declassified] in footnote 1, Document 167, quotes an oral message from Chiang Kai-shek that Chiang Ching-kuo had given [text not declassified] on March 1. It reads in part as follows: “The President again wished to give assurances that he had no intention of shirking on the treaty and related agreements but felt something had to be done to solve the mainland problem within the framework of the treaty.”
  5. See Document 151.
  6. A March 6 message from Harriman to Clough, attached to the source text, agreed that Chiang should not be given greater freedom of action, concurred in the suggested response to Chiang Ching-kuo, and stated that if the proposed talks with Chiang Ching-kuo or the Foreign Minister took place, Clough should discourage any GRC thought of requesting revision of the treaty or related agreements. No record of [text not declassified] response to Chiang Ching-kuo been found. Clough reported subsequent meetings with Shen, and Chiang Ching-kuo which touched on related subjects in letters of May 29 and June 24 to Hilsman. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 CHICOM-US) Clough’s May 29 letter to Hilsman is in the Supplement.