20. Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Steeves) to Secretary of State Rusk0


  • United Nations Chinese Representation Tactics and Offshore Islands Problem


  • Mr. McGhee’s Memorandum of April 3, 1961 (Tab A)1

I agree with Mr. McGhee that in working out our tactics on Chinese representation in the United Nations we should not consider this issue in vacuo but in relation to the other important problems which we face in the area, and that the offshore islands are one of the most important of these. To the extent feasible, it would clearly be desirable to handle the representation issue in a way that will not jeopardize our long-run purpose of disengaging from these islands. For the following reasons, however, [Page 49]I am not persuaded by the arguments advanced by Mr. McGhee in this connection on behalf of the successor state formula as opposed to the FE-IO proposal that Communist China be required to apply for United Nations membership as a new state.

Mr. McGhee argues that following the tactical approach proposed by FE and IO would mean that we would have to expend our bargaining power with the GRC in an effort to gain its cooperation, leaving us little leverage for use in seeking to effect GRC evacuation of the offshore islands. The weakness of this argument, in FE’s view, is that we possess very limited practical leverage vis-a-vis the GRC on the offshore islands question in any case. President Chiang has repeatedly made it clear both privately and publicly that he will not abandon this territory, but will defend the islands regardless of United States support. Retention of the islands is a matter integrally related to the GRC’s national existence, as it conceives it, and in FE’s opinion no inducements we could offer or pressures we might threaten to exert would at this time serve to alter its position.

Secondly, in seeking to persuade the GRC to adopt a posture in the United Nations necessary to ensure the success of the new state tactic advocated by FE and IO we would certainly have to expect to use up some bargaining power, as Mr. McGhee points out. The important point, however, is that, assuming we deal with it with understanding, tact, and patience, there is some chance that the GRC will in the end be willing to cooperate with us in employing this tactic. On the other hand in FE’s judgment, there are definite limits to the GRC’s tactical flexibility, and we see virtually no chance of its accepting the successor state formula which envisages automatic seating of Communist China. If faced with the prospect of action embodying such an approach, the GRC would probably withdraw from the United Nations (at least from the General Assembly), leaving a clear field to Peiping. FE can see no bargaining counters available to us that would be sufficient to induce the GRC to cooperate with us on the basis of this formula.

Lastly, Mr. McGhee’s memorandum suggests that the leading role that the United States would have to play in seeking to handle the Chinese representation issue in the tactical manner proposed by FE and IO would create a maximum of domestic political difficulty for the Administration. In my opinion any such difficulty would be mild compared to that involved in adopting the successor state approach. The latter would require the United States at least to acquiesce in the automatic seating of Communist China, which would be certain to evoke strong criticism from a large segment of the American people. Under the FE-IO formula, on the other hand, the United States would be free to maintain its stand that Communist China is not qualified for membership in the United Nations and to oppose its seating.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 303/4-1561. Secret. Drafted by Lutkins, cleared in draft by Sullivan, and initialed by Rusk, indicating that he had seen it.
  2. McGhee’s April 3 memorandum to Rusk commented on a March 24 memorandum from Legal Adviser Abram Chayes to Cleveland and a March 28 memorandum from Parsons to Cleveland on the Chinese representation issue. (All are ibid., S/P Files: Lot 67 D 548, China, 1959-1961)