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23. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0

Operation Candor with the GRC

Without accepting Ambassador Drumright’s extravagant statements (Taipei 639, 21 April),1 he nevertheless makes his case that acute apprehension amounting to a crisis of confidence is gripping the GRC.

Taipei’s natural fears about the new Administration have been fed by a series of minor developments (outlined by FonMin Shen in above cable, e.g. Outer Mongolia) which, though not intended to spook them prematurely, have, in their highly uncertain frame of mind, apparently had this effect. While such fears may be partly put on, Taipei seems half-convinced we’re going to sell it out.

This situation creates both an imperative need to reassure Chiang and an opportunity (in the process of doing so) to bring some pressure to bear. We cannot afford to let GRC morale drop too far because of our silence; at the same time Chiang’s uncertainty should put him in a more receptive mood.

Our main thrust must be to convince Chiang that we have in no whit altered our determination to support Free China. If possible we should provide tangible evidence by announcing our willingness to underwrite a long-term GRC development plan (in line with new foreign aid approach).

But we must also stress the necessity, in terms of our long-term interests and theirs, of rethinking those aspects of our policy which have reached the point of diminishing returns, i.e. UN membership and the Offshore Islands. We must both face the fact that (unless the ChiComs get so belligerent, e.g. in Laos, as to fix themselves) most Free World countries will no longer support us on these issues.

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On UN membership, if we don’t come up with a way to shift the onus to Peiping, a UN majority is liable to vote it in and Taipei out. As to the Offshores, they offer a standing invitation to ChiCom pressure on terms so adverse that we are being compelled to rethink our policy.

These harsh realities do not mean that we are playing the UK’s game; we ourselves think that Free China’s own interests require that it liquidate those issues on which it will inevitably lose sooner or later, and which divert world attention from Peiping’s own aggressive policies. We do not intend to desert Chiang, but we feel entitled, as his chief supporter, to insist that he rationalize his position for the long pull.

In sum, we had better act to reassure the GRC promptly, an opportunity we can also use to put him on notice. Another Kennedy-Chiang letter might suffice, but a VP stop in Taipei if he’s going to Saigon might be better.2 At any rate urge you raise at planning lunch and see if State has anything in mind.3

Bob K.
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Staff Memoranda, Robert W. Komer. Secret. Also sent to Rostow.
  2. Telegram 639 reported that Foreign Minister Shen had indicated in a meeting with Drumright that he believed the United States was moving toward a “two Chinas” policy. Drumright commented that this feeling would fester until the United States convinced the GRC that it had no such intention. He predicted that if such a policy was adopted, the GRC would “try to go it alone” rather than sacrifice its “sacred basic objective” of liberating the mainland; without U.S. support, however, Taiwan would fall into Communist hands in a few years. He urged “utmost circumspection” in making any changes in China policy, for “a single misstep could lead to irreparable loss to US as well as GRC.” (Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/4-2161)
  3. Reference is to a projected trip by Vice President Johnson to Southeast Asia.
  4. An attached note of the same date from Komer to Bundy and Rostow recommended that they raise the subject at lunch with Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson and ask him what steps the Department was contemplating to reassure Chiang since the timing of the Vice President’s projected trip was uncertain. No record of such a discussion has been found.