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3. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Problems Related to China


  • The Secretary
  • Dr. George K. C. Yeh, Ambassador, Chinese Embassy
  • Dr. Yi-seng Kiang, Minister Plenipotentiary, Chinese Embassy
  • Mr. John M. Steeves, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Mr. Edwin W. Martin, Director, Office of Chinese Affairs

The Chinese Ambassador called this afternoon at the Secretary’s request. After an exchange of amenities, the Ambassador said that for the sake of convenience and clarity, he had put what he wanted to say in writing; he then handed the attached informal memorandum1 to the Secretary, indicating that it was neither a demarche nor a note.

After reading the memorandum, the Secretary said that he would like to make two points. The first was that the new Administration fully intends to meet United States commitments under the Mutual Defense Treaty2 and to continue support under it. Secondly, it will take an interest in efforts to promote economic and social development in Taiwan and hopes to play a substantial part in them.

The Secretary went on to say with reference to the question of recognition of Communist China (which had been raised in the Ambassador’s memorandum) that he could not see any prospect that this question would arise in any form which would make such a development possible. [Page 5]There was no indication from Peiping that the Chinese Communists were interested in bringing this about, and we ourselves had no intention of taking any initiative. As the Ambassador knew, Peiping says that the United States has to abandon his Government. We, of course, will not do that.

With regard to the problem of Chinese representation in the United Nations, the Secretary recalled that he had indicated in the hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that we faced a very complicated parliamentary situation in the United Nations.3 It was clear, however, that support was running out for the moratorium, not only because of the admission of a great many new States, but for other reasons as well. For example, some of our Latin American friends were worried about the failure of the United Nations to recognize a de facto regime on the Chinese mainland since in Latin America there was sometimes a succession of de facto regimes. The parliamentary situation in the United Nations was complicated by the fact that with respect to the new states neither the GRC nor the United States has a great deal of political capital or influence on this issue. If the Chinese representation this year came up as a simple credentials question, our position would be technically weak, since the issue could be decided by a bare majority. The Secretary said that the Administration was assuming that the Chinese representation issue had been dealt with for the resumed General Assembly4 and therefore had not canvassed the present voting situation thoroughly in view of other pressing matters. He asked whether Ambassador Yeh had heard anything from Ambassador Tsiang on the current voting situation.

Ambassador Yeh replied that he had been in touch with Ambassador Tsiang on this subject. It was their conclusion that the moratorium should not be given up lightly without further research into the possibilities of maintaining it through the next (16th) General Assembly. After pointing out that the Chinese had lost only one and one half votes on the moratorium in the 15th General Assembly, Ambassador Yeh acknowledged that the behavior of the African states was disturbing. Although assurances had been received from eleven African states in writing that they would support the moratorium in the 15th General Assembly, after their delegations had come to New York, and had been worked on by the Indians and by other Africans such as Sekou Toure, they had decided to abstain. They had sent a verbal note to the Chinese indicating that in their [Page 6]own interests, after talking with other countries, they had decided not to take sides on this cold war issue. Ambassador Yeh emphasized, however, that his Government was working on the African countries. It had established diplomatic relations with eleven of them. There were a few Chinese Ambassadors roving about Africa with credentials in their pockets ready to establish relations in order to prevent the Chinese Communists from getting in. Moreover, a GRC agricultural mission was presently touring Africa. The Ambassador hoped that as a result of these Chinese efforts, the GRC would be able to get the support of Liberia and four or five of the former French colonies for the moratorium. He thought there would be twenty or twenty-five abstentions. Thus, it might still be possible to make a moratorium work in the next General Assembly.

The Secretary commented that the outcome might be influenced by events between now and next General Assembly, e.g., by developments in Laos or by pressures from the north into Southeast Asia. The Ambassador agreed.

Taking the Secretary’s mention of Laos as his cue the Ambassador expressed the hope that the ICC would not be revived as this might bring Souvanna Phouma5 back. The Ambassador emphasized the strategic importance of Laos, with particular reference to the security of Viet-Nam and Thailand. The Secretary agreed that it was important to prevent Laos from falling under Communist domination. The Ambassador said that while he appreciated the United States desire to obtain a broad base for its policy in Laos, he would like to point out that the free Asian countries no longer look to the French or the British, but to the United States for leadership. He felt that the French, who harbored some resentment against United States influence in Laos, do not care about keeping the Communists out of Laos. The British want peace in Laos regardless of the political trends, and believe that the Lao cannot be taught anti-Communism. The Secretary said that any shift outwards from Laos of our point of contact with the Communists would of course be disadvantageous. The Ambassador, in passing, commented that in Thailand Sarit6 was anti-Communist, but that Pote Sarasin,7 because of his position in SEATO, had to maintain good relations with the British and French, while the Thai Foreign Minister did not want to stick his neck out.

The Secretary said that he thought it was most unfortunate that the Chinese irregulars had come into northwest Laos from Burma. He stressed that anything which gave the Chinese Communists a pretext to intervene in Laos was not only a great disservice to Laos, but also to the mobilization of opinion in support of resistance to the Communists [Page 7]there. He asked Ambassador Yeh to tell his Government not to play that role. The Ambassador said he would report the Secretary’s concern to his Government. He recalled that his Government had helped evacuate many of the irregulars several years ago.8 The Secretary replied that he was aware of this and he also was aware that the GRC had agreed not to have any further connections with the irregulars, but unfortunately it was still supplying them by air-drop. The Ambassador said that he was aware that the GRC had air-dropped medicines and doctors to the irregulars last fall, but he was not aware of any supply of arms and ammunition. He would personally be very unhappy if he felt that such supplies were going in. However, he was certain that his Government was not pursuing a policy of sustaining and strengthening the irregulars, who were not good fighters. The Secretary said that the irregulars were not under discipline and were not an effective fighting force. They simply opened up, by their presence in the area, possibilities of counter-pressures from the Communists. Ambassador Yeh said the irregulars had been under pressure since December between the Chinese Communists and the Burmese. In connection with the demarcation of the Sino-Burma border the Burmese had given the Chinese Communists the right of hot pursuit against the irregulars. Elements of two Chinese Communist divisions had been identified in Burma.

The Secretary asked if the irregulars were not remnants of the Chinese Army. The Ambassador said they were not, but were originally in Lung Yun’s9 army in Yunnan. They had fled across the border into Burma when the Chinese Communists occupied Yunnan. Their commander, Li Mi, was not with them at the time. He subsequently went to Bangkok without the permission of the Chinese Government and had led these forces back into Yunnan, where they occupied 16 hsien. They were subsequently driven back into Burma by the Communists and were accompanied by some 75,000 men, women and children from Yunnan. The Secretary asked the Ambassador to impress upon his Government the importance of cleaning up the irregulars situation.

The Ambassador drew the attention of the Secretary to the last paragraph of his memorandum10 and asked whether the Secretary might be [Page 8]able to make a statement on China policy in the near future. The Secretary said he thought that he had done that in the Senate hearings. He had expressed his support there for the Mutual Defense Treaty. He would, however, give further thought to the matter.

With reference to the Warsaw talks11 (mentioned in the Ambassador’s memorandum), the Secretary said there was no significance to our postponement of the talks until March.12 We had nothing on the agenda for February, and did not think we had anything in particular to raise in March. As the Ambassador knew these talks had declined to about the same level as the meetings of the Military Staff Committee at the United Nations. The Ambassador said that he hoped that the Department could continue to keep the Chinese Embassy informed of what might transpire at the Warsaw talks.

The Ambassador said that he had the duty to convey a true picture of what was going on both to Taipei and to Washington, and he hoped the Secretary would have confidence in him so that he could perform this duty intelligently. He said that Taipei has been under some misapprehensions and he hoped that the Secretary would take an early occasion to repeat the statements he made in the Senate hearings. The Secretary said that the problem the Chinese Government faced in the United Nations was not with the United States. Ambassador Tsiang would have to continue to work hard on this problem. Ambassador Yeh mentioned that the GRC had a problem in connection with ECOSOC. The Secretary replied that he was not familiar with this particular problem, but in general he thought that the question of Chinese representation, which was a highly political issue, should be resolved in the General Assembly and the Security Council, and not in the subsidiary bodies of the United Nations.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/2-361. Secret. Drafted by Martin and approved in S on February 8. The time of the meeting is from the Secretary’s Appointment Book. (Johnson Library)
  2. The memorandum, headed “Remarks made by Ambassador George C. Yeh to the Secretary of State at their meeting in the State Department at 3 p.m., February 3, 1961,” is not printed.
  3. For text of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of China, signed at Washington on December 2, 1954, and the related notes signed on December 10, 1954, by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and then-Foreign Minister Yeh, see 6 UST 433.
  4. Rusk testified before the committee on January 12. For text of his comments on this subject, see Nomination of Dean Rusk, Secretary of State-Designate: Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Eighty-seventh Congress, First Session (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1961), pp. 7 and 33-34.
  5. The General Assembly decided in Resolution 1493 (XV), adopted on October 8, 1960, not to consider at its 15th session any proposals on the question of Chinese representation; the resolution was adopted by a vote of 42 to 34, with 22 abstentions. For documentation concerning this issue, see Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. II, pp. 1-463 ff.
  6. Former Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma.
  7. Thai Prime Minister Thanarat Sarit.
  8. Secretary General of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization Pote Sarasin.
  9. Several thousand Chinese Nationalist irregular troops were evacuated in 1953-1954; for related documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, vol. XII, Part 2, pp. 1-242 ff.
  10. Lung Yun was a former warlord in Yunnan Province.
  11. The last paragraph expressed the hope that Rusk would make a statement in the near future that U.S. policy in regard to “the China question” remained unchanged and that the United States would continue to support the position of the Republic of China internationally and in the United Nations. On February 6 in response to a question at a press conference about the Chinese representation issue, Rusk stated, “The essence of the problem is that we have strong commitments to our ally, the Government and people of Formosa: the National Government of China. That commitment is firm, and, of course, the other side looks upon that as a major obstacle.”
  12. Reference is to the ongoing series of talks at the ambassadorial level between representatives of the United States and the People’s Republic of China, which were held between August 1955 and December 1957 in Geneva and after September 1958 in Warsaw. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, volume III and the Supplement thereto, and ibid., 1958-1960, volume XIX.
  13. Telegram 781 to Warsaw, January 26, instructed the Embassy to request postponement of the meeting scheduled for February 2 until March 7. Telegram 1064 from Warsaw, January 28, reported that the Chinese had agreed to the postponement. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/1-2661 and 611.93/1-2861, respectively)