41. Highlights of Discussion at Secretary of State Rusk’s Planning Meeting0
CONTINGENCY PLANNING FOR A POSSIBLE OFFSHORE ISLANDS CRISIS
The Under Secretary chaired the meeting.
The paper under consideration was one of July 10, 1961, prepared primarily by FE:CA and entitled “Contingency Planning for Possible Renewed Chinese Communist Attack on the Offshore Islands”.1[Page 94]
It was brought out in preliminary discussion that the Chinese Communists have the capability of taking the offshore islands, though the military price would probably be high. They could also, at any time, start a renewed crisis which might be intended for other purposes rather than actual capture of the GRC positions there.
There followed considerable discussion of the desirability of bringing about a GRC evacuation, though the paper under consideration is based on the assumption that the GRC remains wholly committed to remaining on the islands. The comment was made that, in issues such as this one, US policy revolves around points fixed by our supposed satellites and that recovery of US freedom of decision would impose costs which cannot be fully weighed, but which would undoubtedly be considerable.
One participant suggested that, while the paper envisages handling another crisis much like the last, the situation is now different in at least three respects: (1) We have a different President who has made different statements on the subject; (2) there is a different situation in Europe (Berlin), with consequent greater need for solidarity with our (NATO) allies; and (3) it will not be possible next time to keep the issue out of the UN.
Another pointed out in rebuttal: (1) Whatever the President may have said about the offshore islands’ evacuation, they are still under GRC occupation; (2) while the greater solidarity needed in NATO suggests we press for evacuation of the offshore islands, there is also a different situation in Asia which, it might be argued, operates in the opposite direction; and (3) the paper does envisage our taking a new crisis immediately to the UN.
There was some disagreement on this last matter. One participant agreed we would need to consider taking the issue to the UN but pointed to the pitfalls we might encounter in handling it there. Another believed a new offshore crisis could not be kept out of the UN and that we had best take the initiative in order to have a better chance of controlling the way the issue might be handled. (Still another indicated, after the meeting broke up, that the UN appeared the only suitable vehicle for handling the issue in a non-belligerent context. During the last crisis we agreed to resume Ambassadorial talks, which are still continuing although our exchanges about Taiwan and the Strait have reached a sterile impasse. If a crisis now broke out despite the Warsaw talks, we might need to seek a different forum. The UN should provide that different forum.)
It also was brought out there is need for a contingency plan in case of a pro-Communist military coup on Taiwan. The FE planning advisor agreed, and made note of the requirement.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/P Files: Lot 67 D 548, Secretary’s Policy Planning Meetings. Secret. Drafted by Edward E. Rice of the Policy Planning Council. The meeting was one of a series of such meetings held irregularly by the Secretary and principal officers of the Department.↩
- A copy of the paper as revised on July 14 is ibid., China.↩