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42. Letter From President Kennedy to President Chiang0

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: Vice President Johnson has brought to my attention your thoughtful letter of June ninth,1 and I have decided to reply directly to you myself because to my distress a number of misunderstandings seem to have arisen recently between our two governments. Our countries plainly have so much in common that it is quite intolerable for us to permit any relationship to exist except the kind of closest cooperation and confidence appropriate between old and trusted friends.

It seems to me essential for us to resolve outstanding difficulties promptly and work out together suitable courses of action on the many grave problems confronting us at this time. It would of course be most effective if you could yourself come to see me or if I could go to Taipei. The weight of responsibilities on both of us and, indeed, my schedule of official visits here, make this seem impracticable. Therefore, I urge that you send to Washington a fully trusted representative to speak for yourself and your government in talks with me and other American officials concerning the critical decisions we need to take on strategy and tactics in the United Nations this fall. I had looked forward to seeing your son, General Chiang Ching-kuo, anticipating that he would be able to speak frankly and fully for you on these matters on his projected visit to the United States. I would still be delighted to see him if he can come in the near future, but in any case I urge you to designate someone in whom you repose great confidence to come to see me so that we can have the benefit of your considered views. In all these conversations, of course, we would continue to rely for diplomatic advice and guidance on your competent Ambassador, George Yeh, who has represented you most skillfully in exchanges of views to date here in Washington.

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My staff has pointed out to me that some concern was caused in Taipei by the announced decision in principle to grant a visa to Thomas Liao. Our view was that he could make less propaganda unfavorable to the Republic of China if he visited the United States without any official attention than if we continued to exclude him. It is of course difficult under our political and legal system to deny entry to anyone without very serious cause. In view of your concern, however, we have instructed our Embassy in Tokyo to withhold his visa for the time being2 and we will not issue it until we have had further talks with you about the best way to handle the matter. I assure you that Liao will receive no official encouragement or attention from the United States Government nor, of course, any sponsorship of his visit.

On the issue of Outer Mongolia, I wish to inform you that the United States Government is merely exploring the possibility that some strategic advantage for the Free World might be gained by sending Western diplomatic representatives to this region between Soviet Russia and Mainland China. We are not committed to this line of action and can of course defer United States recognition indefinitely if that seems wise. Actually our main concern is with the United Nations, where our primary need is to avoid letting the Outer Mongolia issue adversely affect the vote on the much more vital matter of Chinese representation in the United Nations. Our hope is that you can find some way to avoid the necessity of your delegation at the United Nations vetoing the entry of Outer Mongolia to the United Nations. We fear the consequences a veto probably would have on the attitude of the African states which unfortunately seem to have acquiesced in the Soviet linkage of the admission of Mauritania and Outer Mongolia. Working out a reasonable position on this complex matter is one of the main tasks that we should set for ourselves if you can send someone to give us the benefit of your ideas on the subject.

On the broader problem of Chinese representation, we must promptly reach a meeting of the minds. We have informally explored a variety of schemes, none of them too satisfactory. We are anxious to get the benefit of your judgment on all of the alternatives. We are convinced that, unfortunately, the moratorium will fail if presented again this fall. We should compare detailed notes on this point, but I am afraid this is likely to be the case. We should consider parliamentary tactics to employ that would insure that the issue comes up in the right context and that it [Page 97]will be considered a substantive rather than a procedural matter. In any case, it is of high importance that your government and mine reach an understanding on the positions most advantageous for us to adopt.

I need not remind you that my primary aim is to support the Republic of China in every possible way and to oppose the entry of the Chinese Communists into the United Nations. Vice President Johnson made these points clear, I know, when he visited you and delivered my letter to you3 a few weeks ago. The key points made in my letter are expressions of the policy of the United States Government and will not change. Our difficulties are in finding ways to carry out those policies in the face of determined enemies and troublemakers. You can help us there by drawing on your long experience in dealing with the Chinese Communists as well as your knowledge of Asian psychology and temperament generally. With a common goal and good understanding we should be able to map a course that will work to the advantage of our two countries.

Please let me know your reaction to these views and particularly whether you can send to Washington a plenipotentiary representative or representatives in the near future.4

With great respect,


John F. Kennedy
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/7-1461. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Filed with a covering note of the same date from Bromley Smith of the White House staff to U. Alexis Johnson. Drafted in the White House and revised in the Department of State. A July 11 memorandum from Bundy to Johnson states that the draft “responds to the President's own sense of the situation, as I understand it.” Johnson returned the revised draft with a July 14 memorandum stating that the changes were “relatively minor” and “directed primarily to somewhat cutting back on the making of commitments to Chiang and thus preserving our freedom of action.” Both memoranda, together with the draft with handwritten revisions, are ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. See also Document 43.
  2. In his June 9 letter to Johnson, Chiang argued vigorously against the U.S. intention to seek diplomatic ties with Mongolia, declaring that such a move would indicate that the United States was “retreating from principles in the global struggle against world Communism” and would be viewed as paving the way for a “two Chinas” arrangement. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/6-991)
  3. In telegram 214 to Tokyo, July 22. (Ibid., 793.00/7-2261) A July 14 memorandum from U. Alexis Johnson to Legal Adviser Abram Chayes and McConaughy stated that the President had decided that “for reasons of national policy” Liao should not be given a visa “at this time.” The memorandum stated that Liao should not be told he had been denied a visa but that his application would remain under active consideration; the purpose was to delay granting a visa but to retain flexibility for future action. (Ibid., 793.00/7-1461)
  4. Dated May 8; see footnote 3, Document 26.
  5. The letter was transmitted to Taipei in telegram 29, July 14. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/7-1461) Telegram 60 from Taipei, July 19, reported that Drumright had delivered the letter to Chiang on July 18. Chiang expressed pleasure and told Drumright he was thinking of sending Vice President Ch'en Ch'eng to Washington. (Ibid., 611.93/7-1961)