Learn about the beta

46. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • United States-China Relations


  • General Ch’en Ch’eng, Vice President, GRC
  • Dr. Shen Chang-huan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, GRC
  • Dr. George K. C. Yeh, Chinese Ambassador
  • Dr. T. F. Tsiang, Chinese Permanent Representative to the United Nations
  • Dr. Hu Ching-yu, Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Mr. James Shen, Director, Office of Information
  • President Kennedy
  • Vice President Johnson
  • Secretary Rusk
  • Mr. McConaughy, Asst. Sec., FE
  • Mr. Cleveland, Asst. Sec.,IO
  • Ambassador Drumright
  • Mr. Walter Rostow, White House Staff
  • Mr. Rinden, CA
  • Mr. Calvin Mehlert, Interpreter

Regarding China representation at the United Nations, the President said that we are in agreement on strategy, that is, on our objective. We now have to decide what tactics would be best to get the necessary majority in the United Nations. Vice President Chen replied that at breakfast with Secretary Rusk there had not been adequate time to arrive at agreement on all points. He hoped to talk further with the Secretary this afternoon.1

The Secretary said that at the breakfast meeting we had discussed the precarious situation on the moratorium and thought that we might go for the important question. If we would get enough votes to carry this proposal, the GRC would go along. Some thought was also given to deferring the China seat issue until the problem of reallocating seats in the United Nations and its organizations had been resolved.

The President said that what we have to worry about is this year. We don’t know what the Chinese Communists may do in the next 12 months. The coming 12 months may present us a different problem and a different solution. Many things may happen—for example, as a result of the dispute between India and China. He said: “Let’s win this one.” Next year we may fight them on another basis.

[Page 105]

The President said that last year Pakistan had not voted against us because of a special plea from President Eisenhower. The Pakistanis, however, made clear that last year was the last time they would accede to our request on this matter. Nigeria is friendly to the United States but, in accordance with the general Commonwealth position, it will vote against us this year. Brazil also has had a change of attitude.

The Secretary said that at the breakfast meeting he had explained that the United States position with regard to Outer Mongolia was one of great flexibility and that we were in no rush for bilateral relations with Outer Mongolia. We were much concerned, however, about the effect Outer Mongolia would have on voting in the United Nations.

The President said he had read over the 1955 correspondence between the GRC and the US concerning United Nations membership for Outer Mongolia.2 He noted that President Chiang Kai-shek had replied that, as Outer Mongolia was not an independent state, the GRC could not agree to United Nations membership for Outer Mongolia. The interest of the United States now is the effect the Outer Mongolian question will have on votes in the United Nations with respect to China representation. How many votes can we lose or gain from Africa in this regard? As the Secretary has said, we are suspending talks on bilateral relations with Outer Mongolia.

Ambassador Yeh said that the last time he was in Taiwan, President Chiang asked him if United States plans to establish relations with Outer Mongolia were based purely on improving the United States position vis-a-vis the China representation issue—or did the United States have other motives?

The President said that these bilateral talks had taken place in order to seek a solution to the deadlock over Mauritania and Outer Mongolia. Last year the United States could not decide if Outer Mongolia was independent. Now we are not going ahead on the question of United States-Outer Mongolia relations because of the GRC’s feelings regarding Outer Mongolia.

The Secretary remarked that the intelligence community felt that we needed more information on remote areas but that this consideration had been a relatively small part of the problem. Perhaps President Chiang’s idea was that United States relations with Outer Mongolia was a step toward United States recognition of Peiping. However, it was nothing of the kind. The dominant problem is the fact that the entire African community is terribly troubled over the question of United Nations membership for Mauritania. The Soviet Union’s linking Mauritania and Outer Mongolia has involved 10 to 15 votes on China representation.

[Page 106]

Ambassador Tsiang said that the GRC would prefer to rely on abstentions to keep Mauritania out of the United Nations rather than to use the veto. In any event, some African states would feel that we were ganging up on Mauritania if the abstentions device was used. Nonetheless, there is a difference in abstaining and in vetoing, but it is impossible to express this difference in number of votes. He had advised his government not to veto the Mauritanian United Nations application but to use the abstention method.

President Kennedy said the question is: what will be the effect on the Africans of a group of abstentions?

Ambassador Tsiang said that in May 1961 he was in Taipei. It was unfortunate then that the question of United States recognition of Outer Mongolia had generated suspicions on Taiwan and had stiffened the GRC attitude against United States recognition of Outer Mongolia. The United States attitude on Asia appears different from its attitude on Europe. In the latter case, it says “thus far and no further,” but in Asia it seems prepared to retreat still more.

President Kennedy replied that since 1945 we had fought in Asia but not in Europe.

Ambassador Tsiang asked whether the United States could adopt an attitude toward Outer Mongolia such as it had adopted toward the Baltic states.

The President said that we have suspended our bilateral talks with Outer Mongolia.

Ambassador Tsiang asked if the United States could go further than merely suspending the negotiations.

The President said it would be best to let these negotiations on Outer Mongolia die out during the Berlin situation.

Ambassador Tsiang asked, if the United States could not make a public statement about Outer Mongolia, could the United States assure the GRC that the United States policy is the same towards Outer Mongolia as toward the Baltic states.

The Secretary said that the United States would have to think about that.

The President said that we accepted the GRC views on the non-independence of Outer Mongolia and we will not continue our negotiations with it. The question is what should we do about Outer Mongolia in the United Nations?

Vice President Chen said that he was fully aware of the relationship between the Outer Mongolia question and China representation at the United Nations. He had discussed this with President Chiang and the Cabinet more than once. The GRC is governed by one overriding consideration in its relationship with the United States. The GRC does not want [Page 107]to add to United States difficulties or see United States prestige suffer. The GRC has no suspicion of wicked motives on the part of the United States. However, each country has its own difficulties and historical background. He would like to explain the GRC position on Outer Mongolia. The GRC is not dominated by emotions. It has objectively considered the problem and taken considerable regard for internal repercussions in the GRC. Ambassador Drumright in Taipei had been kept fully informed of the Chinese attitude and in Washington Ambassador Yeh had been kept fully informed so that he could convey GRC views to the United States Government.

Outer Mongolia is clearly one of the Soviet Union’s creations. The Asian countries recognize this and the United States at the United Nations had declared Outer Mongolia did not have the attributes of a sovereign state. The GRC feels United States recognition of Outer Mongolia would greatly add to Soviet and Communist world prestige. The GRC is concerned about the effect of this on its compatriots on the China mainland and other peoples behind the iron curtain. The United States, as the leader of the free world, should consider whether any of its actions would add to the prestige of the Soviet Union and the Communist world. Internally, the GRC’s people are pledged to a policy of fighting Communism and countering Russia. This policy was formulated by the Kuomintang, adopted by the GRC government and endorsed by the GRC legislative branch. The GRC’s feeling in this regard is shared by a number of Asian countries.

Vice President Chen said he believes he can control his own cabinet. However, just before his departure from Taipei for Washington, a meeting was held of representatives of the five Yuans. At this joint conference the Vice President represented the Executive Yuan and heard the unanimous views on Outer Mongolia of the representatives of the other four Yuans. Their united view was that the GRC must use all means under the United Nations Charter to block Outer Mongolia’s entry into the United Nations.

The President said that Vice President Chen, as a military man, should know that it is easy to send instructions to the field but at the General Assembly the ambassadors of the GRC and the United States would have to carry the fight on China representation. In the United States there had been Congressional resolutions on keeping the Chinese Communists, as well as Outer Mongolia, out of the United Nations. The real question was how to do this.

The Secretary said that United States and GRC policies towards Africa are important. He had been impressed by the progress the GRC had made in Africa. The African bloc in the United Nations is as important now as the Latin American bloc. GRC relationships with the African [Page 108]states can greatly strengthen its position in the United Nations. The United States has a great stake in Africa.

The President said that, in seeking to keep the GRC in the United Nations and Outer Mongolia out, we must recognize the close relationship between the United Nations membership applications of Outer Mongolia and Mauritania. In this regard he said, “You can’t have everything.”

Some people on Taiwan may think that United States recognition of Outer Mongolia is a backhanded way of recognizing Peiping. This is not true. The only concern of the United States is to win on Chinese representation in the United Nations—to get the majority of votes on this question. We can’t let those who don’t understand this situation direct our strategy or we will end up beaten, the President said.

The Secretary asked Vice President Chen if it wouldn’t be better to have Outer Mongolia than Communist China in the United Nations.

Ambassador Yeh said that we wouldn’t want either. He offered assurance that none of the Chinese present had any sneaking suspicions of the United States. Otherwise, Vice President Chen wouldn’t have come to Washington.

Vice President Chen said with reference to President Kennedy’s statement about GRC misunderstanding of United States motives that, if he had ever had any suspicions, these suspicions had been completely dissipated after the talks with President Kennedy and Secretary Rusk. He knows President Kennedy is dealing with vast world problems, and he doesn’t want to waste President Kennedy’s time. Therefore, he suggests that Secretary Rusk, Foreign Minister Shen and other United States and GRC officials work out the technical details. He prefers the Outer Mongolian problem to be handled at this level.

Vice President Chen said that, in the continuing struggle between Communism and freedom, the GRC does not want to help the Communist world. It is important for the free world to achieve greater solidarity and stronger organization in facing Communist bloc. What is needed is a permanent staff set-up among the free countries of Asia. The GRC has drawn up a plan toward this end. As soon as the document is translated into English, the Secretary will be given a copy.3 The organization proposed would do much to solidify and unify anti-Communist forces in [Page 109]Asia. If this plan could be adopted as soon as possible it would relieve the United States of some worries. This plan will not lead to requests from the GRC for more money. It is conceived in the interest of the United States and the free world.

The President said that Secretary Rusk would look at this proposal after it had been given to him in English translation.

It was an extremely difficult task to maintain understanding among all United States allies such as India and Pakistan or France and Tunisia, the President observed.

The President emphasized that the United States and the GRC must be sure to have the best possible intelligence on China mainland conditions.

Vice President Chen said he fully shared the President’s anxiety about having accurate information on mainland conditions. In this connection, he had brought some materials concerning political, social, economic and military conditions on the mainland, but these materials have yet to be translated. The GRC still keeps in touch with its people on the mainland and gets information from them.

The President referred to the GRC concern over issuance of a United States visa to Thomas Liao and suggested that Secretary Rusk could discuss this later with the Chinese representative.

Vice President Chen said that Liao was a nonentity and that he did not attach much importance to the Liao case. However, in Taiwan some people had the impression the Americans wanted to bring him to the United States and build him up.

The President said that we don’t want to make Liao important. In fact, scarcely anyone in the United States had heard of him.

Vice President Chen assured the President that the Liao case was no problem.

The Secretary said that at present possibly 500 people in the United States had heard of Liao. However, if the human rights issue were raised in his case, 100 million Americans might hear of him.

The President mentioned that Senator Fulbright was interested in the Liao visa case.

Ambassador Yeh said that Liao had taken Senator Fulbright’s reply to him and had mimeographed copies made for distribution to Liao sympathizers in Japan.

The Secretary said that we are agreed on the basic relationships between the United States and the GRC, notably as set forth in the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1954 and the accompanying exchange of notes on the use of force by agreement only.

[Page 110]

The President said that close consultation between our two governments on any actions that may bring on a military response is also most important.

Ambassador Yeh said that the GRC agreed. It was in this connection that the GRC had suggested joint staff meetings.

The President said that we must be careful not to get involved in actions on the China mainland which are based on hope and not facts. Therefore we need reliable information.

Ambassador Yeh said the GRC had “never acted contrary to the Treaty and never intends to.”

Vice President Chen assured the President that “China’s word is gold.” He said that “we don’t go back on our word.” The Vice President reiterated that our common struggle with Communism will be long, and so we must stick together. We must look at these problems in the same spirit.

The GRC does not intend to suggest the replacement of SEATO but rather to make it more effective by including anti-Communist countries who have forces to fight Communist aggression. Both the United States and GRC are working on parallel lines, such as in intelligence work on the China mainland. They should pool their efforts with those of other Asian countries. The two countries should use psychological warfare as a substitute for military action. The GRC is seeking to strengthen its psychological warfare.

Vice President Chen said that, as a result of his work in Youth organizations on the China mainland many years ago, there were 30,000 potential agents on the China mainland who were loyal to him. They were lying low for the time being but would respond when the time came for action.

The President asked what method of communication the GRC had with the underground. The Vice President said that small radio sets had been used, but this method had been stopped recently. The best way now was for these agents to send messages back to Taipei through Macao and Hong Kong. The Vice President said that the GRC cannot rely completely on these agents on the mainland in the absence of an over-all organization. The GRC tactic vis-a-vis the Communists is to counter organization with organization.

Vice President Chen said that his faith in his mainland compatriots’ eventual liberation had never been shaken because of his communication with them. His faith was not based on mere hope but on his continuing relationships with these mainland units.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China. Secret. Drafted By Rinden. The time of the meeting is from Kennedy’s Appointment Book. (Ibid.)
  2. A record of the discussion at the breakfast meeting is in Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/8-161. A record of a 4 p.m. meeting between Rusk and Ch’en is ibid., 303/8-161. See the Supplement for both.
  3. For texts of President Eisenhower’s messages of November 22 and 28 to Chiang and Chiang’s messages of November 26 and December 3 to Eisenhower, see Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, vol. XI, pp. 388-424, passim.
  4. The text of the proposal, “An Outline Proposal for a Collective Security Organization of the Anti-Communist Countries in the Western Pacific Area,” codenamed Taiping, was enclosed with instruction CW-1777 to CINCPAC and five Embassies, August 25. (Department of State, Central Files, 790.5/8-2561) A November 21 memorandum from McConaughy to Rusk recommended against the proposal. (Ibid., 790.5/11-2161) Steeves informed Minister Kiang on December 19 that the United States considered that the objectives of the Chinese proposal could best be gained through existing liaison machinery. (Ibid., 790.5/12-1961)