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6. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • China


  • The President
  • Prime Minister Menzies of Australia
  • Ambassador Beale of Australia
  • The Secretary of State
  • Assistant Secretary of State Parsons

Referring to his conversation in Secretary Rusk’s office,1 the Prime Minister went over much of the same ground. He expressed his concern that the moratorium was no longer a useful device for dealing with the question of Chinese representation in the United Nations. Speaking in anticipation of his visit to the United Kingdom for the Commonwealth Conference, he mentioned that down the line in the Foreign Office he felt there was disregard of the Chinese Nationalists and that this colored British attitudes. The Secretary and the President both referred to recent public statements, notably by Lord Home, and it was intimated that it would be helpful if the British refrained as much as possible from public expressions prior to consultation with us. There had not been opportunity for such discussions yet.

Prime Minister Menzies made it clear that in his view Formosa should not be abandoned. Secretary Rusk again mentioned that the issue should be dealt with, not as a matter of credentials, but of membership. Mr. Menzies reiterated that regardless of our views on the substance of the problem, it was even more important that the United States not suffer defeat and isolation on this matter.

The President several times mentioned the deep feeling which the Chinese issue engendered here, saying that it extended broadly throughout both parties. It should not be dealt with in such a way as to cause [Page 15]harmful divisions and controversy here. He alluded to former President Eisenhower’s strong feeling and continued interest in this subject. The President also said that were Communist China to be seated in the United Nations, American support for the United Nations might very well be forfeit. These points, effect on the United States and effect on the United Nations, which we desired to support, were basic in the President’s thinking on this subject. Were it not necessary for these reasons strongly to oppose the Chinese Communists, who maintained an attitude of hostility to the new administration, the admission of Red China would be relatively a matter of indifference. No one was doing very well with the Communist Chinese in their present isolation. However, so far as our own bilateral situation was concerned, there was no intention to recognize Communist China, which, for its part, was in no mood to deal with us except on its terms.

There was discussion of the Chinese irregulars in Burma, a problem which was viewed in the context of Chiang Kai-shek’s preoccupation with a return to the mainland. None of those present thought that he was likely to give up this mystical aim. Also discussed was the question of the effect on the Chinese minorities in southeast Asian countries if Communist China were to gain admission to the United Nations. Mr. Menzies thought this effect would be less, and perhaps manageable, if the Republic of China on Formosa were maintained as a country in being with support from our side. The President expressed interest in learning on what other occasions the Chinese Communists had expressed themselves, as Chou En-lai had to Edgar Snow, against the two Chinas thesis. He was told that this was a longstanding and constantly reiterated position.

Prime Minister Menzies pointed out that the China issue was not just a question between the two blocs — it was a conflict between two sets of ideas that were fundamentally different. In this context it involved everyone — not just the major powers. He reiterated that, right or wrong, in Australian opinion, Australia would support the United States position, as it did not wish to see the United States defeated or isolated on this. In the context of further statement by the President of our determination not to permit abandonment of the Republic of China and to take a strong position against the admission of Communist China to the United Nations, Mr. Menzies asked if he could quote the Secretary to the British to this effect. He thought perhaps the President should be left “above these storms.” The President nodded agreement to Mr. Rusk’s suggestion that it would be useful for Prime Minister Macmillan to know privately that these were the President’s views as well as his own. Mr. Menzies said it would be most useful for him to be able to speak in this vein in London.

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 66 D 149. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Parsons and approved by S and by the White House on March 27. The meeting was held at the White House. The source text records only the discussion of China. A memorandum of the entire conversation is filed with a covering memorandum of March 2 from Stoessel to Dungan. (Ibid., Central Files, 033.4311/3-261)
  2. According to a memorandum of this conversation, Menzies suggested that they consider some sort of package proposal, which might include a seat for the Chinese Communists in the General Assembly and in the Security Council, with a separate independent existence and seat in the General Assembly for the Chinese Nationalists. Rusk stated that it would be “disastrous” for the United States and the United Nations to treat the China issue as a credentials question. (Ibid., 793.00/2-2461)