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88. Telegram From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State0

615. Department for Secretary. When I saw President Chiang today to bid him farewell1 he brought up subject of mainland. This gave me [Page 190]opportunity to set forth US position along lines Deptel 486.2 I urged need on both sides for utter frankness, full exchange of views, development of maximum possible intelligence resources re mainland and attitudes of people. I urged need above all for joint agreement respecting use of force against mainland.

I said as evidence of our desiring exchange views a USG estimate of mainland situation3 had been handed his son yesterday. Chiang said he had not yet seen our estimate but would read it with interest. I said we would welcome up-to-date GRC estimate, and in this regard stressed need for concrete mainland intelligence.

I told Chiang Governor Harriman would be prepared to discuss mainland problem in general, and urged him to bare his views frankly to Harriman.

Chiang expressed view small-scale operations would fail and thus upset his plans, whereas I said USG skeptical that larger-scale operations could succeed at this juncture. I said there seemed to be a difference of aims. We wanted small-scale operations to test reactions and gather intelligence whereas Chiang wanted large-scale operation to touch off explosion. Chiang did not dissent from this analysis, but asserted he is confident now is time to act and any delay may allow Communists to retrieve situation. I responded it seemed most important to choose right time and method, adding it my belief mainland deterioration would continue and perhaps open up better opportunities. I also urged Chiang to have regard for whole world situation, US responsibilities, et cetera. With so many problems, US naturally cautious about opening new major front. I also said Communist adventures in Southeast Asia or elsewhere might develop in such ways as to open opportunities toward mainland.

Comment: Discussion, in which Foreign Minister was only other participant, took place friendly atmosphere, nevertheless, it was utterly clear that Chiang is bent on taking some kind of action this year against mainland and that it will take skillful, adept responses on our part to channel his actions in directions we deem appropriate to situation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/3-662. Secret; Roger Channel. Repeated to Manila for Harriman. Received at 1:44 p.m. Harriman was in the Philippines for a conference of U.S. Chiefs of Mission in East Asia, after which he planned to visit Taipei.
  2. Telegram 616 from Taipei, March 6, reported that Drumright had called on Chiang and told him of his impending departure on March 8. Chiang’s reaction was that Drumright’s withdrawal must represent a basic departure in U.S. policy; Drumright assured him that this was not the case. (Ibid., 611.93/3-662)
  3. In telegram 486, March 1, Harriman replied to Drumright’s message in telegram 596 ( Document 86). It stated that the Department and Central Intelligence Agency concurred in Drumright’s recommendation that Cline should continue discussions with Chiang Ching-kuo and press the GRC to supply concrete intelligence to support its views. The thrust of his talks was to be willingness to discuss GRC plans with no implication of commitment, skepticism concerning the possibility of successful military action under existing circumstances, and concern over the disastrous effect of an unsuccessful military venture; he was to stress the GRC obligation to obtain U.S. concurrence before taking any military action. It stated that Harriman was prepared to discuss the subject in general terms but not in detail when he saw Chiang Kai-shek. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/2-2862)
  4. Not further identified.