92. Telegram From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State 0
629. Eyes only for President and Secretary. From Harriman.1 In two conversations March 14 with President Chiang of about an hour each before and after dinner with Madame Chiang and Charge present2 we discussed at length his strategy for return to mainland. After exchange of rather warm reminiscences about Cairo, President Roosevelt, Chung-king, etc., in which I underlined President Kennedy’s friendly attitude, he led off by saying mutual defense pact called for consultation on action to be taken, and expressed confidence President Kennedy was sympathetic with his objectives and would do nothing to deter or prevent him from acting. He asked me to assure President Kennedy he would not do anything behind back of US Government nor anything detrimental or harmful to US. I reminded him twice need not only for consultation, but also agreement. He responded the second time that he hoped our conversation would deal with political problem of how to achieve our common objectives, rather than discuss legal position.
Chiang said he had heard US intelligence sources had reported GRC about to take action in month’s time. He said, laughing, not to worry that he had no such intent.
I replied that I had heard rumor to that effect, but did not take seriously since I knew he was aware his forces could not be prepared for such rapid action.
Chiang said help must be given first to people on mainland so they could rise against Communist regime only then would GRC move in to support them. He now concerned with first stage, for which he needed transport from US to carry out drops over mainland. He said he did not wish to go into technical details, which could be studied by US and GRC military [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. He obviously did not want to risk turn down of request for planes through me direct to President.
He then presented strong plea for US understanding and cooperation. People on mainland ripe for revolt. Although outer fabric of ChiCom regime might look solid, once pierced there would be massive uprisings and defections. He did not desire intervention by US troops.[Page 196]
Chiang repeated several times that he would not act lightly, but only on definite assurance of success. If he had no such assurance he would not act. Present opportunity was heaven-sent and must be taken or it would be lost forever. Things could not get much worse on mainland and by next autumn would have reached decisive stage. When eruption occurred GRC would have to act.
I told Chiang I knew President Kennedy would be glad to learn of the caution with which he approaching matter. One mistake could be disastrous.
Chiang said he realized a reverse would have serious consequences, said he had high sense responsibility and situation called for greater caution. He was not impatient, but people and armed forces were and unless action taken soon he might lose control and things might begin to happen not according to plan. This would be matter of great regret.
I told him I had no fear his control. I congratulated him on Taiwan’s progress and urged expansion of Taiwan’s technical assistance program to other Asian and African countries. Chiang said he would be glad to do so.
We had some discussion regarding Moscow-Peiping rift. Chiang expressed view it was largely personal clash between Mao and Khrushchev. I explained in my opinion differences dated back to Stalin’s time and were fundamental. Chiang felt Soviets would not intervene in China. I stated firmly that I was sure Soviets would if US forces involved. At that point he agreed and said that was why he planned on use only of Chinese forces.
Chiang asked for frequent consultation on mainland problem. I said President Kennedy wished to keep in closest touch and exchanges of views could be held as often as Chiang thought necessary.
I said that I found it odd for an American to be advising a Chinese to be patient. He seemed to take this in good part.3
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/3-1562. Secret; Priority; Roger Channel.↩
- Harriman visited Taipei March 14-15. A general report of his visit was sent in despatch 355 from Taipei, March 20. (Ibid., 123 Harriman, W. Averell)↩
- A memorandum of both conversations, drafted by Clough, is ibid., 793.00/3-1462.↩
- Harriman sent an additional message to the President in telegram 1471 from Bangkok, which commented that Chiang “obviously wanted me to accept his concept that return to mainland was Chinese affair and his only obligation was consultation, not prior agreement, with us. When he failed in that, he undertook to impress me with the care and caution with which he was approaching the undertaking. He avoided making any specific request for aircraft, I felt, because he did not want to get a turn-down direct from the President. He called Admiral Felt back to see him the next morning and repeated the request already mentioned by his son to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] namely five C-130’s. If his request is granted, he will consider that the operation he has in mind will be approved although he has no direct evidence that it will succeed. The most optimistic estimate I have heard from any American is ten to one against achievement its objective.” (Ibid., 793.00/3-2362)↩