41. Telegram From the Embassy in Burma to the Department of State0

490. Embtel 416; to Bangkok 48; to Taipei 5; to Hong Kong 8.1 During conversation with Embassy officer January 11, Prime Minister’s personal adviser U Ohn brought up subject of KMT irregulars. U Ohn stated GUB determined to get rid of all insurgents, but now intends to concentrate first upon KMTs since they continue to receive outside equipment and support. He claimed KMTs being supplied with modern American arms, some of which better than those available to Burma Army. Aside from difficulties KMTs creating for Burma, U Ohn said they are helping Communists, since they divert Army’s attention from Communist insurgents and are supplying arms to KNDOs who are tied up with Communists. He stated US prestige in Burma continues to suffer as result of KMT activities, and claimed it was becoming increasingly difficult to make press understand why US, if friendly to Burma, continues to allow American arms to be supplied to KMTs.

Embassy officer pointed out US expended considerable effort and expense to assist in evacuation of KMTs in 1954 and since then has made clear that it was opposed to any support to irregulars or their continuing as alien armed forces on Burmese soil. Embassy officer stated US supplies arms to Taiwan only for use in self-defense, as is case elsewhere in world. US has made number of representations to GRC on subject of irregulars and has been repeatedly assured by GRC that it neither exercises any control over irregulars remaining in Burma nor provides them with support or equipment.2

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U Ohn replied that fact was nevertheless KMTs continuing to receive American arms from Taiwan. U Ohn said he was unaware US had made public statement expressing either disapproval of KMTs or of their getting supplies and assistance from outside. He also professed be unaware public statement by US that arms supplied GRC should be used only for self-defense, and said he would appreciate being given text of any such statements. In addition, he urged that incoming administration issue new statement making clear US position with respect to irregulars, as well as make further effort to force Taiwan to cease assistance to KMTs and, preferably, get them out of Burma. U Ohn insisted he was not offering any objection to US supplying arms to Taiwan or assisting GRC to maintain self-defense. He found it difficult to accept, however, that US, while supplying arms, was unable prevent them from being sent to KMTs in Burma.

Comment: This attitude expressed by U Ohn continues to be widely held in Burma. Press in past two days has reported intensification of attacks against KMTs by Burma Army. If major campaign against irregulars develops, as U Ohn indicated government intends, seems likely capture American arms may receive considerable publicity in press resulting in revival widespread public suspicion of US involvement with irregulars. In addition to continuing strongest pressure upon GRC to stop further support of irregulars, Embassy believes suggestion US issue public statement making clear once again where we stand on irregular issue has some merit here.3 Embassy would also appreciate if Department could supply as soon as possible past public statements or releases pertaining to questions about irregulars and arms to GRC raised by U Ohn.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 690B.93/1–1261. Secret. Repeated to Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Taipei.
  2. In telegram 416, December 8, Snow expressed concern that the KMT issue would have repercussions on U.S.-Burmese relations since the irregulars in Burma were a constant irritant that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would exploit. The Embassy had reports that PRC and Burmese troops were engaged in joint operations against the irregulars. (Ibid., 690.93/12–860)
  3. In a January 19 memorandum to Director Hugh Cumming, INR Office Director for Asia Charles N. Spinks surveyed Government of the Republic of China (GRC) support for irregulars in Burma. After the evacuation of 7,000 irregulars to Taiwan in 1953–1954, the GRC maintained contact with remaining irregulars (estimated at 4,000–5,000); had strengthened its contacts and support after the 1958 Taiwan Straits crisis and the Tibetan revolt in 1959; and reportedly offered Lao General Phoumi Nosavan the use of Chinese irregulars in autumn 1960 in his conflict against Kong Le neutralists and Pathet Lao forces. (Ibid., FE/SEA/Laos Files: Lot 65 D 169, 320.11 Chinese Irregular Troops (KMT), Jan.-Mar. 1961 Laos)
  4. Telegram 492 to Rangoon, February 16, provided Ambassador Snow with a public statement noting that U.S. equipment in the hands of Chinese irregulars was there without U.S. consent or knowledge. The statement was to be released at Snow’s discretion. (Ibid., Central Files, 690B.93/2–1561)
  5. Telegram 455 to Rangoon, January 27, reported that useful public statements were few since Chinese irregulars was not a topic the U.S. Government usually commented on publicly. Under the terms of the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the GRC, U.S. supplied weapons could only be used for internal security and self-defense, and shipment to irregulars in Burma would be illegal. The Department believed that a public statement from Washington on the irregulars in advance of public allegations in Burma would arouse more suspicion than it would dispel. Ambassador Snow should privately inform Burmese officials that the United States opposed the presence of Chinese irregulars and had privately informed the GRC several times in the past. (Ibid., 690B.93/1–1263)