104. Memorandum of Conversation1



  • Call on the Secretary of Defense by the Chinese Minister of Defense


  • Chinese Side
    • Chinese Defense Minister—Chiang Ching-kuo
    • Chinese Ambassador—Chow Shu-kai
    • Chinese Information Minister—James Shen
  • United States Side
    • Secretary of Defense—Robert S. McNamara
    • Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)—John T. McNaughton
    • Desk Officer Far East Region—Colonel Austin L. Berry, USAF

1. Opening Remarks

Secretary McNamara welcomed Minister Chiang and party to the US. Minister Chiang said they were happy to be here and that he brought [Page 210] personal greetings to Secretary McNamara from President Chiang Kai-shek. Secretary McNamara replied that he had always admired Chiang Kai-shek and was especially pleased to note the economic development that has taken place under Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership. Minister Chiang suggested at this point that they dispense with translation from English to Chinese.

2. GRC Assistance to Vietnam

Minister Chiang said President Chiang had asked him to seek Secretary McNamara’s views on how the GRC can help the US in Vietnam. Secretary McNamara responded, first by explaining to Minister Chiang with the use of maps, the situation as the US views it. Secretary McNamara pointed out the Viet Cong had apparently undertaken what was intended to be a decisive campaign to cut South Vietnam in half and to destroy the RVNAF but that the added weight of US forces had frustrated VC plans and forced them to revert to small scale guerrilla tactics. Secretary McNamara then went on to say that the RVN is grateful for GRC economic and technical aid and that the RVN wants it increased; that the RVN needs help especially in increasing agricultural production. Secretary McNamara said the RVN also needs help in the field of transportation, especially water transportation such as commercial ships and that the RVN needs medical assistance. Secretary McNamara stated that the war will be ultimately won or lost by how well the government takes care of its people and that this is the area in which they need help the most. Minister Chiang thanked Secretary McNamara for his briefing on the situation and stated that the GRC would be happy to do anything they could to help, noting that Premier Ky had also talked to him in the same vein.

3. Overall Asian Situation

Minister Chiang said he wished to discuss the overall Asian situation and Secretary McNamara responded that he was anxious to hear Minister Chiang’s views on the subject. Minister Chiang stated that three areas are of great interest to Communist China: Korea, Taiwan Straits and Southeast Asia (now extended to include India). Korea and the Taiwan Straits being strongly defended, the ChiComs were devoting their attention to the south. In an effort to expand southward the ChiComs had two areas in mind, Vietnam and India, where it had felt US power could not reach effectively. As a result of the stepup in US military effectiveness in Vietnam, the ChiComs feel they can do little more there now and will shift their focus of activity to the Indian border, and perhaps Thailand. The ChiCom objective is to spread and scatter US resources like “ten fingers extended.” Minister Chiang continued that he greatly admired the way Secretary McNamara had implemented US policy in Vietnam, that he believed the ChiCom strategy had been frustrated in [Page 211] Vietnam, but that he did not feel the ChiComs would give up their expansionist policies in South and Southeast Asia.

4. Seizure of 5 “Southwest Provinces” (Kwangtung, Kwangsi, Yunnan, Kweichow, Szechwan)

Minister Chiang said President Chiang had asked him to discuss the historic development of certain things, and that what he was about to discuss were things which need not be done immediately but which nevertheless should be given consideration now. Again saying that he saw little chance of a ChiCom thrust in Korea or the Taiwan Straits, hence a ChiCom focus toward the south, Chiang said that from a strategic viewpoint the 5 southwest provinces of China are the most important because due to terrain they form a natural barrier between “China proper” and SE Asia. If seized (by the GRC) they can shield SE Asia from China proper. For this reason, President Chiang wants to stress the importance of seizing the 5 SW provinces. He again said Chiang Kai-shek was discussing only policy and strategy, not operational proposals. Minister Chiang said Russia has never in history been involved with respect to the 5 Southwest provinces, that ChiCom control is weakest in these same 5 provinces, that resentment against the Communists is strongest and popularity of Chiang Kai-shek is greatest in these provinces. At this point Chiang left a small brochure to explain further this concept.2

5. Stronger ChiCom Action Foreseen

Minister Chiang said he foresaw stronger ChiCom action against the US and the GRC; the US because it is the ChiComs’ strongest military obstacle and the GRC because it is the ChiComs’ greatest political threat.

6. Need for US and GRC to Work Together

Chiang said the US and the GRC must continue to work together; that US wealth and Chinese manpower, in which should be included the millions of Chiang supporters on the mainland, constitute a force the ChiComs must respect.

7. High Level Consultations

Chiang said suspicions that the GRC seeks more military aid, or seeks to involve the US in their return to the mainland are superficial and that what is really important is that we consult more closely at high levels of government on matters of Asian policy and strategy. Our common problems will be with us a long time; they require constant contact and joint consideration from a longer range point of view.

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8. ChiCom Military Buildup in Coastal Area

Minister Chiang said GRC intelligence showed the ChiComs are increasing their military strength in the coastal areas opposite Taiwan. Ground force buildup is chiefly replacement of units with other units better trained and equipped. Air buildup consists of increased training, more SAMs, more and better radars although conventional AAA had been reduced somewhat to provide weapons for Vietnam.

9. GRC Forces “Available“

Minister Chiang said Chiang Kai-shek had asked him to say that GRC forces are “available” to support free world interest in Asia but that if we anticipated they might be needed the GRC should be given a little notice so they could have their forces ready when an emergency arose.

10. Immobilizing ChiCom Forces

Minister Chiang said that larger numbers of ChiCom forces could be immobilized in Fukien province (opposite Taiwan) thereby making them unavailable for ChiCom use elsewhere such as SE Asia. He said he felt this was an important possibility worthy of joint study by the US and the GRC.

11. US Military Assistance Program

Minister Chiang expressed GRC appreciation for the US military assistance over past years which had enabled the GRC to build up strong forces. Minister Chiang pointed out that if we want to keep these forces strong it is necessary that they be given some new equipment every year to replace equipment that becomes obsolete. Minister Chiang stated that he is aware that reduction of military assistance is a part of US policy but that he hopes that without increasing the total amount, certain things can be done to strengthen GRC forces. He stated to save time he had prepared a memo which he wished to leave with Sec Def. Sec Def said he would be delighted to have the memo.3 (A separate comment will be prepared on the memo.)4

12. Proposed GRC Attack on the Mainland

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] renewed discussion of the GRC proposal for seizure of 5 southwestern provinces. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] President Chiang, in his November 1964 letter to President Johnson,5 had pointed out that in any advance on mainland China it would be unwise for US forces to be involved; [less than 1 line of [Page 213] source text not declassified] the US agrees. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] President Chiang had also stated that nuclear weapons should not be used to support GRC forces. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] then asked whether, in the GRC-proposed seizure of 5 southwestern provinces, it was thought that either US ground forces or nuclear weapons would be needed to support the GRC. Minister Chiang replied that the GRC would not favor the use of nuclear weapons and that they would not want US ground forces. Minister Chiang said that the presence of US ground forces would change the nature of the attack from an internal Chinese war to a foreign war, a change which would aid the Communists. Minister Chiang said the GRC would need US transportation and also US planes. Minister Chiang said the GRC would need US air and navy cover (protection from ChiCom air and sea attack) but would not need or want US air or naval strikes.

13. Bay of Pigs Comparison

Secretary McNamara said the proposal for seizure of 5 southwest provinces looked somewhat like the Bay of Pigs plan in that it obviously contemplated large scale popular uprising against the Communists. Secretary McNamara asked what evidence the GRC had that the people would rise. Minister Chiang replied that in the 5 SW provinces resistance to the Communists was strongest, hatred of the Communists was greatest, Communist force deployments were weakest, popularity of Chiang Kai-shek was greatest. Minister Chiang said he had studied the Bay of Pigs operation and felt that it was inadequately organized and lacked an established government to lead it, both conditions which would not be true in the seizure of the SW provinces.

14. US–GRC Consultations

Secretary McNamara said the discussion had been very helpful and that he thought it would be well for the US and the GRC to study together the intelligence relating to proposed seizure of 5 SW provinces, particularly intelligence relating to the possibility of popular support for GRC forces. Secretary McNamara said that, without in any way committing the US to provide any forces, we would be glad to participate in joint studies. Secretary McNamara said the US would be glad to resume the “Blue Lion” consultations when our new ambassador arrives. Secretary McNamara said he would be happy to arrange for senior Cincpac and DOD officers to visit Taiwan for studies and consultations. Secretary McNamara said he recognizes US–GRC common interests. Secretary McNamara said it is important for the GRC to understand that the US is firmly committed to defend Taiwan, and that it is important for the US and the GRC to understand each other’s views.

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15. Military Assistance

Secretary McNamara said the US believes that countries which are able should increase their contribution to their own defense and that the US believes this applies to the GRC.

16. Reduction of Forces

Secretary McNamara said that he believes that, in the long run, it will be to the GRC advantage to reduce its forces to relieve costs that don’t contribute much. Secretary McNamara noted that the GRC defense budget had increased this year; that we understand the need but that the US believes it would be unwise for the GRC defense budget to exceed about 9% of GNP. Minister Chiang responded that he felt that what matters most is how GRC defense capabilities can be kept satisfactory. Secretary McNamara replied that he agreed but that he felt the GRC should consider carefully whether its forces are too large in view of the cost of maintaining them.

17. Role of Japan and India

Secretary McNamara asked what was the GRC view of the role of Japan and India in Asian affairs over the next 5–10 years. Minister Chiang replied that with respect to India he did not feel the ChiComs were able to engage in large scale operations, but that they intended to stir up internal trouble in India by making trouble on the border. Minister Chiang said that with respect to Japan he felt the ChiComs would limit themselves to political and diplomatic moves and that the ChiComs are trying hard to arouse more anti-US feeling in Japan. Minister Chiang did not, in fact, respond to the question about the future role of Japan and India.

18. Joint Communiqué

Secretary McNamara then proposed that a joint communiqué be issued and offered a proposed text. Minister Chiang agreed to issuing a joint statement and after minor changes, the proposed text was agreed upon.6

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 70 A 3717, 333 China, Rep of. Secret. Drafted by Berry on September 23 and approved by McNaughton on September 24. The meeting was held in McNamara’s office at the Pentagon.
  2. The reference is to a paper entitled “A Problem of Common Interest,” undated. A copy is filed as an attachment to an October 13 memorandum from McNaughton to JCS Chairman Wheeler, referring to it as Chiang’s “concept paper” and requesting JCS comment. (Ibid., 381 Rep of China)
  3. Dated September 16, this memorandum is attached to a letter of June 16, 1966, from McNamara to Chiang; see Document 159.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. See Document 69.
  6. The text of the joint statement issued that day was transmitted in telegram 293 to Taipei, September 22. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 CHINAT)