193. Telegram from the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State1

1227. Ref: State 70990 (Limdis);2 Taipei 1106 (Limdis);3 Hong Kong 2905 (Limdis).4

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] has reported all available data concerning October 15 naval incident [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Major outlines are that incident took place in area between Matsu and mainland; five small GRC boats attacked ChiCom vessels; four of GRC small craft lost together with ten of the fifteen personnel who participated in operation; ChiCom losses apparently one small boat; incident was apparently not mounted for intelligence collecting, but to attack ChiCom ships as part of new GRC response to mainland turmoil and hopefully to stage symbolic victory for psychological and morale reasons at time of President Chiang’s birthday.
No MAP or other US supplied equipment was used in this operation. Raid was conducted by Intelligence Bureau of Ministry of National Defense (IBMND), same group which has run most small GRC incursions. The IBMND built the boats used, the two largest of which (M 5’s) were 25-foot assault boats.
I have given serious thought to advisability of making approach of some kind to GRC concerning Matsu incident, and believe that [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] information concerning GRC intent in this case warrants our raising issue with GRC. I appreciate fact that such incidents, even though not wholly new, may arouse ChiCom suspicion or cause reaction particularly at time when leadership in Peking may be seriously split on policy issues including Viet-Nam. Before any decision is taken concerning form of representation to GRC, believe following factors should be considered:
We know from new, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reporting (being disseminated today) that this incident reflects a GRC [Page 406] decision to have IBMND resume such maritime operations after two-year lull. We know [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] of some 22 small maritime incursions of various kinds conducted in 1964, most of them by IBMND. These GRC incursions continued on small scale, apparently five in 1965 and four in 1966 prior to October 15 case. Latest incident is of larger scale than 1965–66 operational level (with exception of course of 6 August 1965 GRC naval sortie), and calls to mind some six Matsu area small operations conducted in 1964, one of which (October) was very similar to subject case. In view of previous USG acceptance of such GRC incursions, GRC would wonder why we have chosen this particular time to make approach, particularly if ChiComs have made no specific response.
We know [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that Matsu incident has been mounted in direct response to Gimo’s demands that his forces undertake some positive action against ChiComs. Protest to GRC on activities it has been carrying out in response to President Chiang’s orders, however, unlikely to be productive.
As I observed in Taipei’s 1106, we stand to gain a good deal from continuing our useful relations with the GRC [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and we should if possible avoid diminishing their utility.
If we raise Matsu affair with CCK or MOFA, Chinese may believe that we are trying to establish new ground rules to further limit their actions concerning mainland. While new limitation may be desirable or even necessary at some later stage, to try to implement them now would arouse GRC suspicions and make officials here less cooperative at very time (before ChiRep vote) we need to have most influence.
Past ground rules, as understood both by GRC and by US officials here, have allowed GRC clear latitude to conduct unilateral “intelligence gathering operations,” but not “military raids.” October 15 operation must be considered as one kind of “military raid,” although we have not protested to GRC in past borderline cases of this kind. It is useful to note that these ground rules allow short duration, small scale landing operations on mainland where objective is to abduct ChiCom personnel and acquire documents for intelligence purposes. October 15 engagement, while probably outside present ground rules, was conducted entirely at sea between small boats, and may be considered by ChiComs as less dangerous, and easier to handle than “intelligence collection operation” conducted against mainland itself.
On balance I believe we should take this up with GRC and I wish to discuss both substance and tactics with Bundy during his visit here next week.
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified]
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 CHICOM-CHINAT. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to Hong Kong and to Manila for Bundy.
  2. Telegram 70990 to Taipei, October 21, requested Embassy comment concerning an October 15 naval clash near Matsu, reported in the press on October 18, and an Embassy recommendation as to whether the matter should be taken up with Chiang Ching-Kuo or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to avoid repetition of such provocative actions at a time when the mainland situation was unsettled and Chinese Communist decisions on possible intervention in Vietnam might hang in the balance. It also asked whether any U.S.-supplied equipment had been used in the operation. (Ibid.)
  3. Dated October 12. (Ibid., POL CHINAT-US)
  4. Not found.