247. Telegram From the Consulate General at Hong Kong to the Department of State1

6436. Ref: Vientiane 5546.2 Subject: Staffing out Ambassador Sullivan’s China policy suggestions.3

It is rare that anybody attacks an old problem with a brand new plan which is wholly feasible and I think this is no exception. Sometimes [Page 535] however the plan does contain new ideas which, perhaps with slight modifications, serve to advance such problems towards solutions. I think both these remarks apply to Ambassador Sullivan’s imaginative and ingenious proposal.
Central to this new plan is a proposal for the future stationing of U.S. troops on Taiwan, ostensibly for the primary purpose of serving as ready reserve for reintroduction if necessary into Southeast Asia but actually to inhibit a GRC-Mainland deal behind our backs, eventually to force the GRC to evacuate the Offshore Islands, and ultimately to trade withdrawal of our troops for ChiCom acceptance of an international agreement guaranteeing independence of Taiwan and the Pescadores.
For reasons set forth in subsequent paragraphs I think this plan infeasible. Against background of estimates of present military balance in Offshore Islands-Taiwan Straits area, however, it does suggest means whereby U.S. forces could perhaps be used to achieve one of Ambassador Sullivan’s objectives—bringing about evacuation of Offshores and consequent de facto separation of Taiwan from Mainland. If the increased ChiCom inventories of supersonic all-weather aircraft and of naval units means GRC could not successfully handle another Taiwan Straits crisis without U.S. help, then we have improved chance of successfully pressing for evacuation of Offshores. This result might be obtained prior to emergence such crisis when and if President Chiang becomes convinced military return to Mainland not possible or after he is succeeded by more realistic leadership. It might be obtained in event of such crisis by making our lending necessary military assistance conditional on GRC agreement to evacuation of the Offshores. (A case, and perhaps a better one, could be made for further modernization GRC defense establishment to give it qualitative air and naval superiority so that we would not need become directly involved in such a crisis, and I submit this too deserves staffing out.)
Main defect of Sullivan plan is its deviousness, which is open to objection on purely pragmatic grounds that we would not be able convincingly to mask our purposes and thereby accomplish them. The Chinese are past masters and we mere children when it comes to dissembling innocence and carrying on devious games. I do not believe we could propose bringing to Taiwan the forces Ambassador Sullivan has in mind, for the ends he contemplates, without the ever-suspicious Chinese seeing through our purposes. If their agreement were forthcoming it would be because of Chinese confidence that our designs could be thwarted, and the presence of our troops used instead to serve GRC interests.
Most of us who have worked full-time on Chinese affairs would disagree with assumption contained paragraph 11 reftel that evacuation Offshores is something we now could use in bargaining with Peking. [Page 536] (The presence on the Offshores of GRC forces suits the ChiComs because it may some day give Peking the chance to deal the GRC a devastating blow; meanwhile they like it because it helps prevent a so-called Two-Chinas solution.) It also is far from sure that ChiComs would bargain for the evacuation of U.S. forces from Taiwan. Instead they might bank on stirring up Chinese xenophobia on Taiwan against the U.S. occupation of the island and U.S. efforts to control its government. Finding that the ChiComs would not bargain for the evacuation of bases we had built up to accommodate our forces—doubtless at considerable expense—we would be tempted to retain the bases and keep our forces on Taiwan.
In that event we would find ourselves more deeply and perhaps inextricably involved with the two Chinese sides. As I pointed out in Baguio, our experience with past involvements in China has been anything but happy or profitable, and pursuing them is likely to prove no more fortunate and to leave us deeper in the red. If the GRC ever gives us an honorable means of ending the involvement, we should not lightly pass it up.
At a time well before we had a treaty with the GRC, and when we were considering what attitude we should adopt toward a possible ChiCom invasion of Taiwan, I felt that Mainland control of Taiwan was contrary to U.S. interests, and said so. I still feel that way today and believe we must stand by our obligations under the defense treaty we subsequently negotiated. However I am not convinced that the real estate the treaty is designed to protect is worth the ultimate risks for us which the treaty—which represented intervention in an unfinished civil war—may entail. Hence, if the GRC wishes to nullify the treaty by making a deal with the Mainland, we would be relieved of our moral obligation to it and should not, I think, go so far as to use force or the threat of force against the GRC in order to hold it to that treaty.
I doubt any regime likely to emerge on the Chinese Mainland in the near future is going to become party to an international agreement whereby it formally accedes to the permanent separation of Taiwan from the Mainland. There is a better chance it will learn to live with such a separation. It seems to me that a situation in which it did so would represent the optimum practicable goal of relevant U.S. policy for the foreseeable future.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 CHINAT–US. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to Vientiane, Taipei, Tokyo, CINCPAC, JCS, and USUN.
  2. Document 246.
  3. Telegram 3404 from Taipei, May 3, reported that McConaughy intended to discuss Document 246 and telegram 6436 during his upcoming consultations in Washington, and that he believed an oral exchange would be more useful than further telegraphic discussion. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 CHINAT–US)