27. Memorandum of Conversation1
SECRETARY’S VISIT TO TAIPEI
April 16–17, 1964
- GRC Relations with U.S. and Free World Nations of Far East
- President Chiang Kai-shek
- James Shen, Director, Government Information Office, Interpreter
- The Secretary
- Ambassador Jerauld Wright
- Ralph N. Clough, DCM
After dinner the President opened the conversation by stating that one point President Johnson in his letter had said might be discussed with the Secretary was the matter of the proposals made by President Chiang for alliances among anti-Communist nations in the Far East.
Alliance of Anti-Communist Far Eastern Nations
The Secretary said on that matter he had no final, categorical views. Things were in motion. It was relevant to observe that the United States [Page 50]has alliances with the Republic of China, the Republic of Korea and, in effect, the Republic of Vietnam, which was a protocol state under the SEATO Treaty. We are inclined to believe that joint action by these three powers is only likely to become effective should there be a general war with mainland China. Under such circumstances, the United States presumably would be a party. The Secretary didn’t quite see what the three powers could do without the United States. Of course, the U.S. was grateful for certain assistance which the GRC was providing to the GVN and he expected to discuss this matter further in Saigon. He thought it unlikely that the Senate would permit the United States to join another alliance arrangement in the Far East. Without United States’ participation, whether such an arrangement could be effective was a matter for consideration.
The Secretary said that in connection with their common enemy, Communist China, there was real substance in an arrangement between the GRC and Korea. Both had substantial, well-trained forces which would make a real difference in a struggle with Communist China. He doubted that Vietnam could contribute much. The question now was what could be done to help Vietnam. The GVN did not want foreign combat troops, not even from the U.S.
The President said he recognized the existence of the bilateral U.S. treaties and he knew that the proposed tripartite arrangement might not mean much in practical terms. Nevertheless, it would mean much psychologically to the people concerned and would serve to counter Communist China’s treaties with North Korea and North Vietnam.
Effect on Asia of Chinese Communist Nuclear Explosion
The Secretary inquired what the President’s views were concerning the effect on Asia should the Chinese Communists explode a nuclear device by the end of this year or next. He was not thinking of the military significance of such an event because it would be many years before Peiping could develop any significant nuclear power and the United States had plenty of nuclear force to counter it. What he was wondering about was the psychological effect of such an event. It might be necessary to take additional steps to counter it.
The President said that on the basis of information at the GRC’s disposal he did not believe that the Communists would be able to explode a nuclear device in the next three to five years. Of course, he said, it is necessary to be prepared for that possibility.
Alliance of Anti-Communist Far Eastern Nations
Reverting again to the alliance, the President said this would be a good thing in the light of French recognition of Peiping and it would result in strengthening the confidence in the future of the people in this area.[Page 51]
The Secretary inquired what was the attitude of the other two countries toward an alliance.
The President replied that the South Koreans were most enthusiastic. He said it was they who first brought up the idea. The GRC has had some talks with the Koreans on this subject but not with the Vietnamese. He had brought the matter up only for the Secretary’s reference and because he wanted to coordinate his action with the United States.
The Secretary said he would not wish to say at this time that we are opposed to such an alliance. It would have to be studied further. There are, of course, other important countries in this area such as Japan, Thailand and the Philippines. We have given tentative thought to ways in which closer relations can be established among the anti-Communist countries of the western Pacific. In the North Atlantic there is the North Atlantic community. Would it be possible to establish in the Pacific a Pacific community? Naturally, he meant a community excluding Communist China.
The President said all would be in favor of such a community but there was a question as to how to obtain Japanese participation. The Japanese constitution prohibited participation in any form of alliance. Furthermore, Japan was heavily infiltrated with leftists, who could at any moment mount a demonstration against such a project.
The Secretary said, regarding the possible explosion of a nuclear device by Peiping, the Soviets’ estimate agreed with that of the GRC. We knew that the Chinese Communists had had a plutonium plant in operation for some time and thought it possible that they might be able to detonate a device this year or next. However, we hoped the GRC estimate was correct. If the Chinese Communists did explode a device, we might see a rapid evolution in Japanese policy, as the Japanese would see this development in Communist China as a major threat to them.
The President said that his view of possible Japanese reaction to the explosion of a nuclear device by the Chinese Communists was the opposite of the Secretary’s. He thought it might cause the Japanese to move away from the Free World.
The Secretary said the Japanese were aware of the enormous nuclear power possessed by the United States and would not dare to move to the side of its enemies.
The President said he found the Secretary’s comments very interesting and hoped some day they might be able to discuss them again.
U.S. Nuclear Strength
The Secretary said he wanted to impress upon the President the almost unimaginable power in nuclear weapons possessed by the United States. He said we cannot take too much comfort in this, because it is almost unusable. However, he wanted the President to understand [Page 52]the order of magnitude of U.S. nuclear power in order to reassure him and also to help him understand why we were reluctant to risk a general war which the human race might not survive.
The President commented that he thought the Soviet Union knew this only too well.
The Secretary replied that Khrushchev knew it but Mao did not.
The President said that in his opinion the likelihood of nuclear war was remote because of this realization on the part of the USSR. The Soviet Union would not dare to take on the United States.
The Secretary replied that the problem was one of rationality. If people could remain rational, of course, they would not do so, but the question was, at what point does irrationality take over?
The President indicated he appreciated this point.
The Secretary said there was one point on which he wanted to be very clear and direct so there could be no misunderstanding. This concerned the talks in Warsaw. These talks were initiated by President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles because they had an obligation to U.S. citizens held prisoner on the China mainland. We felt an obligation to attempt to get them released. For seven years these talks have had a single pattern. Peiping says the United States must get out of Taiwan and turn the island over to Peiping. We say we cannot do this. This has become a sort of phonograph record which is repeated over and over.
The Secretary said he could assure the President that we were not negotiating with Peiping for a detente, for trade, or for recognition of the Peiping regime. He understood that the GRC was unhappy about the existence of the talks. He could understand this. The talks would now be suspended for several months as Wang was being transferred. He wanted to assure the President that nothing was going on between the United States and Peiping that the GRC didn’t know about.
The President said he doesn’t feel unduly exercised about the matter. He knows that there is nothing in the talks. Nevertheless, he hopes they will be discontinued. The man in the street doesn’t know what is going on and these talks boosted the prestige of the Chinese Communist regime, particularly after French recognition. The Chinese Communists’ propaganda machine takes full advantage of the situation.
The Secretary said that we have similar problems elsewhere. For example, two Americans were shot down in a helicopter and are held by the North Koreans. The United States public demands that we get them back. So we go to Panmunjom and talk with the North Koreans about it. As for the Warsaw talks, there would be none for several months and we will keep in touch with the GRC concerning them.[Page 53]
The President said he was not himself at all exercised about the talks. He knows the United States cannot possibly reach a compromise with the Chinese Communists. If the United States really wanted to do so, it would not have to so publicly. There are many other ways.
The Secretary said that the talks have served a useful purpose. When people accuse the United States Government of being too harsh and inflexible on the Chinese question, we just point to the record of the Chinese Communist position in the Warsaw talks. There it is in the record for seven years.
GRC’s UN Position
The President repeated that he had full confidence in the United States. He went on to say that another matter he was not losing sleep over was the GRC’s position in the United Nations. President Johnson had called for an intensive effort to support that position and the GRC was prepared to do all it could. At the same time he had absolute confidence in the United States’ determination to support the GRC position.
The Secretary said the principal battle would be in the General Assembly. He was not concerned about the Security Council. A number of countries which had recognized Peiping still supported the position that the seating of Peiping in the UN was an important question. The British, for example, had been very helpful. He was reasonably optimistic that the position could be held in the General Assembly, and this is where difficulties might be encountered. However, we both must continue to work hard.
Shen inquired whether the Secretary was referring to the situation this fall, and the Secretary replied he was and to the next two or three years.
The President said he thinks the Chinese Communists are predominately interested in the Security Council and not in being seated in the General Assembly, as such. Unless they can be seated in the Security Council, they are not interested in getting into the UN. Therefore, we must pay attention to the Security Council.
The Secretary said he was not absolutely convinced that the USSR really wants the Chinese Communists in. Sometimes they played their hand with great awkwardness, as if they wished to lose.
The President said that he personally feels assured that so long as the U.S. is determined to keep the Chinese Communists out, they will not be able to get in. However, ordinary people see that three out of the five permanent members of the Security Council now recognize Peiping and feel that their side no longer has the upper hand.
The Secretary said that he realized there had been certain differences between the GRC and Japan. There were also differences between the [Page 54]United States and Japan. He hoped the President would realize how very helpful Japan had been to the United States and the GRC in supporting the GRC’s UN position. The U.S. had been an occupying power in Japan, but we were no longer in that position and could not command the Japanese. There were some policies on which we and they did not agree. We hoped the President realized that for the GRC to lose Japanese friendship and support would be a very serious thing. We hoped the GRC and Japan could find a way to compose their differences.
The President said he understood the question very well and appreciated the Secretary’s remarks. He understood the importance of Japan’s support for the GRC’s international position. Had the GRC severed relations with Japan, it would be even more isolated than by the French action. He said that so long as the Japanese did not actually aid the Chinese Communists, he would try to work for improved relations. Since the Yoshida visit to Taiwan, the atmosphere in this respect had improved.
The Secretary said we are constantly in touch with the Japanese and we have discussed this problem with Ikeda. We will continue to pay close attention to it.
In taking leave of the President, the Secretary said he was grateful for this exchange of views which he thought had strengthened and further developed the close relationship which had grown up over many years between the United States and the GRC.
- Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2384/E. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Clough and approved in S on May 6. The meeting took place at President Chiang’s Shihlin residence.↩