87. Memorandum From James C. Thomson, Jr., of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • U.S. Initiatives on (1) Travel to China, and (2) Mongolia Recognition

On May 14th the Zablocki (Far East) Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a report on the Sino-Soviet conflict which includes, inter alia, the following recommendations:

“The United States should give, at an appropriate time, consideration to the initiation of limited but direct contact with Red China [Page 172] through cultural exchange activities with emphasis on scholars and journalists;”


“The recognition of Outer Mongolia should be considered.”

These two thoughts are tired old chestnuts that have been kicked around in the Government since at least the first months of the Kennedy Administration. As you know, inter-agency agreement has been achieved more than once on a lifting of the travel ban (either specifically for Red China, or across the boards; also, either for special groups—scholars, etc.—or for all citizens). Similar agreement has been reached more than once on recognition of Mongolia. But both proposals have foundered because “now is not the time.”

I am convinced that “now” is never going to be the right time—and that right now is actually as good a time as we may ever find for making one or perhaps even both moves.

This conclusion was reinforced by my Far East trip in March. At Baguio, in Hong Kong, in Taiwan and in Japan I discussed possible U.S. initiatives towards Communist China and Mongolia with many of our leading State and CIA specialists. In all cases there was general agreement—as there has been in the U.S. Government since 1961—that our national interest would be served by recognition of Mongolia and by a unilateral freeing of U.S. travel to Communist China. More important, I also found general agreement that the present climate of U.S. firmness in Asia—our Vietnam air strikes, the dispatch of ground forces, etc.—was ideal for such moves that might be judged superficially to be “soft”. (Typically, such proposals had not been sent to Washington by any of the people with whom I talked; the fact of the matter is that no post abroad considers itself an “action desk” for U.S. relations with Communist China—a situation that is costly to our Government, I fear.)

In the weeks since my return to Washington, I have found similar views here at the working levels of State and CIA on the conduciveness of the present climate to such initiatives.

Now, to my great interest, we have fresh support for such moves, not only from the Zablocki Subcommittee, but also in part from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its 1965 Annual Meeting (it urged us to “open channels of communication with the people of Mainland China”). In addition, I have just talked to our Taipei DCM, who assures me that the necessary advance consultations with the GRC on both of these matters would go far more easily in the present climate and would be successful.

In view of the fact that our Asian posture is tougher than ever before, that the Congress has given us a gentle boost, that the GRC is judged to be persuadable, and that we face no election this autumn, I would strongly urge that we get moving on both these items at long last.

[Page 173]

Present status of these items: A favorable Mongolia recommendation has been sitting on Secretary Rusk’s desk for two months now. He has just asked that FE “update” its recommendation.2 Meanwhile, Marshall Green was pressed by Fulbright yesterday, at his confirmation hearing, for action on lifting the China travel ban (this item remains buried at State since the 7th Floor got cold feet in January 1964).

We may shortly face the usual State worry as to whether to try one or the other, both, or neither (with the neither-boys probably destined to prevail unless we can give some encouragement from over here).

Question: Can we give such encouragement? In this regard, would you like to see fuller papers on these items?

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, China, Vol. III. Secret. The handwritten notation “Staff mtg. McGB” appears on the source text.
  2. See Document 344 and footnote 9 thereto.