325. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Chinese Representation Question


  • Chow Shu-kai, Chinese Ambassador
  • Liu Chieh, Chinese Ambassador to the UN
  • Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State, EA
  • Samuel De Palma, Assistant Secretary of State, IO
  • Winthrop G. Brown, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, EA
  • Thomas P. Shoesmith, Country Director, EA/ROC
  • Harvey J. Feldman, IO/UNP

Mr. De Palma said that thus far in our approach to the Chinese representation problem we have been concentrating on an assessment of the situation and the prospects. He emphasized that we have not yet reached any decisions. A number of countries have expressed an interest in discussing this matter with us, however, and we wish to learn what we can from them, although we are not in a position to exchange views on policy questions. Mr. De Palma added that we would not wish to get into policy discussions until we have had an opportunity to consult with the GRC and some other key governments.

Thus far, all indications point not only to a great interest in this problem on the part of many governments, but also to a steady erosion of support for the position we and the GRC have maintained. This [Page 573] erosion is evident both in the shift of votes in the UN General Assembly and in the manner in which governments are addressing this problem.

Mr. De Palma stated that there is good evidence that this year the vote on the Important Question resolution (IQ) will be quite close. Our preliminary estimates show some 54 votes already lined up against it. This number probably will increase. The disturbing fact is that the trend is away from support for our position. Equally significant, however, is the fact that many governments are tending to adopt positions on this issue which are not subject to outside influence. More and more, governments appear to be structuring their positions in terms of their view of the over-all situation in East Asia and their policy toward the area, with consideration for their relations with the US becoming a less important factor. Mr. De Palma pointed out that other governments now are not in the least apologetic in telling us how they view this issue and, for our part, it is difficult to see what pressure or arguments we can bring to bear to influence their positions. In short, the trend away from our position is proceeding at a faster rate than we had anticipated and the attitudes of other governments are not nearly so susceptible to US influence as in the past.

At the same time, Mr. De Palma noted, a number of countries which share our concern to prevent the expulsion of the GRC are coming to believe that this can only be done if there is some new approach, although no one has yet been able to devise such an approach which seems certain to achieve that objective.

Mr. De Palma emphasized that in approaching this problem, it is important to view the situation as it is and not as we would like it to be. He had therefore given Ambassadors Chow and Liu this summary of our assessment to date, without preliminaries, and he suggested that they might like to comment on how they view the problem.

Ambassador Brown added that one government recently told us bluntly that, “We have supported the IQ for 10 years because of our friendship for you. Now we have to think of our own interest.” Ambassador Liu asked whether countries taking this attitude already have recognized Peking. Ambassador Brown replied that in the case cited, the government was one which recognizes Peking. Mr. De Palma added that similar reactions have been encountered with countries not recognizing Peking, as well as with those which do.

Ambassador Liu then remarked that while he had been in Taipei during December of last year, he had discussed the Chinese representation problem with all government agencies concerned. In those discussions he had not failed to impress on them the erosion of the GRC position on the IQ and Albanian Resolution (AR). However, in the absence of any idea of an alternative, the consensus was that the GRC [Page 574] should continue to rely on the IQ. Ambassador Liu noted that he had emphasized this point when he met with Ambassador Phillips following his return from Taipei. He had pointed out at that time that since, when the IQ tactic was adopted in 1961, it was with a view to preventing adoption of the AR should it obtain a majority, if the IQ were to be abandoned the first time that contingency arose, it would make meaningless our efforts over all these years to retain support for it. Mr. Feldman observed that the IQ had already played that role once; in the session just past it had prevented adoption of the AR by a majority.

Mr. Green commented that we also have anticipated that once the AR obtained a plurality or simple majority, our position on the IQ could erode rapidly. He recounted that prior to the vote at the last session of the General Assembly, we were told by a number of governments that they would stand by us on the IQ one more year, but that after that they would have to reconsider their position. The fact that the AR obtained a majority probably has reinforced that view.

Mr. Green observed that, looking over the alternatives, one might conclude that the easiest course would be to fight the battle on the same line as we have in the past, but would this be the wisest course? Our common interest is that the GRC remain in the United Nations, but this will not be possible if the AR is adopted because of our inability to hold the line on the IQ. It is this which concerns even the GRC’s closest friends, who now feel that we must develop some new approach.

Ambassador Liu said that he appreciated this assessment of the situation, which he also had outlined during his consultations in Taipei. What he had attempted to explain to Mr. Green and Mr. De Palma, however, was how his government feels about the problem. It continues to feel that logic alone requires that the line on the IQ be maintained as the best safeguard against the situation we face and that sufficiently compelling arguments remain to persuade the General Assembly to reaffirm this resolution. This, said Ambassador Liu, was the consensus at all levels of government at the time he departed Taipei, and he believed that this remains the position of his government. Aside from questions of logic, Ambassador Liu continued, his government regards its fight in the UN as part of its political struggle against the Chinese Communists. From its point of view—and the GRC hopes that this is also the view of the United States—the main purpose must be to keep the Chinese Communists out of the UN and to prevent the United Nations from recognizing them as the sole legitimate government of all of China. That, he emphasized, must be prevented at all costs.

Ambassador Brown commented that this position appears to be based on the assumption that support can be retained for the IQ, but if not, then what? Ambassador Liu replied that his government can see no alternative. Further, it feels that if the US, Japan and other key countries [Page 575] pursue the IQ as they have in the past, then that line can be held. Ambassador Brown asked whether he shared that assessment. Ambassador Liu conceded that he was not quite so optimistic, but stressed that he believes there is a distinct possibility that the IQ can be carried again. He added that while he was in Taipei, several Japanese “political figures” discussed this problem with “our high level people.” The Japanese “seemed to have the encouraging impression that Japan should go along with the Important Question.”

Ambassador Chow said that he looks at this question from the point of view of psychological warfare. He recalled that in 1965, when there was a tie vote on the AR, the atmosphere was similar to that which followed the vote this year. Today, the mainland regime has had some success in its psychological warfare campaign, giving the impression that it is returning to the international community. Under these circumstances, there is the danger of a growing mood that the Chinese Communists are irresistible. As for the strength of US influence, Ambassador Chow acknowledged that we must take into account the changed membership of the UN and some reduction of effective US influence, but he believed that “in their innermost thoughts” many UN members continue to be guided by what they believe the US will do. He implied that whether a bandwagon mood in favor of PRC admission develops depends in large measure upon the US attitude and that if such a mood now exists, it should not be considered irreversible.

Ambassador Chow recalled that in a recent Business Week interview, Prime Minister Sato had been asked for his reaction to criticism that his government might miss the bus on the Chirep issue. Sato had replied that whether one gets on a bus depends on where it is going. Before getting on any bus, Sato said, Japan will wait and see its direction and whether the US also is getting on board.

Ambassador Chow then asked what is this “new approach” that other governments are advocating, what alternatives are being offered by those countries which say they wish to prevent the expulsion of the GRC?

Mr. De Palma stated that he did not think that other countries are being influenced simply by a bandwagon mood. Rather, as the vote on the IQ narrows, those holding the deciding 2 or 3 votes will become very anxious about being placed in the position of the last to cross the line. He felt that this factor already is operating and that we must, therefore, anticipate that the next vote on the IQ will be very close.

As to alternatives which have been proposed, Mr. De Palma said that no government has come to us with any solution. It appears, however, that they are groping toward some kind of dual representation formula. Their thinking is based on the assumption that the present tactics will fail and that the only certain outcome of our present tactics [Page 576] is that the PRC will enter the UN on its own terms. Since countries friendly to the GRC wish to avoid this, they are searching for some other course of action.

Ambassador Liu said that “our people” do not underestimate the possibility that other countries may change their position, but they also do not underestimate the influence of the US and Japan on other countries. Therefore, they continue to feel that the best safeguard of GRC interests is to continue to hold to the IQ. It follows from this, Ambassador Liu continued, that whatever alternatives others may propose, the IQ must not be abandoned, having been reaffirmed by the General Assembly on so many sessions. Further, if an alternative is proposed, his government feels that for “political, psychological and other reasons, the US should not be a party to it.”

Ambassador Liu then said that he understood the Belgian Foreign Minister recently had visited Washington. He presumed that the Foreign Minister had discussed alternatives with us and he asked whether the GOB intends to reintroduce its resolution as originally proposed or in some modified form.

Mr. Green replied that at the moment, the GOB is making no moves and that Foreign Minister Harmel has not yet made up his mind as to the best course of action. Harmel’s interest, however, is to find a formula which best will insure the GRC’s place in the UN. Mr. Green added that in our discussions with the Foreign Minister we had been able to say only that we are considering all alternatives. As in our discussions with other governments, we were careful not to give the impression that we necessarily will change our policy.

Mr. Green emphasized the importance of frankness in our conversations. The relevant fact which we and the GRC face is that if we stick to our past tactics we may not succeed in preventing the expulsion of the GRC; the evidence we have to date certainly points in that direction. Assuming that to be the case, has the GRC given any thought to alternative courses of action? We feel that we must do so and do not consider that by thinking of alternatives we are prejudicing a decision to remain on our present course. Perhaps the GRC feels that if it considers alternatives, its position will be weakened. For our part, we believe that our policy position and the position of the GRC in the UN could be weakened if we do not give careful consideration to possible alternatives. For this reason, Mr. Green expressed the hope that the GRC would not take rigid positions in our consultations, insisting that the US must do this and must not do that.

Ambassador Liu said that he appreciated the point which Mr. Green had made and agreed that frank discussion is most necessary. The GRC’s basic assumption is that the US is anxious to enable it to remain in the UN and that, “up to now, your policy has been to keep [Page 577] the Communists out.” “Thus,” Ambassador Liu said, “we have a common problem and common objectives.” In discussions within the GRC, the “worst situation” has been explored. However, Ambassador Liu emphasized, “You can understand that we have to consider the political consequences. We have our raison d’etre to maintain. This makes it difficult to come up with any alternative. As for any alternative which seems to do damage to our position in the UN, our people may not be able to swallow it.”

Ambassador Liu said that he personally had not been able to think of any acceptable alternative. He wished to have our assessment of the situation, but he hoped that we could understand why the GRC could not come up with any alternative. Summing up his previous remarks, Ambassador Liu repeated that the consensus within his government is that no matter what alternative is proposed, the IQ must be held.

On substance Ambassador Liu stressed that the basic GRC objective is to prevent the UN from recognizing the Chinese Communists as the sole legitimate government of all of China. The US should also realize that any alternative, such as the Belgian proposal of last year, which envisages ousting the GRC from the Security Council “would be very difficult for our people to swallow.” Ambassador Liu explained that the GRC feels that it earned its position on the Security Council by its role in World War II and has to make no apologies for occupying it. The GRC holds that seat “as a matter of historical consequences” and considers that it is more able than many countries to fulfill the functions of that position.

Ambassador Brown asked what the GRC reaction would be to a formula providing for the admission of the PRC without recognizing it as the sole legitimate government of all of China. Ambassador Liu replied that he had not discussed this during his consultations in Taipei, which had centered on proposals, such as that advanced by Belgium, which have come up in the General Assembly’s consideration of the question.

Mr. Green reiterated that the basic problem is whether to consider alternatives if it is clear that the old tactics will no longer work. Ambassador Liu had said that the GRC sees no alternative, that there is nothing which the GRC can propose or support. It may be, Mr. Green continued, that a consensus will emerge within the international community in favor of some form of dual representation. Although the GRC might be opposed to such an approach, it might be sophisticated enough to reckon on the fact that such an approach might also be opposed by Peking.

There are in this situation, Mr. Green suggested, several tactical possibilities and many ways of handling the problem. We should not be satisfied with saying that we can see no alternative, that nothing [Page 578] can be done, since if we neglect other possibilities and stick with the old tactics, the GRC may lose with no chance of recovering its position in the UN. We must face the fact that if we stick to our present position, the AR will pass and the IQ may not. Mr. Green suggested that perhaps the GRC will feel that it cannot participate in the exploration of such alternative possibilities. He hoped, however, that it will understand why the US might have to do so, without prejudice to a decision to stay where we are.

Mr. De Palma reiterated that those countries which are looking for a formula which will prevent ROC expulsion do so because they are friends of the ROC and have its interests in mind. None pretend that they have a formula which will insure representation in the UN for both Peking and Taipei, but they do wish to find a solution that will help the ROC preserve its place in the UN.

Ambassador Liu stated that the GRC wishes to know the views of its friends and what the US believes is “the best way to achieve our objective—to keep the Chinese Communists out.” His government feels that we can hold the line on the IQ. On that basis, he could see some possibilities in a situation where a “third resolution” would be introduced and, although it did not pass, it would draw votes away from the Albanian Resolution. “This would work out fine,” he said. “The other side would vote solidly against the third resolution. We also may vote against it and have a few friends do so also; it would be all right if the US should vote for it, so long as the US does not co-sponsor it.”

Ambassador Chow commented that the IQ originally was introduced not only as a tactic to block passage of the AR, but because the issue was considered on its merits to be an important question. Whether or not a new approach is adopted, therefore, we should continue to insist on the IQ. He thought, however, that if another resolution is introduced, those who have voted for the AR because they saw no alternative, might switch their vote.

Mr. De Palma pointed out that it will be important for us to have thought out well in advance what we should do if, as we get closer to the next session of the General Assembly and debate on this issue, it becomes apparent that the IQ will not carry.

Ambassador Liu suggested a situation in which there are three resolutions—the Important Question, the Albanian resolution and the Belgian proposal. Should worse come to worst and the IQ fail but the Belgian proposal carries, did we think that the Chinese Communists would enter the UN on that basis? Mr. De Palma replied that we do not think Peking would enter under those circumstances. Ambassador Liu indicated that his government has considered this possibility and the merits of remaining in the UN despite passage of a dual representation resolution, so long as the PRC refuses to enter on that basis. He [Page 579] suggested that perhaps there could be a “simple resolution” inviting the Chinese Communists to enter the UN but affirming that the GRC should remain. “If this keeps the Chinese Communists out, we will have accomplished our objectives.” “But,” Ambassador Liu added, “if we were out of the Security Council before the Chinese Communists came in, our people could not swallow that.”

Mr. De Palma remarked that it is difficult to look ahead that far, but that we should also think of a situation in which the question of the Security Council seat might have to be settled after the PRC entered the UN. Ambassador Liu observed that countries should not propose resolutions which could have a bearing on this question if they are uncertain as to the outcome.

Ambassador Chow referred to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times reporting speculation, attributed to the American Embassy in Tokyo, that Peking is interested in UN membership and going so far as to state that Peking also is receptive to a “two Chinas” approach. The Ambassador wondered whether this might be part of a buildup to force the GRC to change its position. Mr. Green explained that no one in the American Embassy had made such a statement and that guidance has been sent to our Embassy for responding to further queries prompted by this report. He added that there has been no change in our support for the GRC’s continued membership in the UN, although we continue our efforts to improve relations with mainland China.

Mr. Green then remarked that, as he had stated in his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, the economic planners of the Republic of China are as good as any in all of East Asia. He thought a similar statement could be made about the GRC’s diplomats. He suggested they might usefully be given a degree of flexibility in meeting the Chinese representation problem in a way that would be best for their country.

Ambassador Liu observed that when one is negotiating from strength, flexibility is more possible than when negotiating from weakness. He recalled that at the end of World War II, President Chiang had been generous in his treatment of Japan. However, “When you are on top it is easy to be generous, to forgive, to concede. But when any little flexibility means defeat, it is not easy.”

Expressing his appreciation for this opportunity to discuss this matter at such length, Ambassador Liu said that before leaving he wished to confirm that “your position is still with us and that, if possible, you will keep the Chinese Communists out.” Mr. Green replied that he would prefer to define our position in terms of our continuing support for the GRC. While he would prefer not to define our position as Ambassador Liu had, he realized that the end result might be the same.

[Page 580]

Ambassador Liu also emphasized that “time is running short” and that within the next several months other governments will be firming up their positions. His government, therefore, is anxious to be informed frankly of the US views and conclusions and to consult with us. At this meeting, he had attempted to put before us his government’s point of view. President Chiang, he noted, has taken a direct personal interest in this problem and will not leave it to others. “The President is a man of high principle, and it is not easy for him to consider anything which might damage the Republic of China’s raison d’etre.”

In conclusion, Ambassador Liu expressed his appreciation for the assurance that the US has not said anything to other governments which would give the impression that we consider the GRC’s case hopeless. He said that he would report to his government that we believe that the chances for holding the line on the Important Question are only 50–50 and that the US is continuing its examination of how best to assure the GRC’s place in the United Nations.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 6 CHICOM. Secret; Exdis. Drafted on February 2 by Shoesmith and cleared in draft by Deputy Assistant Secretary Winthrop G. Brown and Assistant Secretary Mr. De Palma.