328. Letter From the Representative to the United Nations (Yost) to Secretary of State Rogers1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

As I terminate my mission at the UN and as a contribution to the review of US policy toward Chinese representation now under way, I should like to submit the following personal views on this subject.

The US would appear to have three options: (1) to continue to seek both to maintain the GRC presence and to exclude the PRC, either by holding to the “important question” tactic or by resorting to a new one; (2) to work out or encourage others to work out some form of dual representation which would have a reasonable chance of being approved by the General Assembly; (3) to cease to organize active opposition to PRC representation, even if it means GRC withdrawal or ouster.

I have for many years been an advocate of the second policy as the best means by which a GRC presence might be maintained after the time arrives when the demand for a PRC presence becomes irresistible. There is naturally a strong temptation to opt for this alternative in 1971 when it is becoming increasingly doubtful whether option one will any longer be viable, or in any case be viable for more than one more year. Yet before choosing the second option and putting our prestige behind it, we should consider carefully how realistic it actually is, whether it is any longer viable itself or whether, in attempting to make it so, we might not seriously and uselessly jeopardize our relations with both Chinas.

Indications from Taipei so far are that the Generalissimo is not prepared to abandon his long-standing policy of exclusive representation. Some of his advisers are beginning to think the unthinkable but it is clear they have no confidence in their ability to change the Generalissimo’s mind and would expect that, if it is to be changed, the US would have to bring it about. We would have to convince him, not only that continuing the present course would lead to expulsion, but also (1) that a dual representation formula offers a good prospect of preventing expulsion and (2) that we will mount the same sort of worldwide campaign in support of such a formula as we have for the previous strategy.

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As to the attitude of the PRC, several diplomats at the last GA who have recent first-hand experience with the Chicoms, including Algard who is present Norwegian Ambassador to Peking, Petri longtime Swedish Ambassador there and Shahi Pakistani Permanent Representative, have expressed to us their firm conviction that the PRC will not come into the UN at this late date while the GRC is represented here in any form. The Secretary General has recently expressed to me the same opinion and this would also appear to be the British view. Given long-standing PRC policy, their relative indifference to UN representation and their probable belief that they will be invited in a year or two on their own terms, this judgment seems a plausible one.

As to evolving UN attitudes, it is probably true that a majority of member governments would at this time prefer to see both Chinas represented. If there were a reasonable chance both would accept, a majority, possibly even two-thirds, would we believe vote for dual representation. Many will wish, in light of the 1970 vote, seriously to explore this possibility.

If it should become clear, however, that, even if the GRC would tacitly acquiesce, the PRC would adamantly oppose such an arrangement, it would also soon become clear that the arrangement falls under option one rather than option two, that is, that it amounts to a new device for maintaining the GRC presence and excluding the PRC rather than a realistic means of securing the presence of both. As soon as this became clear, I believe a large number of those who favor real dual representation would fall away, a minority reverting to the present strategy but a majority swinging over to something like the Albanian resolution.

The growing purpose among UN members to involve the PRC in world problems through their presence in the UN is almost certainly an irreversible trend unless the Chicoms themselves should reverse it. There is a strong feeling that neither disarmament nor the problems of East Asia can be effectively dealt with in or out of the UN without Chicom participation. This feeling is likely before long to outweigh with many governments any regard for the status of the GRC. The US would therefore be unwise to count on a dual representation proposal as more than a temporary and inconclusive expedient.

If the above analysis is correct, we should weigh carefully whether, for a short-term advantage, it would be worthwhile (1) to exert the pressure and undertake the commitments necessary to bring the GRC around to dual representation and (2) to impede any possible rapprochement, however limited, with the PRC by mounting a worldwide campaign which, in their eyes and the eyes of many others, would be again designed to exclude them from the UN. It would seem that our policy toward the second Communist great power, and the role it might [Page 589] play in balancing the first, should be determined by more fundamental considerations than whether one or both Chinas is represented in the UN. Hence the second option is probably not a real one and our actual choice may lie between continuing to pursue option one through a dual representation tactic or reconciling ourselves to option three, however we might choose to handle it tactically.

There is, however, one more important aspect to be considered— the effect on domestic and international opinion of whatever posture we may adopt. To continue to maintain our present policy seems to most foreign and an increasing proportion of domestic opinion to be both wrongheaded and unrealistic. On the other hand, to shift out of hand to option three would seem to many a cynical abandonment of the GRC, even if we maintained our security and political commitments to it outside the UN. From this angle dual representation seems the respectable and logical way out. Yet to go all out in support of it, as we could easily drift into doing, as we might have to do to persuade the GRC to acquiesce in it, would entail the disadvantages described above and would risk aggravating rather than mitigating the domestic sense of defeat when the effort eventually fails, as it almost certainly would.

Under these circumstances the lesser of evils, in extricating ourselves from this messy and anachronistic situation, seems to me to be to assume the lowest possible posture and not to promise or even to appear responsible for an outcome which we can no longer control. In my view we should say that we ourselves favor a dual representation solution, will ourselves vote for it and hope both Chinese governments will see the advantages of accepting it. On the other hand, we would not undertake a campaign in support of it, vis-à-vis either one or both Chinese governments or anyone else. We would tell the GRC that this seems to us the best solution but that we certainly could not assure its success and they would have to decide themselves whether it is in their interest either to support or to acquiesce in it. We would inform our other friends of our support of this solution but we would make clear that the responsibility for putting it forward and putting it over must rest with others than ourselves.

If it should unexpectedly prove that, despite the opposition of the PRC, the General Assembly adopts a dual representation formula, we would urge the GRC to keep its seat and the status quo would be preserved for another year or two. On the other hand, if support for dual representation evaporated in face of adamant PRC opposition, we would not have committed our prestige and our public opinion to another lost cause and would be no worse off than we are now.

The essential fact, in my judgment, is that, unless Communist China again dissolves into turmoil, a substantial majority of UN [Page 590] members will, within another two years, vote to seat the PRC, even if it means the withdrawal or expulsion of the GRC. This is an evolution of opinion which the US, by very active support of dual representation, might delay for a year or so, but could not stop. The real problem is how to adapt to this evolution in the most graceful, dignified and politically acceptable fashion.

The above analysis relates of course only to representation of the GRC in the UN. It need not affect our defense commitments or economic and political association with the GRC nor need it weaken the ability of that Government to maintain for many years its sovereignty over Taiwan. Representation in the UN is by no means indispensable to national survival.

On the other hand, we would under those circumstances want to consider most seriously whether or not it was any longer to our advantage to hold that Taiwan is a part of China rather than a separate entity. Presumably the decision would be based primarily on our judgment whether the need for our maintaining a defense perimeter through Taiwan over the long term outweighed the disadvantages of continuing indefinitely a serious and irreconcilable territorial dispute with mainland China.

Sincerely yours,

Charles W. Yost
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 6 CHICOM. Secret. Secretary Rogers acknowledged Yost’s letter on February 23, and invited him to attend the meeting of the Senior Review Group of the NSC when it discussed NSSM 107. (Ibid.) See Document 335.