333. Memorandum From Marshall Wright of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • NSSM 107—The UN Membership Question

The Key Issue. The key issue is Chirep. Other UN membership matters (Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Micro-states) can be handled, one way or another, whatever we decide to do about Chirep. For example, we can veto East Germany, North Korean, or North Vietnamese membership, if we wish. But that useful device is not available to us to keep the ChiComs out.

The Chinese issue is urgent for the simple reason that our policy can no longer command international support. A decision to stick with our current policy is, in effect, a decision to accept defeat, the expulsion of the GRC, and the entry of the PRC within two years.

The Basic Question. Therefore, the basic question is: Should we deliberately follow that course, or adopt a new policy supporting UN membership for both Peking and Taiwan?

It seems to me there are only two cogent reasons for following our present course:


Chiang Kai-shek wants us to. He is almost certain to resist any change in our policy. This is true even though a dual representation position carries the only prospect for preserving Taipei’s UN seat. Although a considerable amount of realism is now evident at levels of the GRC below Chiang, the GRC is paralyzed by the Gimo’s position.

If we change our policy, therefore, we will almost certainly have an unhappy ally on Taiwan. It is possible that a bitter GRC would refuse to accept a dual representation formula, even if we succeeded in getting it through the UN, and would resign in a huff. That would, of course, defeat our purpose of maintaining the GRC membership.

Public, press and Congressional opposition. There are those who think the public reaction would be negative to a change in our policy of opposition to CPR membership in the UN. Frankly, I do not believe it.

[Page 607]

The State of Public Opinion. Attached is a study of American opinion on the Chirep issue.2 The essence of it is that between 1966 and September of 1970 (with no leadership from anybody) general public opinion favoring PRC entry doubled to 35%, and opposition to PRC entry sharply declined from two-thirds to less than 50%. More significantly, college-educated Americans have drastically changed their position on this issue since 1966 and by September, 1970 a majority favored Peking’s entry. Most significantly of all, the contest in the UN General Assembly in the fall of 1970 precipitated widespread U.S. editorial comment on this issue. Of the 33 representative papers whose editorials have been studied, 27 of them (over 80%) came out flatly in favor of seating Peking (but not expelling Taipei). Only 3 papers (the Chicago Trib, the Richmond Times Dispatch, and the St. Louis Globe Democrat) strongly opposed seating Peking. The papers in favor of seating Peking include the Hearst and Scripps-Howard chains, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Christian Science Monitor, the Minneapolis Star, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Chicago Sun Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Salt Lake City Tribune, the Denver Post, the Miami Herald, the New Orleans Times Picayune, and the Houston Post, as well as the New York Times, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and the Baltimore Sun. Finally, as long ago as 1966 the Gallup Poll posed this question to a sample of those listed in Who’s Who in America. Even then, this elite group was overwhelmingly in favor of Peking’s entry (by a margin of two to one).

I will add to this my personal, if unscientific, knowledge of the results of the President’s UN Commission Hearings at various cities around the United States in the fall of 1970. Among those testifying before the Commission, there was virtually unanimous agreement that both Peking and Taipei should be members of the UN. The Commission will so recommend to the President in its Report, due in April.

In short, I am convinced that a change in our policy on Chicom UN membership is no longer contrary to politically significant American public opinion. To the contrary, I am convinced that a change in the policy would be of domestic political advantage to the Administration.

Chiang Kai-shek’s Opposition. Back to Chiang Kai-shek’s opposition to a change in policy, I do not think this should be the controlling factor in American policy. Every other government in the world, including those that are most devoted to the GRC’s well-being (Japan, Australia, etc.) recognize fully that we are at the end of the road on the current policy. Many in the GRC, itself, recognize the same thing. It is, [Page 608]simply, no longer a question of whether the PRC will come into the UN. It is coming. It is a question, rather, of whether this will be done over our dead body and with the expulsion of the GRC from the UN. Adherence by us to our current policy will be viewed by no one in the world except Chiang Kai-shek as indicating firmness of purpose. By everyone else, friends and foes, it will be viewed as foolish rigidity and excessive deference to one aged man. It would also be totally inconsistent with the theme and the major thrust of the President’s Report to the Congress which called for realism and flexibility in foreign affairs, and the creative burial of the vestiges of the post-World War II world.

Reasons for a Change. Other salient reasons for a change in our policy are the following:

With or without us, Peking is coming into the UN. (This is therefore an excellent example of the kind of situation where one who aspires to leadership finds out where the crowd is going and then positions himself in front of them.)
Significant domestic discontent is likely to be aroused by Peking’s entry only if it represents an American defeat at and by the United Nations. Rigidity on our part, therefore, will damage the repute of the UN in the United States, and could make our participation in it a matter of domestic controversy. That is certainly not in the interest of this Administration. On the other hand, if we stick to our current policy, we will certainly be criticized for antediluvian policies by that 80% of the newspapers mentioned earlier.
Those abroad who have for so long gone with us on this issue are now looking to us for leadership, and our international reputation will be diminished if we fail to provide it.
It is in our interest to see the GRC continue a UN member. That is possible only if we take the leadership in espousing a new approach to this problem at the UN which permits membership for both Peking and Taipei.
This issue has been around too long, and the Administration will gain credit both domestically and internationally, from an effort to resolve it equitably.
Dual Representation will give us a legal hook at the UN for our defense treaty with Taiwan, which otherwise is subject to plausible interpretation, if the PRC becomes the only Chinese representative, as interference in Chinese domestic affairs.
It provides us with a respectable position permitting us to welcome Chicom entry into the UN without abandoning, in the eyes of the world and our own public, our GRC ally.

Other Major Issues. From the above, it is perhaps excessively obvious that I favor going for some form of dual representation. If this view [Page 609]is accepted, it raises several issues: First, will we present our position to our allies as a firm one or as a tentative one subject to modification after consultation with them. In other words, are we informing them or consulting with them.

This question ties in with the tactical one of exactly what kind of dual representation formula we should seek. As a practical matter, our new policy cannot succeed without a very wide measure of international support. It is therefore essential that we consult widely and fully before deciding on precise tactics.

I suggest, therefore, that we should make a firm decision for a dual representation approach, but not attempt to work out the tactics in any detail until after we have consulted widely. This position commends itself for another reason: it permits us to go to the GRC committed firmly to a dual representation policy but with maximum flexibility to negotiate with them on the exact nature of the formula. This will not make our decision palatable to Chiang Kai-shek, but it should moderate at least slightly his distaste for it. It also permits us to get on with the business of serious consultation with our other allies on tactics without putting us in the somewhat ridiculous position of having to say that our commitment to dual representation is contingent upon acceptance by the GRC. Finally, if there is any “give” in our position when we approach Chiang, he will know it and we will never get his acquiescence.

If Chiang is convinced that our decision is firm I believe that he will accept it and try to exact a big quid pro quo for his acceptance. I believe that because Chiang has not survived all his years and troubles by committing suicidal acts. He is likely to argue that significant new gestures of “friendship” from us are necessary to convince his people that we are still with them. We will need to be alert to avoid undertakings which sap the integrity of the commitment to dual representation, or inhibit the possibility of improvement in relations with the PRC. Apart from those two issues, we can afford to be sympathetic, but we need to keep firmly in mind that Chiang has made a lifetime business out of permitting us gratefully to dissuade him from self-immolation.

I should also mention to you the distinct possibility that Chiang will try to mount a major effort in the US to force us to back away from dual representation. My own estimate is that he can make some noise— but not any real trouble. Others feel he could arouse a considerable last gasp effort from the right wing remnants of the China Lobby.

Another basic issue, partly tactical but partly strategic, is whether to go for dual representation only on the Chinese issue, or to wrap it into a general formula of universality. All my instincts are for universality: [Page 610]

It gives us the high moral ground, and a simple rationale for our change of policy.
It is easy to defend the proposition that all peoples should be represented in the United Nations.
It wraps our Chirep policy in a formula that has wide international appeal and will, therefore, enhance our chances of parliamentary success.
It provides an intellectually respectable justification for retention by the GRC of UN membership.
It finesses the whole unanswerable question of one China, or two Chinas, or one China–two governments, etc. The principle of universality is irrelevant to legal questions of sovereignty. Where factual political divisions exist it is up to the parties to the dispute to resolve them, but not by depriving any significant government or number of people of representation at the United Nations. Universality, therefore, does not preclude eventual unity, or for that matter, permanent division.

Universality, of course, raises problems in the German, Korean, Vietnamese, and Micro-state situations. I do not think any of the problems are sufficiently serious to deter us much. We can take the position that each case, as a practical matter, must be handled individually. In the German problem, we can refer to our prior and public commitment to hold off on any action until the current negotiations are completed. On the Korean problem, we can, if we must, find a similar formula, perhaps related to the fact that North Korea is still in an overt state of hostility with the United Nations forces. Vietnam doesn’t seem to me to be a problem one way or the other. As for the Micro-states, there is so far no international agreement on the minimum size required for UN membership. If we ever get agreement on that question, it automatically becomes part of the definition of universality. Opting for universality now neither helps us nor hurts us on that issue.

Finally, I have a beady-eyed point to make: In cold fact, nobody can do anything about German, Korean, or Vietnamese membership in the UN without our assent. The Chinese question is one of representation, and the veto does not apply. The German, Korean, Vietnamese and Micro-state matters are questions of membership. The veto does apply. Therefore, we can do what we wish about Chicom representation without fear that from that precedent will flow actions seriously damaging to our interests, but unavoidable. (In actual fact, I would not expect a veto to be necessary.)

The Security Council. There is one other problem I should mention because other people insist on treating it as if it were a more salient issue than it really is. This is the question of which China occupies the Security Council seat. In the first place, this becomes an issue only if [Page 611]we succeed in having the General Assembly adopt a dual representation formula. If we fail in that, the PRC will get the Security Council seat within two years. Even if we succeed, the PRC will still get the Security Council seat if it shows up to claim it, and there is nothing we can do to prevent that. Therefore, the occupancy of the Security Council seat is a real issue only if dual representation is adopted, if the GRC stays in the United Nations, and if the PRC refuses to come in under those circumstances. In that situation, we may be able to hold the Security Council seat for the GRC on the simple grounds that the Charter provides for China in the Security Council, and there is no other claimant for the seat. Our chances of holding the seat would be much enhanced if we make it plain that our position in favor of GRC retention is without prejudice to the merits of the case whenever the PRC presents itself to claim the seat.

It is altogether likely that in our consultations with the GRC, this matter will have great prominence. For instance, the GRC might offer to accept dual representation on the condition that we guarantee their Security Council seat. Should that contingency arise, I urge that we use it to put added pressure on the GRC to accept dual representation. That can be done by telling them that the chances of retaining the Security Council seat are totally dependent, in the first instance, on their continuing to participate fully at the UN. If they do so, and if the PRC refuses to do so, we believe that the tactical situation may be such as to permit the two of us working together to retain their Security Council seat for the indefinite future. We should not, however, commit ourselves to them any more deeply than that, for there will, in fact, be almost literally no international support for the GRC retention of the Security Council seat once the PRC claims it.


I therefore recommend to you the following positions on this issue:

We should opt firmly for a dual representation policy.
Within that firm commitment, we should remain entirely flexible on tactics until we have consulted fully with our allies, including the GRC.
We should attempt to persuade our allies of the advantages of preserving the dual representation position within an overall commitment to universality as the guide to UN membership questions.

The attached Talking Points are intended to reach consensus on those positions.3 This issue should, however, for cosmetic as well as [Page 612]substantive reasons, be discussed at a full NSC meeting. The SRG, therefore, should only examine and clarify the issues, accept the NSSM 107 study, and refer the matter to the NSC. Incidentally, we should have the NSC meeting at the earliest possible time, for we are beginning to run a real danger of our potential allies on this matter getting themselves committed to contrary courses.

The IG has prepared two papers on the UN membership question—the formal NSSM 107 study and a shorter issues paper. The shorter version is, in fact, a redraft and improvement of the first. We think you will find it the more useful of the two, and expect it to be the focus of discussion at the SRG. Analytical summaries of both papers are attached.4

Herb Levin concurs, as does Hal Sonnenfeldt, in regard to the German problem.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 86, Country Files, Far East, Chirep. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. Not attached. Reference apparently is to an undated memorandum from Wright to Kissinger, “U.S. Public and Press Opinion on Chinese Representation at the UN.” (Ibid., Agency Files, Box 300, USUN, January–May 1971)
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. See Document 326 and footnote 1 thereto.