337. Telegram From the Consulate General in Hong Kong to the Department of State1

1580. Subject: Recommended Phrasings on China Questions. For EA/Green.

When I saw you recently in Department, you suggested the preparation of a “say-don’t say” guide for persons making statements about Chirep and Chirec. We both felt that Peking’s U.S.-watchers will be reading between the lines of our statements and that it is important to avoid giving them the wrong signals by inadvertent turns of phrase.
We wish to signal Peking that there is flexibility in our position regarding Taiwan, so that Peking will be encouraged to seek better relations with us to enhance the prospects for eventual reunification of Taiwan with the mainland. We wish to avoid signaling Peking that our position regarding Taiwan has hardened along lines that rule out any acceptable mutual understanding between us.
Key message we should try to convey is that the United States has not made up its mind to seek to detach Taiwan from China permanently. We realize that Department spokesmen have at various times sought to convey this message, and that you have exercised great prudence in avoiding positions of an explicitly “one-China, one-Taiwan” sort. However, given high degree of ambiguity that is inherent in the actual situation, it is hard to avoid formulations that might be misconstrued [Page 630] to mean that the U.S. has made up its mind to bring about or support the secession of Taiwan from China. As more and more public attention focuses on Chirep and Chirec, the number of pitfalls will multiply.
Among seemingly innocuous themes that might convey the wrong signals to Peking are the following:
“Taiwan is a small, law-abiding national being arbitrarily attacked by the PRC.”
“All we ask is that Peking leave its neighbors alone …”
“Taiwan is entitled to self-determination.”
“Taiwan is vital to U.S. (or Japan’s, or the Philippines’) security.”
“The U.S. has a commitment to keep Taiwan free from mainland control.”
“The U.S. has a commitment to safeguard the independence of Taiwan.”
While it is of course impossible to give a complete catalog of all the contexts in which there will be risk of sending Peking the wrong signals, we have attempted below to suggest the principal pitfalls by illustrative questions and answers. We have not attempted to polish the language of these little scenarios, and would welcome comments and criticism.

I. Chinese Representation

Q#1. Does the U.S. oppose seating PRC in the UN?

Say: No, the U.S. favors seating the PRC, as well as the GRC, in the UN. Neither the PRC nor the GRC alone is able to speak for, or undertake obligations on behalf of, the entire Chinese people. Therefore, both ought to be represented.

Don’t say: We believe the PRC should be represented, but we do not think it should be allowed to exact a price—the price of expelling the GRC.

Q#2. If the PRC takes China’s seat, how can the GRC stay in?

Say: The PRC is no more able to speak for the Chinese on Taiwan than the GRC is for the Chinese on the mainland. The UN needs representatives able to speak for both groups of people, and both are entitled to representation.

Don’t say: Taiwan is entitled to membership because it is a country with 14 million people and has been a law-abiding member of the peace-loving community of nations for the past 22 years; and it is recognized as such by a large number of members of the UN.

Q#3. If the GRC were to stay in the UN, would it not have to change its name to “Republic of Taiwan”, or “Formosa”?

Say: Both the PRC and the GRC claim that Taiwan is a province of China, not a separate state. How their delegations should be distinguished [Page 631] in the UN is a matter for the two of them to decide, if and when both are seated. (Don’t fail to note: PRC/GRC both claim that Taiwan is province of China.)

II. Recognition of China

Q#4. Why does the U.S. oppose country X’s withdrawing recognition from the GRC as a concomitant of its establishment of relations with Peking?

Say: We would like to see all Chinese, wherever they may reside, free to interact with peoples of all nations. We hope that Peking and Taipei, pending settlement of their differences, and without prejudice to their respective claims, can be persuaded to abandon their past doctrinaire insistence on exclusive recognition. Country X’s withdrawal of recognition from the GRC would be a step in the wrong direction.

Don’t say: Taiwan is a law-abiding, respected member of the family of nations, with a modest population of 14 million people, larger than that of 2/3 of the UN member states, and entitled to recognition as such. China is seeking to impose its will on Taiwan by force and intimidation, and country X should not accede to Peking’s arbitrary and unreasonable demands.

Q#5. Does the U.S. oppose country X’s “taking note” of Peking’s claim that Taiwan is part of China?

Say: No. Both Peking and Taipei make this claim. No other country claims Taiwan.

Don’t say: Yes, because the status of Taiwan is undetermined and we would hope that country X will explicitly reserve its position in this regard.

III. Future of Taiwan.

Q#6. What is the status of Taiwan?

Say: Historically and juridically, complex questions may be raised about the status of Taiwan. In fact, both Peking and Taipei claim that Taiwan is a province of China, and no other country claims it.

Don’t say: The status of Taiwan is undetermined.

Q#7. What is the U.S. position regarding the future status of Taiwan?

Say: The future of Taiwan is likely to depend primarily on the eventual resolution of the differences between the PRC and GRC. We hope this will come about by peaceful means, and that due attention will be paid to the will of all the people affected.

Don’t say: We support the right of self-determination for Taiwan.

Q#8. Does the U.S. favor self-determination for the native-born Taiwanese?

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Say: We believe that the future of Taiwan should be decided in accordance with the will of all those involved, including, but not limited to, the native-born Taiwanese.

Don’t say: Yes, we support the right of the Taiwanese to self-determination.

IV. Security.

Q#9. Why does the United States have a commitment to the GRC?

Say: We undertook a solemn treaty obligation, reflecting our belief that an attempt to settle the differences between the PRC and the GRC by force would jeopardize the peace and security of Asia.

Don’t say: We believe Taiwan is vital to the security of the U.S. (or Japan, or the free world). Taiwan is a vital link in our chain of bases. In enemy hands, Taiwan would represent a threat to us and our allies.

Q#10. Does the United States have a commitment to keep Taiwan free from mainland control?

Say: That is not a correct statement of our commitment. The United States has declared that it would not try to block a peaceful settlement between the GRC and the PRC. Obviously, such a settlement might result in the extension of mainland control to Taiwan. Our commitment is to help the GRC keep the PRC from imposing a settlement by force.

Don’t say: Yes.

Q#11. Does the United States have a commitment to safeguard the independence of Taiwan?

Say: No. Our commitment is to the GRC, to help it keep the PRC from imposing a settlement of their differences by force. The GRC maintains that Taiwan is a province of China. Any question of Taiwan’s independence, or its secession from China, is hypothetical, and the question of a U.S. commitment to protect its independence is doubly so.

Don’t say: Yes, the U.S. has a commitment to safeguard the independence of Taiwan.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 6 CHICOM. Confidential; Exdis.