341. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Chinese Representation at the United Nations and Our Relations with Taiwan

The study you ordered of this issue has been completed, and has been discussed by the Senior Review Group. An NSC meeting has been scheduled for March 25 to review the problem.

This extremely complex and involuted matter involves U.S. international prestige, the attitude of the American public toward the UN, and our future relations with both Taipei and Peking. There are two separate but related categories of issues: (a) those specifically [Page 638] pertaining to representation at the United Nations, and (b) those pertaining more generally to our relations with Taiwan and Peking.

I. The UN Representation Question

The current situation. For many years our strategy has rested on two actions: support for the Important Question Resolution and opposition to the Albanian Resolution. The Important Question Resolution establishes each year the requirement for a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly to effect any change in the representation of China. The Albanian Resolution calls explicitly for the expulsion of Taipei and the seating of Peking.

Time is running out on this strategy. Last year, for the first time, a majority voted for the Albanian Resolution. Taipei’s expulsion was prevented only by the passage of the Important Question Resolution. A change of only eight votes will beat us on the Important Question, and support for it is eroding rapidly. Major supporters (the U.K., Canada) have already indicated an intention to vote against the Important Question this year.

However, the strong international sentiment in favor of Peking’s entry into the United Nations is not yet matched by an equal enthusiasm for expelling Taipei. Therefore, while it is unlikely that any policy can succeed for long in keeping Peking out, we may be able to prevent Taipei’s expulsion.

Therefore, the issue is whether to change our current policy, and, if so, to what.

The Policy Choices:

  • —Stick with the present policy.
  • —Dual representation alone.
  • —Dual representation with universality.


Stick with Current Policy. We would continue our major diplomatic effort to maintain majority support for the Important Question Resolution, as a means of neutralizing the majority support for the Albanian Resolution. The purpose would be to keep Peking out and Taipei in.

Advantages. At least initially, this posture would be welcomed by Taipei. As its results become clear, however, Taipei would probably have serious second thoughts as to our real intent in being so “loyal” to our ally. This posture would also be pleasing to Peking, which would correctly assess it as leading to their early victory.

Disadvantages. It will lead to a major U.S. defeat at the UN, will be considered by all our allies and by the U.S. press as rigid and unrealistic, could cause serious difficulties with U.S. public attitudes toward the UN, and would lead to the expulsion of Taipei from the United Nations.

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In view of the state of international sentiment, this is a certain loser. Defeat is very possible this year, and virtually certain in the 1972 General Assembly. This gloomy judgment is shared by all, including such pro-Taipei stalwarts as the Japanese and Australians.

State and your UN Mission believe that this policy cannot be successfully maintained much longer. Defense might like to see it continued but recognizes that it is certain to fail soon. I share the view that a decision to stick with the current policy is a decision to accept defeat, if not this year, then next.


Dual Representation. This would involve our support for a resolution calling for UN membership for both Peking and Taipei. There are theoretically a number of variations on how a dual representation resolution might be worded (“one China–one Taiwan”, “one China–two states”, “two China’s”, etc. I have summarized these for you (Tab Dual Representation Formulae).2 However, as a practical matter, any formula legally distinguishing between mainland China and Taipei is anathema to both Taipei and Peking, and, moreover would simply complicate our problem at the UN.

Therefore, the only feasible dual representation formula is one which calls for the representation of both Peking and Taipei without any conclusion as to the territorial or sovereignty claims of either. The resolution would simply argue that both are long standing de facto governments and both should be represented in the UN and bound by its Charter. In effect, the issue would be avoided.

Advantages of Dual Representation. It would stand a good chance of commanding majority support and thus blocking passage of the Albanian Resolution. Moreover, if Peking refused to enter on this basis, the onus for its non-participation would be squarely on Peking.

Disadvantages. Peking would consider this policy hostile to its interests, and Taipei might, initially at least, take the position that it would prefer to leave the UN rather than sit with Peking. Even if Dual Representation were passed, it is not certain how long majority support could be retained for it in the face of Peking’s refusal to enter the UN on that basis.

The central issue in a dual representation policy is what its end result will be. If in the end it leads to the expulsion of Taipei and the entry of Peking as the only representative of China, it is not greatly different from sticking with our present policy and going down to defeat. It might postpone defeat for a year or so, and it might make our defeat appear somewhat less stark. But the end effect would be the same.

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The likelihood of this development can be somewhat diminished by the treatment of the Important Question Resolution as part of a dual representation strategy.

There are three options on the Important Question:

  • —to abandon it, and put forward only a dual representation resolution.
  • —to keep it, putting forward both a dual representation and an important question resolution.
  • —to modify it, so that it applies only to the expulsion of Taipei, not the entry of Peking.

The Important Question Resolution is now the only thing preventing Taipei’s expulsion and Peking’s entry. Taipei will, therefore, attach the greatest of importance to its retention as part of any new strategy we may propose.

  • —If we abandon the Important Question Resolution, a simple majority can vote Peking in and Taipei out. In view of the fact that a majority has already voted to do so, it would be imprudent, to say the least, to give up the Important Question Resolution altogether.
  • —There is, however, a near fatal flaw in going to the UN with both a dual representation resolution and the Important Question Resolution. While we can get a majority for dual representation, we can probably not get two-thirds. Therefore, if we continue to insist on the treatment of dual representation as an Important Question, we are, in fact, simply freezing the status quo. This would be seen by everybody as a transparent gimmick intended merely to keep Peking out and Taipei in. While it might enable us to stave off defeat for another year, or possibly two, its eventual result would, in all probability, be the GRC’s expulsion.
  • —If we seek an Important Question Resolution applying only to the expulsion of Taipei, this would permit Peking’s entry by a majority vote, but would require a two-thirds vote to expel Taipei. Nothing would then stand in the way of Peking’s entry except Peking’s own insistence that it will not come in until it can set its own terms. This might hold together a coalition of those who like Taipei, those who dislike Peking, and those who are beholden to us, sufficient to resist such a demand from Peking.

State believes this should be treated strictly as a tactical issue and we should take no position until we have consulted with our allies. My own view is that it goes to the heart of our relations with Taiwan and the hope of maintaining its UN seat.

Dual Representation with Universality. Universality is the doctrine that all governments should be represented in the UN. This doctrine has wide international and domestic approval. However, since the Chinese issue at the UN is one of representation rather than state membership, [Page 641] it is perfectly possible for UN members to favor universality and, at the same time, favor Taipei’s expulsion. Universality will not, therefore, by itself, resolve the Chirep issue. Nonetheless, coupled with a dual representation resolution, a general statement favoring universality as the guide to UN membership questions is a relevant option.

Advantages. Because of its international appeal, universality might win some additional support for a dual representation solution to the Chinese problem. It would also provide a popular, credible and easily defended explanation for the change in our longstanding opposition to Peking’s entry and it would give a strong additional argument in principle for maintaining Taipei’s seat. Finally, it might make a dual representation policy somewhat more palatable to Taipei.

Disadvantages. It will make problems with our German, Korean, and Vietnamese allies. None of them want us now to come out in favor of UN membership for East Germany, North Korea, or North Vietnam. With the Germans, it is primarily a matter of timing, since Bonn has already agreed to UN membership for both Germanys, once their current negotiations have been satisfactorily concluded. The South Koreans will be passionately opposed to any form of UN participation by North Korea. The South Vietnamese will not like universality, but should be easier to deal with than the Koreans.

Whether or not to couple universality with a dual representation strategy is not affected by the treatment of the Important Question Resolution—the effects would be the same as discussed earlier.

Secretary Rogers is enthusiastic about universality, and does not believe we should permit our allies’ distaste for it to control our policy. He believes it will greatly improve both our international and domestic stance on a dual representation policy. I agree that universality has some advantages as a debating point, but am skeptical that it will actually gain us many, if any, additional votes at the UN for dual representation. Unless it will do so, I do not believe that it is worth the trouble it will cause with Korea and Germany, and possibly with South Vietnam.

The Security Council Seat. The issue of China’s Security Council seat is closely related to our decision regarding UN membership. Although General Assembly resolutions are not binding on the Security Council, the passage of a dual representation resolution would set in motion pressures that would likely make Peking’s invitation to the Security Council an inevitable concomitant. It is, in fact, possible that the Council will act to expel Taipei and invite Peking even before the General Assembly acts. There has been some discussion in the Council of such an action.

Chiang Kai-shek is very likely to seek assurances from us about the Council seat, as part of any discussion of a dual representation policy. While we may be able to hold the seat for Taipei until such time [Page 642] as Peking shows up to claim it, there is nothing we can do to hold it permanently. We are weak on this issue in the Council, with both Britain and France favoring Peking’s seating.

It is probably not possible to avoid this issue in a dual representation strategy. If we do not explicitly provide for the Security Council seat in our resolution, some other nation likely will offer an amendment specifying that the Council seat goes to Peking under dual representation.

State feels that we should accept the inevitable and agree to Peking’s occupancy of the Security Council seat as part of a dual representation strategy. State believes that to do otherwise will make us look insincere in professing to favor dual representation.

Chiang Kai-shek would find it intolerable if the United States openly supported or acquiesced in depriving Taipei of its Security Council seat. Taipei might very well prefer to walk out of the UN rather than accept such a development. That, of course, would totally and permanently defeat our effort to maintain Taipei’s UN membership. We may not be able ultimately to avoid Peking’s winning the Council seat. But, we can let that development be forced upon us rather than voluntarily taking a position which is anathema to our Taiwan ally.

II. Issues in Our Relations with Taiwan and Peking

There are four other issues which relate to our posture toward Chinese representation. These are: (1) the U.S.-Taiwan defense relationship, (2) our position on Taiwan’s claim to sovereignty over all of China and its future status, (3) a possible renunciation of force agreement with Peking, and (4) possible arms control initiatives toward Peking.


U.S.–Taiwan Defense Relationship. There are three principal aspects of this relationship: (a) our Mutual Defense Treaty, (b) our force level on Taiwan, and (c) the level of military assistance. Chiang Kai-shek will demand as the price for agreeing to any Chirep formula other than the current one, the following:

  • At the minimum, a strong reaffirmation of the U.S.GRC Mutual Defense Treaty,
  • In all probability, assurances on the maintenance of at least our present force levels on Taiwan, and
  • —A renewed request for a squadron of F–4’s and 3 submarines for the Chinese armed forces.

By these demands, Chiang will hope to improve the defense of Taiwan against a growing PRC capability, and also to slow improvement in U.S.PRC relations by identifying us as closely as possible with that defense.

The Defense Treaty. The treaty dates from 1954 and commits us to assist in the defense of Taiwan and the Pescadores in the event of external attack. You again stated our commitment to the treaty in the recent [Page 643] Annual Report on Foreign Policy.3 Chiang continually seeks reassurance, but the PRC may be nettled by further statements on our part.
  • —Defense would favor a reaffirmation. State may argue, however, that it would needlessly inhibit improved relations with Peking.
  • —I see no harm in giving Chiang an additional reaffirmation, if he seeks it. It would entail no greater commitment than we now have, and which Peking is well aware of.

Force Level on Taiwan. We now have about 9,000 troops on Taiwan. Of these, about 2,200 are directly related to the defense of Taiwan or support of its defense, 6,800 are there in connection with our strategic posture in East Asia, or are support troops related to our general military activities in Asia.

Chiang will want the level maintained, and perhaps increased. But any real progress in improving U.S.–PRC relations is likely to require some reduction in U.S. force levels. Peking, in an obvious bargaining ploy has said that all U.S. forces must leave Taiwan as a prerequisite to any improvement in our relations.

Defense wants to hold the existing level and does not rule out a future need for some increases as our support activities elsewhere in Asia are displaced. State wants at least some reductions in the interest of furthering relations with Peking. [1 line of source text not declassified]

My view is that we should not commit ourselves at this stage to a reduction. A military cutback on Taiwan, coming simultaneously with a move to permit Peking’s entry into the UN, would be subject to serious misunderstanding by Peking as well as the Taiwanese public. In the final analysis, after we have taken into account Chiang’s demands and Peking’s posture toward us, our own strategic requirements should govern. We should not undertake reductions unilaterally if what we want is some step on Peking’s part to ease our relations.


Military Assistance Levels. Chiang will want us to maintain our existing military assistance levels to Taiwan as a counterweight to the PRC’s growing military capability. In addition, he will probably renew a plea, begun in 1969, for a squadron of F–4’s and 3 submarines.

There is no problem about maintaining existing military assistance levels. The supplemental appropriation last fall restored some fairly drastic cuts in Taiwan’s programs made for Cambodia, and State and Defense are agreed we should continue at about the same rate. On the F–4’s and the submarines, they both are opposed on the grounds that to provide these systems would be very expensive, give the GRC an offensive capability against the PRC, and also involve high operation and maintenance costs.

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I believe that despite our past opposition to giving F–4’s and submarines to the GRC, we may need to consider this in order to gain Chiang’s support for any change in our Chinese representation policy. The decision need not be made now however, and can await your decision on Chinese representation and Chiang’s reaction.


The U.S. Position on the Status of the GRC. The GRC claims to be the government of all China, and we have so far been able to avoid taking a position on this claim. We have followed a policy of maintaining diplomatic relations only with Taipei, keeping silent about its pretensions regarding its sovereignty over all China, while making clear that we deal with Peking on matters of mutual interest.

The issue is whether or not we can hold to that posture if we adopt a UN representation formula which does not exclude the PRC from the UN.

  • —The present policy gives us the maximum flexibility as to the future status of Taiwan, and does the least damage to U.S.–Taiwan relations. However, it looks highly unrealistic if we opt for Peking’s membership in the UN, and it brings us very close to an unspoken two China policy.
  • —A possible alternative is to state publicly that the question of which government is the legitimate government of China is not one which the U.S. can decide and that we regard this issue to be a matter for peaceful resolution by the parties directly concerned. That posture would be more credible, and would be more consistent with a dual representation policy, if you opt for such a policy. Moreover, it keeps open our options on Taiwan’s ultimate status. There would be strains in our relations with Taiwan, however.

State favors holding to our present position, but if forced by pressures resulting from a change in our UN representation policy, would then favor the alternative.

My own view is that if we stick with our present position at the UN no change is needed. If we move to dual representation, however, I think logic forces us to move simultaneously to the alternative position.

I recommend that you conduct the meeting by first calling on Mr. Cushman (in Mr. Helms’ absence) to brief on the situation in Taiwan and then call on me to outline the issues. Following these briefings you will want to ask the participants for their views beginning with Secretary Rogers and Ambassador Bush. I also recommend that you not make a decision at the NSC meeting but inform the participants that you wish time to consider the views they have expressed.

Your talking points proceed in this way.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–031, NSC Meetings. Secret. Sent for action. The memorandum is stamped “The President has seen” and was initialed by Butterfield.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Second Annual Report to Congress on United States Foreign Policy, February 25, in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1971, pp. 219–345.
  4. Attached but not printed.