342. Minutes of Meeting of the National Security Council1
The President: We have a subject this morning which could take us all day. I propose to get the problem out on the table so that we know what the issues are. We have a sticky problem over the Chinese Communists in the UN. We all know what our position has been, and we all know that each year we have a harder time getting the votes necessary to keep this position viable. Therefore we must consider the question not only of what we ought to do, but what our options would be in case George Bush gets up and finds that he doesn’t have the votes. I don’t think that this year we will have a problem, but my judgment is that we will next year.
This is a very complicated matter and I advise all of you to read the papers.2 Obviously, this matter is a very delicate one and our discussion here must be held in the strictest of confidence. That is always so of these meetings but it is particularly so of this one.
I think it would be advisable for Dr. Kissinger to give a rundown regarding the problems which came out in the Working Group, and then hear from Bill and George, and then go on to any others who have thoughts, and then go into the question of our military relations with Taiwan.
Dr. Kissinger: There are two kinds of issues. First, those which concern the UN representation of China and, second, those which pertain to our relations with Taiwan. They are related. We have first a policy issue of whether we want to stick to our present course. If not, then we have the tactical issue of what course we ought to follow.
The fact is that we will face almost certain defeat this year and if not, next year. We may not get a majority on the Important Question. Last year you recall a majority voted for the Albanian Resolution. Sticking to our present policy then would have the paradoxical result of assuring the entry of Peking over our opposition, and the expulsion of Taiwan. We would go down fighting by sticking to our present policy, but we would go down.[Page 646]
If we are to change our policy the question is in what direction should we change it. There are two formulae and one major issue. We could go for dual representation, which would mean both Peking and Taiwan would be represented, or we could go for dual representation within the concept of universality. That would mean that we would favor membership in the United Nations for all countries, and as a part of that position we would favor the admission of both Peking and Taipei.
A major issue is what to do about the Important Question. If we insist that entry into the UN is an Important Question then dual representation would defeat the Albanian Resolution, but the Important Question would defeat dual representation, for which we wouldn’t get a two-thirds majority. If we want dual representation to pass, we have to give up the position that this is an Important Question. But we should remember that even if we give up the Important Question and dual representation prevails in either of its two forms, the Communist Chinese may not come in. In two or three years a majority in the UN may still go for either a straight or modified version of the Albanian Resolution just to get Peking in.
We have three options regarding the Important Question:
- We can abandon it.
- We can keep it with dual representation, the practical consequences of which would be the defeat of the Albanian Resolution but also the failure of dual representation.
- We could modify the Important Question by making it apply only to the expulsion of Taiwan. This would have the effect that dual representation would win, the Communist Chinese will not come in, but only because they would be trying to impose their own terms on the UN, and we would have a hedge against the expulsion of Taiwan.
We can pursue any one of a number of dual representation formulae or we can put dual representation in the context of universality. Universality might get a few more votes for a dual representation formula, but would make a problem for South Korea which would strenuously object to any arrangement permitting North Korea to enter. It would also create problems with South Vietnam and some tactical problems with Germany, which already has agreed in principle to the two Germanys being represented after their current negotiations are completed. We could probably protect ourselves against these problems. But they would be the cost to us of universality. The choice, then, is whether to go to dual representation, and if so, whether to link it with universality.
There is another issue related to the representation question: who shall hold the Security Council seat? If we go to a dual representation formula this would set in play pressures that would inevitably result [Page 647] in the Chinese Communists taking the seat. However, we may be able to hold the line for several years, although this is not a procedural matter and we can’t use the veto.
Secretary Rogers: But we can hold it off until Peking demands the seat.
Dr. Kissinger: That is true but when Peking does demand the seat it will be a difficult problem for us.
Those are the principal issues relating to representation. But there are other issues which affect our relations with Taipei because Chiang will almost certainly insist on reassurances and our continued military presence. Peking will also figure in because of its reactions to our defense posture. There are three aspects to our defense posture on Taiwan: (1) the Mutual Defense Treaty, (2) our force levels on Taiwan, and (3) our military assistance to Taiwan.
- The treaty dates from 1954. We have restated our commitment to that treaty in the Annual Report on Foreign Policy.3 Chiang will want a further reaffirmation. There is no practical consequence to doing so, except that Peking may not like it.
Force Levels. We now have 9,000 men on Taiwan—2,200 associated with the defense of Taiwan and 6,800 associated with our general military activities in Asia. [1 line of source text not declassified] Chiang will want us to maintain, or even increase, our force levels. But if we want to get negotiations with Peking, one thing certain is that it will want a reduction of our military presence. A military cutback on Taiwan in the near future, coming at the same time as a movement to permit Peking’s entry into the UN, could have unfortunate consequences.
We are now making a study in an interdepartmental forum of which of our activities on Taiwan are essential, and which might be relocated some other place. I don’t think that anyone recommends cuts this year. By the time we consider cuts, we will know what we are talking about.
- Military Assistance Level. Chiang wants at least the present level of military assistance from us and he may renew his request for F4s and 3 submarines. There are no problems on maintaining our existing military assistance levels. The supplementary appropriation last fall restored some of the cuts. But the judgment always has been that there is no essential military need for submarines and F4s.
Secretary Laird: He has changed his views slightly. He now wants one submarine and two or three destroyers.[Page 648]
Admiral Moorer: In the past we provided submarines to assist them in their ASW training but we no longer have the submarines available to do this for them. They want us to provide some so that they can do their own ASW training.
Secretary Laird: We more or less agree with them about this.
Dr. Kissinger: There is another issue which will be referred to you which relates to the representation issue and that is the status of the government on Taiwan. We have followed a policy of maintaining relations only with Taiwan, but remaining silent about its claims to sovereignty over all China, and we also deal with Peking. This policy gives us the greatest flexibility but we may not be able to hold to it if we go to a new policy on UN representation. The alternative is to state publicly that which government is the legitimate government of China is not for us to decide. The consensus is that we should stick with our present policy.
There are two other issues which do not need decision now and in view of the shortage of time do not need to be discussed in any detail now. They should, however, be presented to you later. These issues are a possible renunciation of force agreement with the PRC and an arms control agreement with the PRC.
So the matters for decision now concern what policy to follow at the UN: whether to change our policy, and if so, to what, and what to do about the Important Question Resolution, and about universality. We also have to consider what to do about the military issues in our relations with Taiwan and the status of Taiwan.
The President: What is the timing? When do you have to know.
Dr. Kissinger: The Department needs to know in about two weeks for purposes of consultation.
Secretary Rogers: The last part of Henry’s presentation, the issues of the renunciation of force and arms control are well in the future and we don’t have to worry about that now. By the time we get to those, we will all be gone, maybe from this Earth.
As to our support for Taiwan, if we change our policy in the UN we will certainly have to keep our support for Taiwan and I believe that any reduction in our force would be very difficult. I don’t anticipate any trouble with the Congress on this.
So the real question is what to do in the UN. The Important Question Resolution always comes first at the UN. Its passage means that a two-thirds vote is required to change the Chinese representation. However, a simple majority can pass the Important Question Resolution. We have always held firm on the Important Question.
The second question is the Albanian Resolution, as Henry said. We have always defeated it by a good margin. But last year, for the first [Page 649] time, the Albanian Resolution got a majority and the vote on the Important Question showed considerable slippage, and it was 66 in favor and 52 against. There has been considerable additional slippage since then.
The assessment is that we will lose on the IQ this year. That means the PRC would be admitted and Taiwan would be expelled. Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and Japan and also George Bush and his colleagues all agree with this assessment. We recently sent Ambassador Brown to Taiwan. He talked to Taipei officials, and they too think we will lose this year although they haven’t told Chiang. They think that probably a change of policy would be desirable.
We think that we can get sufficient support for a new policy to prevent GRC expulsion, and if we do, Peking won’t come in. Everybody thinks that dual representation is the policy to follow. It keeps the GRC in for two or three years at least.
The problem is the rationale for a change in our policy. We could say that we have just changed our policy in the face of the fact that otherwise we would face certain defeat. Or we can move to the principle of universality. This of course would have to support the position that all viable nations should be admitted. This includes North Vietnam and East Germany and North Korea. We can exclude the Germanys from this because this is already under active consideration.
The question really is what change in policy should we make, and how can we state our rationalization of it. We must consult soon because other nations are about to take positions. The U.K. is among them and if they change, several countries including Canada will follow their lead. Incidentally, I am going to call Alec Home to try to get them to hold up. We need to talk over our position with them now, or it will be too late. On any decision we make we can wait to announce it, certainly, until after the Korean election in April.
The President: If we start talking with these countries, won’t our position leak?
Secretary Rogers: It probably will, but everyone knows that we are considering a change. We should state our position affirmatively at some point. An announcement by you, for example, might be appropriate and there is a draft which we have given you of a speech. If you don’t want to make it, I could. But before we say anything we should first consult with other countries. And, if we change our policy we should do it openly, rather than let it slip up on us.
The President: Is Brown still in Taiwan?
Secretary Rogers: No he is back.
The President: Even though we have made some feelers on Taiwan and had some indication of a reasonable response, they will clearly [Page 650] be disturbed. All of their chips are on the table. Even small moves that we have made toward the PRC in my report sends Taiwan up the wall. On the military side do we feel that strong military commitments can be justified and supported?
Secretary Laird: Yes, we can get all the support we need.
The President: What I mean is that if we make a change, it is important that we go to Chiang first and that a quid pro quo for him be announced as part of our change. We have to know that we can get all the support we need.
Secretary Rogers: Yes, but Taiwan knows the situation and they know that we are not working behind their backs. We are not trying to do this against their will. Brown found that they know a change is necessary.
The President: Yes, they see what is coming and they may realize they have to relax and enjoy it as best they can. But if they have military reassurances they will feel much better about it. But we can still expect an emotional response and we must be sure to show them that we are sticking by them militarily. Now, the military would give destroyers, a sub and some F4s.
Secretary Laird: No problem with a sub and destroyers. But F4s are expensive. We can get this through Congress though if we need to do so. Young people may see advantages to a change in policy, but Chiang may not. Chiang may prefer to be expelled rather than accept a change. He is a tough guy, and he runs the show. [2½ lines of source text not declassified]
Admiral Moorer: We have had to reduce our forces in Japan, and Okinawa has reverted. The Philippines also are shaky as a base for our forces, and we have no replacements yet for the trust territories as a location for our forces. Taiwan provides very important facilities in the Western Pacific. Taiwan is providing support therefore for the Nixon Doctrine. I have been there as a Commander many times. The Chinese always cooperate better than anyone else—they cooperate to the fullest. I know they don’t have anywhere else to go, but I think we should remember their cooperation and the fact that they provide us with important facilities in an area where we are losing places to put those facilities.
Secretary Rogers: There is no disagreement in the government on this. In fact, if we change our policy, I think we should strengthen our position on Taiwan. So far as Chiang is concerned, his subordinates that we have talked with indicate that if we do change they will vote against us, but tacitly go along with us. All we are talking about is discussing it with them and reaching an understanding.
Dr. Kissinger: We are doing an interdepartmental study on force structures [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in Asia including [Page 651] on Taiwan. It will look into the strength we have on Taiwan and why it is there. We will have this study in May or June, and there is no need for a decision now.
Secretary Laird: Those studies consider reductions in our forces.
The President: Brown did not see Chiang?
Secretary Rogers: No, he did not. If we are going to keep Taiwan in the UN we have to make our position known soon because the others are moving to positions. If the UK gets out in front of us we will have a hard time getting them in line.
Under Secretary Johnson: The UK has supported the Important Question but has voted for the Albanian Resolution in the past. Now they say they will not vote for the Important Question.
Ambassador Bush: We should think carefully about how this should be presented. It would be disastrous if we denigrated the excellent past performance of China in the UN. China has supported us on every issue, has paid its dues promptly. Our contacts feel there could be some change in the attitude of China. China recognizes that support is rapidly falling away from the position we have held. We need to begin to consult with others at the UN. Our friends are deserting us on this issue, the Australians, the Belgians, Canadians, Italians. We in New York agree that we have got to get moving on this issue without delay. From our study of the votes, even if we don’t mention Peking or Taiwan, a simple resolution saying the expulsion of a member from the UN is an Important Question will only get a narrow majority. This is silly season up there.
The President: There is another important political problem. A poll was taken two weeks ago by ORC.4 I was surprised at the results. One of the questions was “Do you favor the admission of Communist China to the US?” The vote was 3 to 2 against. Let us make no mistake. The majority of the people in this country are against Communist China’s admission and many believe that if they do get in, we should get out. So we have a serious problem in the country. I can face this better than most, for nobody is going to think that I am caving in to the Communists. But make no mistake, there is a majority against Peking in the UN, and universality and the Important Question don’t have much to do with it.
The old man’s5 position is important. I don’t think they will walk out of the UN. I think the Chinese will find a way. They will kick. They will scream. But this will be for domestic consumption, and in the end they will go along.[Page 652]
But if the old man can make it a little easier for us here at home, it will make it more possible for us to make a change in terms of our serious domestic problem. Lots of Americans think Communist China in the UN is a bad idea. If we change our policy, we will get glowing editorials from the New York Times, Time Magazine, etc. But we will get a hell of a kick from the people. If the U.S. opens its arms to let Peking in, a lot of people will object. In Texas they are 2 to 1 against. In California it is about 3 to 2 against, like the rest of the country. In New York it is about even. All across the country they are against it.
Secretary Rogers: This points up the real problem. If we continue on our present policy, we will have the worst of both worlds.
The President: I know what we have to do. But we have to get Chiang in a posture from which he can help us and our domestic position on this issue.
We need to get the old man to help us. And secondly we need to position this thing domestically so it will sell. One thing we could do would be to let the UN take the rap.
Secretary Rogers: If we are successful with a dual representation policy, the results will show. Taiwan will still be in the UN, and maybe Peking won’t come in.
The President: I am sure that Peking won’t come in unless Taiwan goes out.
Secretary Rogers: So we have two, three or four years.
The President: We have a problem with Taiwan but I think we can bring them around. I may need to send a personal representative to bring Chiang Kai-shek around but I think it can be done.
But with US opinion, we don’t want to get caught in the crunch of welcoming Communist China into the UN. I am not inclined to think that there are any points for us to make in saying that we have seen the light, and Communist China ought to be in the UN. That would be bad for us. It would be bad for Taiwan. I recognize that we are going to have to take the lead privately—but publicly we should be very careful. I would like for you to give me some thoughts on how to handle American opinion. The same policy [poll?] that I mentioned earlier shows the UN is in very low repute with the American public.
Now I am going to argue the other way. If it is done in such a way that a polyglot bunch of countries in the UN push us into Communist China membership when we didn’t want it, that will hurt the UN. We don’t want to hurt the UN any more. But it will be hurt if it pushes us into something we don’t want. Universality and the I.Q. are OK but to the average guy it is a simple question “Do we want Peking in or not?” That is what we’ve got to work on.
Secretary Rogers: We must know whether the new policy will work. We will have to fight for retention of Taiwan’s seat. If we will [Page 653] lose, we may as well stay where we are. There were 25 abstensions on the Albanian Resolution last time. Many of those would vote for both seats.
Secretary Laird: Can’t we check this out?
Secretary Rogers: Not until we have a position.
Secretary Laird: If we can’t save the seat that way, why make a public issue out of it?
Ambassador Bush: I agree that we should put the issue in terms of trying to save the seat.
Attorney General Mitchell: Our public posture is that we are fighting to retain the seat for Taiwan.
The President: We must do this. The issue is whether we should bite the bullet and go in on the universality question. But there are problems with this. For example, the question of North Korea which is fighting the UN. East Germany is also a problem and I can’t see it, and as for North Vietnam, I can’t see the Soviets ever letting in South Vietnam. So maybe we can handle these.
Attorney General Mitchell: If we go with universality, we are letting more Communists in the UN. But if we stay just with the Chinese issue, we are not.
Secretary Rogers: No, actually they will be equal in number and getting South Vietnam in would be a great coup.
Under Secretary Johnson: We would be letting in South Vietnam, South Korea and East Germany.
The President: We have a lot to gain with universality in theoretical terms but we also stand to lose something.
Secretary Rogers: The Germans have already announced that they want to do it.
Dr. Kissinger: But the Germans want to do it themselves and not have us give it away for them.
Attorney General Mitchell: The political question still will be that we are letting Communists in.
The President: We can handle it. I did not raise the political problem as a block. We have handled worse political problems than this before. But if we can’t get the votes, then there is not much point in changing our policy. We could just get rolled and let the UN take the rap. We should start a check on this right now.
Ambassador Bush: We may not get the votes.
Secretary Rogers: We need to talk with our friends, say that we are thinking about a change in our position and get their thoughts. (turns to Mitchell) John, politically, if the Chinese are not admitted we can say that our policy had been successful in keeping them out.[Page 654]
Attorney General Mitchell: Could you say that? Don’t they have the option of coming in at any time?
Secretary Rogers: Yes, you could say it.
Under Secretary Johnson: No, if we present it to the American public this way, only as a way to keep Peking out, it will be seen internationally as just a gimmick.
The President: No, we can’t say that.
Attorney General Mitchell: But the fight to keep Taiwan in is important with respect to the U.S. public.
The President: The old man (President Chiang Kai-shek) is partly a realistic figure, but he is also very firm on other matters.
Secretary Rogers: To go back to Mel’s point, we can’t keep quiet about it. It will leak. We must have a policy. How to announce it will be an important political judgment. We have a draft speech which you can consider making which will highlight the issues.
Secretary Laird: My point is that this is not a big winner for the President.
The Vice President: Could I make a few radical observations?
The President: Radical?
The Vice President: In view of what has been said here, yes, I suppose it is radical. I did not know of the polls that you referred to, Mr. President, so that is not part of my thoughts. I’m not sure whether we should consider a defeat in the UN as something we should shy away from as a bad thing for the US now. I am not sure that a defeat at the UN is not in our interest. If we are defeated and Taiwan is replaced by Communist China, it does not affect our national security. Looking down the years with Peking in the UN—it will have a tall podium for espousing its interests, which are not compatible with our views of the world. If Peking gets in with our assistance or tacit consent, its statements later will have enhanced dignity before the world community.
I have come to the conclusion that it may well be the UN is not in the US best interests. I can see all of the considerations, but I don’t see how playing the game on Communist China’s admission gains us anything. I think that if we stand with what we believe and take our lumps, that might preserve your options, and the options of other Presidents, better in the future. Looking now to what is expedient may not be in the best interests of the US. We should consider what happens if we do not go along: We would be sustaining our credibility in Asia. We would still have the ability to support security conditions on Taiwan. And we wouldn’t have given in to a country that has given no indication at all that it is out for our interests.
The President: (To Connally) Do you want to say something?[Page 655]
Secretary Connally: I am talking from instinct, because I don’t really know very much about this. But, if I know Chiang Kai-shek at all, he won’t ever agree to it. He’ll try to get a quid pro quo—to extract everything he can from us. Privately he may agree with us. But in public he can’t agree. If I were in his place, I wouldn’t agree either. For the US public, therefore, he has to fight. That is what the American people will see and understand. I have the same basic view as the Vice President. What is so wrong with getting defeated if you were standing for what you believe? One thing we need from a political standpoint is an enemy, and that enemy is Communist China. What have we lost, as a practical matter, if we lose? What has Chiang Kai-shek lost, even if he is kicked out from the UN, if he retains the friendship of the US and our commitment? So the UK, Canada and Ireland leave us. So what?
Secretary Rogers: Most hope that we can keep the Communist Chinese out. I know that Australia and New Zealand feel this way. If our policy succeeds, we will be keeping Communist China out.
Secretary Connally: But this is not salable as an adroit move to keep the Communist Chinese out. Everyone will see that they can come in whenever they want. They have the option of coming in at any time and to try to kick Taiwan out. Why shouldn’t we take a hard line on this one?
The Vice President: Because we Americans are compulsive negotiators.
The President: Let me say I thought that this was a brilliant paper. I read it last night. It helps us to focus on the issues.
For whatever it is worth, I would like to close on one point. I don’t know how we can sell it, but my own view is that the Communist Chinese won’t come in. Everybody seems to be an expert on the Chinese, but nobody knows anything about them. In fact, the Chinese might say, “We need an enemy.” I had an interesting talk with the man who owns half of the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong, Harold Lee. He is undoubtedly a man who plays all sides and has some contacts with the Communist Chinese. I asked him, “What do you think about our recognizing Communist China?” His reply was, “You are crazy. Do you know what they would say? You recognize us? The question is whether we would recognize you.”
If they play it the clever way, they have the option of coming in. Their reaction is: “We need an enemy and we won’t come in until those guys get out”. Their reaction will be as the leader of a dynamic movement all around the world. They won’t come in until the others get out.
We need to talk about this some more. I will look it over again over the weekend.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–110, NSC Minutes, Originals. Secret. Attached but not printed were the draft minutes for the meeting. A covering memorandum from Wright, April 7, suggests that he prepared these minutes. The time of the meeting is taken from the President’s Daily Diary. In addition to President Nixon, the following attended: Agnew, Rogers, Laird, Connally, Lincoln, Mitchell, Bush, Moorer, Cushman, Farley (Acting Director, ACDA), U. Alexis Johnson, Mr. De Palma, Green, Kissinger, Holdridge, Wright, and Kennedy. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)↩
- Presumably a reference to Documents 312 and 326.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 341.↩
- Opinion Research Corporation.↩
- Apparent reference to Chiang Kai-shek.↩