344. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Chinese Representation at the United Nations

The primary issue is whether to continue with the current policy aimed at keeping Peking out and Taipei in (the Vice President’s preference) at the risk of defeat this year or next, or shift to a new policy aimed at preventing—or at least deferring—Taiwan’s expulsion (State’s preference). The necessity for a joint policy with Taiwan makes it desirable to defer final decisions on this issue until your personal representative—hopefully Bob Murphy—has talked the whole problem out with Chiang Kai-shek.

The need for speed. It is important, however, to complete that process as quickly as possible, for there is a growing momentum working against us in the international community. In recent months, Ethiopia, Canada, Italy, Nigeria, Chile and Equatorial Guinea have recognized Peking as the only legitimate government of China. This week Kuwait joined that list, and five others are now negotiating with Peking. If we are going to try to hold some line at the UN, we need to approach our friends before any more of them get frozen into postures which preclude cooperation with us. Otherwise, we are in danger of losing the ballgame during the seventh inning stretch.

The immediate question for decision is how, and with what, to approach Chiang. Frankly, I do not see much point in sending a representative to Chiang merely to discuss in general terms the problem and the possibility of a new policy. Such talks will surely result in the need for further talks, and we do not have the time for prolonged palaver.

Instead, your representative should present to Chiang the precise alternatives as you see them, and bring back to you Chiang’s precise views on them. This means that we must decide now which specific [Page 658]new strategy we are prepared to consider, provided Chiang will cooperate.

State believes that a change of policy is worthwhile, even if it only staves off expulsion for a year or so. I do not agree. That position does not adequately reflect your concern for the domestic reaction. Moreover, such a “change” is not really very different from sticking with our current policy. Both result, sooner or later, in Taiwan’s expulsion. I do not think Chiang will seriously consider such an “alternative”.

It seems to me, therefore, that a new policy is worth considering if—but only if—it has a real chance of preventing Taiwan’s expulsion for the foreseeable future—not just for a year or two. I believe there is one strategy which may—I am not sure it will—serve that purpose. Its elements are as follows:

Universality. I would include universality for three reasons: (a) it should make a change of policy slightly more palatable to Chiang, (b) it would provide us with a principle and a good debating point, internationally for retaining Taiwan’s seat, and domestically for our change of policy, and (c) it might win us a few votes at the UN.
Dual Representation. Given the UN sentiment, there is no prospect for saving Taiwan’s seat with a policy which continues to bar Peking’s membership. Dual representation is, therefore, an essential part of any strategy to save Taiwan’s seat.
A Modified Important Question Resolution Limited to the Expulsion of Taiwan. Limiting the Important Question Resolution in this way will permit the dual representation resolution to pass with a simple majority. Thus Peking will have been voted in. That puts the remaining issue, Taiwan’s expulsion, in the sharpest and best possible form for us. So long as a simple majority supports the Modified Important Question Resolution, the expulsion can be prevented by only one-third of the UN membership. We can certainly hold one-third for the foreseeable future. The crunch question, therefore, is whether we can hold, in the years to come, a majority for a modified Important Question Resolution. If we can, we can save Taipei’s membership. If we cannot, Taipei will be expelled.

Armed with this as the alternative policy, I suggest your representative should make the following points to Chiang:

Your concern in this matter is to prevent Taipei’s expulsion from the United Nations. It is to discuss that danger, and how to meet it, that you have sent a personal representative.
If we stick to the current policy, we cannot prevent Taipei’s expulsion—probably this year, certainly next.
The only new policy we can see which has a real chance of permanently preventing Taipei’s expulsion is the mix of universality, dual [Page 659]representation, and a modified Important Question Resolution. We are not sure if that policy will work and cannot know without consulting widely with other UN members.
You are prepared to make a major international effort on behalf of this policy if Chiang wishes you to do so, and will help. A new policy, however, is not practical internationally or in U.S. domestic terms, unless it has Chiang’s support.
You recognize that a new policy is difficult for him as well as us. You are prepared to lessen his problem by (a) reaffirmation of our Defense Treaty, (b) assurances on the maintenance of U.S. force levels on Taiwan, and (c) sympathetic consideration of his military assistance needs.
Under these circumstances, which course does he prefer: staying with current policy, or trying to line up support for the new policy?

Presented in this stark way, I think there is at least a chance that Chiang will opt for a change of policy. He has not survived all his troubles by giving in to an impulse for suicide. However, his domestic considerations may lead him nonetheless to prefer expulsion to compromise.

Whatever Chiang’s preference, there is a compelling reason to consult very candidly with him on this issue before you make up your mind. Otherwise, a decision to stick with the current policy is singularly subject to misunderstanding. After all, the practical effect of such a policy is Taiwan’s expulsion, and everyone knows that including Chiang’s officials, foreign governments, and the U.S. press. Unless there has been a clear understanding with Chiang on it, many people, both at home and abroad, will seriously question the real motive behind a U.S. policy which can only result in Taiwan’s expulsion.

Recommendations: 2

That you approve Robert Murphy as your personal representative to Chiang.
That he proceed to Taiwan as soon as possible to consult with Chiang along the lines set forth in this memo, with stress on obtaining [Page 660] Chiang’s preferences between sticking to our current policy and shifting to a new policy of dual representation aimed at maintaining Taiwan’s UN seat.
That your final decision on our policy and consultations with other governments be deferred until we have Chiang’s reactions.
That pending those decisions, State be instructed carefully to avoid any indication of a new U.S. position on the Chirep issue.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1025, Nixon/HAK Memoranda, The President, Kissinger, and Ambassador Chow, April 12, 1971. Secret. Sent for action. The memorandum is stamped “The President has seen.” A covering note in the files suggests that it was drafted by Wright, with the concurrence of Holdridge. (Ibid.) Another copy of the memorandum contains a covering note that reads: “April 12, HAK—Pres. didn’t act on this. Do you want to A. ask him, B. send back?” Kissinger initialed option “A” and wrote “Let me take in to [unreadable] to get signed. HK” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 300, Agency Files, USUN, 1 January 1971–May 1971, Vol. VI, Part 2)
  2. The approve option has been marked “done” below recommendations 1, 2, and 4. The approve option below recommendation 3 is marked “yes.” During his meeting with Murphy and Kissinger on April 15, Nixon emphasized the need for secrecy, adding that he could not ask McConaughy to carry out this mission because the Ambassador had to report to the Department of State. (Ibid., White House Tapes, April 15, 1971, 5:26–6:20 p.m., Executive Office Building, Conversation No. 249–26) Also see footnote 2, Document 349.