349. Record of Conversation1


President Chiang Kai-shek received Ambassador Robert D. Murphy, Personal Representative of President Richard M. Nixon, on April 23, 1971, at 4:00 p.m., at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Taipei. Also present were Foreign Minister Chow Shu-kai and James C. H. Shen, Ambassador-designate to the United States, who did the interpretation. Following is a summary of the conversation.

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After the exchange of pleasantries, Mr. Murphy said in effect as follows: Certain problems have now arisen for the United States and the Republic of China concerning the United Nations. He said parenthetically that there are those who may have reservations regarding the effectiveness of that organization, and no doubt President Chiang is aware of that sentiment. The United States and the Republic of China, however, are now confronted with certain practical problems. The most important thing at the moment is to seek a common understanding between the two governments. President Nixon has chosen Mr. Murphy to make this trip in order to have a personal, face-to-face exchange of views with the President without arousing too much attention. The problems today are not created by the United States but by the changing world situation and a developing international trend. It is President Nixon’s sincere hope that the traditional friendship between the two governments long based on mutual trust will not be adversely affected by these problems. On the contrary, it behooves both governments to study together whether we should pursue the old strategy to cope with them or to find a new way out. Mr. Nixon seriously doubts the feasibility of maintaining the old formula. As a result of a very careful study, it is believed that should we persist in using the old formula, we would encounter defeat in the UN this year or, at the latest, next year. President Nixon, therefore, has entrusted him to ascertain from President Chiang his opinion whether we should maintain the original tactics or adopt a new approach so as to protect the common interests of the United States and the Republic of China.

President Chiang asked whether President Nixon has already found a new formula?

Mr. Murphy replied that President Nixon has given him to understand that no final decision would be made before Mr. Murphy could visit President Chiang and report back the results of this conversation.

President Chiang inquired whether the U.S. Government now has any new proposal to make?

Mr. Murphy replied that in the past there were the Albanian Resolution and the Important Question Resolution. The U.S. Government feels that due to changing circumstances, if no new approach is devised, there is a serious danger of the Albanian Resolution being adopted and the Important Question Resolution being defeated.

President Chiang wanted to know what sort of a new approach one should make?

Mr. Murphy said that so far no drafting work has been undertaken because this would require a joint study by both governments. The general idea is to replace the Important Question Resolution with a “dual representation” formula. The new resolution might be prefaced [Page 668]by a statement in favor of the principle of universality and then go on to propose a dual representation for China without defining which of the two contending parties is the sole representative of China, since this is an issue which will have to be solved by the two parties themselves. While supporting this new approach, the United States will continue to honor its treaty commitments and to provide military assistance to the Republic of China. It must be pointed out, however, this new proposal, when formally presented to the members of the U.N., must be a sincere effort to solve the Chinese representation question and not merely a gimmick. On the other hand, it could be that the Chinese Communist regime would not accept this new formula and would refuse to enter the United Nations.

President Chiang then asked what would happen to the Republic of China’s seat in the Security Council.2

Mr. Murphy said the new proposal will avoid this point so as to enable the ROC to retain its seat in the Security Council.

President Chiang said he understands what Mr. Murphy has just stated, but pointed out that one must realize that while the Chinese representation question seems to be primarily a political issue, there are also certain legal principles involved.

Mr. Murphy said that if President Nixon could have his way he would have preferred to make no change whatsoever in the present setup.

President Chiang said he could understand the pressure on President Nixon to do something different this year. Nevertheless, the U.N. is located on American soil and the United States is a leading member of the organization. If the U.N. Charter were to be tampered with, it would damage the world’s respect for and confidence in the United States.

Mr. Murphy jokingly mentioned that certain members are in favor of moving the U.N. away from the United States.

President Chiang went on to say that though he has not seen Mr. Murphy for a number of years, he knows Mr. Murphy is the Republic [Page 669]of China’s friend, and he, therefore, proposed to discuss this matter with him frankly and cordially.

Mr. Murphy assured President Chiang of President Nixon’s very warm friendship towards him. He was of the firm belief that Mr. Nixon will not abandon a good friend of such a long standing.

President Chiang pointed out that from the legal point of view, the Important Question Resolution should remain the principal instrument to bar the admission of the Chinese Communists. Since the Peiping regime stands condemned as an enemy of the U.N., any attempt to admit it into the organization must be considered as an important question. Out of respect for the U.N. Charter, which requires countries to be peace-loving before they can be admitted as members, the United States can justly maintain this stand. There is, of course, strong opposition from other quarters, but we must not forsake the sanctity of legal principles in order to appease Peiping.

Mr. Murphy lamented that if this principle should be carried to its logical conclusion, certain existing members would also have to be disqualified.

President Chiang affirmed that while other countries have violated the principles embodied in the U.N. Charter, the United States, as the leader of the free world, must not ever lose sight of them.

Mr. Murphy expressed regret that the United States for instance has to tolerate a hostile member such as Cuba.

President Chiang said that though he still considers the Important Question Resolution to be major instrument against the admission of the Chinese Communists, he would be willing to hear what views the United States may have on the subject since the United States, an ally, now anticipates difficulties in pursuing the same strategy as before.

Mr. Murphy said that the United States would prefer to maintain the status quo, but it must face certain realities including the establishment of diplomatic relations by eight more countries with the Peiping regime in recent months. (Indeed the first Chinese Communist ambassador has just arrived in Rome.) If the United States should choose to disregard this general trend, there is great danger of her going down in defeat together with the Republic of China on this issue. Mr. Nixon’s position is that should the Republic of China insist upon using the old formula in the United Nations this fall, he would be prepared to go along. But Mr. Nixon is very anxious to know President Chiang’s own views and to get his advice.

President Chiang said he felt that no matter whether the Important Question Resolution could be adopted or not, it must be introduced again. If the United States deems it necessary to propose a new approach, it must be so designed as to preserve both the Republic of [Page 670]China’s membership in the General Assembly and her seat in the Security Council, because the two really are inseparable. If the Republic of China’s seats in the General Assembly and in the Security Council are to be treated as two separate matters, the admission of the Peiping regime into the U.N. would render the Republic of China’s continued presence in the U.N. untenable, because it would deprive the Republic of China’s U.N. membership of any legal basis. In such an eventuality the Republic of China would find it impossible to remain in this world body.

Mr. Murphy said that according to the latest U.S. estimate, if the old tactics should be used again, the Important Question Resolution could be defeated perhaps by 48 (in favor) and 56 (against). Should this turn out to be the case, nothing could be done to forestall disaster for our two countries. If a new formula to protect the Republic of China’s position is used, there is a good chance to defeat the Albanian Resolution again.

President Chiang observed that should the United States find it absolutely necessary to resort to a new approach, such a new approach must reaffirm the substance of the Important Question Resolution and must not touch the ROC’s seat in the Security Council. President Chiang stressed that yielding of the ROC’s seat in the Security Council to the Peiping regime would undermine the legal foundation of the ROC’s very existence. Such a humiliating situation would be against our national honor and tradition and would be, therefore, totally unacceptable.

Mr. Murphy reassured the President that any new formula would not involve ROC’s seat in the Security Council.

At this moment Foreign Minister Chow Shu-kai interposed this question: What would the United States do if some other members should raise the issue of the Security Council seat?

In reply, Mr. Murphy said that the new proposal which the United States is going to back will be so worded as to secure the support of the largest number of member states. The United States certainly has no intention, under the circumstances, of making it possible for Peiping to be seated in the Security Council. Furthermore, many member countries, some of them in Europe, would be satisfied once Peiping is granted membership in the General Assembly only, and would not actively advocate a seat in the Security Council for Peiping. In such an event, Mr. Murphy’s guess is that the Peiping regime would reject the invitation and the onus would then be entirely on that regime itself.

President Chiang expressed his belief that it is not part of President Nixon’s policy to damage the position of the ROC. On the condition that the ROC’s seat in the Security Council remains intact, President Chiang would be prepared to discuss with President Nixon such a new formula as the United States now seems to have in mind.

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Here Minister Chow Shu-kai interposed another question: Is it envisaged that the substance of the Important Question Resolution will be incorporated into the new formula?

Mr. Murphy explained that this is possible and probable. But the new formula should not be made to appear as only a gimmick. He stated further he knows that any new formula would not be to President Chiang’s liking. But under the circumstances, there is no other way to deal with the question of the Peiping regime and the U.N. His guess is that the Chinese Communists would not accept the new formula.

President Chiang said he also tended to believe that if the Security Council seat is denied to the Peiping regime, it is possible that the latter would refuse to enter the U.N. But if the Security Council seat should be given to Peiping, then it would be difficult to predict what would be Peiping’s response.

Mr. Murphy said it must be realized that this new trial involves certain risks. But time is running short and is not necessarily in our favor.

President Chiang then summed up his views as follows:

From the standpoint of the Republic of China, we hope the Important Question Resolution can still be resorted to this year.
If the United States should see difficulties ahead, the ROC would do nothing to stop her from suggesting a new formula provided that this new formula would not cause any serious damage to the ROC.
Any new formula which endorses the U.N. General Assembly’s acceptance of the Peiping regime is damaging enough to the ROC, even if Peiping does not come in.
The new formula must by all means protect the ROC’s seat in the Security Council in order to preserve the ROC’s basic position and the integrity of the Charter.
Should any other country try to amend the new resolution by including the ROC’s seat in the Security Council, the United States must do its utmost to thwart such an attempt.

Mr. Murphy assured the President that the United States will insist on the adoption of the text in toto as supported by the United States without any amendment.

President Chiang expressed the strong hope that if a new resolution is to be introduced the United States should not be one of the sponsors.

Mr. Murphy said that Mr. Nixon himself does not want the United States to be an official sponsor. But this question of sponsorship may have to be decided by our common assessment with a view to facilitating the passage of the resolution.

President Chiang said that while it is the hope of the ROC not to see the United States as one of the official sponsors, he would leave it to the U.S. Government to weigh all the pros and cons.

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Mr. Murphy reiterated that the United States really does not like this kind of new formula, but it must find a way out to solve this question.

President Chiang reemphasized the inseparability of the ROC’s seats both in the General Assembly and in the Security Council. Should the ROC’s seat in the Security Council be taken away, then the ROC would have no choice but to act according to the Chinese proverb, “rather be a jade broken than an earthen tile intact”.

Mr. Murphy jokingly commented that if we, under the old formula, should encounter defeat, then the jade would really be broken.

President Chiang said that he is fully aware of the consequences, but our legal stand and moral traditions would not allow us to coexist with the rebel regime in the U.N.

Mr. Murphy advanced the view that in his personal opinion even the United States herself, in such an eventuality, should not care too much about the U.N. membership.

President Chiang expressed his regret that the nature of the U.N. has already changed so much. If the Chinese Communist regime were to be admitted the seriousness of the consequences could not be overstated.

Mr. Murphy recalled what had transpired in the Cairo Conference which President Chiang attended. It is Mr. Murphy’s observation that the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt had pinned excessive hope on the U.N. and this had failed to materialize. In connection with the condemnation of the Chinese Communist regime by the U.N. for its role in the Korean War mentioned earlier by President Chiang, the United States, because of the heavy casualties she suffered in that war, was indeed a direct victim of that crime.

President Chiang made the observation that in the case of Korea the crime committed by the Peiping regime was greater than that of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Murphy said on top of that the Chinese Communists are still attacking the U.N. and the United States.

President Chiang pointed out that even after the visit of the American ping pong team to the Chinese mainland, the Peiping regime has not abated its attack on the United States. It is Peiping’s deliberate attempt to drive a wedge between the American people and their Government.

Mr. Murphy said that Peiping has by now almost exhausted its vocabulary of invectives for use in its propaganda against the United States.

President Chiang recalled how certain quarters in the United States were pleased when Peiping did not attack Secretary of State William Rogers during his stop-over to Hongkong two years ago. President Chiang considered this kind of attitude as merely an illusion.

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Mr. Murphy said in jest that perhaps at that time the Chinese Communists did not know who was Mr. William Rogers. Peiping has issued several hundred warnings against the United States since the Vietnam War began. The United States really has no illusion about the Chinese Communists’ intentions. Mr. Murphy wished to know what is President Chiang’s assessment of the sudden change of attitude on the part of the Chinese Communists?

President Chiang said it is his belief that this may have been due to (1) Peiping’s desire to gain entry into the U.N. and (2) its wish to play off the United States against the Soviet Union in order to reduce the Russian pressure on itself.

Mr. Murphy wondered whether by “pressure” the President had meant military pressure, because the Soviet Union is now known to have deployed 41 divisions along the Sino-Soviet border areas.

President Chiang made the observation that while armed clashes may occur between Communist countries it does not follow that force on a really large scale will necessarily be used between the Soviet Union and the Peiping regime.

Mr. Murphy mentioned the 23 divisions which the Soviet Union and several Eastern European countries used against Czechoslovakia two years ago. There must be some significance since the Russians now have 41 divisions along the Chinese mainland border.

Finally, President Chiang requested Mr. Murphy to transmit the following message to President Nixon. In President Chiang’s opinion, the various overtures Washington has made to placate Peiping have reached a maximal limit, beyond which any further steps would bring disasters. As a good friend of President Nixon’s, it is his wish to be very candid at all times. Frankly speaking, this time he was quite surprised when Mr. Nixon suggested for his daughter, Tricia, and her future husband to spend their honeymoon on the Chinese mainland and even expressed a desire to visit the mainland himself. If the United States does not put a stop to its concessions to the Peiping regime, eventually Peiping might get into not only the U.N. General Assembly but also the Security Council. Should the ROC one day leave the U.N., the world would know that she has been forced out not by the Communists, but by the United States.

Mr. Murphy said he regretted that the American younger generation nowadays is at times innocent and uninformed. The older generation has had experiences concerning Russia and the Chinese Communist regime. But unfortunately the youngsters do not have such personal knowledge. They are impatient and eager to change everything. They urge more people-to-people contacts with the Chinese Communists. He was not aware what Tricia had commented but others of her age are samples of this younger generation.

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President Chiang felt that such thinking and such behaviour will have serious repercussions. But, of course, this is merely a chit-chat between friends.

Mr. Murphy pointed out that the population of the United States is becoming younger every year. Very soon 50% of the voters will be below the age of 25. And they all clamor for change. The same thing is occurring in Europe. He recalled that during his visit to Rumania in November 1970, the President of Rumania spent half an hour criticizing the United States’ opposition to Peiping’s admission into the U.N. This criticism was, of course, occasioned also by Rumanian dislike of the Soviet Union and by Peiping’s assistance to Bucharest.

By now the conversation between the President and Mr. Murphy had lasted well over one and a half hours. Mr. Murphy said that in order to keep the contents of this conversation known to as few people as possible, he would not send any written message from the American Embassy in Taipei but would instead report to President Nixon in person upon his return to Washington.

The question of the drafting of the new proposal came up at this juncture. Mr. Murphy inquired whether the two governments should not appoint a small working group to undertake this task. Both the President and Minister Chow Shu-kai thought that the drafting should be done by the U.S. side alone and that the Chinese side would comment on the text whenever it is ready for discussion. As to the future channels of communication on this matter, President Chiang suggested that the Chinese Permanent Representative to the U.N. and the Chinese Ambassador in Washington could be designated to follow up this question with the United States designee or designees. Mr. Murphy hoped that this contact should be confined to as few persons as possible and suggested that the Chinese Ambassador be the channel in Washington.

Mr. Murphy took his leave from President Chiang, and asked to have his high regards conveyed to Madame Chiang. President Chiang thanked Mr. Murphy for his visit, asked him to convey warm personal regards from both Madame Chiang and himself to President and Mrs. Nixon, and also wished Mr. Murphy a very pleasant sojourn in Taipei.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 828, Name Files, Murphy, Robert. Top Secret. Forwarded to Kissinger by Melvin H. Levine on May 3, along with a draft covering memorandum for the President and Murphy’s covering letter to Kissinger. (Ibid., Box 1031, Files for the President, China Materials, Exchanges Leading up to HAK’s Trip to China, December 1969–July 1971) The package was not forwarded to Nixon.
  2. During their April 15 meeting, Nixon, Kissinger, and Murphy spoke little of the Security Council seat, but Kissinger seemed to suggest that the PRC would get the seat. Murphy and Nixon emphasized that the United States would try to delay this as long as possible. (Ibid., White House Tapes, April 15, 1971, 5:26–6:20 p.m., Executive Office Building, Conversation No. 249–26) The talking points prepared for Nixon, April 14, contain only one reference to the Security Council: “He [Murphy] should also explore Chiang’s thinking on Chinese representation in the UN. He should point out: We believe that, with the best will in the world, our present strategy is doomed to failure, either this year or next. The issue will almost certainly not be presented in a form which will allow for a Security Council veto.” The memorandum bears the handwritten note, “The President did not wish to see.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 828, Name Files, Murphy, Robert)