353. Letter From Australian Prime Minister McMahon to President Nixon 1

Dear Mr President,

In continuation of the valuable consultations we have had with your Administration about the problems we both face in respect of China, my Ministers and I are anxious to know your feelings about the recent trend of events.

In February, we had very useful discussions with Ambassador Winthrop Brown about the problem as it then presented itself, giving particular attention to the United Nations aspects. Discussion of various possible United Nations moves was followed up in detail by officials. Later, I arranged for our Embassy in Washington to convey to Dr Kissinger a preliminary analysis of the Chinese representation question which had been prepared by our Department of Foreign Affairs.

In more recent weeks, a number of things have occurred, which have led us to wonder whether time is not running against the courses we then discussed.

First, you will no doubt be aware that the China question has become a matter of urgent public debate in this country. This has been in part a reaction to Peking’s recent exercises in person-to-person diplomacy.

Additional popular feeling has been generated by the failure so far of the People’s Republic of China to purchase any Australian wheat this year. The Chinese have let it be known that they have two reasons: they have had a series of good harvests and their need for grain imports has declined, and they have told various people including journalists that their decision was also a political one, in that they prefer to trade with countries with whom their political relations are satisfactory. Most recently, as a result of a telegram sent to Chou En-lai by the Australian Labour Party, the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs has invited the Australian Labour Party to send a delegation to China to discuss problems of diplomatic relations.

At the same time, there has been a rather strong movement against Taiwan’s interests on the United Nations front. Since the Canadian decision to establish diplomatic relations with Peking last October, seven [Page 682]other countries have recognised the PRC. At least two more have opened talks to this end, and others appear to be inclining that way. It seems to us that if an attractive alternative to the Albanian resolution is not soon floated, the question of maintaining a place for Taiwan in the United Nations will go by default.

I can summarise our attitude very simply as follows. First, we accept that the admission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations, either this year or next, is a virtual certainty. It seems to us axiomatic that it will succeed to the Security Council seat now held by the Republic of China. Any alternative approach seeking to avoid this will be regarded as an unrealistic device by those whose support will be vital, and will fail. Secondly, we have attached considerable importance to the protection of the rights of Taiwan, including its rights to representation in the United Nations if it so wishes. Thirdly, we acknowledge that a range of questions require the cooperation of the PRC if settlements are to be achieved, and we have as our long-term goal the normalization of relations with Peking. To this end, we have made some gestures towards Peking and are indicating our readiness to make more. On 11 May, I announced that we had decided to explore the possibilities of establishing a dialogue with the Chinese People’s Government.

I appreciate the difficulties and heavy responsibility you face in reaching a decision on the courses of action to be taken on the China problem. For our part, however, the passage of time is creating increasing problems in reconciling the second and third points above. An indication of your present thinking would be of the greatest value.2

Yours sincerely,

William McMahon 3
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 6 CHICOM. Secret. An attached memorandum indicates that this letter, which was delivered by the Australian Embassy to the State Department, was forwarded under cover of a memorandum from Executive Secretary Eliot to Kissinger on May 14.
  2. President Nixon’s reply, dated July 10, noted that the U.S. Government was currently studying the Chinese representation question and consulting with other countries about it. He expected to announce a decision late in July. (Ibid.)
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.