354. Memorandum for the President’s File by the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1


  • Meeting Between the President, Ambassador Robert Murphy and General Haig in the Oval Office (5:26 p.m.–5:55 p.m.)

The President began the meeting by asking Ambassador Murphy to give his impressions of Chiang Kai-shek’s views based on the Ambassador’s recent mission to Taipei to discuss options open to the United States and Taiwan with respect to Peking’s entry into the United Nations. In responding, Ambassador Murphy made the following points:

  • Chiang is old and seems to believe that if the U.S. would only fight hard enough Taipei could retain its membership in the U.N. and Peking would be excluded.
  • Chiang’s convictions are based on rigidity of age and the family quarrel nature of the issue.
  • Chiang expressed a willingness to accept a two-China policy if such a policy would not be at the expense of the Republic of China’s Security Council seat.

The President stated that retention of Taiwan’s Security Council seat would, of course, be impossible given the realities of the international attitude toward Peking.2 The President asked Ambassador Murphy whether or not he had made this clear to Chiang and Ambassador Murphy confirmed that he had indeed done so. Ambassador Murphy noted that the men around Chiang, including his son, appeared to have [Page 684]far more realistic attitudes with respect to the United Nations. However, the Generalissimo was still in firm control. Also, Chiang was apparently still under the strong influence of Madam Chiang who for some reason refused to see Ambassador Murphy and therefore appeared to be greatly irritated by our approaches to Peking.

Ambassador Murphy stated that he had spoken to Mr. Kishi in Japan and he was very much in favor of the continued viability of Taiwan and strong U.S. ties with the Chinese Nationalists. The Ambassador stated that this was a remarkable attitude, given former Japanese-Taiwanese animosity. The President observed that Japan without question was a pivotal factor in the future of Asia and would watch very carefully our handling of the Peking issue in the United Nations.

The President then asked why Chiang Kai-shek appeared to be so unrealistic about the Nationalist Chinese U.N. seat. Ambassador Murphy replied that the issue was obviously an emotional one for Chiang, involving not only factors of national interest but the competition generated by strong family feelings. The Ambassador reiterated that the Generalissimo appeared to be convinced that if only the U.S. would fight hard enough, the status quo could be preserved.

The President then stated that he had given considerable thought to the U.N. issue and recognized that it would be impractical for us to adopt a two-China policy which would preserve Taiwan’s Security Council seat. He added that a case could be made that our support for a two-China policy could end up irritating not only the Chinese Nationalists but Peking as well, since Peking would most likely not accept an arrangement recognizing the principle of two Chinas.3 General Haig interjected that the most sophisticated supporters of improved relations with Communist China could interpret a two-China policy as a cynical move on the part of the U.S. which would, in effect, not be consistent with the normalization of relations with Peking.

Ambassador Murphy remarked that he was inclined to favor the status quo even though it might mean defeat since our obligations to Chiang Kai-shek were long standing and since our other allies and the uncommitted states would be watching the U.S. decision very carefully. The President indicated that he had not yet decided which way [Page 685]to go but felt that whatever position we ultimately took should give full play to the views of the Generalissimo. At the present moment, a two-China policy might be more cynical than it appeared on the surface. It could ultimately prove counterproductive in achieving our overall objective of a normalization of relations with Peking. Should we determine to pursue a status quo strategy, then it would be the membership of the United Nations which would be responsible for whatever outcome ultimately occurred and we might better be able to limit the damage to our relations with Taiwan. Ambassador Murphy agreed, noting that he was generally in favor of that approach at the present time.

The meeting then adjourned.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 85, Memoranda for the President. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. In a May 10 memorandum to Kissinger, Haig wrote: “As you can see from the memcon submitted by Ambassador Murphy [Document 349], his meeting with Chiang left much to be desired: Murphy’s memcon is poorly structured and Chiang’s position does not come through coherently; Murphy underestimates our problem with Chiang, especially on the linkage between dual representation and Taiwan’s Security Council seat.” Haig presented two options: “Buy Chiang’s position on the Security Council with all its implications; Go back to Chiang in an effort to correct Murphy’s mistake. Getting Chiang to shift his position looks like a sure loser.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 86, Country Files, Far East, Ambassador Murphy) Commenting on a memorandum of conversation between George Yeh and William H. Gleysteen, Jr., in Taipei, January 28, 1972, Moser noted that “George Yeh makes, inter alia, the point that the Murphy mission last year had ‘encouraged illusions and hardened the views of President Chiang,’ and consequently magnified the impact of our subsequent shift on Chirep on the Gimo.” (Memorandum from Moser to Green, February 8; ibid., RG 59, EA Files: Lot 74 D 471, Memoranda to Mr. Green, February 1972)
  3. According to a tape recording of this meeting, Nixon stated: “There’s only one way to do this, it’s either up or down. In my opinion, it’s got to be one or the other. Both cannot have seats in the UN. I don’t think so.” Haig replied: “It won’t work.” Nixon continued: “It’s not going to work. Now, under those circumstances, it’s going to be Communist China at some time, [it’s] inevitable, it’s got to be. But let them do it, don’t let’s us do it. That’s the way I feel about it.” Nixon wondered whether it would not be better to stick with the Important Question, but not try very hard to win. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, May 21, 1971, 5:26–5:55 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 503–17)