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1. Memorandum From Richard L. Sneider of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Republic of China (GRC) Armed Forces Reorganization and Reduction
  • Recommendation for Clearance of Telegram

Background

For some time, there has been concern that the GRC armed forces are larger than necessary for the defense of Taiwan and are imposing an increasing burden on its economic development given declining U.S. military assistance and the cessation three years ago of grant economic assistance. Additionally, the GRC has been pressing for U.S. provision of sophisticated military equipment, particularly F–4s.2 Last August, our message finally got across and the GRC suggested that we begin consultations on force reduction and reorganization plans providing for modernization of key elements of the GRC forces.3 The GRC suggested that we propose a three-year reorganization plan.

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Proposed Action

Attached for your clearance is the proposed State/Defense response.4 It is the result of months of careful study and consideration, including coordination with CINCPAC. It proposes that instead of providing the GRC with a finished plan, a joint U.S.–GRC Consultative Committee be set up to assist the GRC in developing its own plan taking fully into account limitations of projected U.S.–GRC resources. This approach would force the GRC to undertake systematic analysis of resource availability.

Except for a conditional commitment on helicopters (a major item on the GRC acquisition list) the message makes no firm commitment with respect to future U.S. assistance. There is, however, clear implication that grant military assistance on a decreasing scale and some military credit sales would be continued assuming agreement on the force reduction/modernization program. Guidelines are provided for the U.S. representatives on the joint Consultative Committee, calling for

  • —(1) a break [brake?]on rising GRC defense spending;
  • —(2) a GRC force capable of defending Taiwan and the Penghus taking into account GRC unilateral commitments with respect to the Offshore Islands; and,
  • —(3) within this framework a reduction and modernization of the GRC forces.

The most sensitive aspect of the proposal is that it defines the role of the GRC forces as defense of Taiwan and the Penghus and by inference unilaterally the Offshore Islands. Without specifically saying so this eliminates offensive capabilities (return to the Mainland) from GRC military planning. The U.S. commitment to defend Taiwan and the Penghus is reiterated so that this is taken into account in the force reorganization discussions. However, Embassy Taipei is specifically instructed not to volunteer any statements on the U.S. response in the event the Offshore Islands are attacked, but if the GRC raises this question, to refer them to the 1955 Joint Congressional Resolution.5 This Resolution authorizes the President to employ U.S. forces in the event of an armed attack against the Offshore Islands if he judges that it would be required or appropriate in assuring the defense of Taiwan and the Penghus.

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Recommendation

I would recommend approval of the proposed telegram. It represents a very thorough consideration of a most knotty and sensitive issue. It is consistent with our commitments to the GRC and with our efforts to reduce military assistance to it and to persuade the GRC to undertake a more rational consideration of resource allocation between defense spending and economic development. The principal alternatives are (a) to continue in the present mold dealing with haphazard and other ill-considered requests for modern equipment and a continued spiraling up of GRC defense expenditures; or (b) to cut off grant military assistance or threaten to do so with the object of forcing economies on the GRC but with the attendant risk that this could provoke a crisis of confidence regarding all U.S. commitments to the GRC. We could also give the GRC our own reorganization plan but it would be much preferable to guide them to think through their own problems.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 518, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. Since mid-1968, President Chiang, Minister of Defense Chiang Ching-Kuo, and other Republic of China officials had urged the United States to provide a squadron of F–4 fighter aircraft to the CAF. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXX, Documents 319, 322, 325, 327, and 329. On December 28, 1968, McConaughy met with President Chiang to discuss military equipment for the ROC. Chiang stated that if the United States could not transfer the planes to the CAF, the U.S. Air Force should station a squadron of its own F–4Cs on the island. (Telegram 13 from Taipei, January 4, 1969; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL CHINATUS) In telegram 171 from Taipei, January 18, McConaughy reported: “although the President [Chiang] remains most anxious for the transfer of F4C squadron to GRC, I believe he recognizes that this is unlikely in the foreseeable future.” (Ibid.)
  3. As reported in telegram 3963 from Taipei, August 2, 1968, Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXX, Document 322, footnote 2.
  4. Attached but not printed. It was sent as telegram 19013 to Taipei, February 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 6 CHINATUS) The telegram called for the establishment of a “USGGRC Joint Consultative Committee” to assist with the force reorganization/reduction plan.
  5. House Joint Resolution 159 (84th Congress, 1st session) was adopted by the House of Representatives on January 25, 1955, and by the Senate as Senate Joint Resolution 28 on January 28. Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. II, Document 56 contains the full text of the resolution and related background information.