110. Department of Defense Position Paper1


Option A–5: Contingent upon PRC willingness to agree to a mutual renunciation of force in the Strait area, remove all US military presence from Taiwan and the Strait area except for a small liaison group on Taiwan, while retaining re-entry rights and maintaining our defense commitment to Taiwan and the Pescadores.
Key Military Factors Requiring Consideration:
A review of historical military problems in the Pacific have emphasized need for improved (1) reaction time as in the case of the Pueblo and EC–121 shootdown incident, (2) basing and logistical flexibility as in the early phases in Korea and Vietnam, and (3) timely and adequate intelligence in all cases. The current reductions of US force levels and increasing restrictions of basing arrangements in WESTPAC require that careful consideration be given to these factors. While the Nixon Doctrine reaffirms our current treaty arrangements, it emphasizes the development of the military capabilities of selected Asian nations. The improvement of the military capabilities of these countries will require constant, patient, and persistent US effort.
The rate of qualitative improvements in the PRC Armed Forces is such that it is predictable that this trend will continue to exceed improvements in GRC defensive capabilities. Thus, as this gap continues to increase, timely and effective support by US forces under the Mutual Defense Treaty will become more important.
Emphasis must therefore be continuously placed on the following key military factors:
  • —improvement of command and control capabilities, especially in emergency situations;
  • —development of a survivable intelligence system which will provide essential intelligence under all conditions and prevent critical intelligence gaps from occurring;
  • —dependence upon effective and survivable key communications systems to provide near real-time delivery of essential traffic such as command and control and intelligence traffic referred to above;
  • —adequate basing posture to support contingency plans with emphasis on maintenance of essential facilities to insure capability to conduct operations therefrom with minimal delay; and,
  • —development of designated friendly country military forces as rapidly as military assistance levels and country capabilities with US advice allow, which, in turn, would enable reductions of US force levels without significant reduction in overall US/Allied capabilities in East Asia.
Analysis of Option as Stated:

Renunciation of Force Agreement:

Although the type of agreement envisioned by the paper prepared by the Department of State decouples the troop reduction-withdrawal issue from the renunciation of force agreement,2 certain assumptions are implicit in Option A–5 with regard to such an agreement:

It would be unrealistic to attempt to decouple a USPRC agreement from the Taiwan issue. The agreement must be acceptable to and adhered to by the GRC. Such an agreement would be, at least tacitly, [Page 279] between the PRC and the GRC as well as between the US and the PRC. It is by no means a foregone conclusion that the GRC would agree, especially in regard to the removal of US military presence and its political implications.
It would not invalidate the Mutual Defense Agreement. While this agreement is considered essential by the US and the GRC, it is not evident that the PRC would agree to renunciation of force so long as the Mutual Defense Treaty remained in effect.
The option as written assumes that the PRC would agree to a renunciation of force under terms which, from its viewpoint, would continue to remain essentially favorable to US interests, i.e., maintenance of Mutual Defense Commitment, re-entry rights, and small military liaison group. This appears to be an unrealistic assumption.
If removal of US military presence is not linked to renunciation of force agreement and is accomplished prior to such agreement as an inducement to Peking, we will have degraded our own and the GRC capabilities as a political gesture. By tacitly ignoring the Taiwan issue in any USPRC renunciation of force agreement, the removal of US military presence from Taiwan would be in the nature of a gamble, and not a response to reasonable assurances which should be implicit in any agreement consistent with our security interests. Ambiguity with regard to a PRCGRC confrontation when both sides consider the matter a domestic issue of “one state” could serve as a stimulus to one or both sides to resort to force.

Other Implications:
Removal of US military presence except for a small liaison group involves the removal of MAAG and TDC which would affect the key military factors cited in paragraph 2; elimination of other units and functions (e.g., communications and intelligence) would further compound this loss. The function and composition of “a small liaison group” should be clearly established. Such a group may not be acceptable to the PRC since they have announced that the removal of all US forces from Taiwan is a prerequisite to any USPRC discourse. Moreover, despite a renunciation of force agreement, a nearly complete elimination of US military presence on Taiwan could be viewed by the PRC as a weakening of US resolve to honor commitments to the Mutual Defense Treaty, thereby lessening the restraints on PRC aggression against the GRC.
The effect of the removal of US military presence on US ability to monitor GRC actions and react to PRC moves implies risk to US security interests in the absence of some means of effective and timely monitoring of possible PRC/GRC violations of a renunciation of force agreement.
There is a requirement for comprehension of and careful definition of “US military presence” as used in the option. Military personnel are involved in such activities as MAP, FMS, loan, lease, co-production, mobile training teams, and similar activities. While they may not be based on Taiwan, frequent visits are made in connection with these activities, which are necessary to the maintenance of GRC military capabilities. To the PRC, such transient personnel may constitute “military presence,” as might routine and frequent calls at Taiwan of US military air and surface craft of various descriptions. A “military quarantine” could be an objective of the PRC, which would be unacceptable within the context of the option as stated.

Option A–5 vs Nixon Doctrine:

Inasmuch as Option A–5 would result in the removal of most US military presence from Taiwan, the impact on the objectives of the Nixon Doctrine would include the following:

The removal of US military presence would severely impair or eliminate the ability of the US to either respond in emergencies in the Taiwan area or continue the advisory, technical, and logistic support necessary for the maintenance of the military capabilities of the GRC armed forces. Yet, it is an essential tenet of the Nixon Doctrine that indigenous armed forces are a part of the fabric of US security policy, and that those forces will be supplemented as necessary in the event of aggression, in accordance with our treaty commitments. It should be noted that the Military Assistance Act of 1961 as amended requires some form of US military presence in those countries receiving military assistance.
The removal of our military presence from Taiwan would impact on other areas in East Asia where we are in the process of phasing down our military presence in accordance with the Nixon Doctrine. The requirement to relocate various units and functions from Taiwan may cause some reversal in the process of phasing down elsewhere. Yet, there are political constraints on our ability to relocate to the Philippines, Okinawa, and Japan. The combination of political sensitivities, fiscal constraints, and our overall policy of reducing our military presence in conformity with the Nixon Doctrine increasingly narrows the options available for maintaining our strategic posture in Asia.
The impact on regional defensive capabilities of a US withdrawal from Taiwan would be counter to the thrust of the Nixon Doctrine which emphasizes that the defense and progress of other countries is primarily an individual responsibility, and secondarily a regional responsibility, to which US assistance and assurances are added. Japan has specifically expressed her concern over the continued security of Taiwan. The Philippines are also directly affected. Other nations throughout Asia could view a change in US policy regarding Taiwan with concern.

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In his report to the Congress in February, 1971 on US Foreign Policy for the 1970’s3, the President stated:

“In applying the Nixon Doctrine, we cannot move too fast without sapping the Asian sense of confidence and security which it is our purpose to sustain and nurture. And we cannot cut our own contributions to Asian security without providing for their assumption by our Asian friends. Thus, there is built into the decision to reduce our own presence the obligation to help our allies create the capacity to carry the responsibilities we are transferring. To do otherwise is to undercut our fundamental goal of creating a stable structure in Asia.”


Summary Comment:

Although the option as stated may appear to be a credible course of action, analysis of the implications of the option render it largely academic. If the PRC were to agree to a renunciation of force agreement vis-à-vis Taiwan, they would be compromising their basic tenet that the Taiwan problem is a domestic affair, wholly within their own right and purview to settle in any manner they may see fit, and without outside interference. Although it is conceivable that the PRC might reverse their position on this matter as a tactic, it is scarcely credible that they would do so under terms largely favorable to US interests, as set forth in the option as stated. A more credible course of action by the PRC would be agreement on the renunciation of force issue only in return for a complete and unconditional US military evacuation of the area, to include renunciation of the USGRC Mutual Defense Treaty. The PRC could conceivably enter a bilateral renunciation of force agreement with the US without reference to the present USGRC Mutual Defense Treaty; however, any US commitment of force in support of the Taiwan Defense Treaty could be viewed by the PRC and other nations as a unilateral, US abrogation of the renunciation of force agreement.

The advantages and disadvantages of Option A–5 set out on pages 35–36 of the NSSM–106 response require careful consideration in conjunction with the more detailed US force compositions and mission statements furnished with this paper. The principal advantage of Option A–5 is stated as follows: “The PRC might be persuaded on this basis to set aside the Taiwan issue as the main obstacle to an improvement in USPRC relations.” This is at best a possibility not a probability since US military presence on Taiwan is but one facet of USPRC disagreement over Taiwan as the NSSM response itself delineates. Most of the disadvantages of the option, however, involve neither possibilities [Page 282] nor probabilities but foregone conclusions and real costs in military capabilities. Therefore, as the option suggests, its adoption would result in a tenuous possibility vis-à-vis the PRC in exchange for high costs in military capabilities and at least a probable negative political impact on our Asian Allies.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–031, NSC Meeting, UN Representation and China, 3/25/71. Secret. See Documents 105 and 108. The Department of Defense also submitted a paper for the March 25 NSC meeting entitled “U.S. Military Elements on Taiwan.” Davis distributed the DOD papers on March 24 under a covering memorandum. Both papers and the covering memorandum are ibid. Copies are also in National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 80 D 212, National Security Files, NSSM 107. The March 25 NSC meeting focused upon Chinese representation in the United Nations and NSSM 107. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. V, Document 342.
  2. Regarding the Department of State paper, see footnote 11, Document 108.
  3. “Second Annual Report to Congress on United States Foreign Policy, February 25, 1971,” in Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, pp. 219–345.
  4. Defense officials continued to voice concerns on the issue of military presence on Taiwan. In JCSM–388–71, August 30, Moorer wrote to Laird that “A severe impact on US security interest would be caused by removal of US military presence from Taiwan.” Moorer added: “Relocation can be accomplished but not without considerable difficulty and cost. The impact would be substantial in terms of politico/military considerations, reduced tactical and strategic military posture, and major increases in fiscal/budgetary requirements, including new construction at the relocation sites.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 350, OSD Top Secret Files: FRC 330 76 0207, China (Nats) 323.3)