114. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Chow Shu-kai, Departing Ambassador of the Republic of China
  • John H. Holdridge, Senior Staff Member NSC


  • U.S. Relations with the Republic of China

Dr. Kissinger said that he wanted to see Ambassador Chow briefly to express his personal sentiments on how much he had enjoyed having Ambassador Chow in Washington. He wanted, too, to repeat the sentiments which had been expressed earlier by the President on this same score. Dr. Kissinger then referred to what the President had said concerning moves which the U.S. might possibly make toward Communist China, indicating that some steps might be taken this week. However, this had nothing to do with U.S. relations with the GRC, and quite frankly, were undertaken in order to prevent Russia from being the dominant country in dealing with Communist China. Ambassador Chow noted that he could understand this.2

Continuing, Dr. Kissinger said that we had picked a few steps which might be taken now, such as travel. While we could let a few Chinese Communists in, it was doubtful they would be breaking down our doors asking for visas. Ambassador Chow again noted that he could see our point—the new steps might make the Russians more amenable. Nevertheless, he didn’t know if the Russians would respond to this approach, and Peking would be put in the middle between both [Page 294] the U.S. and Moscow. Dr. Kissinger agreed that there were limits to what the Russians could do. This was a very complicated game. Ambassador Chow described the U.S. approach as a highly sophisticated one, which couldn’t be explained very easily to the people on Taiwan. He would need to report to his President on this matter in generalized terms. Dr. Kissinger pointed out that no one in Washington outside of a very few knew what was to be undertaken. In fact, a long list had been presented, of which we were taking but a few items.

Ambassador Chow said that in the measures the U.S. was taking which affected his country, the understanding if not the support of the Chinese people was needed. He described the strong sentiments which various Chinese groups had with regard to a number of issues, particularly the question of the status of Senkaku Islets. The demonstration which had taken place in Washington on April 10 was a case in point—those demonstrating had been scientists, engineers, and professional people and not just students. The demonstration had come on all of a sudden because these people had become excited, and was symbolic of what they and the country would stand for. Ambassador Chow declared that he had been asked by President Chiang to take up the Senkaku question with the President and Dr. Kissinger.

Dr. Kissinger stated that he was looking into the Senkaku matter, and asked Mr. Holdridge to forward a report to him on the issues involved by April 13.3

Ambassador Chow, in commenting further on the Senkakus, remarked that even when the Japanese had occupied Taiwan and the Ryukyus, legal matters involving the Senkakus had been handled by courts on Taiwan, and the fishing boats which went to the Senkakus had been from Taiwan. From the Japanese point of view, they didn’t care how the Senkakus were administered. For the Chinese though, the issue of nationalism was deeply involved.

Ambassador Chow referred to the fact that there would be some decisions required with respect to the General Assembly next year and he hoped that the “other side” (i.e., the Chinese Communists) could be kept out. Whatever formula was advocated, the Chinese position had to be made tenable in the eyes of the people. Moreover, regardless of what was proposed, it would be hard to sell.

Ambassador Chow went on to discuss the desirability of like- minded nations in East Asia working more closely together. He described ASPAC as something of a social club of the foreign ministers, who put forward differing views on various subjects. The Koreans and the Japanese, for example, were quite far apart on many issues. His [Page 295] idea was for countries such as the ROC, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam to have more and closer consultations. This would not be like a “minor club,” but would have a real purpose in such things as military matters. Such a grouping, having more or less of a joint stand, would make it easier for the U.S. to make military moves. The group could come to the U.S. and say that it would back the U.S. up. If the four governments could be gotten together, more planning could be undertaken on issues such as the UN, and a parellel approach maintained instead of each government going its separate way. The U.S. would be expected to be a benevolent friend. It wouldn’t necessarily be expected to act, and the other nations would have to do things for themselves, but the tacit backing of the U.S. was needed. Rivalries had to be avoided, since there were already enough adversaries in the Communist and non-Communist worlds.

Dr. Kissinger remarked that in these days, anyone who stands up to the Communists comes under attack; this was not from the Communists but from fellow citizens. Ambassador Chow referred to the existence of rumors that the U.S. was giving up, and of the need to arrest the trend of assuming that such was the case. Dr. Kissinger said that he agreed. We did not believe that we had to demonstrate our wisdom and political sagacity by destroying our friends. This was very much in the President’s mind. On the UN issue, we would send someone to the ROC to explain our position, and would need some support from the ROC side. Dr. Kissinger asked Ambassador Chow to explain to his President that our President was a true friend, and that there had to be understanding between the two.

Ambassador Chow stated that he would look upon his role in Taiwan as Foreign Minister as being one of support for the U.S. position. He considered himself very proud to have known Dr. Kissinger, whom he regarded as a friend. He asked that Dr. Kissinger allow him the privilege of communicating directly with him. Dr. Kissinger replied that he definitely wanted Ambassador Chow to do so. If Ambassador Chow should write and let Dr. Kissinger know his private reactions, this would be a tremendous help. He wanted Ambassador Chow to know that in his opinion, he, Ambassador Chow, had always conducted his affairs here with dignity, and when in Taiwan should feel he had two friends in the White House. If we were obliged to do things which caused them pain, this would be to the minimum extent possible. He assured Ambassador Chow that we would do nothing without checking with the ROC. As far as our moves toward the Chinese Communists were concerned, they were mainly of significance with respect to the USSR and in response to our own domestic situation. Ambassador Chow said that he could see the U.S. point of view in both cases, although there were of course questions raised with respect to mainland China.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. VI. Confidential. Sent for information. Drafted on April 14. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office. In an April 14 covering memorandum, Holdridge suggested that no further distribution be made. Kissinger initialed his approval. (Ibid.) Kissinger and Chow met from 3:31 to 3:47 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division. Kissinger Papers, Box 480, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule)
  2. During April 1971 there were signs that the Republic of China had accepted the U.S. position. Kearns reported that he spoke privately with Chiang Ching-Kuo after a dinner at McConaughy’s home in Taipei. He paraphrased Chiang as follows: “It is necessary for us to publicly oppose actions taken by the United States Government that favor the Chinese Communists. However, we wish the President to know that we understand the necessity of taking such actions at this time.” Chiang asked that his message be relayed to the President, and Peterson forwarded it on April 17. (Memorandum fro. Kearns to Peterson, April 15, and memorandum from Peterson to Nixon, April 17; both in National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 73 D 443 and William P. Rogers’ Official and Personal Papers, White House Correspondence)
  3. See Document 115.