121. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • United States
  • Ambassador David Kennedy
  • Mr. Anthony Jurich
  • Republic of China
  • President Chiang Kai-shek
  • Mr. Fredrick Chien, Interpreter

Both Kennedy and President Chiang expressed warm and cordial greetings. The President indicated that he had not been fortunate to have met Ambassador Kennedy previously but was fully aware of his fine reputation and friendship for the Chinese people.

Ambassador Kennedy expressed to the President the warm regards from President Nixon and his hopes for continued strong and friendly relations between our two countries.

Ambassador Kennedy then explained to the President that the principal purpose of this mission was to arrange for a solution to the textile problem. He developed for the President both the political and economic problems that are resulting from the upsurge of the textile imports into the United States. Ambassador Kennedy strongly stressed the need for a prompt and favorable solution to this problem.

He advised the President that he would be present during the course of these negotiations but not participate directly at the negotiating [Page 310] level.2 He would be readily available to reconcile any disputes and make final decisions. President Chiang was then asked to designate one individual who would have the authority and responsibility to perform a similar function. We cannot afford to get bogged down in petty details and bureaucratic machinations on these crucial issues Kennedy explained.

President Chiang promptly agreed to start negotiations as rapidly as possible with the assurances that we would reach reasonable agreement. He particularly appreciated the approach which Ambassador Kennedy has used and proposes to use during the next stage of negotiations.

Note: Subsequent to this meeting, word was received from both the President and Vice Premier’s offices that they would be ready to start negotiations by the first of June.

Up to this point, the Generalissimo had complete composure. He looks particularly well and acts like he is in control of himself and the situation. Mentally he seems particularly alert. He then started to discuss the recent State Department statements of Mr. Bray.3 The President went on at great length without interruption becoming increasingly agitated. Toward the end of this colloquy, he was visibly shaking.

The President explained that he considered questioning the sovereignty of Taiwan and the Pescadores as the most serious affront to the ROC. He called it a “slap in the face” to both himself and to his nation.

It was particularly emphasized that Bray in response to a question reflected the impression that there had been a change in the U.S. position, and compounded the situation by subsequently reading a prepared statement, which seemed to further endorse the impression of change relative to the question of sovereignty.

President Chiang then cited the wartime meetings at Cairo and Yalta plus various wartime documents which clearly established the sovereignty of Taiwan and the Pescadores as belonging to the ROC. In [Page 311] addition, he cited the mutual defense treaty between the ROC and the U.S. Are all these treaties and understandings being questioned, he asked.

Ambassador Kennedy, at this point, injected the comment that President Nixon subsequently at his press conference4 clarified the U.S. position by stating that it had not changed. President Chiang acknowledged that he knew of and understood President Nixon’s statement. Subsequently, however, he asked categorically that Ambassador Kennedy express personally to President Nixon the extreme concern which he has expressed and asked that at some appropriate time, President Nixon reaffirm the U.S. position so that there may be no doubts in anyone’s mind as to the status of Taiwan and the Pescadores and the relationship between the ROC and the U.S.

Ambassador Kennedy expressed his apologies over this most unfortunate statement and reaffirmed President Nixon’s and the United States Government’s position that the U.S. policy has not changed. He also assured President Chiang that his views would be personally, fully and completely conveyed to President Nixon upon his return. Ambassador Kennedy then expressed his appreciation for the frank and candid statement by the President.

President Chiang at this point apologized for taking so much time in his frank and emotional statement but he felt so strongly that he was not able to help himself. He believes he is expressing not only his personal view but the view of the government of the ROC and the people.

At this point Ambassador Kennedy expressed his sincere appreciation for President Nixon, for his country and for himself personally for this opportunity to discuss these important matters as candidly with the President.

The President did not acknowledge this offer to culminate the meeting but immediately started discussing the U.S. policy concerning mainland China.

The Generalissimo reflected upon the mission of General Marshall in 1947–48. He then compared the motive and the goodwill of the United States as reflected by the Marshall mission with what is happening today. Again, he stated, the U.S. is trying to reconcile the differences between the Chinese Communists, the ROC, and the world. He recognizes that our motive is to reduce tension and seek peace. Again, however, he believes we do not fully understand the Chinese Communists, their views, and their methods. As we were deceived in 1947–48, which resulted in the fall of the ROC, he is concerned that the U.S. will again make the same mistake.

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He then spent some time further explaining what the Chinese Communists are trying to do and the tactics they are using. Particularly, he cautioned the U.S. about both subversion and ideological warfare. In brief, he is seriously concerned that the United States and the West are exposing themselves to a Chinese Communists’ offensive which will weaken us and the free world.

Ambassador Kennedy assured the President that the U.S. is seeking these small steps relative to the mainland in order to reduce tensions in the interest of peace. The United States will do its utmost to insure that in the process there will be no harm done to the ROC. We will keep alert and appreciate the notes of caution by the President which have been expressed so honestly and so candidly. We also recognize that they are based upon personal experiences which are invaluable in assessing such a complex situation.

Ambassador Kennedy then again thanked President Chiang for the opportunity to frankly and honestly exchange views which he believes will be helpful to both governments.

The meeting lasted approximately an hour and twenty minutes.

President Chiang thanked Ambassador Kennedy and expressed his hopes that he would be returning soon. He specifically requested Ambassador Kennedy to convey his personal and his country’s thanks to President Nixon and to assure Nixon of his continuing friendship.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/KENNEDY. Secret. Prepared by Jurich, Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to the Secretary of the Treasury. Telegrams relaying the contents of Kennedy’s discussions with Vice President C.K. Yen on May 1 and Finance Minister K. T. Li on April 30 are ibid. The memorandum of Kennedy’s conversation with Chiang and his May 12 memorandum to the President are ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 820, Name Files, Ambassador David M. Kennedy. Kennedy’s May 13 summary report of his meetings, forwarded to Rogers, then the President, stated that the Chinese assured him negotiations would take 3 to 5 days. He also mentioned that the Chinese hoped to obtain a steel mill and greater investment in “oil resource development” to offset voluntary limitations on the growth of their textile industry. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/KENNEDY) Ambassador Kennedy also visited Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong, where he sought to obtain commitments to negotiate limits on textile imports into the United States. Memoranda of conversations he held were forwarded to Rogers on May 13. (Ibid.)
  2. Nixon’s May 13 memorandum to Cabinet officers involved with economic policy noted that talks would begin on June 1 and that Jurich would chair the negotiating team, which would include representatives from the Departments of State, Commerce, and Labor. (Ibid.)
  3. Reference is to Charles W. Bray, III, Department of State press spokesman. Apparent reference to an April 28 statement issued by the Department of State suggesting Taiwan’s ultimate status awaited final determination. The ROC Green’s attention on April 30. (Telegram 75570 to Taipei, May 2; ibid., POL CHINATUS) The PRC also complained publicly about this statement. Nixon commented on a brief report about this issue in his May 5 daily briefing memorandum: “K–Why doesn’t State just follow my line?” (Memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, May 5; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 33, President’s Daily Briefs) The statement was not printed in the Department of State Bulletin.
  4. Apparent reference to a news conference held on April 29. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, p. 593.