16. Telegram From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State1

2445. Subject: Meeting with Vice Premier Chiang Ching-Kuo re GRC Raid on Chicom Boats.2 Department pass CIA and Defense.

I met late this afternoon with Vice Premier Chiang Ching-Kuo at my request to obtain full and authoritative statement of rationale behind GRC raid on ChiCom boats off Fukien coast, and to express concern at possible unfortunate psychological and political effects of the action at this juncture.
I referred to undesirability of any hostile action even on very limited scale at this time. I underscored importance of refraining from any move which might heighten tension in Taiwan Straits area or elsewhere in East Asia. I mentioned the negative effect which any such action might have on the negotiation effort in Paris, and efforts generally to improve the prospects for peace in the area. I spoke of the extent that this action might play into the hands of elements in the U.S., the UN and elsewhere that are inclined to be critical toward or unsympathetic with the GRC. I said the Central News Agency news release on the subject had given foreign wire services something of a basis for playing up the incident and portraying it in terms that were probably rather exaggerated. This would give those who are opposed to the GRC another stick with which to belabor it as an instigator of unwarranted and provocative actions tending to increase tensions at a time when it was all-important to relax tensions. I expressed regret that neither [name not declassified] nor myself had been informed of the intention to stage the raid and that the first we knew of the incident was when we saw the Central News Agency press release. I then acknowledged with thanks the very comprehensive account of the entire event when Gen Chou [Page 44] of the NSG had given [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] earlier today [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].3 I told the Vice Premier I had spoken in candor as a friend and (I) was trying to give him a view of the matter which was perhaps different from the angle from which he had seen it. I invited him to comment with the same frankness.
Vice Premier responded by thanking me for my frank summary of the incident as it could be viewed from abroad. He said he had been partially but not fully aware of this “other view”. He accepted my summation with good grace. He assured me that the GRC did not want to cause or contribute to instability in the East Asia region. He said this was merely a small-scale probing action and not different in nature or size from various other probes undertaken in previous years, the latest in 1966.4 It was carried out not by GRC naval forces but by “sea guerrillas” who are a part of the “Anti-Communist National Salvation outfit”. He said that it was a “very local” encounter well off the mainland coast, some distance northeast of the Min River estuary. He said the probe had no military objective, of course, and the boats lost by the ChiComs were of no military value. He said the object was to test the efficiency of the ChiCom radar detection net against small craft in bad weather, and to ascertain the degree of alertness of the ChiCom personnel. The probe had established the inadequacy of the ChiCom radar against this type of incursion, since the GRC boats were returning to their bases by the time the Chinese Communists reacted. He thought the knowledge gained from the probe would have some utility.
The Vice Premier said the probing action was also undertaken to boost the morale of the GRC specialized personnel who took part. They had been under training for two years without having had any mission to carry out until now. It was decided to try them out when the weather conditions were exactly right.
In answer to a question from me, the Vice Premier said he did not believe the ChiComs would undertake any major military action by way of reprisal. They might try to attack some of the GRC supply vessels, as had happened before. He said the GRC would be on guard against such attempts. He did not think the ChiCom reaction would [Page 45] be either greater or less than on earlier occasions. In answer to a further question he expressed doubt that ChiCom propaganda would attempt to exploit the incident. He thought they would consider it “not to their interest” to do so, since an acknowledgment of the raid by them would amount to a confession of weakness or inadequacy of their security measures. The ChiCom practice did not permit any such admissions.
In answer to my observation about the GRC failure to keep in touch with us in advance, the Vice Premier said that he would instruct the new Defense Minister, and through him the Intelligence Bureau, that in future all such projects would be discussed in advance with [name not declassified].
Vice Premier expressed earnest hope that this event “would not be overstressed” in the United States. I told him that the conversation had been very helpful and would assist us in placing the matter in the right perspective. I took official note of his assurance that there would be advance discussion of any planned undertaking along this line in future and expressed the hope that the provision for such advance discussion would obviate the sort of difficulty that had cropped up yesterday and today.
Comment: I believe CCK fully understands our concern over the international repercussions of the raid and the way GRC publicized it without informing us.5 His assurance that GRC will in the future [Page 46] consult in advance is of considerable importance. Having made our point I do not believe it would be useful or necessary to make additional representations about this incident at this time. We recognize Department’s problems in coping with press (and perhaps Congressional) queries. However I believe it would now be in our interest to get matter into as low a key as feasible. I assume of course that we will not get into detailed dialogue with press on when GRC must consult under treaty obligations.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL CHICOMCHINAT. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Received at 1429Z. Kissinger included a summary of this telegram in the President’s July 5 daily briefing memorandum. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 9, President’s Daily Briefs)
  2. On the evening of July 2 at least five small boats under the command of the Intelligence Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense (IBMND) attacked several PRC vessels near Tacheng, Fukien Province. A few junks and perhaps one wooden gunboat were sunk. All the attacking boats returned to the offshore island of Matsu (Mazu) without incident. According to information gathered by the U.S. Naval Attaché in Taipei, the operation was “mainly political to test Chicom reaction.” (Telegram 2442 from Taipei, July 4; ibid., Box 519, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. II) Further documentation is in Washington National Records Center, RG 330, ISA East Asia Files: FRC 330 83 0123, 1969 Raid on Chicom Boats.
  3. Not found.
  4. For information on the 1966 raid, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXX, Document 193. However, in a July 3, 1969, memorandum to Brown and Green, Shoesmith wrote: “The last such action that we know of was on May 29, 1967, when a GRC commando team reportedly made a landing on the Shantung Peninsula, killed ‘more than ten’ Chinese Communists and damaged one ChiCom patrol boat. Subsequent intelligence reports indicated that the results of this action had been exaggerated to a considerable extent.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15 CHICOM)
  5. Referring to the Dulles–Yeh exchange of notes (December 10, 1954; see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954; vol. XIV, Documents 402 and 403), Shoesmith wrote to Green on July 7: “We have sought to restrain limited GRC operations against the mainland not so much by insisting on prior consultations and concurrence as by warning that we would not feel obliged to come to its assistance in the event of retaliation against an ‘unauthorized’ action, and more recently, by making clear our opposition on policy grounds to ‘provocative’ acts, without clearly defining the meaning of the term.” Shoesmith concluded, “on the basis of available evidence, the recent GRC hit-and-run attack on Chinese Communist ships falls within the category of those actions for which, at least since 1960, we have not required the GRC to inform us or to obtain our concurrence in advance.” (Memorandum from Shoesmith through Brown and Barnett to Green, July 7; National Archives, RG 59, EA/EX Files: Lot 72 D 276, Miscellaneous Top Secret Files)

    The Department of State’s response to McConaughy stated that “we agree that CCK’s assurance that GRC will in future consult [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in advance on ‘all such projects’ is of considerable importance, and wish to take maximum advantage of that opening to strengthen restraints on GRC actions of a potentially provocative nature.” (Telegram 117284 to Taipei, July 16; ibid., Central Files 1967–69, POL CHICOMCHINAT) McConaughy then reconfirmed this understanding with Chiang Ching-Kuo, reporting that “we now have an assurance from CCK which is a milestone in the long and somewhat ambiguous record of our position with the GRC on this subject.” (Telegram 2814 from Taipei, July 29; ibid.) Officials in Washington announced that they were satisfied: “It seems clear that we now have explicit commitment of CCK that any future action against mainland, regardless of nature or size, will be matter joint USGRC discussion and agreement.” (Telegram 138446 to Taipei, August 16; ibid.)