179. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the Deputy Director for Plans, Central Intelligence Agency (Karamessines)1


  • Proposal by ROC Vice Foreign Minister for Covert Emissaries to President Chiang
[Page 628]

Thank you for your memorandum of December 14, 1971 regarding Vice Foreign Minister Yang Hsi-kun’s proposal that “old and trusted” friends of President Chiang be sent covertly as emissaries of President Nixon to induce Chiang to change ROC policies to those that Yang regards as more realistic.2 Yang’s conversation [1 line of source text not declassified] parallels a recent talk he had with Ambassador McConaughy, too.3

As you correctly note, Yang is in the forefront of ROC officials advocating significant changes in ROC policy not only in foreign affairs but also in domestic political reform. Although respected and valued as a technician and as a source of fairly frank assessments, not unexpectedly, he has not been able to move President Chiang as far or as fast as he, Yang, thinks desirable. As he did several times during Chirep earlier this year, he has once again proposed that the US add its weight on the side of reason and push the ROC and President Chiang to move further and faster.

We do not think that it is necessary for the ROC to move so far and so fast as Yang advocates in order to maintain the viability of Taiwan in the face of its recent setbacks on the international scene. Further movement is clearly necessary, but much already seems to be in the works. As we did during Chirep, we are prepared to give the ROC our assessment of various situations, our analyses of the courses of action open to it and our judgments about their relative chances of success. As the decisions are clearly ones for the ROC itself to make and as many of them go to the heart of its claims to political legitimacy, we would be reluctant to have the US push very hard on particular policy lines.4 We are prepared to point out to the ROC the value of certain positions it has adopted for maintaining US public and Congressional support for our policies toward the ROC and to inquire into ROC intentions in areas that impact on US interests. Likewise we are prepared to warn of the dangers inherent in other courses of action being considered. This stops short, however, of pressuring the ROC to adopt certain policies at our behest.

As for the channels of communication urged by Yang, we have some reservations. Ideas about policy changes for the ROC are not new and their assessments of what is necessary to accomplish certain objectives have been quite realistic and certainly so far at least the past [Page 629] year. While we would not now want to rule out completely the possibility of a high-level emissary if some future situation should seem to require that kind of US intervention, we think that using our Ambassador as the channel to President Chiang for US views is probably more effective and more compatible with the low-key posture which we think is the appropriate US role at this time.

We think [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] could usefully inform Yang that his views have been given consideration at appropriate levels within the US Government. He might go on to say that we generally plan to rely on our Ambassador as the primary channel for conveying the views of the US Government to President Chiang and the policy-making levels of the ROC.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 285, Department of State, 1 Sep–31 Dec 1971, Vol. XIII. Secret; Sensitive. This memorandum and attachments were forwarded by Deputy Executive Secretary Curran t. Haig on December 27. A short handwritten note, attached, reads: “12/28/71, Laura: No distribution. Gen. Haig has copy with him for HAK. Holdridge has seen. Col. Ken.”
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. See Document 174.
  4. In a January 11 letter to McConaughy, Brown concluded that “While we should do what we can to strengthen the reputation and impact of sound and pragmatic men like Yang, we simply cannot allow ourselves to become their instruments in the internal politics of Taiwan.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL CHINATUS)
  5. The message was conveyed to Yang on January 7, and on January 12 Johnson received a memorandum of the conversation. After reviewing these materials, Green wrote to Johnson on January 21, and expressed concern that “Yang does not seem to have clearly gotten the message.” He suggested that Johnson reiterate the Department of State’s views. The memorandum of conversation and Green’s memorandum are ibid.