208. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Memorandum from Secretary Rogers on Policy Toward Taiwan
[Page 841]

Secretary Rogers sent you a memorandum in connection with your China visit enclosing his views on policy toward Taiwan over the next eighteen months (Tab A).2 These views were reflected in the State position papers for your trip and are generally consistent with the line we took in Peking. No specific action is required now on this paper.

In brief, what Secretary Rogers proposes is that we should attempt to cool down Taiwan as an issue between the PRC and ourselves while encouraging an evolution of Taiwan’s status either in the direction of reintegration with the China mainland by peaceful means or acceptance by the PRC of some form of separate status for Taiwan. To this end Secretary Rogers suggests a number of intermediate steps:

  • —Acting as if both the PRC and the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC) were the de jure government of the area under its control. We would seek more contacts with the former, and maintain our existing relationship with the latter including the mutual defense treaty.3
  • —Avoiding legalistic formulations wherever possible regarding the status of Taiwan, and speak increasingly of the PRC as China and the ROC as “Taiwan.”
  • —Doing nothing to close the door to the idea that Taiwan might eventually be reunited with the mainland.
  • —Making it clear to Peking that we will not attempt to put any special military or other pressure on it from Taiwan.
  • —Doing everything possible to rid our relationship with the PRC of the past aura of confrontation.
  • —If possible, encouraging direct PRC–Taiwan contacts of an informal nature (trade, travel, reunification of families).
  • —Maintaining the ROC’s bargaining position in any talks it may have with the PRC (e.g., by reiterating our position that any settlement should be acceptable to the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait).
  • —Emphasizing the economic aspect of Taiwan’s status over the political and the military. This would include our supporting Taiwan in international financial institutions.
  • —Quietly endorsing present trends within the ROC to make its government more representative, but also letting it know that we will not support Taiwan independence movement leaders.
  • —Reducing the possibility that Taiwan could become a major problem area in U.S. relations with Japan. This would require close consultations with the Japanese Government.
  • —On the assumption that Peking may become less dogmatic about gaining control over Taiwan in the long-term future, in effect not doing anything which would conflict with Peking’s acceptance as a fait accompli of Taiwan’s existence as a separate entity. (This section of Secretary Rogers’ memorandum does not make the point as explicitly as I have summarized it here, but the inference is obvious.)4

Comment: For the most part what Secretary Rogers proposes is very reasonable and logical, and in fact we are already doing many of the things which he suggests. I would differ with him on only one major point—the assumption that Peking might accept Taiwan’s existence as a separate entity. As you know, the depth of feeling among the PRC’s leaders is very great that Taiwan must come under PRC control.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 529, Country Files, Far East, Homer, USPRC Negotiations, Paris. Top Secret; Nodis; Homer. Sent for information. A typed note attached to the document reads: “Mr. President: Tab A has been removed and is available if you wish to see it. BAK, Staff Secretary.”
  2. See footnote 5, Document 174. Attached but not printed is a 10-page briefing paper entitled “The Future of Taiwan: Proposal for a ‘Policy of Peaceful Settlement,’” which was drafted in late 1971 and early 1972 in EA. (Memorandum from Robert I. Starr (L/EA) to Green, January 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL CHINATUS) A copy of this paper, along with draft language on Taiwan for the Shanghai Communiqué, is ibid., U. Alexis Johnson Files: Lot 96 D 695, Memcons, 1971; Top Secret, Nodis, PRC. It was forwarded to the President under a February 2 covering memorandum signed by Rogers. Holdridge and Lord forwarded it to Kissinger on February 3 under cover of a memorandum indicating “the paper still seriously underestimates the intensity of Chinese insistence on regaining Taiwan and the symbolic as well as real importance to them of this issue.” They suggested sending it to the President “with a covering memo by you steering him in the direction of our own paper on this issue.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 88, Country Files, China—President’s Trip, December 1971–February 1972, Sensitive) Holdridge again forwarded the paper to Kissinger with a draft summary for the President on February16. (Ibid., Box 529, Country Files, Far East, Homer, USPRC Negotiations, Paris) On March 1 Lord sent Kissinger a “slightly redone” memorandum to the President along with the Department of State briefing paper. (Ibid.)
  3. These options are taken almost verbatim from the Department of State paper. The second, sixth, eighth, tenth, and eleventh paragraphs all have Nixon’s handwritten “?” in the right margin.
  4. In a January 21 memorandum to Johnson, Green noted that the paper “deliberately excluded any mention of Quemoy and Matsu, the offshore island complexes in the Taiwan Strait held by the ROC. We decided not to address the issue of the Offshore Islands because we feel that the status quo there is both tolerable and likely to continue.” He concluded, “there is a strong chance that some successor government in Taipei may choose to use the Offshores as bargaining counters in talks with Peking—or even unilaterally withdraw from the islands. A more representative government on Taiwan would not need symbols of any continued pretension to be the rightful ruler of all of China; seeing the islands as an expensive and dangerous military and political luxury, it could easily decide to disengage. This day has not yet, however, arrived. Therefore, we feel the best policy for the US is not to open this issue of the Offshores in any way, and are operating on this basis.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 1 CHINAT)
  5. The Department of State briefing paper stated: “as revolutionary fervor subsides and goals unfulfilled during twenty years remain unfulfilled, it is conceivable that Peking’s sense of urgency on the Taiwan issue will also be reduced.”