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244. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Call by Ambassador Shen, Republic of China, on the Secretary of Defense

PARTICIPANTS

  • Republic of China Side
  • James Shen, ROC Ambassador to the United States
  • S. K. Hu, Minister, Special Assistant to the Ambassador
  • GRC Purchasing Commission
  • United States Side
  • Melvin R. Laird, Secretary of Defense
  • G. Warren Nutter, Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)
  • Dennis J. Doolin, DepAsst Secretary of Defense (EAPA)

I–26378/72

[Page 1038]

Letter from MND

Ambassador Shen handed Secretary Laird a letter from the Minister of National Defense Ch’en Ta-ch’ing.2 After reading the letter the Secretary stated that it covered the items that he had discussed recently with the Chief of the General Staff, adding that most of these items are moving forward.3 The Secretary said that he hopes we won’t have to make our military assistance allocations by country this year. He complimented the Ambassador on the ROC’s utilization of LS&E and said we had been able to make some very good transfers via this program.

The Chinese Air Force (CAF)

The Ambassador expressed great concern over the state of the CAF, adding that the GRC was “hoping against hope” for F4Ds. He noted that his government would like to see F5Es co-produced on Taiwan. Mr. Nutter noted that we have enough F5E sales to keep the program going for quite a while. The Secretary added that Iran has placed a big order, and both Holland and Saudi Arabia are also interested in the aircraft. The Ambassador inquired whether the F5Es can be made available under MAP in toto. The Secretary replied that the funds currently available do not permit this and that if the F5Es are to move rapidly and in any large numbers, the matter must be handled as a FMS case. He noted that the level of funding granted by Congress has meant that the MAP program for Taiwan is almost all eaten up by O&M costs. The Ambassador said that the operational readiness rate of the ROC armed forces is reduced due to the large amounts of new equipment being produced in the PRC. The [Page 1039]Secretary acknowledged that aircraft production on the mainland is proceeding very rapidly but pointed out that the Foxbat is not a good attack aircraft but more a recce vehicle like the SR–71. He noted that the Foxbat cannot be used as justification for production of F–15s as our present aircraft can handle the Foxbat. The F–15 has to be ready to deal with an even more capable enemy aircraft in the 1980 time-frame.

GOJ/PRC Relations

The Secretary asked for the Ambassador’s views as to the current state of GOJ/PRC relations. Ambassador Shen said that Mr. Tanaka will not listen to the GRC and the GOJ is moving “too fast for our comfort.” He noted that the GOJ has said that the timing on this question must be left to Tokyo. He said that Chou En-lai has been very astute in extending an invitation to Tanaka to visit Peking and that the meeting will probably take place after Tanaka’s meeting in Honolulu with President Nixon.

F5E Funding and MAP

Ambassador Shen returned to the question of the F5E, asking again whether there was any other way to handle the purchase than as a FMS case. Mr. Laird said that there was not because the GRC is presently using almost all of the MAP just to maintain its present capability. When the visitors mentioned the size of our program for Korea, the Secretary responded that we cannot reduce the five-year program just because talks are going on; that would be the best way to work against the negotiated settlement in Korea. Talks do not necessarily mean agreement, the Secretary noted, and said that this is not the time to back away from any of our programs including our program for the ROC. He urged Ambassador Shen to compare our present assistance to the ROC with our assistance during the 1965–68 timeframe and not the 1953–1960 period. Ambassador Shen said that he was glad to hear the Air Force briefing team on the F5E will be coming to Taiwan in September.4 The Secretary said the reason for the visit is to provide the GRC with as much information as possible. The meeting concluded with a final request from the Ambassador that we continue to explore alternative ways to fund purchase of the F5E aircraft.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, ISA Files: FRC 330 75 0125, China, Rep. of., 1972, 333. Secret. The meeting was held in Laird’s office at the Pentagon. Prepared by Doolin and approved by Nutter on August 15.
  2. The July 14 letter from Ch’en requested a wide array of military equipment. He asked that the CAF’s 13-year-old F–100As and 10-year old F–5As be replaced by F–5Bs and F–5Es, either purchased from the United States or coproduced in Taiwan. For the navy. Ch’en requested replacement destroyers and two submarines with surface-to-air missiles. He also asked to replace the army’s World War II and Korean War era equipment with 415 M–48 tanks, 152 M–42 40 mm. self-propelled automatic weapons, 48 TOW missiles, and 272 Red Eye missiles. Finally he added that the ROC hoped to use MAP support to upgrade its communication and ECM capabilities. (National Archives, RG 59, EA/ROC Files: Lot 75 D 76, Pol 17(c), Ambassador Shen’s Calls on White House and State Officials) According to an August 28 memorandum from Moser to Green, the Department of Defense reply “(1) congratulates Ch’en on his new office; (2) states that the Secretary of Defense is in favor of doing what is possible to maintain the present defense posture of the ROC; and (3) reminds the ROC that U.S. support will also be limited by the fiscal restraints of available resources.” (Ibid., Central Files 1970–73, POL CHINATUS)
  3. No record of this discussion has been found. In telegram 2599 from Taipei, May 26, McConaughy reported: “CHMAAG has received written request dated 15 May from Chief of General Staff Lai Ming-ting for grant MAP assistance to coproduce 45 F–5Bs and 100 F–5Es in Taiwan.” McConaughy noted that although staff at the Embassy could evaluate the ROC’s ability to undertake coproduction, they could not judge “potential congressional reaction” to the ROC proposal, which was “to some extent competing with US domestic industry.” He added: “we doubt very much that they expect full grant coverage and assume that they have in mind FMS support.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Secret Files: FRC 330 77 0094, China (Nats), 400.137–800, 1972)
  4. In a July 19 memorandum to Kissinger, Laird requested permission to send a “USAF team to the Republic of China to discuss F–5E performance data and production thresholds.” He noted that the Department of State concurred with this visit. In an August 7 memorandum to Kissinger, sent through Haig, Holdridge summarized the ROC’s military equipment requests. He noted that the problem was not whether to provide the aircraft to the ROC, but the “financing, phasing, and public affairs treatment of the transfer of F–5E’s, primarily in order to minimize the political costs to our evolving relationship with Peking.” Kissinger wrote on the memorandum: “Don’t refer to July 19 request, just do it blankly.” He also noted: “I phoned approval to Col. T. L. Ridge, DOD/ISA/EAPR on 8/28/72. HAK” Both memoranda are in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 523, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. XI.