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272. Editorial Note

Republic of China and U.S. domestic reaction to proposed recognition of Mongolia was stronger than most policymakers had anticipated. At a May 9, 1969, meeting, Foreign Minister Wei Tao-ming informed Ambassador Walter McConaughy that recognition would be “interpreted as ‘appeasement’ and might influence other countries who are wavering in attitude towards communist regimes. He made a strong plea for us to reconsider and reverse this decision.” (Telegram 1563 from Taipei, May 9; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL CHINATUS) McConaughy was summoned to a meeting with President Chiang Kai-shek on May 10. He reported that “Gimo expressed surprise and shock that President Nixon, who understood situation well, and with whom he had extremely friendly relationship, would make decision to move toward recognition Mongolia. He said Presidents Kennedy and Johnson whom he did not know well and who were not as well informed on Asian developments had repeatedly considered recognition Outer Mongolia but had held off primarily because of ROC’s strong opposition.” (Telegram 1570 from Taipei, May 10; ibid) An almost verbatim record of the meeting is in telegram 1630 from Taipei, May 14; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 519, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. II.

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Kissinger passed a copy of telegram 1570 and a summary to President Nixon on May 13. Nixon’s handwritten comment beside the summary reads: “K. It is not worth doing over his objections. Tell State to knock off feelers.” (Ibid., Box 6, President’s Daily Briefs) A May 15 note for Acting Secretary of State Elliot Richardson from Kissinger, reads in its entirety: “The President has read of Chiang Kai-shek’s strong reaction to our proposal to recognize Mongolia. In light of that reaction, he has asked me to tell you to go no further with our recognition plans. He feels that the move is not worth taking over Chiang Kai-shek’s objections.” Attached was a note from Kissinger reading “Elliot: If you feel the attached should be appealed, perhaps you and I can talk about how best to proceed. In the meantime, I think it would be best to hold up on any diplomatic moves. Henry.” (Both ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL CHINATUS)

Richardson wrote a memorandum for the President, undated, which was summarized and passed to Nixon under a covering memorandum from Kissinger on May 23. Richardson noted that “For us to be in a position, or even to appear to be in a position, in which Chiang Kai-shek has a veto over actions which we consider to be in our national interest, particularly when we think his fears of the consequences of our proposed action are exaggerated, would make our relations with him very difficult in the future.” Nixon wrote on the bottom of Kissinger’s memorandum, “Delay. I want to see McConaughy’s personal appraisal of this (not State conclusions).” (Both ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 553, Country Files, Far East, Mongolia, Vol. I)

Kissinger sent a message via special channels to McConaughy on May 27 and received a reply the next day. McConaughy noted that “If the President determines that overall considerations require us to go ahead with the recognition effort, the damage to our position here in my estimation will be painful, even grievous, but short of disastrous.” (Both telegrams ibid., Box 519, China, Vol. II) In a May 28 “Action” memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, the President indicated that he wished to “Disapprove action [recognition] for the time being.” (Ibid., Box 553, Far East, Mongolia, Vol. I) The decision was relayed to McConaughy on June 5 in telegram 90858 to Taipei. (Ibid., Box 519, China, Vol. II) McConaughy relayed this information to Chiang Kai-shek on June 6, as reported in telegram 2041 from Taipei, June 6. (Ibid.)

There were also objections to recognition within the United States. In a May 12 memorandum to H. R. Haldeman, Patrick Buchanan wrote: “Understand we are on the verge of recognizing Outer Mongolia. If this is the case, can you give us some justification we can use on those of our friends who think this is some kind of sell-out—rather, can you get one of Kissinger’s people to brief us on what good we can get out of it that we can relay to the Right. Thanks.” According to a May 12 [Page 1137]covering note from Haldeman, he passed this message to Henry Kissinger. A handwritten notation reads: “Mr. Sneider discussed with Buchanan, 5/15.” (Both ibid.)

The Department of State raised the issue of Mongolian recognition several more times during the first Nixon administration. In 1972 Rogers sent a memorandum to Nixon that was summarized by Kissinger on May 8. The President indicated that he did not want to move forward on recognition, but informed the Department of State through the NSC that the issue “will be reconsidered later in the year.” (Memoranda from Rogers to Nixon, from Kissinger to Nixon, and from Davis to Eliot ibid.) On November 21 Rogers sent a memorandum to the President raising the issue once again. Kissinger apparently did not forward this memorandum to the President, but did note on Holdridge’s December 13 summary memorandum: “I want to wait till Dobrynin is back and also till I can talk to Chinese.” (Ibid.) The United States and the People’s Republic of Mongolia did not establish diplomatic relations until January 27, 1987.