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


  • Letter to President Chiang on Taiwan Strait Patrol

Secretary Rogers has recommended (Tab B)2 that you send a brief response to President Chiang’s telegraphic expression of concern at our proposal to de-activate the two destroyers which constituted the Taiwan Strait patrol.3

Under Secretary Packard and Admiral McCain reassured President Chiang that the Seventh Fleet will continue to maintain an effective surveillance of the Strait. He withdrew his objections to the removal of the two destroyers.4

Subsequent to that exchange, President Chiang has followed up his telegraphic message with a longer letter (Tab C)5 which makes clear that [Page 144] he was by no means pleased with the withdrawal. He assumes that “gaps” will be created which will tempt the Communists to attack his sea lines of communications to the Pescadores and the offshore islands.

—On these grounds, he calls for an immediate review of the contingency plan “Rochester.” (This is a plan for the defense of Taiwan and the Pescadores within the terms of our Mutual Security Treaaty with the GRC.)

He goes on to endorse “Vietnamization” and the concept that the threatened nations should do more to assure their own defense.

—Using this justification, he reiterates the Chinese request for submarines and late-model jets (by implication, F–4s).

We have repeatedly declined Chinese requests for submarines because we do not believe that they would represent an effective use of resources for the defense of Taiwan and they would provide the GRC with a capability for mainland operations which we might not endorse.

We have not programmed F–4s in our MAP program for Taiwan because of the cost. (The issue has been made a current one, however, by a House amendment to the FY71 MAP bill to provide a squadron of F–4s to the GRC; we do not know exactly how the GRC managed to get this one into the hopper.) We are proceeding with the upgrading of the GRC air force, and we are presently in the process of offering the Chinese additional F–104s, which will enable them to phase out their remaining F–86s and will give them a fighter force built around F–104s and F–5s.6

I think that your reply to the Generalissimo should be friendly, courteous and noncommittal. We should not offer him any hope that by escalating the negotiations to your level he can get the submarines or airplanes he wants, and—given Senatorial interest in contingency plans—we do not want to seem to give too much attention or status to plan “Rochester.”

I believe that, together with your expression of concern about Mme. Chiang’s health which you have relayed through Ambassador McConaughy, President Chiang will get the message: that you remain friendly and concerned about his welfare but disinclined to embark upon a shift of policy to accommodate his desires for more sophisticated arms.

[Page 145]

The proposed letter has been coordinated with James Keogh.7


That you sign the letter to President Chiang at Tab A.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 751, Presidential Correspondence File, Republic of China, President Chiang Kai-shek. Secret; Limdis. Sent for action. Kissinger’s handwritten comment on the memorandum reads: “Send out.” A November 24 covering memorandum from Holdridge to Kissinger contains a short, handwritten comment by Kissinger: “Can’t we go a little farther on the F–4’s—Laird has indicated a willingness to proceed.” (Ibid.)
  2. Attached at Tab B is a November 19 memorandum from Rogers to Nixon, in which Rogers concludes: “I believe a personal acknowledgment of his message would bring this matter to an appropriate close.”
  3. Chiang sent a short message to Nixon on November 14 asking that the decision be delayed. (Telegram 4608 from Taipei, November 14; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 519, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. III)
  4. A transcript of a November 14 telephone conversation between Laird and Kissinger, reads: “K indicated that the Chinese Ambassador [Chow Shu-kai] came in to see him with a personal letter to President Nixon about the two destroyers which are going off station soon. They understand the problems but they wonder whether we could delay it for 2 or 3 weeks. Laird indicated that this is part of the State Department move toward China. They came in to talk to Laird also. They equate this to a new policy toward the mainland. They are trying to get us to go along with a few F4s for them. They only want to buy 8 or 9 of them. K asked what Laird thought about that. Laird said it was o.k. with him but they want us to make credit arrangements for them. Kissinger added that he has not discussed the issue with the President but agrees with Laird’s plan to allow a three-week extension of the patrol.” (Ibid.; see also Document 45) Even as Kissinger and Laird discussed delaying the policy change, Packard and McCain were meeting with Chiang (November 15 in Taipei) to explain the plan to de-activate the regular patrol in the Strait. They emphasized that U.S. naval vessels would continue to transit the Strait on a regular basis, and that the de-activation was designed to retire two older destroyers. Packard reported that Chiang accepted their logic on the issue, and the Department of Defense issued orders on November 16 to follow through on the original plan to end the patrol. (Letter from Laird to Kissinger, November 29; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 519, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. III)
  5. Attached at Tab C but not printed is the November 19 letter.
  6. In a December 3 telephone conversation, Packard and Kissinger discussed the ROC Air Force’s needs and specifically the need for F–104s. Packard stated that “they [the ROC] don’t need them from a military standpoint—they are in good shape there. On the other hand, if we are going to follow the President’s policy of supporting our Allies (they are one of our strongest friends) and it would be a move in the President’s long-range proposals …. Packard advised that we recommend that we go ahead with it.” (Notes of a telephone conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division. Kissinger Papers, Box 360, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
  7. Time Magazine before joining the President’s staff in 1969.
  8. Nixon’s response, sent in telegram 208044 to Taipei, December 16, reads in part: “I am confident that any questions concerning the details of these new procedures will be resolved satisfactorily through consultations between the Commander, United States Taiwan Defense Command, and your defense authorities. If your defense authorities believe that some modifications of plan ‘Rochester’ are required by the present situation, the officers of the Taiwan Defense Command will be interested in hearing their views.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 6–2 US)