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52. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • 1. Exposition of U.S. China Policy
  • 2. Changes in Seventh Fleet Patrol of Taiwan Strait
  • 3. Miscellaneous Matters


  • President Chiang Kai-shek
  • Ambassador Walter P. McConaughy
[Page 147]


  • Foreign Minister Wei Tao-ming
  • Mr. Fredrick F. Ch’ien, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, North American Bureau (Interpreter)

This was my first call on President Chiang, made at my request, following my return to Taiwan on December 8 after an absence of three and a half months.

I conveyed the warm greetings of President Nixon to President and Madame Chiang, together with his cordial expression of good will and sympathetic interest. I recalled President Nixon’s active concern at the injury which Madame Chiang sustained in the auto accident of mid- September, and described the particulars of President Nixon’s offer of U.S. medical assistance in the person of the noted American neurologist, Dr. Riland.2 President Chiang expressed cordial appreciation for President Nixon’s manifestations of interest and goodwill and voiced particular thanks for the kind offer of assistance in the medical treatment of Madame Chiang. He thought it would be unnecessary to accept the kind offer in view of Madame Chiang’s favorable current rate of recovery, but he said he would like to consider the offer as still open in case of later need to accept it. I assured him it was a standing offer.

My principal purpose in arranging the call was to set forth for President Chiang the substance of an oral message from President Nixon in regard to U.S. China policy, which the President outlined to me in the course of my call on him at the White House on November 15, 1969.3 President Nixon instructed me to set forth this general U.S. position to President Chiang on an appropriate occasion after my return.

1. U.S. China Policy.

I told President Chiang that President Nixon had summarized to me his views on certain policy matters related to China, and had instructed me to convey the substance of what he had said to President Chiang upon my return.

I then set forth for President Chiang in summary form, and in conversational manner, a paraphrase of President Nixon’s observations, along the following lines:

Mainland China. The U.S. Government remained thoroughly aware of the threat to the entire East Asian region posed by the Chinese [Page 148]Communist regime, and did not intend to pursue any policy which would enhance its capability for making trouble for its neighbors or for the rest of the world. The U.S. was not changing its attitude of vigilance or its posture of readiness to carry out its commitments in the area. At the same time, the USG believed that it had an obligation to take every practicable and prudent step to lower tensions in the area, and to implement in this part of the world the announced general Administration policy of endeavoring to substitute negotiation for confrontation. We wanted peaceful relations with all parts of the world and we wanted to avoid unnecessary provocation. In this era effective contacts with all great areas and peoples of the world aimed at creating a larger measure of understanding are an imperative necessity. In this spirit, we are making earnest efforts to establish a worthwhile dialogue with the Peiping regime. If the efforts should bear any fruit, it might take the form of a resumption of the Ambassadorial-level talks at Warsaw or elsewhere. In an effort to improve the atmosphere, we have made certain modest relaxations in the restrictions on trade and travel of American citizens in relation to Mainland China, and certain additional relaxations can be expected to follow. It is by no means certain that the Chinese Communists will react in any affirmative way to these limited gestures. In fact, it is only realistic to anticipate continued rebuffs from the Chinese Communists. Nevertheless, our efforts to improve the climate and to bring about a better and safer relationship with the Mainland will continue. We will carry forward this effort within the limits of prudence and national self-respect.

We are explaining this policy to the GRC with full candor, recognizing that President Chiang and his Government have a major interest therein which entitles them to a full exposition of our objectives. We believe that he will understand our motivation, recognizing as he does the greatness and the inescapable influence on the whole world of the vast Chinese population on the Mainland, and the need for effective communication between it and the outside world. We cannot be confident that any type of dialogue we may be able to establish with the Peiping regime will have any moderating effect on it, or be of any direct benefit to the mass of the Chinese people on the Mainland, but the possibility of some eventual influence of a beneficial nature cannot be entirely ruled out. In any event, we are determined to continue the search for serviceable contacts, and we feel it is right and appropriate for President Chiang as a friend and ally to be fully aware of the nature and the purposes of this policy.

Republic of China on Taiwan. The other facet of our China policy has to do with the Republic of China on Taiwan. President Nixon wants President Chiang to be assured in the most positive and explicit terms that the United States stands by its mutual defense commitment to the Republic of China and that nothing related to the search for better Mainland China relations will dilute that commitment. The U.S. Government [Page 149]is steadfast in its policy of strong support for and close association with the Republic of China and wants those close ties maintained and reinforced, not only in the defense area, but also in the political, economic, and cultural fields. He has expressly charged his Ambassador to the Republic of China with the responsibility for preserving and nurturing this close relationship in all its aspects. Furthermore, President Nixon has instructed the Ambassador to state on his behalf to President Chiang that in his view no aspect of our Mainland China policy impinges upon or is prejudicial to any essential interest of the Republic of China. President Nixon entertains the hope that President Chiang can accept this policy exposition with the confidence that in no respect is it inimical to the Republic of China and that it will not interfere with constructive and collaborative development efforts by our two governments in an atmosphere which we hope will be less shadowed by threats of aggression from the Mainland.

By way of further reassurance to President Chiang, I spelled out what our Mainland posture does not signify: (1) It does not mean that we are extending diplomatic recognition to the Chicom regime or facilitating its international acceptance; (2) It does not mean that we are lowering our defensive guard in any sector where we have a defense responsibility; (3) It does not mean that we believe there is evidence of a real change in the nature of the Chinese Communist regime, or that the Chinese Communist regime can be trusted; (4) It does not mean that we are abandoning any of our basic principles in our search for means of lessening the dangerous tensions in the East Asia region.

The President listened to the presentation intently, with apparent deep concentration and without interruption. At its conclusion, he reflected for a few moments and then simply said that he was reassured to have the confirmation that there would be no change in the U.S. policy of strong support for the Republic of China.

2. Modification of Seventh Fleet Patrol of Taiwan Strait.4

After the foregoing discussion of China policy, the President made mention, with some satisfaction, of the visit to Taipei of Deputy Secretary of Defense Packard on November 15.5 In that connection, reference was made to the suspension of the regular patrol of the Taiwan Strait by two destroyer escorts attached to the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The President noted that he had felt a considerable degree of concern at the U.S. decision, especially in view of the dangerous misinterpretation of the withdrawal which might be drawn by the Chinese Communists. He indicated his concerns had been partially, but not entirely, allayed [Page 150]by the explanations and assurances given him by Deputy Secretary Packard and CINCPAC Admiral McCain.

I told the President that my meeting with President Nixon in Washington had taken place on the same day as his talk with Deputy Secretary Packard and Admiral McCain. The matter of the modification of the Seventh Fleet patrol of the Taiwan Strait had come up at that White House meeting, and President Nixon had asked me for a summary of the reasons for the Republic of China’s objections to the change, as I understood them. I said I had given President Nixon a summation of the GRC position as I understood it, based on my general knowledge and on my conversation of a day or so before at the State Department with visiting Admiral Feng, CinC of the Chinese Navy.6 I said I had stressed the GRC view that the Chinese Communists would be likely to get the wrong signal from the modification, probably misconstruing it to mean a lessening of U.S. interest in the defense of the area. The consequence of such a misconstrual, in the GRC view, might be an unwitting encouragement to the Chicoms to take new and bolder steps of an aggressive nature in the Taiwan Strait area, including attacks on GRC vessels plying between Taiwan and the offshore islands. I told President Chiang that President Nixon had thereupon authorized me, upon my return, to assure the ROC Government that the slight alteration in the orders to individual ships of the Seventh Fleet were dictated purely by reasons of economy. There was no change in the role, mission or responsibilities of the Seventh Fleet and, of course, no change in our defense commitments. Nor would there be any change in our capability to carry out our commitment. President Nixon had further stated that there was naturally no U.S. intention to afford any cause for misunderstanding by the Chinese Communists. The U.S. was interested in lowering tensions and risks to peace, not in heightening them. President Nixon had told me that I could inform the representatives of the GRC that if the Chinese Communists took advantage of this U.S. administrative modification of patrol arrangements and resorted to attacks on Republic of China shipping in the Taiwan Strait area, the U.S. Government would certainly take cognizance of such an unjustified act. President Nixon indicated that he would not let any unwarranted and unprovoked Chicom attack on the Republic of China shipping in the Taiwan Strait go unnoticed. (N.B. I carefully refrained from specifying or indicating in any way what sort of reaction or cognizance President Nixon might have in mind.)

[Page 151]

I further noted the arrangements that had been made for a material increase in the aggregate number of transits of the Strait per month by ships of the Seventh Fleet. Most of the vessels of the Fleet moving in a north/south direction would transit the Strait rather than travel along the East Coast of Taiwan. As a result, there would probably be more actual transits of the Strait by Seventh Fleet vessels, and a more thorough naval observation of the Strait under the new procedure than when the two DE’s were on regular patrol. President Chiang indicated his appreciation at the receipt of this information. He seemed more relaxed about the patrol situation than he had been at the beginning of the discussion.

3. Miscellaneous Matters.

Brief exchanges took place on the following topics, as mentioned in Taipei telegram 5098 of December 18:7 Request for F–4 aircraft, forthcoming visit of Vice President Agnew to Taiwan,8 and USG invitation to Vice Premier Chiang Ching-Kuo to visit the U.S.9

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 520, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. IV. Secret; Exdis. The meeting was held at Chiang’s residence in Shih Lin. Drafted by McConaughy on December 30, passed to Green, who then forwarded it to Kissinger, who in turn sent it to the President. Kissinger wrote, “it would appear that McConaughy faithfully reproduced your ideas to President Chiang.” Kissinger added that he had authorized Green to “make limited dissemination of the MemCon in State, on a need-to-know basis, in the belief that the document will have a useful educational effect in acquainting the appropriate officers in State as to the tone and thrust of your China policy.” (Memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, February 17; ibid.)
  2. During their November 15 meeting in Washington, Nixon asked McConaughy to make Chiang and his wife aware of the availability of Dr. R. Kenneth Riland, an osteopathic physician. McConaughy subsequently relayed this offer to Taipei. (Telegram 195779 to Taipei, November 21; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 CHINAT)
  3. No substantive record of the November 15 meeting between Nixon and McConaughy has been found. The President’s Daily Diary indicates that the meeting lasted from 12:30 to 12:51 p.m., with the last few minutes devoted to photographs taken by members of the press corps. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)
  4. See Documents 34 and 50.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 50.
  6. McConaughy met with Admiral Feng Chi-chung, Commander-in-Chief of the ROC Navy, on November 14 to discuss the Taiwan Strait patrol and the ROC’s request to purchase submarines. (Memorandum of conversation, November 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 6–2 US)
  7. Not printed. (Ibid., DEF 19–8 CHINATUS.)
  8. Vice President Agnew visited Taiwan in early January 1970. Records of Agnew’s conversations with ROC leaders are ibid., Conference Files, 1966–1972, CF–421, Vice President Agnew’s Trip, December 1969–January 1970.
  9. In telegram 2144 from Taipei, June 13, McConaughy had proposed a visit by Chiang Ching-Kuo in the late summer or early fall of 1969. The response from the Department of State, with the concurrence of DOD and CIA, telegram 103272 to Taipei, June 24, noted that it would be difficult to schedule a visit in 1969. (Both cables are ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 913, VIP Visits, Visit of Vice Premier Chiang Ching-Kuo of China, April 21–23, 1970, Vol. I) In September the Department of State proposed to Kissinger that Chiang Ching-Kuo come to the United States in February 1970. (Memorandum from Eliot to Kissinger, September 15; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 CHINAT) Kissinger approved the trip in October. (Memorandum from Holdridge to Kissinger, October 17; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 913, VIP Visits, Visit of Vice Premier Chiang Ching-Kuo of China, April 21–23, 1970, Vol. I) However, in late 1969 Department of State and White House officials confronted the problem of finding a date for Chiang Ching-Kuo’s visit that did not come too close to U.S.–PRC talks in Warsaw. In late February 1970 McConaughy was asked to extend a formal invitation for Chiang to visit on April 20–23. (Telegram 26985 to Taipei, February 23 and telegram 29573 to Taipei, February 27; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 CHINAT) Chiang Ching-Kuo accepted in early March. (Telegram 971 from Taipei, March 5; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 913, VIP Visits, Visit of Vice Premier Chiang Ching-Kuo of China, April 21–23, 1970, Vol. I)