65. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • US Treatment of Peng Ming-min

The Situation:

You are aware that Peng Ming-min has escaped from Taiwan. The Department of State thinks he is probably in Sweden, and that he will soon approach us for a visa to take up one of the university positions offered to him in the United States. His family is still in Taiwan.

Peng was evidently a student of yours, and several individuals and organizations solicited your help last spring to press the GRC to allow him to come to the United States. At your guidance, we answered one of these letters (to an acquaintance of yours) with the briefest of acknowledgments, and filed the rest unanswered.2

Our Embassy in Taipei thinks that Peng will become the leader of the Taiwan independence movement, and that he may revitalize that movement. There is, however, no evidence that he will be able to raise the movement from the almost complete impotence which has heretofore characterized it. (Thomas Liao, the erstwhile leader, lived for years in Japan, but made his peace with the GRC some time ago and returned docilely to Taiwan—thereby, incidentally, removing a very sore point in GRC/Japanese relations.)

Ambassador Chow has requested an appointment with Marshall Green on Thursday morning. State has told our Embassies in Taipei and Stockholm that we will inform Chow that we plan to issue a visa if it is requested. (Tab A)3

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The Issues:

This is a very hot potato. Peng has many friends in university circles here, and any move to qualify or prevent his entry will probably elicit quite an outcry that we are attempting to muzzle opinion in the United States to accommodate Chiang Kai-shek. (This will not help Chiang among liberals here—but it is questionable whether his stock with them could sink any lower.)

On the other hand, President Chiang will take it as a personal affront if we decide to issue a visa. He will see it in the context of the removal of the permanent Strait patrol, the Warsaw meetings, and our statements and actions concerning relations with Communist China. He will probably become highly suspicious of a US plot to sell him out and work toward a “one China, one Taiwan” solution based on the Taiwanese.

At State, the working-level people argue: “What can Chiang do?” The answer is that he is dependent upon us and cannot do much. This is not to say, however, that we should look with equanimity on a decision which will deepen US/GRC suspicions and which will probably make it more difficult to cooperate, for instance, in strategy on Chinese representation in the United Nations. An accumulation of suspicions could conceivably lead Chiang to take ill-considered action.

Insofar as they take note of this matter, the Chinese Communists would probably regard a visa for Peng as a “one-China, one-Taiwan” maneuver, and dislike it as such.4

The Visa Regulations:

The ideal solution would be to grant Peng asylum, on condition that he not engage in political activities intended to overthrow the GRC. Unfortunately, our visa laws do not make provision for asylum. We are on thin legal grounds in attempting to exact a pledge from Peng as a condition for entry (though at our urging, State did get U Nu to sign such a pledge voluntarily in a somewhat similar situation last year— which he largely ignored.) We have little legal recourse if Peng violates such a pledge.

Proposed Action:

I think that this one should go to you or the President.5 Marshall Green has agreed not to take a definitive position Thursday when Ambassador [Page 175] Chow calls. (After all, we are not formally notified that Chow will raise the subject, and we have not yet received the visa application.) Marshall will recite the disadvantages of refusing a visa, by way of educating the Chinese and preparing them for the worst, but at the same time he can refrain from stating a position, on the grounds that no visa has been received and no policy yet decided.6

State will staff out the alternatives legally open to it, and will present these with their recommendations to the White House, after they have heard from our Embassy in Taipei as to likely reactions there.

Meanwhile, Stockholm is being forewarned to submit any visa application from Peng for clearance to Washington.

The Best Possible Resolution:

Without prejudging the results of further inquiry, Marshall thinks that the best course will be to allow Peng in, but only if he will sign a pledge not to engage in political activity intended to bring about the overthrow of the GRC. (We would be unwise to ask him to refrain from criticizing the GRC.) Given the fact that his family is in Taiwan, and that he probably wants very much to come to the United States, he will probably sign such a document. The pledge could then be shown to the GRC to demonstrate our responsiveness to their concerns, and it would probably have a certain effect in dissuading Peng from engaging in flamboyant activity against the GRC, such as attempting to revive the nearly defunct Taiwan nationalist underground newspaper.

If he should refuse a conditional visa, we would have another and tougher problem, but we could at least have a defensible explanation for delay in issuing a visa.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 519, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. III. Secret. Sent for information. Printed from an unsigned copy.
  2. An associate of Peng in Japan, Yoichi Yokoboki, wrote a letter to Kissinger dated May 1, 1969. A reply signed by Grant on May 9 reads in full: “Dr. Kissinger has asked me to reply to your letter of May 1. As I am sure you appreciate, the pressures on his time make it simply impossible for him to write directly. Thank you for calling our attention to Professor Peng’s problem.” (Ibid., Vol. II) Another letter regarding Peng from Yoichi Yokobori was dated May 24. In it, Yoichi had requested help in obtaining an exit visa for Peng. Kissinger’s handwritten comment on a note forwarding this letter to him reads: “No answer, 6/4/69.”
  3. Telegram 12608 to Taipei and Stockholm, January 28, not printed.
  4. The PRC’s adverse public reaction to Peng’s activities is summarized in “U.S.–Japanese Reactionaries Step Up ‘Taiwan Independence Movement’ Plot,” Beijing Review, March 6, 1970, pp. 21–22.
  5. There is no record of this matter being brought to the attention of the President.
  6. Green followed this course in his conversation with Chow on January 29, as reported in telegram 14335 to Taipei and Stockholm, January 29. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 519, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. III)