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8. Telegram From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State 1

643. Subject: GRC Force Reorganization/Reduction/Modernization. Ref: State 019013.2

I made presentation on USG thinking on GRC force reorganization/reduction/modernization to Defense Minister Chiang Ching-Kuo late afternoon March 4. I was accompanied by Admiral Chew, General Ciccolella and DCM Armstrong.3 I had requested the appointment on Feb. 28, and date was set at the end of my conversation March 3 with the Minister regarding his recent trip to Korea (Taipei 06174). I had identified to him the general subject I wished to discuss, without of course going into any of the substance of our views. Although I indicated to Minister at that time that I would be accompanied by others mentioned above, only other Chinese present was Gen Wen, his usual interpreter and note-taker.
In presenting our thoughts, I closely followed all of the points in reftel (with the explanation of the US $5 million FMS credit modified per subsequent telegrams5). In leading into the presentation I emphasized the very careful study given to the matter by senior levels in [Page 19]Washington. Throughout the 25-minute presentation I gave full emphasis to those points which made most evident the tangible benefits which the GRC could anticipate from the procedures we were proposing. I also emphasized our realization that primary responsibility for decision on force reorganization rested with the GRC and that our proposal of course was not intended to encroach in any way on ROC governmental responsibilities. At end of presentation I called on Admiral Chew and General Ciccolella, as we had agreed beforehand, and each of them briefly stated his desire to cooperate fully in the suggested procedures.
CCK listened closely to the presentation without comment. At end he said he would like clarification of one point in my remarks: was a decision on the helicopter co-production proposal conditional on the reorganization of the armed forces. (During my presentation, CCK had requested General Wen to interpret into Chinese only that portion of my remarks dealing with the helicopter project and the 5 million FMS credit.) I replied that I was not sure of the meaning of his question. I commented that perhaps he was asking whether a favorable USG decision on the helicopter project was contingent on GRC accepting our proposal for a joint consultative committee. If so, we were not establishing any such condition but we believed that consideration of the project in the joint committee discussions would facilitate a decision.
CCK then said that although he had mentioned the matter of force reorganization to General Ciccolella and to me in the past, it was an internal GRC matter.6 Because of the friendly relationships that existed, he had solicited MAAG’s ideas. He said that establishment of a joint consultative committee would have important adverse “political” implications. It would be a departure from past practice, under which the Ministry had made its views known directly to MAAG and solicited MAAG comments. CCK then said that he does not concur in the proposal to establish a joint consultative committee and hopes that the USG will not pursue the proposal. Instead, planning should proceed in the same manner as in the past. He said that this was not only his own view but he was confident that it was also the view of his government. He said that he also believes that the establishment of such a joint committee would not be to the advantage of the US.
He then turned to the helicopter co-production project.7 He said that if his impression of the US position was correct, that is, that in the absence of force reorganization the US would not concur in the project, then this is a “most unfriendly” position. The GRC had made this proposal long ago, and there is no question about the need for it and its importance. He said that he did not see why lengthy discussions were required and he hoped the question of force reorganization and the helicopter proposal could be treated separately.
I replied that I thought the Minister had misinterpreted my remarks, as I had not said that a favorable decision on the helicopter proposal was directly tied to force reorganization. I reminded him that he had raised with us the question of force reorganization. I said that the USG was not yet prepared to make a decision on the helicopter project and that we believed that the joint consultative committee would be a good forum in which to examine the matter further. I said that if the joint consultative committee is not established, USG would still give full consideration to the helicopter proposal. However, I thought it unlikely in view of the scope of the questions involved, that the project could be approved this fiscal year. In order not to prejudice the decision, we were suggesting that the GRC use the remaining $5 million of the $20 million of FY 69 FMS credit for other mutually agreed high priority items and the USG would reserve $5 million of FY 70 FMS credit on the same basis as in FY 69. I reiterated that in any event, the USG would continue to give careful consideration to the helicopter project. The military need for helicopters was recognized, and the US Mission here was prepared to assist the GRC in assuring that the full case for the helicopter project was placed before Washington.
In view of the strongly negative and obviously deeply felt position CCK had taken on the idea of a joint consultative committee, I decided that further argumentation in that meeting would only exacerbate the problem. As it was obvious that CCK did not desire to elaborate his comments, I moved towards terminating the conversation. I had taken with me an Official Informal-style letter to CCK incorporating almost verbatim the points in para 8 of reftel. In view of CCK’s allergic reaction I decided not to leave this letter since it might constrain him to make a written negative reply which would serve no useful purpose. Instead, I offered to have sent over to General Wen my talking [Page 21]paper. We did so that evening, using the exact text of the letter minus the conventional opening and closing paragraphs.
It is regrettable that CCK reacted to our presentation in this manner. Since he reacted so immediately, explicitly, and forcefully, and since he mentioned with assurance “the views of his government”, I am inclined to suspect that he must have received some prior intimation of the nature of our proposal. In any event, he made his emphatically negative reaction unmistakably clear and conspicuously avoided giving any impression that he wished to give the matter further consideration or discuss it at a later date.
Obviously our proposal for a joint consultative committee touched a very sensitive nerve related to Chinese pride and notions of sovereign prerogatives. CCK may well have felt that we were attempting to obtain a greater influence over GRC planning for its armed forces than we now exert through long established procedures. It is also possible that whatever his own views, he would consider it very difficult for him to justify concurrence with our proposal to the President, armed forces, and key members of the party and the Legislative Yuan.
Since above drafted Pol Counselor had luncheon with Gen. Bat Wen, who promptly broached this subject. After Pol Counselor had reiterated our rationale for joint committee proposal, Wen commented on CCK’s negative reaction to proposed joint consultative committee. He said Defense Minister was completely opposed to idea. Wen said CCK concerned about motives behind US proposal. He is inclined to believe US more interested in force reduction than modernization or anything else. Gen. Wen recalled long history of US efforts persuade GRC to reduce size of its army. He recalled serious loss of influence and transfer of Chinese like Gen. Tiger Wang of CAF, who on US urging had tried in late 1950s to achieve reduction in GRC armed forces. Gen. Wen said CCK in advocating force reorganization had already taken exposed position and was vulnerable to criticism from the President and opposition from army elements. CCK, however, was trying to counter this opposition by advocating modernization and increased firepower along with force reorganization (reduction). CCK felt that formation of joint committee would make him even more vulnerable. What is more, Gen. Wen said, CCK did not want to have representatives from GRC economic or other ministries involved in or aware of MND plans, including force reduction. CCK felt his courage in advocating force reorganization (including reduction) under present circumstances was not fully appreciated by us. In response to question about CCK’s hasty reaction to Ambassador’s proposal, Gen. Wen said CCK had foreknowledge of general proposals to be discussed, and had consulted with others (Wen implied President Chiang) prior to meeting. Therefore, CCK’s response was not premature answer given [Page 22]without full consideration US position, but represented considered opinion based partly on factors mentioned above.
As to the main question concerning where we go from here on force reorganization and helicopter project, there is precious little if any prospect that CCK will reverse his position. We should consider whether we can by other means achieve some of the objectives we envisioned for the joint committee. Some preliminary thoughts on these questions will be embodied septel.8
Department requested repeat to Defense, JCS and CINCPAC.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF CHINAT. Secret; Exdis.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 1.
  3. Vice Admiral John L. Chew, USN, U.S. Taiwan Defense Command; Major General R.G. Ciccolella, USA, Chief, MAAG; and Oscar Vance Armstrong, Deputy Chief of Mission.
  4. Telegram 617 from Taipei, March 3, reported on a conversation between McConaughy and Chiang Ching-Kuo concerning the latter’s visit to the Republic of Korea, February 24–28. (National Archives, Nixon Presidental Materials, NSC Files, Box 518, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. I)
  5. In telegram 591 from Taipei, February 28, the Embassy requested clarification of telegram 19013 to Taipei. Specifically the Embassy wanted to know whether the United States would provide data on projected military assistance to the ROC prior to the development of a force reorganization plan, and whether the Departments of State and Defense were seeking a reduction in the “absolute level of military expenditures.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 6 CHINAT) In joint telegram 33064 to Taipei, March 4, the Departments of State and Defense replied that such data should be made available and that “our minimum objective is to persuade GRC to develop force reorganization/reduction plan which, while meeting essential defensive requirements, stabilizes defense expenditures as close to current ratio of GNP as possible. If GRC can develop plan which will meet those requirements at reduced ratio of defense expenditures to GNP, thus freeing resources for more constructive uses, so much the better and we would wish to encourage GRC to make serious effort in that direction.” (Ibid., DEF 19 CHINAT)
  6. McConaughy and Chiang Ching-Kuo held preliminary discussions on several occasions in early 1969. As reported in telegram 362 from Taipei, February 5, the Defense Minister “told me [McConaughy] GRC intended to both reorganize its armed forces and to reduce their strength.” (Ibid., DEF 6 CHINAT)
  7. Chiang Ching-Kuo attempted to tie United States assistance for helicopter production to force reorganization/reduction, telling McConaughy “that GRC continues to think about possibilities of force reorganization and reduction in context of compensatory modernization of material.” Reported in telegram 529 from Taipei, February24. (Ibid.) Requests for assistance for the helicopter co-production project often occurred in tandem with requests for F–4 aircraft. See footnote 2, Document 1.
  8. McConaughy further elucidated his views in telegram 708 from Taipei, March 11. He wrote, “Despite his [Chiang Ching-Kuo’s] rejection of the joint committee idea, I believe that the decision that MAAG should not formally present a full-fledged reorganization plan to the GRC is a sound one, and General Ciccolella agrees.” McConaughy informed the Department of State that he and his staff would attempt to introduce “gradually and informally” the major elements of the reorganization plan through MAAG and Ministry of National Defense channels. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 6 CHINAT)