46. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • James C. H. Shen, Republic of China Ambassador to the United States
  • Henry Chen, Political Counselor, Embassy of the Republic of China
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • John A. Froebe, Jr., Staff Member, NSC


  • Rumored changes in ROC foreign policy, Dr. Kissinger’s planned Peking trip, possible high-level exchange of visits with ROC, current conditions in PRC, possible U.S. recognition of PRC

Ambassador Shen: It’s been five and one-half months since I’ve seen you.

Mr. Kissinger: That shows how good our relations are.

Ambassador Shen: I was in Taipei in March. Premier Chiang asked to be remembered to you. When I returned I saw Under Secretary Porter to assure him that there was absolutely no truth to the rumors making the rounds at that point—that we were in contact with the Soviets, and that we were undertaking discussions with the PRC.

Mr. Kissinger: What about the rumor that the Soviets were interested in establishing a naval base in the Pescadores Islands?

[Page 309]

Ambassador Shen: This rumor is merely the latest. It is true that the Pescadores have deep water and are suitable for subs, but the ROC will never permit a Soviet naval base there.

Mr. Kissinger: I’ve never been to Taipei.

Ambassador Shen: Then how about visiting there in the near future?

Mr. Kissinger: We’ll have to see later this year.

Ambassador Shen: When are you going to Peiping?

Mr. Kissinger: I’ve not set a date. I didn’t want to be there at the time of the Cambodian bombing halt. I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of my being in Peking at the time of the bombing halt.

Ambassador Shen: How are your relations with Peiping?

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t plan any major new initiatives in the near future. Our deputy in the Liaison Office there is returning soon.

Ambassador Shen: But if you are going to Peiping in the near future, isn’t it unusual that the deputy would be returning?

Mr. Kissinger: Not necessarily.

Ambassador Shen: How do you see the state of U.S.–ROC relations?

Mr. Kissinger: I think they are cordial, don’t you?

Ambassador Shen: In general I agree, but people have been talking because of the amount of attention that you have been showering on Huang Chen and his Liaison Office. You even look him out to San Clemente on a special jet.

Mr. Kissinger: That was to counterbalance the Russians. As to the flight, Huang took a regular courier flight, not a special flight.

Ambassador Shen: My understanding was that this was a special jet.

Mr. Kissinger: No, this was a regular courier flight; it goes out three times a week. We have taken others on this flight as well.

Ambassador Shen: But when Huang Chen was out there he was introduced to the movie stars. You haven’t done this for me.

Mr. Kissinger: That is true. You have a point there. But do we have any problems in our bilateral relations?

Ambassador Shen: People notice a cooling in the relationship. There is much pessimism in Taipei. People there fear that the U.S. and Peiping will recognize each other.

Mr. Kissinger: We have no plans to that effect. Didn’t I tell you a year ago that we would not be moving on recognition soon? I can assure you that it won’t come in the immediate future.

Ambassador Shen: The people noticed that when Secretary Rogers went to Japan and South Korea, he skipped Taipei. This causes the [Page 310] people to wonder. They are disturbed by the fact that no ranking U.S. officials have visited Taiwan in some time. It is as if there were a deliberate attempt to downgrade U.S.–ROC relations.

Mr. Kissinger: There is no deliberate attempt to downgrade our relationship. As to Secretary Rogers, I don’t control his travel.

Ambassador Shen: How about our Foreign Minister visiting the United States?

Mr. Kissinger: Let me consider this.

Ambassador Shen: The Premier has not visited the U.S. since he was shot at [in May 1970].

Mr. Kissinger: I will look into it. I see no basic obstacle in the Foreign Minister’s coming here. In the case of the Premier, however, I would have to consult the President’s schedule.

Ambassador Shen: The Premier would be able to sit down with you and the President for some basic discussions.

Mr. Kissinger: I will check.

Ambassador Shen: People on Taiwan are working hard to get ahead.

Mr. Kissinger: Everyone who has visited there is impressed.

Ambassador Shen: Premier Chiang is also seeing that more Taiwanese are taken into government ranks.

Mr. Kissinger: You have no contacts with Peking? I noticed that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited Taipei recently.

Ambassador Shen: Yes, Lee visited Taiwan about two months ago, but he is not acting as an intermediary.

Mr. Kissinger: Prime Minister Lee told me he would not go to Peking.

Ambassador Shen: My government has relations with Singapore. This was Lee’s first visit to Taiwan.

Mr. Kissinger: What are your impressions of the current conditions on the Mainland?

Ambassador Shen: I think in general they are quiet for now. The regime may hold the National People’s Congress in late September. The Party Congress, which is the important one of the two, would come earlier. What is your estimate on the timing?

Mr. Kissinger: Our intelligence had been saying that the Party Congress would be held in early August. This has obviously been overtaken. Now our intelligence is saying that the Party Congress will be held in late September. This just shows you how little they know.

Ambassador Shen: How is your Liaison Office in Peiping getting along?

[Page 311]

Mr. Kissinger: There is not much going on. the PRC is watching the United States. Possibly they are wondering whether the U.S. will have a cultural revolution.

Ambassador Shen: Will Chou En-lai come to New York for this fall’s General Assembly? He told Senator Magnuson recently that he would not come to Washington as long as the ROC’s Ambassador is here. But this does not exclude the possibility of New York.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t think he will come.

Ambassador Shen: Chou’s picture now seems to appear alongside of Mao’s in public.

Mr. Kissinger: We’ve noticed that they have dropped the “Great Leader” caption from Mao’s picture.

Ambassador Shen: But why should they change this now? I would think they would continue to call him the “Great Leader” until he is dead.

Mr. Kissinger: Someone just sent me a copy of the I-Ching.

Ambassador Shen: This is the right kind of book for you. This is one of our most valued classics.

What should Taiwan do now?

Mr. Kissinger: Anything that will symbolize your permanence. You are behaving very ably and skillfully.

Ambassador Shen: But we are just a little boat.

Mr. Kissinger: The U.S. won’t tolerate a military invasion of Taiwan. Besides, the PRC does not have the capability to pull off such an invasion.

Ambassador Shen: But what if the U.S. recognizes Peiping as the sole legitimate government of all China?

Mr. Kissinger: This will not happen unless Peking recognizes your separate existence. But the U.S. has no plans for recognizing Peking.

Ambassador Shen: Does U.S. recognition of Peiping mean automatic de-recognition of Taipei?

Mr. Kissinger: My trip to Peking will not result in U.S. recognition of the PRC.

Ambassador Shen: There is speculation that your trip to Peiping will achieve some settlement on the Cambodian situation. Your strong interest in a settlement there would appear to give Chou En-lai some leverage over you.

Mr. Kissinger: But Chou can’t wind up Cambodian hostilities.

Ambassador Shen: What will happen in Cambodia?

Mr. Kissinger: The Communists will probably win.

Ambassador Shen: How will this affect the settlement in Vietnam?

[Page 312]

Mr. Kissinger: Unfavorably.

Are you taking a vacation this summer?

Ambassador Shen: As I was just telling Jack [Froebe], when others leave town I have to stay on. I did, however, just get away this past week for a couple of days at St. Marys. You have taken no vacation?

Mr. Kissinger: I have no chance to at this point. I usually take some time off in the spring and go to Acapulco.

You can be sure that nothing startling will happen during my trip to Peking—and certainly nothing as regards Taiwan.

Ambassador Shen: We appreciate that very much. We believe we should begin trying to look down the road a distance.

Mr. Kissinger: You ought to consider the possibility that the PRC might decide to give in to dual recognition. After all, they have done some unusual things before.

Ambassador Shen: This is possible in the case of the U.S. in light of the clout which you have with Peiping. The Japanese were miffed at the exceptions Peiping made for you.

Mr. Kissinger: The Japanese behave treacherously towards you.

I can assure you, Mr. Ambassador, that it won’t take five and one-half months the next time.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 523, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. XI, Aug 1972–Oct 24, 1973. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place at the White House. All brackets are in the original. On August 18, Scowcroft approved this memorandum of conversation.(Memorandum from Froebe to Kissinger, August 18; ibid.) In response to a Department of State request for a copy, Kissinger wrote, “Don’t send anything.” (Note from Scowcroft to Kissinger, undated; ibid.)