53. Notes on a Conversation Between Secretary of State Kissinger and the Ambassador to the Republic of China (McConaughy)1

(At some point HAK said he would not bring up Taiwan when he goes to Peking. Would focus on Soviets, Indochina and other topics.)

W [Walter]—greetings, congratulations on job. Grateful for fact of meeting, because it will be important for U.S.–ROC relations.

K—Give special regards to CCK and others. There is no people I regard more highly than those of Taiwan. I regret that the Chinese on Taiwan have suffered some blows, and my heart bled that we had to take the actions we did. If we had not, the U.S. would have been torn apart. We had to move on this in 1971 (in order to de-fuse the Vietnam issue so that we could proceed toward a Vietnam settlement at our own pace).

We are not turning our backs on Taiwan, and this attitude has not and will not change.

However we are moving inexorably toward full recognition of Peking, which is bound to come by 1980 at the latest. There may be some initial moves earlier, perhaps in 1975. But we will not press Taiwan to the wall. Our movements will include guaranteed enforceable [Page 324] provisions for ensuring continued separate status for Taiwan if that is what Taiwan wants.

W—This of course assumes no provocative acts by Taiwan, such as an announcement of separate status.

K—That is true; there should be no provocations, but in a de facto way they can go their separate way. If we move, we will build in assurances so that Taiwan will not automatically fall into mainland hands. For instance we might arrange so that the US-Taiwan defense treaty does not lapse, or if it does lapse that there could be automatic restoration of the treaty under certain circumstances.

(He then criticized Japan’s devious game toward Taiwan, in counting on us to preserve, and getting a free ride without helping to bear the burden. The Japanese suggested in 1972 (Walter thinks Tanaka at Kuilima) that Japan could represent US interests in Peking in return for US representation of Japan on Taiwan.)

W—Hope there will not be a determined economic squeeze by Peking on Taiwan.

K—I discount this, and doubt the PRC will go all out to stifle Taiwan trade. If these is such a move, to make Taiwan non-viable, the Japanese might take steps, and we would also.

W—Reminded Kissinger of Pres Nixon’s statements of Walter’s mission in repeated statements of 1969–72—that is, hand-holding the GRC, and reassuring them. I assume these instructions still stand.

K—Yes indeed. I am well aware of those statements and I am sure the President still wants them to be operative. Now I want you to know that of course we will maintain an Amb in Taipei, and we will replace you after you leave. There have been rumors here and on Taiwan that we would not, but they are not true. I understand you are rather disposed to retire.

W—Yes, but I am not pushing. I’ve been there a long time and I’m past normal retirement age. I would like to leave in the reasonable future.

K—No time yet to focus on Ambs. Realize long time for you. I will soon focus.

W—Maybe next Spring would be good for me. Give time for leisurely departure, but of course could be earlier if you want.

  1. Source: Department of State, Papers of William H. Gleysteen: Lot 89 D 436, Box 8132, PRC Related Papers 1973. Eyes Only. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office. Arthur Hummel, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, prepared these notes based on McConaughy’s account of the meeting. Kissinger initially refused to meet with McConaughy or to authorize that Nixon meet with him. (Memorandum from Froebe to Kissinger, August 22; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 527, Country Files, Far East, People’s Republic of China, Vol. 8, July 10–Dec 31, 1973) Hummel, with the support of Eagleburger and Pickering, convinced Kissinger to reconsider by suggesting that a refusal to meet with McConaughy might weaken the position of Jiang Jingguo and lead Taiwan to pursue a more independent foreign policy. (Memorandum from Pickering to Kissinger, September 30; ibid., RG 59, EAP ROC Files: Lot 76 D 441, PER 17–Amb. McConaughy, 1973)