64. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Shen’s Call on the Secretary
[Page 444]


  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador James C. H. Shen, Republic of China
  • Minister Henry Chen, Republic of China Embassy
  • Roger W. Sullivan, Director, Republic of China Affairs, EA/ROC

Ambassador Shen began the meeting by noting the Secretary had spent more time in Peking than in any other country. The Secretary commented that he had spent three days in Peking but that this had always been planned. The other stops were added. He reminded Shen that he had intended to visit Peking in August but that the timing of the trip kept slipping.

Ambassador Shen asked how the visit had gone. The Secretary responded that the Communiqué said everything there was to say, and that there was no substantial change from previous visits. Our statement on Taiwan repeated the section in the Shanghai Communiqué. The Peking statement on Taiwan was somewhat different but, the Secretary said, he had not had a chance to explore what it meant since it was put in on the last day. When Shen asked why the PRC had added that sentence at the last moment, the Secretary said he did not know and asked Shen what he thought. Shen said that he could not say since he was not there, but wondered about the significance of the difference between the PRC statement in this communiqué and the earlier longer and more detailed statement in the Shanghai Communiqué. The Secretary noted that the statement “normalization of relations can be accomplished on the basis of confirming the principle of one China” did not say that we had to withdraw our military forces or break diplomatic relations with the ROC.

The Secretary then asked again what Shen thought; “You have a Chinese mind, what does it mean to you?” Ambassador Shen responded that they want the U.S. to do something to confirm that there is one China. The Secretary then said that he had not discussed the statement with the Chinese, adding only that Premier Chou En-lai had said it was a new point. The Secretary emphasized that it was not an agreed point but a PRC statement and reiterated that he would have to study it.

Ambassador Shen asked why the U.S. statement in this Communiqué had not repeated the Shanghai Communiqué expression of interest in a peaceful settlement. The Secretary assured him this had no significance. The U.S. is absolutely firm on the defense commitment, the Secretary continued, and we have made that abundantly clear.

Referring to the Secretary’s banquet toast, Ambassador Shen noted that the Secretary had assured the Chinese that U.S.–PRC friendship would be a constant factor in U.S. foreign policy. Shen wondered why the Secretary had given this assurance and whether Chou had made a [Page 445] similar pledge. The Secretary said that Chou had given substantially the same assurances and commented that surely Ambassador Shen would not have expected him to say that there would be a change in our policy. In response to Shen’s question about stability on the mainland and possible PRC concern that U.S. China policy could change under a new administration, the Secretary said that there was some concern about what future administrations might do. As for the stability of the PRC, “What can you say when the leaders are 75 and 79.” He added that he had no idea who would be the next PRC head of State.

Shen then asked what would happen next in U.S.–PRC relations. The Secretary assured him that nothing dramatic is going to happen and that the U.S. has no immediate intention and no plan to do anything. Shen commented to the Secretary that in an earlier conversation he had said that there would be no change until 1974 and asked if the timetable had been changed. The Secretary reminded Shen that 1974 is only a month away, but reiterated that there was no timetable. His reference to 1974 was just a general statement. The newspapers have picked up the idea of diplomatic relations, the Secretary continued, but the idea that we are compulsively seeking diplomatic relations is “nonsense.” “What difference does it make?” he asked, “We have as much exchange as we need.”

Ambassador Shen then asked if the Secretary had seen the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement on his trip. The Secretary said he had and that he found it fairly mild. Shen commented that the ROC could make it stronger if it was what we wished. He then asked what expanding the functions of the Liaison Office would include. The Secretary noted that we had no trade or commercial attachés there now and that expanding the functions would include things like that. In response to Shen’s question, he added that we were not thinking in terms of military attachés. Shen then asked if the reference in the Communiqué to frequent high-level contact meant that there would be high-level visits from Peking to the U.S. The Secretary pointed out that Shen had drafted enough communiqués to know that not everything in them means something concrete. He added, however, that he did not intend to go to Peking as frequently as he had up until now.

Asked where this leaves us, the Secretary replied that this leaves us where we were before. the PRC’s major concern is the USSR not Taiwan. Taiwan was barely discussed. When asked to confirm that the U.S. was moving in the direction of diplomatic relations, the Secretary said “by little steps at a time.” Shen then asked how many more steps there were to take. The Secretary responded that we have no plan and that he did not see it coming in 1974. He repeated that the PRC has more pressing problems which preoccupy them more than Taiwan. He [Page 446] noted that he had seen Mao Tse-tung three times. During the second meeting there had been no mention of Taiwan. In his last meeting it was mentioned, but with no sense of urgency. Commenting on the Secretary’s statement that it was the Soviet Union that preoccupied the Chinese, Shen asked if he was also concerned about the Soviet Union. The Secretary replied that he was not as concerned as the PRC is and observed that they never dug air raid shelters when we were confronting them.

The Secretary again asked Shen what the Communiqué meant to him. Shen said that they want the U.S. to do something to confirm the principle of one China and then in time they would take care of Taiwan either unilaterally or with U.S. acquiescence. The Secretary dismissed this as “impossible.”

Ambassador Shen then observed that the ROC would like some reassurance from the U.S. He said that he had nothing specific in mind but asked if the Secretary would consider some expression or gesture of support. The Secretary said that after dealing in the same year with the Arabs and Israelis and three kinds of Vietnamese, he had no new ideas to suggest. Emphasizing the need for reassurances, Ambassador Shen commented that before the Secretary went to Peking, there were some people in Taipei who thought that he would establish diplomatic relations. When the Secretary observed that Taipei should be relieved that he did not, Shen noted that the Secretary had said that he intended to complete the process. The Secretary replied that this would not occur rapidly or in the next few weeks or months. He repeated that he did not have the same compulsion as the press. Before leaving for Peking he said he told the press he had no intention of establishing diplomatic relations on this trip. Shen commented that he could understand that the Secretary could not put a time limit on this U.S. position and emphasized that his own government had every intention of remaining friends and allies of the U.S. In reply, the Secretary reiterated that we have no plans to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC and that we will not give up the defense commitment.

Once the U.S. recognizes the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China, Shen asked, how could the U.S. maintain a defense treaty with part of a country? The Secretary replied that there may be many variations to this interesting question but reminded Shen that it is the PRC which feels the need to move toward diplomatic relations. We are not spending sleepless nights on this issue. Asked if he thought the PRC was spending sleepless nights on this issue, the Secretary replied, “Probably not;” they are pretty cold-blooded and do only enough to satisfy their domestic requirements.

Shen asked for the Secretary’s advice on what the ROC should do. The Secretary responded that the ROC has pursued a wise policy, showing [Page 447] great restraint and wisdom. Painful as it may be, the ROC should continue this policy. He said he had no other suggestions.

Turning again to the PRC statement in the Communiqué on confirming the principle of one China, Shen asked the Secretary what his “Chinese advisers” thought it meant. The Secretary replied that his Chinese advisers did not know a damned thing. The statement may mean we can keep diplomatic relations with the ROC as long as we acknowledge that there is but one China, he said. On the other hand it may mean nothing. The Secretary added, however, that in his experience such PRC statements usually mean something. They are very subtle. Asked if he thought the Chinese considered him subtle, the Secretary commented that by Chinese standards they probably think he is of average intelligence which is a great compliment. The Secretary went on to say he wanted to explore what the Chinese meant by confirming the principle of one China. This will take time, he continued, and even when we find out what they want, we won’t necessarily do it.

The Secretary ended the conversation by noting that after meetings such as he had in Peking, often nothing happens for a while. He noted in this connection that Ambassador Huang Chen had just returned home.

  1. Source: Department of State, Papers of William H. Gleysteen: Lot 89 D 436, Box 8132, PRC Related Papers 1973. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Sullivan and cleared by Hummel. The meeting took place in the office of the Secretary of State.