89. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Canada1

19748. Following is based on uncleared memorandum of conversation, FYI, Noforn, subject to change on review.

1. Secretary called in Canadian Ambassador February 6 to express views of USG on way in which GOC intends to proceed in negotiating recognition and establishment relations with Communist Chinese. He asked that our views be conveyed to Ottawa as personal message to ExtAffMin Sharp.

2. Secretary made following main points:

(A) USG appreciated prompt notification of Canadian Cabinet’s decision to make contact with Communist Chinese. We understood that the initial approach was being made today, but hoped GOC could avoid a public statement on the substance of the talks.2

(B) Any implicit or explicit GOC acknowledgement of Peking sovereignty over Taiwan would pose serious problem for US. One way for GOC to deal with difficulty, Secretary added, would be to make formal denial of any such intent. Perhaps GOC would find it possible to make such a statement in reply to a question. It would be most helpful if they could do so.

(C) The Secretary asked if Canada had yet come to decision on Important Question matter at UN.3 This was a subject which Peking might raise in course of its negotiations with GOC. Secretary saw no need for any country to change its position on IQ; China had indicated it did not want to belong to UN and in fact wanted no part of organization. In [Page 381] light of foregoing, it seems curious other countries should insist on inviting Red China in.

Secretary emphasized it would be serious blow to UN if China, in these circumstances, became a member. He feared survival of whole organization might be at stake. If Red China changed its attitudes toward UN, it would be another matter.

Secretary noted that US financed UN in large part, that organization had fallen short of everyone’s hopes in effectiveness, and that American people might reject idea of UN if Peking now taken in.

Since UN question might arise in GOC’s negotiations with Peking, Secretary wanted to make sure Canada understood our views.

(D) Secretary asked why GOC could not in negotiations with Peking take the position it wanted to establish relations with Red Chinese but also wanted to maintain relations with GRC. Canadian action, otherwise, appeared to be matter of changing sides as there had been no change in factual situation.

(E) Ambassador Brown suggested Canadians were sometimes modest about the effect of their actions on others. Secretary agreed and said Canadian move would have major impact on world opinion.

(F) Ambassador Brown also expressed hope, which Secretary confirmed, that GOC would not yield on its relations with GRC too easily (1) without getting anything out of it for Canada, and (2) with bad effect on negotiations of others with Peking. The harder Canada played to get on issue, the better it would be for all.

3. Ambassador Ritchie in reply commented as follows:

(A) Canadian Ambassador in Stockholm had today been in touch with ChiCom colleague to arrange for talk February 8. At that meeting, Canadians did not plan to get into substance, but hoped simply to arrange the where and when for negotiations.

(B) ExtAffMin Sharp, who had been under pressure on subject, would make statement in Commons February 10 announcing contact had been made with Red Chinese with view to initiating talks. He would make every effort avoid question of future of Taiwan.

(C) Ritchie made distinction between explicit and implicit GOC support for Peking’s claim to Taiwan. GOC would not make explicit statement of support, but when a country recognizes one political body as the “Government of China,” it would be hard to recognize another making same claim. Canadians understood that recognition of Peking would mean break with Taiwan but he reiterated that does not imply acceptance of Red China’s sovereignty over Taiwan.

(D) Insofar as possible, GOC would protect position of Taiwan and would maintain relations with it to degree possible. GOC had no intention to hurt GRC needlessly.

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(E) Ministers have not considered possible Canadian position on UN representation but there would be problem of consistency. GOC would look at UN question in light its discussions with Peking.

(F) Ritchie could see US would want Canada to continue support on IQ. Regardless of IQ, GOC might feel it would have to vote for at least first part of “Albanian-type” resolution.4 (Ambassador Brown interjected to say expulsion of the GRC is the crucial part on this matter.) Ritchie emphasized once more that GOC had not yet arrived at decision on UN question. He said Canadians would be talking to US before issue again arises.

(G) Ritchie had reported to Ottawa concern expressed earlier by US on yielding relations with GRC too easily. He was sure GOC not going to volunteer or give up easily on relinquishing relations with Taiwan, but Canada had to face up to inevitability of diplomatic break with GRC at some point. Could not be serious in negotiations with Peking unless that fact accepted.

(H) Canada was making new move to recognize authority of those really in control of Mainland China. Only change in situation came as result of Canadian initiative to recognize fact and law of Red Chinese control. Changed attitude of GOC had obvious implications for Taiwan, though GOC would salvage what it could of ties with Taiwan. In time, Taiwan might come to have a diplomatic status of its own, perhaps if and when US got around to recognizing Peking.

(I) Canada had considered move for long time. GOC did not want Americans to think Canada siding with China or that US should follow Canadian lead. Canadian situation completely different, for example, Canada had been trading with China for a long time. Many Canadians thought it illogical to have trade and not relations, that is, not recognize what is there. Decision to move was not unfriendly act toward US but was being done for Canadian reasons.

4. In closing, Secretary again expressed appreciation to GOC for keeping us informed. Canadian initiative was a difficult one for us, but that did not change fact we were still friends. Secretary noted that the President was personally concerned over cascading effect Canadian action might have, and feared ultimate effect on UN.

5. It was agreed that if queried by press, neither side would say Ritchie had been called in solely to discuss Chinese issue, but rather had seen Secretary for general discussion. US would at some point have to say it had made its concern known to GOC. Furthermore, if [Page 383] Sharp queried along these lines in Commons February 10, he would reply US had made views known to Canada.

6. In brief subsequent conversation with Ambassador Brown, Ritchie said he would make clear to Ottawa US concern on IQ matter, and reiterated GOC would not formally acknowledge Peking claim to Formosa. He also repeated that public announcements of contacts with Chinese would so far as possible avoid issue of status of Taiwan.

7. For Taipei and Tokyo—Secretary probably will provide general outline of his conversation with Ritchie to Chinese Ambassador Chow who, at his request, will meet with Secretary morning February 7 to inform US of an action GRC plans take around February 10. Embassies Taipei and Tokyo authorized inform MOFA and FonOff on strictly confidential basis of major points in Secretary’s presentation (para 2 above).5

8. Info addressees—until GOC makes public announcement of initial contact, you requested continue hold in confidence details of GOC decision and substance Secretary’s presentation USG views. Instructions on discussing these subjects with host governments after February 10 under preparation.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 670, Country Files—Europe, Canada, Vol. I. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by J.L. Carson (EUR/CAN), cleared in S/S, and approved in EA. Also sent to Taipei and Tokyo and repeated to Bangkok, Canberra, Seoul, Wellington, Luxembourg, Stockholm, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, the Mission to the EC, and USUN. A copy was included in the President’s daily briefing for February 8. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Briefing)
  2. Initial notification took place in the course of a Ritchie-Brown conversation on January 31. A memorandum of conversation is ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 16 CHICOM.
  3. Items placed before the U.N. General Assembly and designated as “Important Questions” required a two-thirds vote for passage. In 1961, the United States co-sponsored a resolution making the issue of Chinese representation an Important Question. (U.N. Res. 1668 (XVI) adopted December 15, 1961)
  4. Since 1963, the Albanian Delegation to the United Nations had annually introduced a resolution that would expel the Republic of China and seat the People’s Republic of China in its place.
  5. In telegram 20761 to Taipei, February 8, the Department of State reported that during his meeting with Rogers, the Chinese Ambassador had urged the United States to act to prevent Canadian recognition. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 16 CHICOM)