132. Action Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (East Asia and Pacific Region) (Armacost) to Secretary of Defense Brown 1

SUBJECT

  • Military Attitudes Towards Taiwan and Normalization

As the pace of our efforts to complete the normalization process quickens, it will become increasingly important to assure that your senior military advisers are supportive of the Administration’s policy. In this connection there are some indications that suggest it would be prudent to begin discussions with the Chiefs for the purpose of avoiding future misunderstandings about the thrust and pace of U.S. policy toward China.

Since 1972, the U.S. has gradually but consistently reduced our military contacts with Taiwan in accordance with the Shanghai Communique. These steps have signalled to the PRC our commitment to Shanghai Communique principles while “conditioning” the ROC to the expectation that we will eventually normalize diplomatic relations with Peking and withdraw all military forces and installations from the island.

In recent weeks there have been disquieting indications that some senior military commanders evidently question this policy. The U.S. Navy considered raising the question of reinstituting nuclear powered warships (NPW) visits to Taiwan—a practice stopped about six years ago. The Navy also pressed for an expansion of the ROC midshipmen’s cruise from Hawaii to the West Coast, and challenged a decision not to send a Mobile Training Team to Taiwan to conduct training in amphibious warfare. There has also been a proposal to have several high ranking ROC military officers flown out to the Enterprise. I understand that Admiral Weisner is again contemplating a request for permission to visit Taiwan despite earlier turndowns. In addition I am told Mickey has invited Admiral Linder, Commander of the Taiwan Defense Command, to participate in the observance of the ROK’s Armed Forces Day in Seoul in October.

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Assuming that these are not isolated incidents—and given the pace of normalization—I believe steps must be taken expeditiously to ensure that U.S. military leaders fully understand and support our China policy.

As a first step, I suggest that you meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the near future to discuss our China policy. This would provide an occasion to restate the Administration’s commitment to the normalization of US–PRC relations, discuss the potential strategic benefits that will flow from normalization, and enable you to reemphasize the corollary—the inevitable reduction of our military contacts with Taiwan.

At some future date you might also want to bring them up-to-date, on a close hold basis, on the normalization issue, though this would certainly require prior coordination with the White House.

I am raising this issue now because I firmly believe that we need to begin bringing the military on-board. If we do not, we risk future trouble not to mention the obvious risk of another Singlaub affair.

Recommendation:

That you schedule an early session with the Chiefs on China. (We will be happy to furnish background and talkers).

With your concurrence, I will talk to Mickey Weisner to see that Admiral Linder does not participate in the ROK Armed Forces Day ceremonies.2

Michael H. Armacost 3
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–81–0202, China (Reds) 092. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Stamped “SecDef has seen” and “8 Sep 1978.” At the top of the page, Brown wrote, “7/8. Show to Dep Sec, U Sec Pol, ASD ISA.” Next to that is a handwritten note by an unknown person that indicates that copies of the memorandum were sent to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
  2. Brown initialed his approval of the recommendation and wrote, “9/8.”
  3. Armacost signed “Mike Armacost” above this stamped signature.