173. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to the Republic of China (Unger) to Secretary of State Vance and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

Ref: WH81623.2 At about 2:20 a.m. local time I met with President Chiang who had Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Fred Ch’ien and Private Secretary James Soong also present. I read the message contained ref White House tel, the U.S. unilateral statement and the joint communiqué. I gave special emphasis to our desire to continue a constructive relationship with Taiwan.

President Chiang took my presentation very badly and predicted the gravest consequences: He said it was “totally impossible” that U.S. [Page 655] “solution” would lead to internal stability and continuing development of Taiwan; that our recognizing the PRC Government as the sole legal government of China and acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China in effect turns Taiwan over to the PRC, that the U.S. decision itself is dishonest and the U.S. will lose the confidence of the people of the ROC and of other countries of the world; he made solemn declaration that there will be dire consequences on Taiwan for which the U.S. must bear the responsibility. CCK said bitterly that in past he had great confidence in U.S. and never imagined U.S. would proceed in this way. To make such a tremendous decision and give the GROC only seven hours’ notice and no opportunity for discussion; as a result and because he must inform his people he could give no assurances that he would say nothing prior to our announcement of the communiqués, etc.

I reiterated our conviction that normalization could be positive in its effects and that we intended to work with Taiwan to preserve and expand our constructive relationship; I cited weapons supply inter alia.

I hoped the President would say or do nothing which would make it difficult for this to take place and I urged him not to make any public statements before the time of release. While he did not agree, he referred to his need for deep thought and study of the critical problems the U.S. action has raised.

Comment: I have only limited confidence that there is anything we can do now to deter CCK from a sharply negative reaction. He did not have the opportunity I have always strongly advocated to adjust his own thinking, line up his leadership to take the shock constructively, and confirm that he can still manage the U.S. relationship. It might be that he could be brought to look at the situation more constructively if he should receive an immediate message from the President. This could briefly explain the need for our proceeding rapidly and with so little notice and take account of his chagrin on this score and could express again our desire and intention of continuing a productive relationship with a secure and prosperous Taiwan in the future. It might also help to restore CCK’s prestige in the eyes of his government and people.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 45, Meetings: 12/14–17/78. Top Secret; Flash; Eyes Only; Via Private Channels; Alpha.
  2. See Document 171.