314. Telegram From the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan to the Washington Office of the American Institute in Taiwan1

3666. Subject: Some thoughts on Taiwan.

1. (S/NF—entire text)

2. Summary. There is no formal policy statement concerning Taiwan, and we believe there should be none; however, we should be thinking about some areas of concern lest we drift into actions which hurt U.S. interests. We have been acting according to three guidelines: Making sure actions concerning Taiwan do not impede development of relations with the PRC, maintaining substantive ties with Taiwan including expanding trade as set forth in the TRA and helping to preserve the stability of Taiwan. The first has required attention to style. The second has proceeded well as trade statistics show. The third has now boiled down to maintaining confidence of the people and KMT leadership in the island’s future which to a large part has been symbolically dependent upon the sale of defensive weapons and our nuclear cooperation. The latter has been handled very quietly and has worked well; the handling of military sales has been accompanied with more public attention, and a lowering of the level of debate concerning the follow-on aircraft would serve our overall China policy.

Another aspect of stability on Taiwan is the development of Taiwan’s sense of identity and of a place in the world order, which would be furthered by Taiwan’s wider participation in regional security and economic development. The U.S. previously somewhat shared Taiwan’s concern about a PRC threat, but the threat is now reduced and there have now been many changes, such as the increased Soviet naval presence, its use of Vietnamese bases, the increased importance and vulnerability of the sea lanes of communication for Japan and South Korea. Taiwan is apparently discussing these matters with some favorably disposed Japanese individuals, who see connections between Taiwan’s and Japanese security. These Japanese worry about Taiwan’s being in unfriendly hands and believe that Japan’s interests would best be served by the realities of Taiwan remaining what they are now. As [Page 1126] for the U.S., although any sort of formal scheme is completely out, it should be possible to weave Taiwan with its military capabilities and facilities into our own unilateral thinking about the Western Pacific. Taiwan is involved in regional economic development, and the leadership appears to see advantages in expanding Taiwan’s role. The U.S. should favor such non-official involvement since it will help maintain Taiwan’s self confidence and may even provide a future opportunity for regional cooperation including both the PRC and Taiwan.

I stress again the inadvisability of a U.S. participation in the settlement of the Taiwan issue. Some intelligence reports of PRC views on reunification include the hope, if not the expectation, that the U.S. would assist in some way under the assumption that the U.S. has such a capability; such reasoning is dangerous for the U.S., particularly when combined with the line that U.S. arms sales remove pressures on the KMT for negotiations. Accepting PRC reasoning and cutting arms sales would meet with Congressional opposition and would also decrease rather than increase the will and the ability of the Taiwan leadership to deal with the PRC. U.S. participation in reconciliation would be seriously destabilizing in Taiwan under current circumstances given Taiwanese opposition to a “sell-out” by a U.S./KMT combination. The U.S. foreign affairs bureaucracy and political system are not well adapted to playing in this kind of a Chinese league.

In their own Chinese way the peaceful modus operandi between Taiwan and PRC is being extended, in part because of the KMT’s confidence in the new American relationship. Trade, direct personal contacts, etc., are expanding, and, as in the case of the earlier stand-down of military confrontation in the Strait, new arrangements could be worked out quietly by the Chinese themselves provided the Taiwan leadership acts out of self assurance.

In sum, the essence of our diplomacy with Taiwan is instilling confidence in the people and leadership in the durability, reliability and profitability of the new relationship with the U.S. based on the TRA. Given the unofficial relationship, there is a great emphasis on style, particularly in handling efforts by the Chinese in Taiwan and their American supporters to revise the relationship. Lapses in style may detract from Congressional support for matters of substance in our overall China policy. Principles which should guide us while the Chinese work out peaceful solutions to Taiwan questions are: Maintaining the credibility of our commitment that the settlement will be peaceful; helping maintain the confidence of people and leadership in the future by reinforcing Taiwan’s perception of a firm relationship with the U.S.; given the preceding U.S. actions and involvement in regional economic [Page 1127] development and security, Taiwan will have the capacity to deal with the PRC realistically. End summary.2

[Omitted here is the body of the telegram.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P880139–1495. Secret; Nodis; Noforn.
  2. The Embassy in Beijing responded in telegram 7251, August 5, which argued, “We feel it is premature to try to address fundamental questions concerning Taiwan’s future strategic posture at a time when the impact of normalization on the Taiwan/PRC relationship is just beginning to be felt and when it is much too early to predict what if any changes are likely to emerge from the new realities created by our shift in recognition to Beijing. We have always assumed that time would be required for this process to work. In the meantime, we have opted out of any direct use of Taiwan’s military facilities and are committed only to maintaining a sufficient self-defense capacity for Taiwan against threats that have always been presumed to emanate from the PRC. It would seem self-evident to us under these circumstances that we should only address the question of an altered strategic posture for Taiwan as a function of future developments in relations between Taiwan and the Mainland. If we start trying to define a new defense role for Taiwan before the nature of the post-normalization Taiwan/PRC modus vivendi is discernible, we shall merely be creating potential contradictions in our policy which could conflict with our professed willingness not to impede any peaceful solution to the Taiwan question acceptable to the parties themselves.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P870123–0765)