39. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1


I. Overview

This memorandum assesses the likely short-term reaction to normalization of US–PRC relations by Asian states, the Soviet Union and in other selected regions with notable but less direct interests in the issue. We believe that US actions vis-a-vis Taiwan in the normalization process would not lead to any immediate policy shifts inimical to the US. The extent to which suspicions of US staying power and credibility eventually would take hold would depend largely on Taiwan’s ability to survive politically and economically and on future US steps to maintain itself as an active and effective Western Pacific power. The circumstances and conditions of a normalization understanding between the PRC and US nonetheless will be important in shaping the long as well as short term reaction.

For the purpose of this analysis, the following scenario is assumed as having taken place. In normalizing relations with the PRC, the United States has:

—withdrawn all forces from Taiwan;

—withdrawn all official representation from Taiwan;

—considered the Security Treaty with the ROC as automatically lapsing.

At the same time, the US has:

—continued to assure a supply of arms to Taiwan either directly or indirectly;

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—stated that it assumes that any resolution of the Taiwan issue will be peaceful, that it will continue to watch the situation, and whatever happens can affect future relationships in Asia;

—established unofficial trade and economic missions in Taiwan after withdrawing official representatives;

—recommended legislation to allow the extension of EXIM Bank loans to the ROC in the future and has taken other measures to facilitate trade and investment.

An important underlying factor in our assessment is a generally held international perception that US–PRC normalization would be the culmination of a process that has been underway—although fitfully—for more than six years. Most of the countries that found it necessary to undertake major adjustments in their foreign policies as a result of the surprise rapprochement between Washington and Peking have now completed the process. For example, more than 50 countries have opened diplomatic relations with Peking since 1971 when Peking replaced Taipei in the United Nations. At present some 34 countries, many in Latin America, have no ties with Peking. About 20 of these states could opt quickly for relations with Peking following US–PRC normalization.

Many nations, however, would make a distinction between better Sino-US relations, which they would welcome, and the ending of the official US relationship with Taiwan, which could sow further seeds of doubt about the reliability of the United States. This would be especially true in East Asia where all non-Communist states continue to see American credibility and presence as essential elements of stability in Southeast and Northeast Asia. The lapsing of a formal US security commitment to Taiwan would serve to reinforce the image of the US as a withdrawing power and would be viewed in some quarters as the latest development in a sequence of events including the withdrawal of US military presence from Indochina and Thailand and the announced US force reduction in Korea.

Despite such concerns, the official reaction to normalization would be generally positive. Most Asian states hope that normalization would provide Peking with further incentive to continue to build constructive and conventional state-to-state relations in the region rather than to revert to either a more subversive or chauvinistic approach. To this end, most East Asian capitals have already made their own rapprochement with Peking and virtually all appear to consider the breaking of official ties and commitments between the US and Taiwan as an inevitable part of the process of Sino-US normalization. They would assume that Sino-US normalization would in most respects amount to a change of form rather than substance in terms of both Taiwan’s viability and Chinese policy in the region. Concern about Chinese power and intentions [Page 121] would persist, however, especially among the non-Communist states of Southeast Asia.

Despite the fact that normalization has been anticipated well in advance by nearly all governments, and would be quietly approved by most, the act itself would be greeted with considerable concern on the part of a few nations with strong and quite different interests at stake. Among these, of course, would be the Soviet Union, which would see such a US move as carrying important anti-Soviet implications. Seoul and Tel Aviv share with Taipei relatively exposed positions and heavy dependence on the United States. Although both countries might be more apprehensive about the US commitments to them, they nonetheless appear to recognize that their own situations differ in important ways from that of Taiwan and the state of their own relations with the US would be the decisive factor.

[Omitted here is the body of the memorandum.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 62, PRC 019, 6/27/77, (PRC China)–PRM 24 [1]. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. Sent to Brzezinski under a July 27 covering memorandum from Bowie. (Ibid.) The memorandum was prepared in response to the request at the June 27 meeting of the Policy Review Committee for an estimate of the global reaction to normalization of U.S.–PRC relations; see Document 34. In a July 7 memorandum to DCI Turner, Brzezinski specified that the estimate make four assumptions: 1) the United States would establish diplomatic relations with the PRC and end diplomatic relations and the security treaty with the ROC; 2) the terms of recognition would permit Taiwan to sustain a prosperous economy and evolve a peaceful relationship with the mainland; 3) the United States would provide advance consultation to key allies; and 4) the United States would provide advance consultation to key Congressional figures. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Institutional File, Box 28, INT Documents: #4200s–#4300s: 6–7/77)