54. Telegram From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State1

5269. Department Pass USDel Secretary. For Holbrooke Only. Subject: Assistant Secretary Holbrooke’s Meeting With ROC Premier Chiang Ching-kuo.

1. Assistant Secretary Holbrooke, accompanied by Ambassador Unger, DCM Sullivan and S/P Staff member Romberg, met with Premier Chiang Ching-kuo evening of August 26. CCK accompanied by FonMin Shen, Vice FonMin Fred Ch’ien, and CCK private secretary James Soong. Meeting originally expected to last 45 minutes lasted one and one-half hours.

2. After conveying personal greetings from Secretary Vance, Holbrooke led off with a review of the secretary’s Peking visit.2 He noted the visit, which was exploratory in nature, had proceeded much as expected. No deals were made in Peking, no decisions were taken. Holbrooke noted that serious discussions had been held with PRC FonMin Huang Hua, Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping and Chairman Hua Kuo-feng.

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3. Holbrooke observed that most of the discussion had focused on global issues, and reviewed in summary form the points each side had made. He told CCK the Secretary had made a strong, effective explanation of the President’s policies, including his determination that the U.S. maintain the military balance vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.

4. Holbrooke told the Premier that we have differences with the PRC on some issues, but that on others we share important common ground.

5. Peking discussion of bilateral issues was then reviewed. Holbrooke said this discussion took place within the context of talks on global issues. He characterized the discussions as serious and candid. No agreements were reached, but Holbrooke noted that the Secretary had affirmed our readiness to normalize relations on the basis of the Shanghai Communiqué if we could be satisfied that the terms did not undermine the prospects for peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. No time-frame had been discussed.

6. Holbrooke told CCK the Secretary had chosen his words with great care and that, as discussed by the Secretary, normalization would result in U.S.–PRC diplomatic relations, but that it would permit continuation of U.S.-Taiwan relationships. The U.S. is not prepared to accept arrangements which would undermine the security and well-being of the people on Taiwan (interpretation omitted “people”). PRC stated its position on “one China” and that Taiwan is part China, and the three conditions (which Holbrooke enumerated).

7. Holbrooke stressed that, though no agreements were reached, each side appreciated that the other was serious. It was agreed, he said, that there should be continued talks on these issues. The next step is the Secretary’s report to the President.

8. Holbrooke reviewed the current mood in Peking as assessed by China specialists in the official party.

9. In his first question, CCK asked Holbrooke to explain where U.S. and PRC global views “coincided.” Holbrooke stressed that he had said we had “common ground,” not that our views coincided. He then reviewed common ground vis-à-vis the Soviets in Africa—especially the Horn—a strong NATO, and U.S. military presence in the Western Pacific (e.g., U.S. bases Philippines). In this context, Holbrooke emphasized that we do not have “cooperative relations” with the PRC in any of these areas, even where we clearly have parallel interests. He also stressed the need for complete confidentiality in handling of what he was saying, on which point he received firm assurance from CCK.

10. CCK expressed his appreciation for candor of Holbrooke’s briefing and proceeded to more questions. He asked about significance of the Secretary’s statement in his banquet toast in Peking on policy [Page 221] towards allies, former adversaries and regarding contingencies.3 Holbrooke responded this was a general statement of policy which should not be over-interpreted.

11. CCK asked if perceptions at the end of this visit differed from those at the outset, especially re PRC attitudes. Holbrooke noted that there was some improvement in the mood as the talks progressed but that he was not prepared to say whether this signalled anything or was merely a function of increased familiarity.

12. CCK asked several questions about PRM–104 and Korea, expressing concern over reports we were drawing our strategic defense line in Asia from Alaska through Japan and Guam. After explaining what a PRM is—and is not—Holbrooke responded that the defense line the Premier had referred to was only one option, and he was firmly opposed to such a line and that it was not being seriously considered by the Secretary or the President. Holbrooke said that the Secretary had noted that day the necessity for a strong U.S. presence in the Asian and Pacific region.

13. CCK said he raised this because if the U.S. adopted this sort of strategic concept it would be very dangerous for America. Holbrooke said he would convey Premier’s views to the Secretary.

14. Turning to China CCK observed that since President Carter assumed office he had stressed the importance of the Pacific region. He said he believed the President, when dealing with the “so-called China question” would take great care, and that he had confidence the final decision would be taken in the best interests of the U.S. and the Free World.

15. CCK pointed to the provision of the new Chinese Communist Party Constitution which casts the U.S. and USSR as perpetual enemies. He said that he hoped that even though we may now see common ground, and no matter what Peking might say now because it needs us, we would understand that sooner or later they would become a big problem for the U.S. Therefore, he concluded, it was important for the U.S. strategically that we be true to our friends and allies in the Pacific.

16. Chiang laid out three factors which he thought were motivating Peking in seeking to establish relations with us. First, since they do not have the military capability of annihilating the ROC, they hoped to use diplomatic and political methods to deal the fatal blow. Second, by forcing the U.S. to unilaterally break a treaty for the first time in its [Page 222] history, Peking seeks to deal a blow to U.S. prestige. And third, Peking hopes to use U.S. ties as a bargaining chip with the Soviet Union.

17. The Premier then devoted several minutes to describing the “very special” relationship between the U.S. and the ROC. He said that relationship had stood the test of three wars in Asia since 1941 and that the ROC had always faithfully implemented all obligations under the alliance, and would do so in the future.

18. CCK said that, “No matter how the international situation changes,” the ROC will always remain part of the Free World and will “never have dealings with any Communist regime.” There is only one China—the ROC. Though some may feel this is far-fetched, in the longer perspective this is the only solution to the “so-called China problem.”

19. Chiang said the “Japanese model” is not suitable for the U.S. because of the U.S. position as leader of the Free World and because of the Defense Treaty. He said the U.S. and ROC are as close as lips and teeth, when the lips are gone, the teeth feel cold. Anything that happens to U.S.–ROC relations will be hard for the ROC to bear.

20. CCK then asked about other areas of the world which were discussed in Peking. Did we talk about Southeast Asia? Holbrooke said that we expressed our views, but the Chinese had not responded. They had wanted to discuss Africa, Europe and the Middle East. They were not even so interested in SALT as in the Horn of Africa which they thought presented opportunities for eventual Soviet strategic gains in the Middle East, Europe and the Indian Ocean.

21. Holbrooke then commented in some detail on Chiang’s lengthy discourse. Saying that he did not want to get into a debate because we have difficult problems between two old friends, Holbrooke noted there is a need to clear away what is real from what is not.

22. Holbrooke cited ROC defense capability, achieved with a great deal of help from the U.S., as a tremendous tribute to the ROC Government and the people. This is an important factor, because the future well-being and security of Taiwan is of the highest concern to our government as we look forward to establishment of full diplomatic relations with the PRC.

23. Turning to CCK’s point about Peking’s effort to use political and diplomatic means to “deal a fatal blow,” Holbrooke said it was his impression the ROC was just as strong economically and politically as militarily, and Peking could not succeed in this tactic either. He said he wanted to repeat, in connection with Chiang’s statement, a point he had made earlier in a different context (i.e., Peking discussions), that we would not accept terms which in our opinion would undermine the security and well-being of the people on Taiwan.

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24. Regarding the Premier’s statement that acceptance of the PRC’s three conditions would mean unilateral abrogation of the Defense Treaty, Holbrooke said no such decision has been made by the President. He noted, however, that the Premier was correct to state that the three conditions do imply lapsing of the treaty.

25. As to the point that the PRC wants to use U.S. ties as leverage on the Soviets, Holbrooke agreed this was a correct if not complete description of Peking’s motives.

26. Holbrooke turned next to the U.S.–ROC “special relationship” question and agreed with Chiang’s characterization. He noted the association was long-standing, deep, and cordial. He pointed out that they have many friends in America who will remain friends no matter what happens.

27. Holbrooke said he would report to the Secretary and the President CCK’s “very important” statement that, no matter what happens, the ROC will remain in the Free World and have no dealings with “any Communist regime.”

28. On “one China,” Holbrooke emphasized the U.S. public position of favoring a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. He said we all recognize the differences between Japan and ourselves, and in our respective relations with Taiwan. He said President Carter intends to maintain our strength and is leading a confident America.

29. On the lapsing of the Defense Treaty—and over 50 other treaties and agreements (to which CCK had referred)—Holbrooke reiterated that normalization, as discussed by the Secretary would mean establishment of U.S.–PRC diplomatic relations, but it would permit continuation of essential U.S.-Taiwan relationships.

30. Chiang supplemented his earlier remarks with two points: the lack of current PRC capability to attack Taiwan could change over time; and maintenance of diplomatic relations is even more important than the treaties.

31. At CCK’s request, Holbrooke reviewed the PRC’s position on Korea, pointing out essentially that they took the same line as in public and did not want to engage the issue. He also responded to a request for assessment of any contradictions between Soviet and Chinese positions in Korea by saying that, despite their similar rhetoric on reunification, neither really wants a change in the status quo out of fear it will redound to the benefit of the other.

32. The meeting closed with mutual expressions of appreciation for candor. CCK said he had read all of President Carter’s statements and was glad the U.S. has a new and great President. He sent his greetings to the President and Secretary Vance. Holbrooke said he would convey them.

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33. CCK said he hoped Holbrooke would return for a longer stay in the future. Holbrooke said he hoped to come back as soon as possible, and in the meantime we could communicate through our Embassies.

34. In this connection, Holbrooke said he did not know what the future holds, but whatever it is, he believed that we should communicate in a candid, frank way so that the ties of friendship between our two peoples would continue, contributing to the maintenance of the security of the people on Taiwan.

35. Comment: Premier Chiang obviously appreciated Secretary Vance’s having sent Holbrooke to give him a special report on Peking talks. The Premier, who is normally unwilling to schedule evening meetings and likes to get to bed by 9:00 PM, was clearly prepared to talk and to take advantage of Holbrooke’s visit both to get his own views across and to probe our position to the extent he could do so without violating his own proscription against appearing to accept US–PRC normalization either as inevitable or even as a contingency possibility.

36. The Premier’s comments on Peking’s motives and his statement of resolve to remain a member of the Free World never having dealings with any Communist regime were almost word for word restatements of his August 25 speech to the Executive Yuan published August 26 to coincide with the conclusion of the Secretary’s visit to Peking.5 What Premier Chiang is saying, is that no matter what we do (i.e., if we, out of desire for improved relations with Peking, virtually abandon the anti-Communist stance the U.S. and ROC have shared in the past as well as abandon an ally) the ROC will not change. It will maintain its identity as the sole legitimate government of China and guardian of Chinese culture; it will never elect independence for Taiwan or engage in talks with Peking (and we should not make the mistake of believing we could succeed in urging them to do so); it would never turn to the USSR; and over the long term, the ROC stance would be vindicated and we would regret our decision.

37. The Premier seemed to take reassurance from Holbrooke’s presentation and the Secretary’s Peking press conference statement confirming that U.S. has reached no decision or agreement with the PRC on concrete steps toward rupture of diplomatic relations with the ROC.6 We are confident, however, that the Premier noted Holbrooke’s emphasis on the point that a process has begun and that talks with the [Page 225] PRC relating to normalization and other issues will continue. At the same time the GROC probably credits in large part its anti-normalization campaign with the U.S. press, public and Congress, for the fact that the Peking talks resulted in no concrete forward steps on normalization.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850106–2148. Confidential; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. See Documents 4752.
  3. For Vance’s toasts at the August 22 and 25 dinners, see Department of State Bulletin, September 19, 1977, pp. 365–368.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 50.
  5. Telegram 5253 from Taipei, August 26, reported the Premier’s remarks to the Executive Yuan on August 25. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770309–0037)
  6. See footnote 4, Document 51.