8. Telegram From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State1
798. Subject: Ambassador Shen’s Meeting With Under Secretary.
1. Ambassador Shen’s strong representations to Under Secretary Habib February 92 clearly represent ROC effort to restore flavor of ROC–US relations to that which prevailed prior to Secretary Kissinger’s incumbency and, if at all possible, even to tenor of period prior to Shanghai Communiqué. ROC probably feels that advent of new administration may offer opportunity to sidetrack U.S. Government’s gradual movement toward normalization, or at least to delay it as long as possible. Strength of Shen’s representations perhaps greater than we would have anticipated because GROC tended during recent months to read statements of new U.S. leaders, particularly prior to inauguration, as being somewhat more sympathetic to their position than was Secretary Kissinger. For example, GROC chose to interpret references to defense commitment to Taiwan and emphases on relations with allies and commitment to “moral” policies as foreshadowing retreat [Page 31] from previous plans for early implementation of Shanghai Communiqué, or, indeed, implementation at all. On the other hand, most recent declarations of new U.S. leaders reaffirming Shanghai Communiqué as our continuing policy and, in particular, Secretary’s confirmation that normalization ultimately means diplomatic relations with PRC (and therefore break in relations here) have undoubtedly dashed some hopes that were beginning to build in Taiwan.3
2. It seems to me therefore with normalization as our goal, even though for the present we have no timetable, we should continue with the GROC and the people of Taiwan the “conditioning process” in which we have been engaged over recent years. In other words, we should continue to prepare them psychologically for the eventual break in diplomatic relations with the United States, withdrawal of our military and termination of the Mutual Defense Treaty. As a result of our conditioning efforts thus far the politically active elements on Taiwan, including government leaders, know and accept, however reluctantly, that normalization of relations with Peking is coming; if this indeed is our intention it would be unfortunate to undo what has thus far been achieved in preparing for that day. Furthermore, I would assume that any significant shift in our posture vis-à-vis the GROC would be immediately noticed in Peking and be taken as possibly foreshadowing an intention to move away from the Shanghai Communiqué. For these reasons, it seems to me that the Department’s and U.S. Government’s relations with Ambassador Shen and other ROC representatives in the United States should as far as possible continue to be carried on in the same style as before. (While I believe Secretary Kissinger should not have refused in recent years to receive Ambassador Shen at any time, I now question the wisdom once that precedent has been set, of retracing steps. However, a single, routine courtesy call on the Secretary at the beginning of the new administration should not be ruled out.)
3. The other side of the coin is our requirement to handle the entire normalization process in such fashion as to avoid a political, military and economic destabilization on Taiwan which could have dangerous consequences for U.S. foreign relations and domestic opinion. While this cautionary word relates primarily to the arrangements we will eventually be making for the post-normalization situation in Taiwan in the fields of diplomatic relations, security, trade and investment ties, etc., we could unnecessarily generate apprehensions and political tensions on Taiwan now repeat now if at this stage we were to adopt a posture that suggested we meant to begin to cut off all effective communication with the GROC. This speaks for continuing to deal with the GROC both in Washington and here in the same manner we have been [Page 32] dealing with them since 1972. While we will probably be proceeding with further reductions of military personnel and otherwise lowering our military profile, and will avoid expanding our official relationships and opening up any new fields of cooperation with the ROC, I believe the tenor of government-to-government relations should otherwise not be substantially altered as long as diplomatic relations are maintained.
4. As for the specific points raised by Shen on February 9, I would for the most part ignore Shen’s complaints about our reaffirmation of the Shanghai Communiqué—the President’s and the Secretary’s statements make our position abundantly clear.4 We can, of course, confirm our position, if he presses the matter. It would seem to me we should also confirm to him that, pending action on normalization, it is the policy of the new administration to continue to honor the US–ROC diplomatic and security ties, as indeed previous administrations have, and he should so inform his government. We do not, however, feel it necessary to make public references to this. As for “serious repercussions on the ROC” etc. from any discussions with the PRC about normalization, we have heard that threat before and it should be taken with a grain of salt. There will be considerable hand-wringing and even bitter accusations, and perhaps a few demonstrations here, but I believe serious observers even here expect normalization to take place eventually.
5. I suppose that Shen’s references to reciprocity in connection with his complaints about his access to the Secretary could suggest that the GROC contemplates some retaliation affecting my access to Premier Chiang Ching-kuo. I believe, however, that the GROC would not see it in their interest to deny me such access, particularly if requested by me, given their unique dependence on the American connection. (As for his query about my being affected by the transition, I would of course be delighted in due course to receive any light Washington wishes to shed on that matter.) It does seem to me that Shen should surely have access to Assistant Secretary Holbrooke and occasionally to Director Lake. They will probably not find their perceptions of the China question appreciably enhanced by such meetings but it seems to me that it is beneath our dignity to fail to accord the representative of a friendly country at least minimum courtesies and reasonable responses, as long as diplomatic relations are maintained.
6. As for the question of our consulting with the GROC on our normalization plans and intentions, I refer you to the discussion of this contained in my letter of March 16, 1976, to Habib, page 3 second paragraph.5[Page 33]
7. As it happens I will be dining with Premier Chiang on February 15, probably under circumstances which would permit confidential discussion with him, if by that time there is anything Department would wish me to convey.
8. Recommend Department pass USLO Peking.