Excerpts of Remarks Prepared for Delivery by the Vice President of the Unites States, Cincinnati, OH
Senator Kennedy in Friday night's debate said to me about Quemoy and Matsu: "I challenge you tonight to deny that the administration has sent at least several missions to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to withdraw from these islands. That is the testimony of General Twining and the Assistant Secretary of State in 1958."
Senator Kennedy challenged me to deny this and I do flatly, categorically and emphatically deny it.
Not only were there not several missions for such a purpose - there was no such mission at all.
On one occasion the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Arthur W. Radford, and the former Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, Walter S. Robertson, made a special trip to Taiwan (Formosa). Secretary of State Dulles stopped there several times in his travels as, at one time, did former Secretary of Defense Neil H. McElroy.
None of these people had a mission to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to withdraw from and thus to abandon Quemoy and Matsu, nor did any even discuss with him abandonment of those islands by the Nationalist Chinese.
All of the people I have named (with the exception of Secretary Dulles, of course), and including General Twining, have by telephone since the debate confirmed what I have said above and have further indicated that any discussions that took place with Chiang Kai-shek related only to the deployment of Nationalist Chinese ground forces between the main island of Taiwan, the Pescadores Islands, and the offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu. In other words, they talked to him, not about abandoning Quemoy and Matsu, but only about how best to relate the defense preparations on those islands to the overall objective of maintaining the security of Formosa and the Pescadores.
But more important than Senator Kennedy's glaring error of fact - the complete inaccuracy of his charge - is the Senator's lack of understanding which his statement reveals. Senator Kennedy in previous statements has glibly written off Quemoy and Matsu as not worth defending, and now in the last debate he narrowly concerned himself with the irrelevant question of what various emissaries from the United States did or did not say to Chiang Kai-shek.
Senator Kennedy fails to grasp the total picture. He fails to mention what is really at stake in this area - the security of the free world in the western Pacific, the preservation of peace through prevention of the steps that could lead to war. Quemoy and Matsu cannot be viewed in isolation and casually dismissed as not worth defending in and of themselves because they can, in certain circumstances, relate importantly to this total picture of western Pacific security - as the Formosa resolution itself reflects - and to the safeguarding of peace. This understanding of the situation makes it out of the question for responsible U.S. officials to have tried to persuade the Nationalist Chinese wantonly to abandon their islands of Quemoy and Matsu to Communist China as Senator Kennedy charges. For these reasons it is obvious that Senator Kennedy's charge is more than incredible - it is utterly unknowing and irresponsible.
Richard Nixon, Excerpts of Remarks Prepared for Delivery by the Vice President of the Unites States, Cincinnati, OH Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273820