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Letter to Nikita Khrushchev, Chairman, Council of Ministers, U. S. S. R., on the Formosa Situation

September 12, 1958

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I have your letter of September 7. I agree with you that a dangerous situation exists in the Taiwan area. I do not agree with you as to the source of danger in this situation.

The present state of tension in the Taiwan area was created directly by Chinese Communist action, not by that of the Republic of China or by the United States. The fact is that following a long period of relative calm in that area, the Chine Communists, without provocation, suddenly initiated a heavy artillery bombardment of Quemoy and began harassing the regular supply of the civilian and military population of the Quemoys. This intense military activity was begun on August 23rd-some three weeks after your visit to Peiping. The official Peiping radio has repeatedly been announcing that the purpose of these military operations is to take Taiwan (formosa) as well as Quemoy and Matsu, by armed force. In virtually every Peiping broadcast, Taiwan (formosa) and the offshore islands are linked as the objective of what is called the "Chinese Peoples Liberation Army."

The issue, then, is whether the Chinese Communists will seek to achieve their ambitions through the application of force, as they did in Korea, or whether they will accept the vital requisite of world peace and order in a nuclear age and renounce the use of force as the means for satisfying their territorial claims. The territory concerned has never been under the control of Communist China. On the contrary, the Republic of China--despite the characterizations you apply to it for ideological reasons--is recognized by the majority of the sovereign nations of the world and its government has been and is exercising jurisdiction over the territory concerned. United States military forces operate in the Taiwan area in fulfillment of treaty commitments to the Republic of China to assist it in the defense of Taiwan (Formosa) and the Penghu (Pescadores) Islands. They are there to help resist aggression--not to commit aggression. No upside down presentation such as contained in your letter can change this fact.

The United States Government has welcomed the willingness of the Chinese Communists to resume the Ambassadorial talks, which were begun three years ago in Geneva, for the purpose of finding a means of easing tensions in the Taiwan area. In the past, the United States representative at these talks has tried by every reasonable means to persuade the Chinese Communist representative to reach agreement on mutual renunciation of force in the Taiwan area but the latter insistently refused to reach such agreement. The United States hopes that an understanding can be achieved through the renewed talks which will assure that there will be no resort to the use of force in the endeavor to bring about a solution of the issues there.

I regret to say I do not see in your letter any effort to find that common language which could indeed facilitate the removal of the danger existing in the current situation in the Taiwan area. On the contrary, the description of this situation contained in your letter seems designed to serve the ambitions of international Communism rather than to present the facts. I also note that you have addressed no letter to the Chinese Communist leaders urging moderation upon them. If your letter to me is not merely a vehicle for one-sided denunciation of United States actions but is indeed intended to reflect a desire to find a common language for peace, I suggest you urge these leaders to discontinue their military operations and to turn to a policy of peaceful settlement of the Taiwan dispute.

If indeed, for the sake of settling the issues that tend to disturb the peace in the formosa area, the Chinese Communist leaders can be persuaded to place their trust in negotiation and a readiness to practice conciliation, then I assure you the United States will, on its part, strive in that spirit earnestly to the same end.



Note: Mr. Khrushchev's letter of September 7 is published in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 39, p. 499).

The President's letter was released at the U. S. Naval Base, Newport, R. I.

Released September 13, 1958. Dated September 12, 1958

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Nikita Khrushchev, Chairman, Council of Ministers, U. S. S. R., on the Formosa Situation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234023

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