Volume #25 - 423.|
FORMOSA AND THE COASTAL ISLANDS
J.G.D. VI/842/Far East Coast Vol. 555|
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Prime Minister
August 18th, 1958|
CHINA - THE FORMOSA STRAITS AND THE OFF-SHORE ISLANDS|
The aggressive attitude shown by the Communist Chinese since the Middle East crisis has resulted in a considerable increase in tension in the area of the Formosa Straits. There has been some military build-up on the mainland coast opposite Formosa, notably in the grouping of jet aircraft, and this has, not unnaturally, provoked counter-moves from the Nationalists on Formosa. It is the general estimate that the Communists are not prepared to risk a major conflict by attacking Formosa or the off-shore islands of Quemoy and Matsu which, although lying very near to the mainland, are held by the Nationalists. It is thought, however, that as part of an harassing effort they may attempt to disrupt the Nationalists' communications between Formosa and the off-shore islands.
2. This raises questions relating to the defence of Formosa and the other islands. The mutual defence treaty between the United States and Nationalist China34 commits United States forces to the defence of Formosa and the close-by Pescadores Islands. Moreover in 1955, when the Communist Chinese were threatening to dislodge the Nationalist garrisons from the off-shore islands of Quemoy and Matsu, Congress authorized the President of the United States to extend this protection "to include the security and protection of such related possessions and territories of that area now in friendly hands...". This was generally assumed to refer to the off-shore islands, but that the United States wished to retain freedom of decision regarding intervention to defend the off-shore islands, as compared to the definite commitment with regard to Formosa, was shown by a statement of Mr. Dulles in February 1955, that there was no commitment "to defend the coastal islands as such."35 Then he went on to refer to their importance as links to Formosa. During the 1955 incidents the United States persuaded the Nationalists to evacuate some of the more exposed coastal islands so as to lessen the chances of a serious clash.
3. At the time there arose in the public mind an apprehension that Canada might in some way become involved, if hostilities broke out as a result of Communist Chinese action in the Straits of Formosa, because of the subscription of Canada (together with the fifteen other nations which had fought the Korean war) to a "Warning Declaration" relating to the Korean armistice of July 27, 1953.36 This declaration stated inter alia that: "We affirm in the interest of World peace, that if there is a renewal of the armed attack, challenging again the principles of the United Nations, we should again be united and prompt to resist. The consequences of such a breach of the armistice would be so grave that, in all probability, it would not be possible to confine hostilities within the frontiers of Korea." This declaration was of course intended to deal with renewed aggression by the Communists in Korea and not elsewhere. The Canadian Government's position regarding the Formosa Straits was stated by Mr. Pearson, who said in the House of Commons on January 25, 1955 that: "Although we are not involved in United States' commitments in this area, we are of course deeply concerned over the dangerous situation existing there and we, with other free governments, are anxious that steps should be taken to bring to an end the fighting which has now been taking place for some time along the China coast." More explicitly, he stated in a speech on March 14, 1955 that: "We have accepted no commitment to share in the defence of either Formosa or the coastal islands or to intervene in any struggle between the two Chinese Governments in the possession of these two off-shore islands."37
4. The publicity given to the recent increase of tension in the Formosa Straits may lead to questions in the House about the Canadian position. If so, you may wish to use the attached draft statement? as a basis for your reply.
texte du traité de la défense, voir United States, Department of State, Bulletin,
volume XXXI, no 807, December 13, 1954, p. 899.
35Dulles a fait cette déclaration dans un discours prononcé le
16 février 1955 devant la Foreign Policy Association à New York. Voir United States,
Department of State, Bulletin, volume XXXII, No 818, February 28,
1955, pp. 327 à 331.
36Voir Canada, Ministère des Affaires extérieures, Affaires Extérieures, volume 5, No 9, septembre 1953, p. 272. See Canada, Department of External Affairs, External Affairs, Volume 5, No. 9, September 1953, p. 268.
37Pearson a fait cette déclaration dans un discours
prononcé le 14 mars 1955 devant le Canadian Club à Toronto. Pour des extraits de ce discours,
voir Canada, Department of External Affairs, Statements and Speeches, 1955, No 8.