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Quemoy and Matsu - History

Quemoy and Matsu - History



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Quemoy and Matsu
Quemoy and Matsu are two islands located off the Chinese coast. They were held by the Nationalist Chinese of Taiwan, and claimed by the Communist Chinese on the Mainland. The Communists began bombarding Quemoy and Matsu with long range guns attempting to cut off supply lines to the islands. President Eisenhower announced that the United States considered defense of the islands essential to the defense of Taiwan. The U.S. escorted a convoy of Nationalist ships aimed at resupplying Quemoy. The Communists briefly held their fire but later continued to fire intermittently at the islands.


Quemoy and Matsu - History

The First Taiwan Strait Crisis (also called the 1954-1955 Taiwan Strait Crisis or the 1955 Taiwan Strait Crisis) was a short armed conflict that took place between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) governments. Fighting took place on Matsu and Quemoy in the Taiwan Strait.

The Chinese Civil War had ended in 1949 with the Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) and 1.3 million Kuomintang members abandoning the Chinese mainland and establishing a refuge on the island of Taiwan (also known as Formosa) which became, with the islands of Matsu and Quemoy, the sole territory under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China.

The Matsu and the Quemoy island group, situated in the Taiwan strait between the main island of Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, were the Nationalists first line of defense against the Communist Party of China and were highly fortified by Chiang.

While the United States recognized Chiang's government as the sole legitimate government for all of China, President Harry Truman announced on January 5, 1950 that the United States would not become involved in the dispute of Taiwan Strait and would not intervene in the event of an attack by the PRC. However, after the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, Truman declared the "neutralization of the Straits of Formosa" and sent in the Seventh Fleet of the United States Navy into the Strait to prevent any conflict between the Republic of China and the PRC, effectively putting Taiwan under American protection.

In June of 1950, President Truman issued the following statement:

"The attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war. It has defied the orders of the Security Council of the United Nations issued to preserve international peace and security. In these circumstances the occupation of Formosa by Communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area and to United States forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area.
"Accordingly I have ordered the 7th Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa. As a corollary of this action I am calling upon the Chinese Government on Formosa to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland. The 7th Fleet will see that this is done. The determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations."

President Truman later ordered John Foster Dulles, then Foreign Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, to carry out his decision on neutralizing Taiwan in drafting the Treaty of Peace with Japan of 1951 which legally excluded the participation of both ROC and PRC and thus left Taiwan's status undetermined[2]. According to George H. Kerr's Formosa Betrayed, Taiwan's political status was under the trust of the Allied Powers and later the UN if it could not be solved in near future as designed in the treaty.

The Kuomintang maintained as its goal the objective of invading the mainland and renewing the civil war in order to overthrow the People's Republic of China and liberate China from Communist rule in favor of rule by the Kuomintang. Truman and his advisors regarded this goal as an unrealizable fantasy but the Truman Administration was criticized by anti-Communists for preventing any attempt by Chaing Kai-shek's forces to "liberate" mainland China.

Truman, a Democrat did not run in the 1952 presidential election which was won by Republican Dwight Eisenhower. On February 2, 1953, the new President lifted the Seventh Fleet's blockade in order to fulfill demands by anti-Communists to "unleash Chaing Kai-shek" on the mainland.

In August 1954, the Nationalists placed 58,000 troops on Quemoy and 15,000 troops on Matsu. Zhou Enlai, Premier of the People's Republic of China responded with a declaration on August 11, 1954 that Taiwan must be "liberated." He dispatched the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and began shelling Quemoy and Matsu.

Despite warnings from the U.S. against any attacks on the Republic of China the People's Liberation Army unleashed heavy artillery bombardment of Quemoy on September 3 and intensified its actions in November by bombing the Tachen Islands. Since the PRC was unrecognized by United States Department of State at the time, Chiang Kai Shek was the only person they could speak with. The United States needed Chiang Kai Shek as an ally due to their lack of friends in South East Asia.

After the Korean War it had become far more vital to the United States to accept Chiang Kai Shek's version of the story. On September 12, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended the use of nuclear weapons against the mainland. Eisenhower, however, resisted pressure to use nuclear weapons or involve American troops in the conflict. However, on December 2, 1954, the United States and the Republic of China agreed to a mutual defense treaty which did not apply to islands along the Chinese mainland. The treaty was ratified by the United States Senate on February 9, 1955.

The PLA seized Yijiangshan Island on January 18, 1955 destroying the Republic of China's forces. Fighting continued along the coast of the Chinese mainland and on Matsu and Kinmen islands. On January 29, 1955 the Formosa Resolution was approved by both houses of the United States Congress authorizing Eisenhower to use U.S. forces to defend Formosa and its possessions in the Taiwan Strait against armed attack.

In February, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned the U.S. against using nuclear weapons but in March, United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles stated publicly that the U.S. was seriously considering a nuclear strike. In response, NATO foreign ministers warned at a meeting of the alliance against such action. In late March, U.S. Admiral Robert B. Carney said that Eisenhower is planning "to destroy Red China's military potential."

The People's Republic backed down in the face of American nuclear brinksmanship and in light of the lack of willingness by the Soviet Union to threaten nuclear retaliation for an attack on the People's Republic. The People's Republic of China government stated on April 23, 1955 that it was willing to negotiate. On May 1 the PLA ceased shelling Quemoy and Matsu.

The fundamental issues of the conflict remained unresolved, however, and both sides subsequently built up their military forces on their respective sides of the Taiwan Strait leading to a new crisis three years later.

Location of Matsu and Quemoy islands

The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, also called the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis, was a conflict that took place between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) governments in which the PRC was accused by the ROC of shelling the islands of Matsu and Quemoy first in the Taiwan Strait.

It started with the 823 Artillery Bombardment (Traditional Chinese: 八二三炮戰 Simplified Chinese: 八二三炮战 Pinyin: bāèrsān pàozhàn) at 5:30pm on August 23, 1958, when People's Liberation Army forces began an intense artillery bombardment of the Quemoy. ROC forces in Quemoy dug in and returned fire. In the subsequent bombardment roughly 400 ROC troops were killed and an unknown number on the PRC side.

This was a continuation of the First Taiwan Strait Crisis, which had started immediately after the Korean War. Chiang Kai-shek had began to build on the two islands of Matsu and Quemoy. In 1954, ROC shelled the PRC focusing most of the attack on Quemoy. In response the People's Liberation Army (PLA) began shelling Quemoy and Matsu.

The Eisenhower Administration responded to ROC's request for aid according to its obligations in the 1954 US-ROC defense treaty by reinforcing US naval units and ordering US naval vessels to help the Nationalist government protect Quemoy's supply lines.

The Soviet Union dispatched its foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, to Beijing to discuss China's actions.

This situation in 1958 continued for 44 days and took approximately 1,000 lives. Faced with a stalemate, the PRC called a unilateral ceasefire on October 6 at the urging of the Soviet Union. Beijing issued a “Message to the Compatriots in Taiwan” in the name of Defense Minister Peng Dehuai, however the message was actually drafted by Mao Zedong. The message called for a peaceful solution to the Taiwan issue and called for all Chinese to unite against the "American plot to divide China".

Afterwards, both sides continued to bombard each other with shells containing propaganda leaflets on alternate days of the week. This strange informal arrangement continued until the normalization of ties between the US and PRC in 1979.

The question of "Matsu and Quemoy" became an issue in the 1960 American Presidential election when Richard Nixon accused John F. Kennedy of being unwilling to commit to using nuclear weapons if the People's Republic of China invaded the Nationalist outposts.

The PRC fired around 450,000 shells at the Quemoy islands in the conflict. The shells have become a natural resource of steel for the local economy. Since the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, Quemoy has become famous for its production of cleavers made from PRC bomb shells. A blacksmith in Quemoy generally produces 60 cleavers from one bomb shell. Tourists often purchase Quemoy Cleavers as souvenirs together with other local products.

Also called the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis or the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, was the effect of a series of missile tests conducted by the People's Republic of China in the waters surrounding Taiwan including the Taiwan Strait from July 21, 1995 to March 23, 1996. The first set of missiles fired in mid to late 1995 were allegedly intended to send a strong signal to the Republic of China government under Lee Teng-hui, who had been seen as moving ROC foreign policy away from the One-China Policy. The second set of missiles were fired in early 1996, allegedly intending to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate in the run-up to the 1996 presidential election.

The crisis began when President Lee Teng-hui accepted an invitation from his alma mater, Cornell University, to deliver a speech on "Taiwan's Democratization Experience." Seeking to diplomatically isolate the Republic of China, the PRC opposed such visits by ROC leaders.[citation needed] It argued that Lee harbored pro-Taiwan independence sentiments and was therefore a threat to stability in the region. A year earlier, in 1994, when President Lee's plane had stopped in Honolulu to refuel after a trip to South Africa, the U.S. government had refused Lee's request for a visa. Lee had been confined to the military airfield where he landed, forcing him to spend a night on his plane. A U.S. State Department official called the situation "embarrassing" and Lee complained that Taiwan was being treated as a second-class country.

After Lee had decided to visit Cornell, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher assured PRC Foreign Minister Qian Qichen that a visa for Lee would be "inconsistent with [the U.S.'s] unofficial relationship [with Taiwan]." However, the humiliation from Lee's last visit caught the attention of many pro-Taiwan figures in the U.S. and this time, the United States Congress acted on Lee's behalf. In May 1995, resolutions asking the State Department to allow Lee to visit the U.S. passed the House 396 to 0 and the Senate 91 to 1. The State Department relented on May 22, 1995 and the PRC condemned the U.S. for ruining Sino-American relations.

Lee spent June 9- 10, 1995 in the U.S. as the Chinese state press branded him a "traitor" attempting to "split the motherland."

The PRC government was furious over the US’s policy reversal and resorted to military intimidation. On July 7, 1995, the Xinhua News Agency announced missile tests to be conducted by the People's Liberation Army and pointed out that this would endanger the peace and safety of the region. The PRC conducted tests from July 21 to 26 in an area only 60 kilometers north of ROC-held Pengchiayu Island. At the same time, the PRC mobilized forces in Fujian. In the later part of July and early August numerous commentaries were published by Xinhua and the People's Daily condemning Lee and his cross-strait policies.

Another set of missile firings, accompanied by live ammunition exercises, occurred from August 15 to 25, 1995. Naval exercises in August were followed by amphibious exercises in November. Though many of these military activities were part of the normal PLA training regiment, this was the first time in many years that they were announced publicly.

The U.S. response was low key: the USS Nimitz passed through the Taiwan Strait in December 1995, a few months after the PLA's tests. This transit, the first by a U.S. warship since 1976, was announced only six weeks later. Nevertheless, PLA General Xiong Guangkai warned a visiting American envoy, "In the end, you care more about Los Angeles than you do about Taipei."

The PLA's activities in 1995 had the effect of reducing the value of the Taiwanese stock market by one-third and reducing the capital in Taiwan by US$ 10 million. An intimidated electorate, believing Lee had unnecessarily provoked Beijing, increased representation of the strongly pro-reunification Chinese New Party in the Legislative Yuan from 8 to 21 while Lee's Kuomintang lost seats and the Democratic Progressive Party gained less than expected. [edit]

Beijing intended to send a message to the Taiwanese electorate that voting for Lee Teng-hui in the 1996 presidential election meant war. A third set of PLA tests from March 8 to March 15 (just shortly preceding the March 23 election), sent missiles within 25 to 35 miles (just inside the ROC's territorial waters) off the ports of Keelung and Kaohsiung. Over 70 percent of commercial shipping passed through the targeted ports, which were disrupted by the proximity of the tests. Flights to Japan and trans-Pacific flights were prolonged by ten minutes because airplanes needed to detour away from the flight path. Ships traveling between Kaohsiung and Hong Kong had to take a two-hour detour.

On March 8, the U.S. announced that it was deploying the Independence carrier battle group (CVBG), already stationed in the western Pacific, to international waters near Taiwan. On the following day, the PRC announced live-fire exercises to be conducted near Penghu from March 12-20. On March 11, the U.S. deployed the Nimitz CVBG, which steamed at high speed from the Persian Gulf. Tensions erupted further on March 15 when Beijing announced a simulated amphibious assault planned for March 18-25.

Sending two carrier battle groups showed not only a symbolic gesture towards the ROC, but a readiness to fight on the part of the U.S. The ROC government and Democratic Progressive Party welcomed America's support, but staunch unificationist presidential candidate Lin Yang-kang and the PRC decried "foreign intervention."

The PRC's attempts at intimidation were counterproductive. Arousing more anger than fear, it (as most analysts believe) boosted Lee by 5% in the polls, earning him a majority as opposed to a mere plurality. The military tests and exercises also strengthened the argument for further U.S. arms sales to the ROC and led to the strengthening of military ties between the U.S. and Japan, increasing the role Japan would play in defending Taiwan.

The crisis, however, had a noticeable impact in disrupting the Taiwanese economy. The stock market fell by 17% for the duration of the crisis. Capital fled the island and real estate prices fell. The government was forced to spend US$ 18 million for economic recovery.


Matsu Islands - History

Fujianese Mainlanders started migrating to the islands during the Yuan Dynasty. Most people on Matsu came from Houguan (侯官) (today Changle County (長樂縣 Diòng-lŏ̤h-gâing), Fujian).

Some crewmen of Zheng He temporarily stayed on the islands. In early Qing Dynasty, pirates gathered here and residents temporarily left.

In contrast to Taiwan and Penghu, the Matsu Islands were not ceded to the Empire of Japan via the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki. Neither were they occupied by Japan as in the case of Kinmen during World War II.

After the Kuomintang (KMT) retreated to Taiwan in 1949, the ROC retained the part of Lienchiang County offshore (and the entire Kinmen County as well).

The phrase "Quemoy and Matsu" became part of U.S. political language in the 1960 U.S. presidential election. During the debates, both candidates, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, pledged to use U.S. forces if necessary to protect Taiwan from invasion by China, the mainland, which the U.S. did not at that time recognize as a legitimate government. But the two candidates had different opinions about whether to use U.S. forces to protect the ROC's forward positions, Quemoy and Matsu, as well. In fact, Senator Kennedy stated that these islands - as little as 5½ miles off the coast of China and as much as 106 miles from Taiwan - were strategically indefensible and were not essential to the defense of Taiwan. On the contrary, Vice President Nixon maintained that, since Quemoy and Matsu were in the "area of freedom," they should not be surrendered to the Communists as a matter of "principle."

In April 2003, the county government started considering changing the name to Matsu County to avoid confusion with the county of the same name on the mainland. Some locals opposed the name change because they felt it reflected a Democratic Progressive Party Taiwan Independence viewpoint.

Read more about this topic: Matsu Islands

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First Taiwan Strait CrisisQuemoy and Matsu Islands

In 1949, with the Communists under Mao Tse-tung consolidating their grip on the country, deposed president Chiang Kai-shek led 1 million of his followers to Taiwan. The only thing he and Mao had in common was their insistence that Taiwan remained part of China. The Nationalist-held islands of Jinmen (Chin-men in Wade Giles but often referred to as Kinmen or Quemoy ) and Mazu (Ma-tsu in Wade-Giles), just 8 miles off the coast of mainland China, between Taiwan and mainland China, were occupied by Chiang Kai-Shek's forces but claimed by the Chinese Communists. Matsu is a single island, while Quemoy is a group consisting of Quemoy, Little Quemoy, and 12 islets in Xiamen Bay.

Chiang fortified these two islands as bases for his re-conquest of China. Chiang provoked China on two occasions by moving large numbers of troops to the islands, and both times the US responded with military actions, including nuclear threats, in support of Chiang's provocations.

On 05 January 1950 President Harry Truman announced that "the United Statees will not involve in the dispute of Taiwan Strait", which meant America would not intervene if the Chinese communists were to attack Taiwan. However, on 25 June 1950 the Korean War broke out, and President Truman reacted by declaring the "neutralization of the Straits of Formosa" on June 27. The Seventh Fleet was sent into the Straits under orders to prevent any attack on the island, and also prevent the Kuomintang forces to attack on China. From that point on, Taiwan was placed under US military protection.

The First Taiwan Straits Crisis 11 August 1954 - 01 May 1955

During the First Taiwan Straits Crisis the Peoples Liberation Army launched heavy artillery attacks on the offshore island of Quemoy after the US lifted its blockade of Taiwan, making possible Nationalist attacks on mainland China. The Truman Administration had resisted calls by hard-liners to "unleash Chiang Kai-shek." But shortly after his inauguration, on 02 February 1953 President Eisenhower lifted the US Navy blockade of Taiwan which had prevented Chiang's force from attacking mainland China. During August 1954 Chiang moved 58,000 troops to Quemoy & 15,000 to Matsu. Zhou En-lai declared on 11 August 1954 that Taiwan must be liberated. On 17 August 1954 the US warned China against action against Taiwan, but on 03 September 1954 the Communists began an artillery bombardment of Quemoy, and in November, PLA planes bombed the Tachen Islands. On 12 September 1954 the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) recommended the possibility of using nuclear weapons against China. And on 23 November 1954 China sentenced 13 US airmen shot down over China in the Korean War to long jail terms, prompting further consideration of nuclear strikes against China. Despite domestic political pressure, President Eisenhower refused to bomb mainland China or use of American troops to resolve the crisis. At the urging of Senator Knowland, the United States signed the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Nationalist government on Taiwan on 02 December 1954.

On 18 January 1955 mainland Chinese forces seized Yijiangshan [Ichiang] Island, 210 miles north of Formosa and, completely wiping out the ROC forces stationed there. The two sides continued fighting on Kinmen, Matsu, and along the mainland Chinese coast. The fighting even extended to mainland Chinese coastal ports. The US-Nationalist Chinese Mutual Security Pact, which did not apply to islands along the Chinese mainland, was ratified by the Senate on 09 February 1955. The Formosa Resolution passed both houses of Congress on 29 January 1955. The Resolution pledged the US to the defense of Taiwan, authorizing the president to employ American forces to defend Formosa and the Pescadores Island against armed attack, including such other territories as appropriate to defend them.

On 15 February 1955 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill advised against US atomic defence of Quemoy-Matsu. But on 10 March 1955 US Secretary of State Dulles at a National Security Council (NSC) meeting states that the American people have to be prepared for possible nuclear strikes against China. Five days later Dulles publicly stated that the US was seriously considering using atomic weapons in the Quemoy-Matsu area. And the following day President Eisenhower publicly stated that "A-bombs can be used. as you would use a bullet." These public statements sparked an international uproar, and NATO foreign ministers opposed atomic attack on China. Nonetheless, on 25 March 1955 US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Robert B. Carney stated that the president is planning "to destroy Red China's military potential," predicting war by mid-April.

On 23 April 1995 China stated at the Afro-Asian Conference that it was ready to negotiate on Taiwan, and on 01 May 1955 shelling of Quemoy-Matsu ceased, ending the crisis. On 01 August 1955 China released the 11 captured US airmen previously sentenced to jail terms.

In the first Taiwan Strait crisis of 1954-55 the USSR had been quite ambiguous in its support for China's campaign to "liberate" Taiwan, whereas the United States had indicated that it was willing to use tactical nuclear weapons in defense of the island. During the crisis, it became evident that the USSR was not going to be drawn into a war with the United States that was not of its own choosing, and the PRC called off its military operations against Quemoy. The PRC could claim a limited victory because Chinese Nationalist troops had withdrawn from Tachen Island during the previous month.

Even as the crisis ended, however, the Nationalists began to reinforce Quemoy and Matsu, and the PRC began to build up its military capabilities across the strait.


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Taiwan Straits, Quemoy and Matsu Islands, 23 Aug 1958-01 Jan 1959, 23 Aug 1958-01 Jun 1963

In the Spring of 1955 President Eisenhower sent a mission to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to withdraw from Quemoy and Matsu because they were exposed. The President was unsuccessful Chiang Kai-shek would not withdraw. Subsequently Eisenhower provided the Nationalists with air-to-air missiles that enabled them to sweep Mao's MIGs from the skies over the Taiwan Straits, and sent to Quemoy and Matsu 8-inch howitzers capable of firing nuclear shells. The military situation in the strait began to look more favorable for the Republic of China (ROC) in 1956 and 1957, a result of these improvements in the Nationalist forces due to US military assistance, and of the 1957 agreement between the United States and the Republic of China that placed Matador missiles on Taiwan. These surface-to-surface weapons were capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads up to 600 miles. Such developments, when combined with the US reduction of its representation to the US-PRC Geneva talks from ambassador to charge d'affaires in early 1958, may well have led the Chinese to believe that the situation in the strait was menacing.

The renewed threat to the islands came after Beijing had argued that Soviet ICBM developments had changed the world's balance of forces decisively in favor of the Communist bloc, but it came when the reliability of the Soviet deterrent was being questioned within the Chinese defense establishment. At the Moscow Conference of Communist Parties in November 1957, Mao contradicted Khrushchev's line that no one could win a nuclear war. He said that such a war would not be the end of the world, because half its population would survive. From other statements by Mao, it is clear he thought that a large part of the Chinese population would survive an atomic war.

In 1958 the Chinese Communist Party launched the Great Leap Forward, aimed at accomplishing the economic and technical development of the country at a vastly faster pace and with greater results. Militancy on the domestic front was echoed in external policies. The "soft" foreign policy based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence to which China had subscribed in the mid-1950s gave way to a "hard" line in 1958.

From 23 August through October of 1958, the Communist government resumed a massive artillery bombardmentof Quemoy and Matsu, and threatened invasion. Chinese patrol boats blockaded Quemoy and Matsu against Chinese Nationalist resupply efforts This was accompanied by an aggressive propaganda assault on the United States, threats against American naval ships, and a declaration of intent to "liberate" Taiwan. Quemoy, which lies about 10 kilometres from the mainland, had been used by the Nationalists to mount raids on mainland China.

It is clear from recently published Chinese documents that Mao launched the attack on purpose to show his independence of the USSR. Khrushchev's visit to Beijing between 31 July and 3 August 1958 is quite interesting when seen in this context, for the shelling of Quemoy began shortly after Khrushchev left Beijing. Khrushchev's talks with the Chinese leaders were probably designed to alleviate their concern over the USSR's failure to prevent US and British intervention in the Mideast crisis of that summer. If the Chinese discussed with Khrushchev their concern over developments in the strait and their objectives regarding the offshore islands, it is likely that he recommended caution (although in his memoirs Khrushchev states that he was in favor of liquidating the islands in preparation for an attack on Taiwan itself). Not until Beijing signaled its intention to limit the level of military commitment to the strait did the USSR make an unambiguous statement in support of China. In a letter to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Khrushchev wrote that an American attack on China would be viewed as an attack on the USSR. On 05 October 1958, Khrushchev reiterated this position in an interview with a Tass reporter. It is clear, however, that Khrushchev's "nuclear threat" was to serve as a demonstration of his support for China - not of readiness to fight the United States.

Once the shelling began, the United States made it clear that it would support the ROC in the defense of the islands. Responding to public commitments by the US to defend Quemoy and Matsu, the Eisenhower Administration deployed forces to the region. The American response included a large naval contingent in the Taiwan Straits. The defenders of the islands were supplied by ships escorted by US naval vessels. Senior American officials, including President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, publicly affirmed the US commitment to defend Taiwan and to counter naval threats in the Taiwan Straits. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles declared that the U.S. would take "timely and effective action to defend Taiwan".

American naval aircraft also helped the Nationalist air force establish control of the region?s airspace. Nationalist pilots flying American-made fighters defeated their Communist opponents in a series of air battles that cast doubt on the quality of Communist?s pilots and aircraft. As tension mounted between the United States and China, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff developed plans for nuclear strikes at the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou and Nanjing. These plans were consistent with the public statements of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who on 12 January 1954 had threatened "massive retaliation" against Communist aggression and expressed willingness to go "to the brink" of war to stop such aggression. The Joint Chiefs of Staff war plans for defense of the islands moved automatically into nuclear strikes on Shanghai and Canton, among other mainland China targets, resulting in millions of non-combatant casualties.

Despite Soviet support of the People's Republic of China's claims to the islands, the bombardment abated, then virtually ceased after President Eisenhower warned that the United States would not retreat "in the face of armed aggression." The unexpectedly forceful American response surprised Chinese and Soviet leaders, and on 06 September 1958 Zhou Enlai proposed a resumption of ambassadorial-level talks with the United States in order to arrange a conclusion to the crisis. The crisis ended on 06 October 1958 when Chinese Minister of National Defense Marshal Peng Dehuai offered to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the nationalists and announced that the PRC would suspend the bombardment for one week. Chinese leaders were careful throughout the crisis to avoid a direct confrontation with US forces. The Chinese, however, continued to declare their ultimate intention to extend their sovereignty over Taiwan and the offshore islands. China deliberately kept the military confrontation at a low level, at no time indicating that the military action directed at the offshore islands was in preparation for an assault on Taiwan. Beijing thereby avoided the risk of a strong American response to its actions and gleaned two messages from this second round in the strait. One message was that the USSR could probably be relied on to deter the United States from an unprovoked attack on the mainland, but not as a nuclear shield for PRC expansion into the Taiwan Strait if that expansion required a conflict with the United States.

The second message was that as long as the PRC relied on the Soviet nuclear umbrella, the USSR would limit Chinese military actions against US interests to those that suited Soviet goals and objectives. Such dependence provided a strong argument that China needed its own independent nuclear forces. The Chinese were criticizing Khrushchev's "peaceful coexistence" policies toward the United States, and the USSR was uncertain about the PRC's future course of action toward Taiwan and the offshore islands occupied by ROC forces, now clearly under the protection of the United States. These disagreements and uncertainties led to the unilateral abrogation by the Soviets of the 15 October 1957 agreement by which the USSR was to supply China with a nuclear bomb and technical assistance in the production of nuclear weapons. After 20 June 1959, the PRC had to continue its strategic weapons program without direct assistance from the USSR.

During three of the presidential debates, held for the first time in 1960, Republican candiate Richard Nixon attacked Democratic candidate John Kennedy for his lack of willingness to defend Quemoy and Matsu. The extensive discussion of the Quemoy-Matsu issue led directly to a controversial dispute between the candidates over policy toward Cuba, where a popular revolution had established a Soviet-supported Communist government. The Kennedy staff, seeking to take the offensive after his supposed soft position on Quemoy and Matsu, put out a provocative statement about strengthening the Cuban fighters for freedom.

In 1974 the United States removed the two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms that were stationed on Taiwan, as well as the U-2 planes and all nuclear weapons which were in. This reduced the US military presence to communications and logistics. The United States stopped providing material military aid to Taiwan in June 1973, though it continued a small program of military sales.


Quemoy Island

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Quemoy Island, Chinese (Wade-Giles) Chin-men Tao or (Pinyin) Jinmen Dao, also called Kinmen, island under the jurisdiction of Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait at the mouth of mainland China’s Xiamen (Amoy) Bay and about 170 miles (275 km) northwest of Kao-hsiung, Taiwan. Quemoy is the principal island of a group of 12, the Quemoy (Chin-men) Islands, which constitute Chin-men hsien (county). While most of the smaller islands are low and flat, Quemoy Island is hilly, with both a tableland and rocky areas. The climate is monsoonal subtropical. Farming, the main occupation, produces sweet potatoes, peanuts (groundnuts), sorghum, barley, wheat, soybeans, vegetables, and rice. The government has improved production by building dams and reservoirs, undertaking reforestation efforts, and developing fisheries. Quemoy is noted for its sorghum liquor (kao-liang). Tourism has been promoted since the early 1990s. The all-weather port of Shui-t’ou, situated on the southern coast, serves the main town, Chin-men (Quemoy).

Once part of the mainland’s Fujian province, Quemoy and the other islands in the group were occupied by the Nationalist Chinese when they were driven from the mainland to Taiwan in 1949. Thereafter, Quemoy—which at its closest point is only about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) off the Fujian coast—was subject to periodic artillery exchanges with communist forces on the mainland. One such incident, in 1958, (which also included Matsu Island to the north) provoked an international diplomatic crisis, when the communists heavily bombarded both islands and demanded that the Nationalists there surrender. The standoff was diffused only after the United States interposed the 7th Fleet between the mainland and Taiwan. The island, heavily fortified and its ownership contested, remained under Nationalist military administration until 1992, when civilian rule was restored. Kinmen National Park, established in 1995 and situated on Quemoy and three neighbouring islands, preserves areas of historical interest and natural beauty. Area Quemoy Island, 51 square miles (132 square km). Pop. (2003 est.) county, 60,183.


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INTERVIEW/ Daniel Ellsberg: Smart statesmen can make bad decisions leading to nuclear war

WASHINGTON—U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower seriously considered launching a nuclear attack against China during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958, according to a former Department of Defense official.

Daniel Ellsberg, 90, a nuclear policy expert who has disclosed a confidential document about the incident, said Eisenhower was prepared for possible nuclear retaliation from the Soviet Union.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun on May 25, Ellsberg also expressed strong concerns about the current tensions between Washington and Beijing over the Taiwan Strait.

“We’re talking now about possibly intervening in the civil war between China and Taiwan with U.S. force,” Ellsberg said. “I felt that this study was particularly relevant now to public debate and consideration.”

Ellsberg is famed for his acquisition and exposure of the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971, which he created with other staff members at the U.S. Department of Defense for the Vietnam War.

At that time, Ellsberg made a copy of another top-secret document written and examined by Morton Halperin, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, in connection with the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis.

The secret document shows that Eisenhower and high-ranking military officers at a meeting were considering the use of tactical nuclear weaponry for a pre-emptive strike against mainland China.

They surmised that the Soviet Union would intervene following such a U.S. nuclear attack, resulting in tit-for-tat actions using nuclear bombs between the two sides.

Nathan Twining, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that a U.S. nuclear attack against the Chinese mainland would prompt Soviet Union nuclear counterstrikes most likely on Taiwan and probably on Okinawa Prefecture.

According to Ellsberg, later studies revealed the Soviet Union and China had no intention of going so far as to engage in an armed conflict with the United States.

But Ellsberg noted there was still a risk, citing as a similar example the Cuban Missile Crisis under the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

“There were a number of ways in which war could have emerged, even though there was no intention,” Ellsberg said.

Ellsberg, who was deeply engaged in compiling the U.S. nuclear war plan, said, “When we look at decision-making that led to catastrophe . there is a very strong tendency for people to think: ‘Well, that was long ago. Those people were dumb.’

“That's absurd,” he continued. “The statesmen (then) were at least as smart people as the ones right now or in between. They made horribly unwise judgments.”

Ellsberg was quite concerned about the possibility of the current U.S.-China friction leading to an all-out war.

“Both sides would suffer very great costs,” he said. “If they are not stupid and foolish and reckless and crazy, they will not start a war . . But you know, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”

Excerpts from the interview follow:

Question: You obtained copies of the document on the second Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958 when you got the Pentagon Papers, right?

Ellsberg: The so-called Pentagon Papers were a study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam from 1945 to 1968. I had worked on this study and had drafted the 1961 decision-making volume. And I was studying that for lessons from our failure in Vietnam. But I also had, in my top-secret safe, a top-secret study by Morton Halperin for the Rand Corporation, where I worked, that he had worked on (for) the Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958. He worked on that as a Rand consultant from 1963 to 1966, when it came out as a top-secret report.

So in 1969, when I was copying the Pentagon Papers, I also copied other documents from my top-secret safe with the intention of putting them out eventually after the Vietnam War had subsided, or after the Pentagon Papers had done what they could. And that included Morton Halperin’s study.

Q: Why do you think the document should be widely read for public debate 50 years later?

Ellsberg: The threat of initiating nuclear war has remained U.S. policy until today. And that’s why I felt that this study was particularly relevant now to public debate and consideration because it is a study of an occasion in which the Americans very seriously were preparing for first use or initiation of nuclear war against mainland China.

Q: I am surprised that, according to the document, generals were seriously considering a nuclear attack on mainland China. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said then, there would be “no alternative but to conduct nuclear strikes deep into China as far north as Shanghai.”

Ellsberg: The theory, the strategy, of pursuing U.S. national security interests by threatening the initiation of nuclear war. That was the core of Eisenhower’s strategy, the so-called New Look, or Massive Retaliation strategy, where the official top-secret doctrine that I was aware of said that in any conflict with a major power, like the Soviets or China, the main but not sole reliance would be on nuclear weapons.

When the Chinese mainland, the Chinese Communist government, announced that they intended to take back sovereignty or to assert sovereignty on the offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu, the United States had at that time no plan for defending them with conventional weapons, non-nuclear weapons. Their plan consisted entirely of using nuclear weapons, perhaps tactical nuclear weapons … both in the water, in the Taiwan Strait, and on China.

And they continued, the military, except for the U.S. Army, Maxwell Taylor, the other Joint Chiefs of Staff continued to press strongly for the use of nuclear weapons at the outset of any attempt to invade Quemoy or Matsu, or to blockade them successfully using, for example, air interdiction.

And President Eisenhower agreed that if the blockade were successful, in particular, if they used air interdiction in addition to artillery, he did say we would use nuclear weapons. That’s their plans.

He did disconcert them by saying that he wanted initial operations by the United States to be conventional. And they had no such plans, but they had to immediately work on planning for an initial phase of conventional weapons. But everyone agreed, including Eisenhower, that if the Chinese did not quickly back off in this case, we would have to use nuclear weapons.

Q: On the 1958 crisis, they had already acknowledged that the Soviet Union would retaliate with a nuclear attack. And surprisingly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff stressed that if national policy is to defend the offshore islands, then the consequence had to be accepted.

Ellsberg: I drafted the guidance for the nuclear war plans of the United States in 1961, which were given by the secretary of defense to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For that purpose, I studied the Eisenhower plans, which I was replacing. The Eisenhower plan had no provision for limited war with the Soviet Union. In the case of any armed conflict with the Soviet Union, we would immediately carry out, pre-emptively if possible, an all-out attack on every city in Russia, Soviet Union, and China, an all-out war.

Q: So, do you think the 1958 crisis was on the verge of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union?

Ellsberg: Now, at that time, we weren’t sure whether the Soviets had given some nuclear weapons to the Chinese, and the Chinese had in fact asked for them. But in fact, the Soviets had refused to give them.

However, (Nikita) Khrushchev was saying that he stood fully behind the Chinese and would use all available weapons on the side of the Chinese. The Americans, from Eisenhower down, took it for granted that an attack on China would (lead the) Soviets to retaliate with nuclear weapons. In other words, in my opinion, in retrospect, that was extremely unlikely that Khrushchev would have done that despite his public statements. He said he would, but I don’t think he would.

Another thing we know in retrospect, did not know at the time, was that Mao (Zedong) had no intention of pressing this to armed conflict with the United States. So, in that sense, looking back on it, it was not dangerous because they were not going to press.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, in which I participated as a consultant right below the level of the White House, the executive committee of the National Security Council, I was reporting to them, and studied that for a great deal. I conclude that, contrary to their public statements, neither Kennedy nor Khrushchev had any intention of going to armed conflict. They were, in effect, bluffing.

They were threatening the others and intimidating the others, and were deploying in readiness for nuclear war, but they had no intention actually of carrying out a nuclear war. And nevertheless, as my book “Doomsday Machine” and other places show, they came within a hair’s breadth of an all-out nuclear war because of actions of subordinates who did not realize that their leaders were bluffing, and who were readying for nuclear war in a way that almost exploded into all-out nuclear war.

We could go into exactly the details here. I won’t do it now. But going back to the Taiwan Straits, it was not the intention of the Chinese to hit an American ship with their artillery. It was about bombarding Quemoy.

Does that mean it was impossible that they would hit a ship, either by accident or because some lower person thought the time had come to do so and couldn’t resist, or acted? In other words, there were a number of ways in which war could have emerged, even though there was no intention.

And as our military and Eisenhower said, we would have to “accept the consequences of using nuclear weapons with the expectation that the Soviets would reply on Taiwan and possibly elsewhere, Okinawa, Guam.” So, that it would be an expanding war. They accepted that, in effect. The effect would have been to obliterate Taiwan and Okinawa. And assuming that it did not go as far as Japan, but which could have happened.

Q: What would be the lessons learned from the 1958 Taiwan Strait crisis?

Ellsberg: When we look at decision-making that led to catastrophe, like World War I, by almost all parties, or the decision-making in Japan in 1940-41, which looks inconceivably bad when you look at it, or the decision-making in Vietnam, or invasion of Iraq, or in 1958, there is a very strong tendency for people to think: “Well, that was long ago. Those people were dumb. They were naive. They were immature. We’re not like that now. Weren’t they strange and awful?” And so there’s no lesson to be learned for us. That’s absurd.

The statesmen in 1914 were at least as smart people as the ones right now or in between. They made horribly unwise judgments. And that is equally available to our decision-makers right now.


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Watch the video: When China Failed to Conquer Taiwan: the Battle for Kinmen Island (August 2022).