As of late May 1949, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. reported that British government officials did not consider Taiwan to be Chinese territory -- in their view Taiwan was still part of Japan. If a Chinese government in exile were to be established in Taiwan, the British Government would no doubt make all necessary coordination arrangements through their British Consulate in Taiwan.

Memorandum: Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State
Date: May 25, 1949, London
Subject: Problems of Taiwan

    SIR: I have the honor to report that very little attention has been given in British official and unofficial circles to the various problems of Taiwan, such as the status of the island itself and the status of any Chinese Government which may be set up there, especially in view of the fact that much of China's resources are reported to have been transferred to the island. There is also a report in London that Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his two sons have left Shanghai for Taiwan but the British Foreign Office has not been able to confirm this. In view of the above facts the Embassy has been endeavoring to obtain some indication of British thinking in regard to Taiwan and the following are the results:

Official -- Foreign Office
    Mr. Dening, of the Foreign Office, stated that neither the British Cabinet nor officials of the Foreign Office have given much consideration to the problems of Taiwan and no Foreign Office policy has been established as yet. He stated that should a refugee Chinese government or a Chinese government in exile be set up in Taiwan, which is not yet legally Chinese territory, it is probable that the British Government would simply appoint a British Consulate in Tamsui as an office of the British Embassy in China. His own opinions were that any Chinese government established in Taiwan would be in a very ambiguous position and would present difficult problems to the governments of the world and especially to the United Nations. Should we or should we not recognize any such government as being the Government of China, entitled to appoint diplomatic representatives abroad and to the United Nations? Moreover, the problem of who should control Chinese Government funds abroad would arise.   . . .

    During the Debate on China in the House of Commons on May 5, Mr. Walter Fletcher (Conservative) wished to discuss the problem of Taiwan. He was ruled out of order by the Deputy Chairman (Mr. Bowles)   (Labor), who made the following surprising statement: "Formosa, I realize, is the seat of the present Nationalist Government of China. But it is not China. I think it was part of Japan . . . Formosa is a part of Japan, and is not really China, though the Chinese government may be there."   . . .

    The Economist, on May 21, published a short note regarding the "Ownerless Isle", that is, Taiwan. The article described the present status of Formosa rather accurately . . . If the American Government still wishes to save anything from the wreck of its China policy, the unsettled status of Formosa in international law would afford a ground for treating the island as a separate entity, . . .

[ source: United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States, 1949. The Far East: China   Volume IX (1949), pages 341-343 ]

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