Formosa and Berlin threatened

In the summer of 1958, while Middle East was still boiling with unrest, a new crisis developed in the Far East. Communist China began a bombardment of the Nationalist held islands of Quemoy and Matsu, apparently in preparation for an invasion of those islands as a first step towards an attack on Formosa. Secretary of State Dulles responded to this threat with a declaration that the United States would take "timely and effective" action to repel any invasion of the offshore islands and to defend Formosa. Despite Soviet support of Red China's claims to the islands, the bombardment abated and then virtually ceased after President Eisenhower warned that the United States would not retreat "in the face of armed aggression." The Chinese communists, however, continued to declare their ultimate intention to "liberate" Formosa and the offshore islands.

The Far East crisis was hardly passed when, in November, the Soviet Premier issued an ultimatum giving the Western powers six months to agree to withdraw from Berlin and make it a free, demilitarized city. At the end of that period, Khrushchev declared, the Soviet Union would turn over to East Germany complete control of all lines of communication with West Berlin, and the Western powers would have access to West Berlin only by permission of the East German government. The United States, Great Britain and France replied to this ultimatum by firmly asserting their determination to remain in West Berlin and to maintain their legal right of free access to that city.

In 1959, however, the Soviet Union withdrew its deadline and instead met with the Western powers in a Big Four foreign ministers' conference. Although the three-monthlong sessions failed to reach any important agreements, they did open the door to further negotiations. Premier Khrushchev's visit to the United States in September 1959, seemed to be opening the door a bit wider. At the end of this visit, he and President Eisenhower issued a joint declaration, stating that the most serious issue facing the world was that of general disarmament. They also agreed that the problem of Berlin and "all outstanding international questions should be settled, not by the application of force, but by peaceful means through negotiation."

Arrangements were then made for a Summit Conference in Paris in May 1960. But the Soviet Premier used the shooting down of an American U-2 aerial reconnaissance plane over the Soviet Union on May 1 as the basis for breaking up the conference. Although the Soviet government admittedly knew about these overflights for more than a year and despite President Eisenhower's announcement that the flights had been stopped and would not be resumed, Khrushchev claimed to be shocked and indignant and demanded a personal "apology" from President Eisenhower. When this was refused, he left Paris for Moscow, causing all plans for the conference to be abandoned.