New Crises In Formosa And Berlin

In the summer of 1958, while the Middle East was still seething with unrest, a new crisis developed in the Far East. The People's Republic of China began a bombardment of the Nationalist Chinese islands of Quemoy and Matsu, apparently in preparation for an invasion of those islands as a first step toward an attack on Taiwan. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles declared that the U.S. would take "timely and effective action to defend Taiwan". 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 Chinese, however, continued to declare their ultimate intention to extend their sovereignty over Taiwan and the offshore islands.

Hardly had the Far East crisis passed than, in November of 1958, Soviet Premier Khrushchev 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; the western powers then 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 the Soviet Union withdrew its deadline and instead met with the Western powers in a Big Four foreign ministers' conference. Although the three-month-long sessions failed to reach any important agreements, they did open the door to further negotiations and led to Premier Khrushchev's visit to the United States in September of 1959. At the end of this visit, Khrushchev and President Eisenhower stated jointly that the most important issue in the world was general disarmament and that the problem of Berlin and "all outstanding international questions should be settled, not by the application of force, but by peaceful means through negotiations."