August 1, 1955. Reporters milled about outside the Palais des Nations in Geneva, waiting for news of the historic events taking place within. The subject of their interemst was the negotiations being conducted in the President's Room. On one side of a highly polished table laden with crystal pitchers and glasses sat American ambassador U. Alexis Johnson and his three assistants: Ralph Clough and Edwin Martin, both Chinese language officers of the U.S. Foreign Service, and Colonel Robert Ekvall, a Chinese-language interpreter from the U.S. Army On the other side was Chinese ambassador Wang Ping-nan and three of his aides. No recording devices, stenographers, or reporters would be permitted in this room; the discussions would remain secret until declassified more than thirty years later. This was the site of the famous Wang-Johnson talks: a series of high-level negotiations to discuss American and Chinese prisoners in both countries captured during the Korean War, which had ended in 1953.
Reaching this stage of negotiation had been difficult. With the Chinese Communist revolution of 1949, the new government had occupied American build-