Secretary’s Staff Committee Files: Lot 122, Box 1314743

Staff Committee Document SC–19244


Policy and Procedures Concerning the Negotiation of Trusteeship Agreements

covering note

The attached document44a is designed to assist in formulating basic American policy on trusteeship matters which require immediate decision.

The need for such a decision is urgent because the British Government transmitted on February 4, 1946 copies of draft trusteeship agreements for Tanganyika, Togoland, and the Cameroons. In a covering note it stated that these draft agreements were transmitted to this Government for its “information” and “without prejudice to the interpretation, to be eventually adopted, of the phrase ‘states directly concerned’”. Also, the Belgian Government transmitted on January 30, 1946, under a similar covering note, a copy of a draft agreement for Ruanda-Urundi.

A reply to the British was drafted by interested Divisions of the Department, stating that the United States considered itself a state directly concerned in the African mandated territories because, among other reasons, of its position as one of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers. This draft reply did not receive the unanimous approval of the interested Offices; and the Secretary, in a memorandum to Mr. Villard dated February 25, 1946, expressed the view that it might be unwise for the United States to assert a claim to be a state directly concerned in the African mandated territories “unless there is some very strong reason”, because such an action might establish a precedent for assertion of similar rights by the Soviet and British Governments in the Pacific Islands.

In a letter dated April 4, 1946, received after the preparation of these papers, the Secretary of the Navy takes the position that “the number of states directly concerned in Pacific islands trusteeships should be kept to a minimum” and states that “any assertion by the United States of direct concern in these [African]45 territories might well serve as a precedent for other nations voicing their direct concern [Page 568] with respect to trusteeship for Pacific islands in which we have a definite strategic interest”.

In as much as any definition of the “states directly concerned” in one region sets a precedent for some other region, as the Secretary indicated, a group of officers representing interested Offices and Divisions met several times to consider this problem again in its broadest aspects. They reached the conclusion that it was probably best to consider the states directly concerned in the mandated territories to be the five Great Powers, as successors to the rights of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers under the Treaty of Versailles, and the mandatory state if it is not such a power. A more restrictive definition would be difficult to secure and a broader definition would be obviously undesirable.

The Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and France, as signatories of the Italian Armistice, will probably in any event claim to inherit the rights and titles which Italy holds in all the mandated territories as a Principal Allied and Associated Power; and the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and China, being among the acceptors of the Japanese surrender, will claim to share in the rights and titles that Japan similarly holds. It is doubtful whether the United States could succeed in denying these claims. It was felt, moreover, that the United States can most effectively protect its many interests in Africa and advance its general objectives regarding dependent peoples by asserting its treaty rights.

With regard to the special question of the Japanese Mandated Islands, it was considered that inclusion of the other four Great Powers as states directly concerned in these islands could not jeopardize American control there. Even if one of the other Great Powers were not included as a state directly concerned, it could veto a strategic-area agreement in the Security Council. … It is clear that if these five states cannot agree on the terms of trusteeship or if the Security Council does not approve the agreement, the United States will remain in de facto control of the islands. The group agreed that when the United States proposals for placing the islands under trusteeship are submitted to the other states directly concerned, these proposals should be published in order that our position would be promptly made known.

The group concluded that as soon as American policy is settled the United States should consult with the United Kingdom and France, as the remaining Principal Allied and Associated Powers, regarding the states directly concerned. It should be prepared to agree that these three Powers, together with the Soviet Union and China as inheritors of the rights which Italy and Japan hold as Principal Allied and Associated Powers, should be the only states directly concerned in mandated territories and that these five Powers should consult as to whether any other states might participate in the negotiations and [Page 569] to what degree. The United States would, however, be prepared to give careful consideration to any different views proposed by the British or the French.

It is suggested that after the Department reaches a decision on these trusteeship matters it should forward its recommendations to the President for his consideration, with the suggestion that if the President provisionally approves these recommendations the Secretary should seek to obtain, through the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, the agreement of the Secretaries of War and Navy and of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

  1. The Secretary’s Staff Committee was responsible for “advising and otherwise assisting the Secretary of State in determining current and long-range foreign policy”. For the composition of this committee, see footnote 46, p. 569.
  2. Staff Committee document SC–192 was drafted in the Division of Dependent Area Affairs. It consisted of several parts, one of which, this covering memorandum, is printed here. Discussion of Memorandum SC–192 by the Secretary’s Staff Committee, initially scheduled for April 18, was taken up by the Committee at a meeting especially convoked for that purpose on April 20; for minutes of this meeting, see infra.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Brackets appear in the source, text.