IO Files: US(P)/A/M(Chr)/11

Minutes of the Eleventh Meeting of the United States Delegation, Paris, Hotel d’Iéna, October 4, 1948, 9:15 a. m.


[Here follow list of persons (28) present and discussion of two prior agenda items.]

3. Question of Southwest Africa (Mr. Gerig)

Mr. Gerig recalled that this matter had been previously discussed by the Delegations, and it had been agreed that discussions should be had with representatives of the Union of South Africa to see just what their intentions were with respect to the territory. Mr. Sayre and Mr. Dulles had held conversations with members of the Union Delegation in which it had been learned that the Union government would not submit a trusteeship agreement and would not continue to transmit general reports to the Trusteeship Council. South Africa’s reasons for this policy were not too clear, although reference had been [Page 278] made to the strategic position of the territory, and to the examination of the reports by the Trusteeship Council on which the U.S.S.R. was represented. The U.S.S.R was alleged to have considerable influence on both the Indian and native populations in Southwest Africa and for this reason the Union government desired to cut off all relations with the United Nations. Mr. Gerig thought it would be very difficult for the United States to prevent the most drastic action on this subject this year.

In personal conversation with one of the South African representatives, it had been learned that two years ago Smuts had been urged by his advisors to submit a trusteeship agreement. The new government, of course, had an entirely different view, although the disadvantages of taking a line of unnecessary rudeness toward the United Nations had been brought to its attention. This South African representative had hinted that it might be appropriate for the United States to make an approach to the Union Prime Minister, asking for a change of policy. The matter had been discussed with Mr. Dulles, who felt it would commit the United States too deeply. For this reason, the best line of action seemed to be to persuade the Union Delegates to leave some loophole in their presentation to the Assembly of the problem of Southwest Africa. Then, after the debate was concluded, it might be possible to work out an acceptable compromise.

Ambassador Sayre said that this was a most delicate and difficult situation. While the United States could argue that the Union government had no legal obligations to submit a trusteeship agreement, it could not defend its refusal to submit general information reports, particularly in view of last year’s undertaking to this effect. Moreover, Southwest Africa was a former League of Nations mandated territory and the U.N. might be said to have a continuing interest by reason of the territory’s international status.

Mr. Sayre also pointed out that under the Charter, even nations with sovereign rights over non-self-governing territories were required to submit reports; it was under those circumstances, for example, that the United States submitted data on Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii. He thought that, if South Africa refused to submit information there would be a violent explosion in Committee 4. He agreed it was wise not to approach the Prime Minister on this matter but believed that the Union representatives should be persuaded not to take an out and out position on this matter at the outset of the debate.

Ambassador Austin asked whether the recommendations in the position paper were still valid. Ambassador Sayre indicated that they were. Mr. Gerig said it might be necessary to reconsider the recommendations in the light of the position taken by South Africa in the debate, but even in this case the United States would probably merely [Page 279] wish, to sharpen the position taken in the paper, to the effect that the Union government was legally required to submit reports on the territory.

Mrs. Roosevelt was not very optimistic about the South African position, recalling that in the discussion of the Declaration of Human Rights in Committee 3, the Union representative had made it clear that it believed a government had the right to discriminate in any way against any part of its population. She doubted that South Africa would be at all accommodating in this matter.

Ambassador Austin stated that the position paper was approved by the Delegation. As regarded the question of approaching the Prime Minister, the Delegation would oppose such a move. On the suggestion of Mr. Cohen, however, it was agreed that the United States should continue to make clear the strength of its own opinion on this subject.