810.014/12–148: Circular airgram

The Acting Secretary of State to Diplomatic Representatives in the American Republics Except Argentina and Guatemala 1


According to reports received in the Department, fourteen countries have now appointed representatives to the American Committee on Dependent Territories, provided for in Resolution XXXIII of the Bogotá Conference.2 Convocation of the Committee by the Council of the Organization of American States, after consultation with the Cuban government, will probably follow soon. Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Uruguay and the United States have not designated representatives to the Committee.

For your information, the slowness with which appointments to this Committee have been made and the general lack of background on the part of many of the appointees in the substantive aspects involved lead the Department to question the seriousness of the interest of more than a few American governments in this Committee and to doubt that it will, when convoked, become much more than a sounding board for well-known grievances of those few countries and an occasion for propaganda attacks of elements antagonistic both to our European friends and to the solidarity of the Americas.

On the other hand, the Department is reluctant to decide against participation in a group established as the result of majority action of an Inter-American conference both because of the unfortunate effect on relations with the other American republics and our general policy to accept majority decisions of international organizations even when the United States originally opposed their adoption.

Prior to arriving at a final decision on participation in the Committee, the Department desires to ascertain the extent to which its views are shared by the other American republics which do not have a particular and direct interest in the mattters to be taken up. You are, therefore, requested to approach the Foreign Minister, outline to [Page 77] him the following statement of U.S. views, and report his comments. It should be made clear in such discussion that this Government has made no final decision on the appointment of a representative and is anxious to learn the Foreign Minister’s views in order to be in a better position to estimate accurately whether the activities of the Committee are likely to attain any useful results.

According to the pertinent Bogotá resolution, it appears that the two kinds of situations which the Committee is charged with studying and reporting on are (1) those involving territory, the sovereignty of which is in dispute between American and non-American states and (2) other non-self-governing territories long held by European states in the Western Hemisphere.

With regard to the former, the United States holds that the Committee should not, under any circumstances, attempt to act as a court of law, since the procedures of a strictly Inter-American committee do not allow the full and equal presentation of the positions of all countries concerned, which the U.S. believes to be a matter of elementary justice. The U.S. is not aware of any existing controversies over territory held by a non-American state in the Western Hemisphere which cannot be properly dealt with either by direct negotiation or through the procedures set forth in the Charter of the UN, including the Statute of the International Court of Justice. In these circumstances, the U.S. would oppose the Committee’s taking any action which, by supporting claims of one country to territory in dispute, would prejudice the opportunity for a peaceful settlement in accordance with procedures recognized in international law.

With regard to the second type of situation, the U.S., in line with its traditional policies and practices, supports firmly the provisions contained in the “Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories” (Chap. XI of the UN Charter)3 and notes particularly the “sacred trust” therein assumed by countries administering such territories. It holds further that, if there are instances in which non-administering governments believe administering governments to be delinquent in fulfilling their obligations under this article, the procedures set forth in the UN Charter should be followed in dealing with the issues raised. In this connection, you may refer to the fact that the UN General Assembly has recently approved continuance for one year of the Special Committee on Information Transmitted Under Article 73 e of the Charter. This Committee is charged with examining the information transmitted to the Secretary General of the UN under the UN Charter provision which requires countries having responsibilities for the administration of non-self-governing territories to submit statistical and other information of a technical nature [Page 78] relating to economic, social, and educational conditions in those territories.

You may point out further that any move on the part of this proposed Committee to obtain information from inside a non-self-governing territory would almost inevitably be regarded by the controlling country as intervention in its domestic affairs, violating a principle to which the American republics have given special devotion.

You should say that, with the above considerations in mind, the U.S. is strongly of the opinion that the American republics, which are united in opposition to totalitarian threats to their freedom and independence, should take no action at this crucial time in world affairs which would cause dissension and bitterness among the free nations of the world and thereby give aid and comfort to the forces that are seeking to undermine and destroy democratic institutions everywhere.

Please telegraph report of conversation.

  1. Sent to the Embassies in Argentina and Guatemala for information.
  2. See report of the American delegation to the Ninth International Conference of American States, Bogotá, Colombia, March 30–May 2, 1948 (Department of State Publication No. 8263) p. 268.
  3. Department of State Treaty Series No. 993, or 59 Stat. 1031.