IO Files: US/A/C.1/1448

United States Delegation Position Paper


Admission of New Members 1

(Item 17 of Provisional Agenda)

the problem

The Security Council is expected to report to the General Assembly its inability to make recommendations to admit any applicants to membership. These applicants are Albania, Mongolian Peoples’ Republic, Jordan, Ireland, Portugal, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Rumania, Bulgaria, Finland, Ceylon, Korea, and Nepal. The problem is to determine what position the United States should take on this question in the General Assembly.2

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1. The United States continues its support of the applications of Jordan, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Finland, Ceylon, the Republic of Korea, and Nepal. It does not consider that this is the proper year to make an arrangement to admit all of the applicants, including the Soviet candidates. However, the United States should not take any position at the present session which would prejudice possible later arrangements to admit all or most of the applicants.

2. The United States views the United Nations as a universal organization which should ultimately embrace all states of the world, but considers that the broadening of membership should not be attained by disregarding the standards laid down in Article 4.

3. The United States Delegation should be prepared to discuss the membership problem with the Soviet Delegation but should take no initiative in this direction except that a member of the Delegation may be authorized to raise the problem casually in the course of any conversations that may take place on related political problems. In any membership conversations that might arise, either through Soviet initiative or in the course of discussions on related political problems, the United States Delegation should take as its basic position the position stated in Recommendations 1 and 2. It should indicate a willingness to re-examine its position on individual cases upon the basis of any reasonable evidence of compliance with Article 4.

4. The United States should not stimulate discussion, or exert pressure, for action or for a strong expression of views by the General Assembly on the membership problem. It should participate in the debate and in conversations with other Delegations so as to secure, if possible, Assembly action along the lines of those recommendations.

5. The United States is opposed to a resolution similar to that introduced by the Soviet Union in the Security Council, calling for the admission of 12 or 13 applicants. Discretion is left to the Delegation, subject to the climate in the Assembly, whether to oppose such a resolution flatly, in which event there are advantages in breaking down the resolution and voting on the several applicants separately, or whether to amend it in terms acceptable to our position. If the Delegation decides to break down the Soviet resolution and vote on each applicant separately it should be borne in mind that the Republic of Korea is not listed therein and thus the procedure envisaged in recommendation 6 below should be followed to ensure the Assembly’s affirmation of Korea’s qualifications.

6. The United States should support a simple reaffirmation of the views of the Assembly as set forth in its previous resolutions on this subject, and, along the lines of the Swedish resolution of 8 December [Page 303] 1948 (Res. 197, III, B) request reconsideration of all applications by the Security Council. The Delegation is granted discretion on the Swedish resolution as to amending it to make a more precise distinction between the acceptable and the nonacceptable applicants. The resolution should further affirm the qualifications of Nepal and the Republic of Korea. Should the Delegation ascertain that a substantial majority of other Delegations would oppose such a provision or abstain from the vote thereon, it should consult the Department. The resolution cannot include North Korea.

7. The United States should vote for a resolution, if submitted by another delegation, recommending that all of the permanent members of the Security Council undertake not to exercise the veto right to exclude any applicant from membership.

8. The United States should oppose any proposal embodying or giving application to the Arce view that the General Assembly can admit an applicant which has not received a favorable recommendation from the Security Council.

In case it is proposed to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the meaning of the words “upon the recommendation of the Security Council” in Article 4 of the Charter, the Delegation should strongly discourage in its conversations such a request on the ground that the question involves no serious legal difficulties; and should preferably abstain or vote adversely if the matter comes to a vote.

9. The Delegation should consult the Department on any new proposals and on any developments which may substantially affect the membership problem during the course of the session.


In 1946 the United States proposed the admission of all then applicants for membership. Soviet refusal to accept this proposal led to a situation, which still exists, in which seven applicants—Jordan, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Finland, and Ceylon—have been repeatedly excluded by Soviet vetos while the five Soviet candidates have never secured seven favorable votes in the Security Council. In 1946 and 1948 the General Assembly requested the Security Council to reconsider the pending applications. In 1947 the General Assembly decided “to recommend to the permanent members of the Security Council to consult with a view to reaching agreement on the admission to membership of the applicants which have not been recommended hitherto and to submit their conclusions to the Security Council”. None of these applications has yet been approved. The United States and United Kingdom, supported by other Delegations, have taken [Page 304] the position that Albania and Bulgaria have failed to meet the qualifications in that their continued support of the Greek guerrillas constitutes, as the General Assembly declared in 1948, a threat to peace in the Balkans and is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter. In addition, the violations of peace treaties by Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria, indicate their unwillingness to carry out the obligations of the Charter. The United States and other Western members have considered that the Mongolian Peoples’ Republic, which has been recognized by only China, the U.S.S.R. and certain other Soviet entities, has not definitely established its international status.

During consideration of the applications of the ex-enemy states in September 1947, the Soviet Union declared that all five of these states were qualified for admission but that it would vote favorably on the applications of Italy and Finland only if the applications of Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria were also approved. As a result, the General Assembly requested an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the question whether a state can, consistently with Article 4 of the Charter, make its favorable vote, in the Security Council or General Assembly, on one membership application dependent upon the approval of other applications. The Court answered this question in the negative; stating, in addition, that each applicant should be considered on its own merits and by a separate vote.

Early in 1949 the Republic of Korea applied for membership. This application was followed shortly thereafter by an application from the Soviet-dominated People’s Republic of North Korea. The U.S.S.R. vetoed the first application; the Security Council, however, refused even to refer the application of North Korea to its membership committee for preliminary consideration.

In June 1949 the U.S.S.R. proposed the admission of the 12 applicants whose cases the General Assembly had requested the Security Council to reconsider. The U.S.S.R. argued that the United States and United Kingdom were pursuing an unfair policy of discrimination in supporting one group of applicants while opposing the Soviet candidates. In September, the U.S.S.R. included Nepal—which had applied earlier in the year—in its proposed deal. In a series of meetings ending on September 16, Argentina and the U.S.S.R. insisted that votes be taken and the U.S.S.R. insisted that its resolution be put to a vote as a whole. In these circumstances the United States moved that if votes were taken each applicant be voted upon separately. This procedure was followed by the Council.

1. Maintenance of Present Policy

The Soviet proposal may alter somewhat the character of the Assembly membership discussions as they have been carried on in the [Page 305] past. The recommendations concerning the position of the United States Delegation in the Assembly are discussed below.

The first recommendation provides for the continuance of our present position toward the various applicants but sets up a general principle that any step or position should be avoided which will prejudice later arrangements to admit all or most present applicants.

2. Universality of Membership

It is believed that the full effectiveness of the United Nations depends upon the attainment of a practically universal membership. It should be practicable and easy for United Nations bodies, in the course of their ordinary proceedings, to deal with any international problem involving any state. The weakness of the League of Nations, arising from the non-participation of major countries, should if at all possible be avoided. As war conditions recede and states other than the major Allied powers resume their normal role in international affairs, their continued non-participation becomes increasingly serious for the United Nations. Long delay in admitting them decreases the chance of their ultimate admission. Accordingly, nothing should be done at this session which will prejudice the working out of arrangements, which would permit the admission of all or most of the applicants at a later date (but see last sentence of para 2 of discussions).

3. Question of Advance Membership Discussions

Under Recommendation 1 the Delegation should not initiate conversations with the U.S.S.R. on the membership problem. However, direct conversations with the U.S.S.R. are likely in respect of other political problems which are closely related to important aspects of the membership problem. Moreover, talks on other political problems that in fact involve the membership problem might also take place. It is believed that the casual discussion, in such context, of relevant aspects of the membership problem by the member of the Delegation charged with responsibility for such talks, would not have adverse results.

4. Playing Down Membership Discussions

It is undesirable to stimulate debate and Assembly action to such an extent as to sharpen the existing differences over this problem. However, the United States will, of course, need to present its viewpoint with the vigor necessary to secure action along the lines which it favors and to prevent the adoption of any resolutions which might be critical of its position thus far.

It will be desirable, in the Ad Hoc Political Committee, to favor the assignment of a low-priority in the agenda.

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5. Soviet Proposal

The U.S.S.R. may submit a draft resolution along the lines of its proposal in the Security Council. This resolution will doubtless have some appeal, especially among the smaller countries which support the idea of universality and have a keen sense of frustration over the membership problem. However, opposition to the Soviet candidates over the religious question—particularly among Latin American countries—is likely to outweigh any tendency to support the Soviet proposal. Accordingly, the Soviet proposal seems unlikely to receive wide support at the present time.

Recommendation 3 leaves to the Delegation the decision whether to amend or simply to reject a Soviet omnibus proposal. In case such a proposal is strongly pressed we shall, of course, have to point out the impropriety of pronouncing upon 13 applicants by a single vote and can cite a dictum of the International Court of Justice to that effect. Some propaganda advantage might accrue to the Soviets if we voted against such a resolution as a whole, and if we are faced with this problem it would probably be advantageous to insist on the resolution being broken down and the individual applicants voted on separately as was done in the Security Council.

6. Reaffirmation of Assembly Views

It would be desirable for the Assembly to adopt some simple reaffirmation of its previous resolutions on membership. A Soviet resolution might be amended so as to include: (a) a simple reaffirmation of the Assembly’s previous views; (b) a request that the Security Council keep all applications under consideration so that they can be acted upon when they qualify; and (c) the statement that certain named countries in the Assembly’s opinion now qualify. This request might be generally in the terms of the Swedish resolution of 1948 with amendments which would make clearer the intent that the Charter requirements not be disregarded, and make more precise the distinction between the acceptable and the nonacceptable applicants.

The resolution should contain a separate endorsement of the qualifications of the new applicants—Nepal and the Republic of Korea—assuming that the vote and the debate on each of these states would reveal impressive support by the Assembly and thus further their candidacies. Should the earlier vote on the problem of independence of Korea or advance soundings by the Delegation indicate that there would be a substantial majority of negative votes or abstentions, it might be against the interests of these countries to press for inclusion of such a provision. Should this situation arise, the Delegation should under Recommendation 9 consult the Department. In any event both of these countries should be included in the request for reconsideration. [Page 307] In no case should the application of the so-called “People’s Republic of Korea” (Soviet-dominated North Korea) be included in the request.

7. Waiver of Veto Right on Membership Applications

The United States and United Kingdom stated formally in the Security Council that they had no intention in the future of permitting their votes to prevent the admission to membership of any applicant receiving 7 affirmative votes in the Security Council. China stated its readiness to renounce use of the veto to this extent if all permanent members so agree. The French representative made no such commitment. A General Assembly resolution of April 14, 1949 recommended in effect that the permanent members seek agreement among themselves upon non-exercise of the veto on a number of matters including membership applications. Consultations for this purpose will probably not have been completed when the membership question is considered.

It may, according to circumstances, be advantageous to inspire a provision recommending non-use of the veto right on membership applications. Our decision not to use the veto in such votes presents a most advantageous contrast to the Soviet misuse of the veto. Since, moreover, France and China would not be subject to serious criticism because the U.S.S.R. is the only member which has used the veto on applications thus far, these two members would probably not have serious objection. However, such a provision should be discussed in advance with the French and Chinese Delegations. The United States should vote for any such provision if submitted.

8. Argentine Proposals

The United States—and nearly all members of the Assembly—have consistently opposed the Argentine thesis that under the Charter, the Assembly has full and exclusive power over membership applications. A suggestion that the International Court of Justice be requested for an advisory opinion on one aspect of this question—the meaning of the word “recommendation” in Article 4 of the Charter—should be discouraged. Especially in the light of the uniform practice of the Security Council and General Assembly, this question does not involve enough difficulty to justify referral to the Court.

  1. This caption might have read more exactly: “Admission of New Members: Reports of the Security Council”.
  2. The drafting of this paper was at the center of the intra-Departmental controversy described in footnote 1, p. 298. This debate continued throughout September. A compromise “suggested” by Deputy Under Secretary Rusk about October 3 was never accepted by the Bureau of United Nations Affairs. (Memoranda, Bancroft of UNP to United Nations Advisers of the regional bureaus, October 3; and Bancroft to Sandifer and Hickerson, October 6; both in Lot 59D237, Box 7210, “Membership”)

    Certain revisions were made subsequently by the Department (Gadel 68, October 21, file no. 501.BB/10–2149, not printed), however, in anticipation of an initial discussion of the question by the United States Delegation to the General Assembly (this occurred on October 26; for minutes of the U.S. Delegation meeting of this date, see IO Files, document US/A/M(Chr)/116; for information regarding the composition and organization of the Delegation, see pp. 12 ff.).

    Actually some of the content of this position paper was obsolete by October 22. In pertinent part, the Security Council by this time had made its reports to the General Assembly in respect of the applications of the Republic of Korea (UN Doc. A/968), Nepal (UN Doc. 974) and its reconsideration of the other 13 applications (UN Doc. A/982). (These documents are found in United Nations depository libraries.)

    At the plenary meeting on September 22, the General Assembly decided to refer these special reports of the Security Council on membership to its Ad Hoc Political Committee for consideration and report.