330/1–1550: Telegram

The United States Representative at the United Nations (Austin) to the Secretary of State


24. 1. With regard to China problem in SC, USUN on January 12 faced with problem of discussing with friendly representatives US viewpoint, of meeting procedural problems which may arise in SC meeting, and of making appropriate statements consistent with US objectives. Our instruction to vote against unseating Tsiang or seating Chinese Communist (Department’s No. 41) gives no guidance as to policy underlying position, but is limited to suggestion that we explain why our negative vote does not constitute a veto. Nevertheless, when faced with necessity discussion problem with other delegations, we have had to proceed on basis certain assumptions which it may be helpful to set forth here:

We take for granted our vote against unseating Tsiang or seating Communist is based essentially on fact we do not recognize Chinese Communist Government.
We assume that US decision concerning recognition or non-recognition Chinese Communists is matter for US Government alone, and that we will not surrender our right to make decision in accordance with our own national policy.
We assume that among factors which will be considered by US Government in determining when and whether to recognize Chinese Communists, the situation in UN will be given whatever weight is deemed appropriate. While we recognize that question as presented in UN is probably tail which follows dog, nevertheless, in view public interest in SC problem, we wish to avoid any action in SC which might prejudice policies or opportunity of US Government to utilize UN factor to further its policies.

2. On basis above assumptions, immediate problem is how to deal with present situation in SC in face of Soviet proposal, to unseat Tsiang, which will be second item on agenda January 12 meeting. Without undue speculation concerning probable Soviet motive in tabling resolution, at time when obviously less than sufficient votes available to pass it, we should appreciate Department’s evaluation of probable significance. This appraisal, which is very difficult to make here, would help us decide whether to join with delegations favoring postponement of voting upon Soviet resolution, or whether to exert our influence towards early vote on Soviet resolution, preferably at January 12 meeting.

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It is obvious that we must avoid any prejudicial dilatory tactics inconsistent with major assumptions set forth above, particularly any efforts which may be made to adopt a procedure which would transfer to some other organ or otherwise impose limits upon our freedom to vote our position as to who has the right to sit in China’s seat. Specific efforts which may be made are discussed below.

3. We assume that Soviet delegation will walk out. We believe we should nevertheless proceed immediately after the disposition, temporary or otherwise, of the second item on the agenda to a consideration of the third item, and to pass the conventional armaments resolution on to CCA. We feel strongly that SC should give world immediate evidence that it will not be deterred from transacting business in the ordinary manner by the absence of the Soviet delegate.

4. We have been advised confidentially that at January 12 meeting of the SC, Tsiang will open the meeting, get the agenda approved and then vacate his seat as President during the consideration of Item 2 on the agenda dealing with Malik’s2 resolution. We have no assurance as to whether Malik will attend the meeting even for the purposes of the consideration of Item 2. We do not feel that his decision in this regard need substantially affect our tactics at the meeting.

5. It is our expectation that there may be some procedural suggestions during the discussion of Item 2 from Tsiang, from Ambassador Rau,3 and possibly from the British, Our telegram No. 15 summarizes suggestion which Tsiang has made to us and it is possible that he may put such a suggestion forward tentatively or persuade the Cubans or Ecuadorians to do so. It also summarizes procedure which the British might possible favor.

6. After the last meeting, Rau suggested a new procedure for dealing with the situation. He drew the parallel of the procedure of the [British] House of Commons which, when an election is contested, refers the matter not to a majority vote but to the High Court. The rules provide that decision of the High Court is binding. He suggests that the SC pass a new rule of procedure, before taking up the present credentials contest, which would provide that the SC would not itself decide contests regarding credentials, but would automatically refer them to a tribunal, and that the decision of the tribunal would determine who had the right to sit in the SC. His thought is that the tribunal might be made up of the President of the International Court and perhaps two others. He suggests that the other councils of the UN, as well as the Assembly, should also in due course approve similar rules of procedure and set up identical arbitral body so that all organs [Page 193] of the UN would accept the decisions of the same body. This body would be guided by the rules of international law, among other things.

7. Rau felt that his suggestion would relieve all members of the UN from embarrassment; would result in all organs of the UN acting in a coordinated manner; and would avoid what he considered the error of leaving decisions of this kind to a majority vote instead of to objective criteria interpreted by an objective body. He made it clear that acceptance of the decisions of such a tribunal would in no way affect the right of each member state to recognize whichever Government it desired.

8. We informed Rau of Tsiang’s suggestion. He was not attracted to it, arguing that this simply left the question to the decision of the majority. We pointed out a number of difficulties which we saw with his proposal at first sight, among them the difficulty of forming the arbitral tribunal; the probable unwillingness of most nations to leave political matter of such importance to an arbitral tribunal which would have so little in the way of recognized rules of law or international practice to guide it; and the practical difficulty of getting all the organs to pass such a rule of procedure. We agreed to consider his suggestion further and advise him of our views.

9. We feel that Rau’s suggestion is thoroughly impractical and unsound. Few governments would agree to arbitration of an issue so essentially political, and we would doubt its wisdom from our point of view. We doubt it will have any appeal.

10. As to Tsiang’s or the British suggestion, we see a number of difficulties which lead us to feel that on balance we should avoid committing ourselves in favor of any such procedure. There is some risk, perhaps small, of being accused of making some kind of a “deal” involving an implied commitment on our part to recognize the Communists under certain circumstances. Any such procedure might well result in making clear publicly that the decision of the US on the recognition question would in fact be decisive for the UN in view of likelihood that many members would wait for US lead.

We have considerable doubts that agreement on a particular procedure could be reached between those nations who recognize the Nationalists and those nations who have recognized or plan at an early date to recognize the Communists. Tsiang and his supporters would undoubtedly try to throw the question into GA where they would seek to block action until two-thirds of the Assembly were prepared to vote in favor of the Communists. The other group would seek to avoid such a result and would seek to turn the procedure into a means of advancing the date of acceptance by the UN of the Communists. We doubt whether these and other differences could easily be bridged or that such a motion could be carried in the SC even [Page 194] assuming that Russians were not present to oppose vigorously and probably attempt a veto. It would be necessary for us to take public positions on any issues which arise in the course of working out such procedure and, on balance, it is our view that we would be better oil if events were allowed to follow their natural course and we retained our freedom of action. While this involves acceptance of a risk of a public fight with Tsiang in the SC as to his right to veto the credentials of the Communist representative, this seems to us to be a relatively small risk. It is one, in any case, which we would have to take if the effort to reach an agreed procedure fails. We are hopeful that we would be able to persuade Tsiang, when the time comes, not to carry his fight to that point.

11. Subject to guidance requested above, our recommendations are:

That we should try to discourage any proposals along the lines of the Chinese, Indian or British suggestions considered above, and should guide the Council to an early vote on the Soviet motion preferably at January 12 meeting. This motion will certainly not obtain more than five votes at this time and probably not more than two or three. We understand instruction in Deptel No. 4, January 5, requires us to state that our negative vote is not a veto even if proposal receives or clearly will receive less than seven votes. Please confirm this understanding.
That we should proceed immediately after the disposition, temporary or otherwise, of the second item on the agenda to a consideration of the third item and to pass the conventional armaments resolution to the CCA.
That we make a statement, if the Russians remain absent or walk out again, comparing their boycott of the UN with the loyalty of all other members of the SC who are prepared to accept and abide by the decision of the SC on the credentials of its members regardless of which government they recognize, and making clear that the SC should proceed with its business regardless of their nonparticipation.

  1. January 5, p. 186.
  2. Yakov A. Malik, Permanent Representative of the Soviet Union at the United Nations.
  3. Benegal N. Ran, Permanent Representative of India at the United Nations.