Secretary’s Memoranda: Lot 53 D 444

Memorandum of Meeting in the Office of the Secretary of State, Washington, January 21, 1950, 11:30 a. m.


Participants: The Secretary1
U—Mr. Webb2
G—Mr. Rusk3
UNA—Mr. Hickerson4
UN—Mr. Trygve Lie, Secretary General of the United Nations
UN—Mr. Byron Price, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations

Mr. Lie, accompanied by Mr. Price, came in to see me at 11:30 this morning.

Mr. Lie said that he was deeply concerned over the Chinese question and the Soviet walkouts from the Security Council and other United Nations bodies. He said that he therefore wished to discuss the matter in strict confidence with me and to obtain my views on the whole situation. He said that his whole work had been based on the premise that the Soviet Union does not want armed conflict and that the Soviet Union intends to remain in the United Nations. He went on to say that developments in recent weeks have caused him to ask himself whether these assumptions are correct. He said that he understood the United States position in regard to the seating of representatives of the Chinese communist government in the Security Council and that he thought that our position was fair, reasonable and correct; that is, that when seven members of the Security Council vote to seat a representative of the communist regime on a procedural motion, this will be done. Mr. Lie spoke in high terms of the President’s recent statement on Formosa5 and my address before the Press Club last Wednesday on China and Far Eastern Matters.6 He said that after these statements he had been much encouraged and had felt that the problem was on its way to a solution. He added, however, that the seizure by the Chinese communists of US, French and Dutch official property in Peiping, and the understandable U.S. reaction thereto,7 [Page 206] seemed to him to demonstrate that the settlement of this matter along the pattern he had previously expected will be neither easy nor achieved at an early date.

Mr. Lie made it clear that he understood the US position in this matter and that he was not criticizing it. He said that he was concerned about the whole position of the UN and that he wished to ask for a frank expression of my views on the Russian attitude. Specifically, he inquired whether I had received any information indicating that the Soviet Union might be considering military action in the near future. I replied at once that I had received no such information. Mr. Lie appeared visibly relieved. Mr. Rusk asked whether Mr. Lie had any such information and he replied that he had not.

Mr. Lie inquired whether I had any information that the Russians might be considering leaving the UN. There was a general discussion of this and Mr. Rusk and Mr. Hickerson both stated that they did not believe that the Soviet Union was now considering leaving the UN. Mr. Rusk pointed out that his own view was that probably in a matter of several weeks seven members of the Security Council will have recognized the communist regime and that when that happens a communist representative will be seated on a procedural vote. He said that we regarded it as a procedural matter and that we would neither ourselves exercise the veto nor acquiesce in a veto by anyone else. Mr. Rusk continued that when the communist representative is seated, he believes the Russians will return to the Security Council and to the other UN bodies as the communist representatives are seated in those bodies. Mr. Hickerson suggested that perhaps the Russians were dramatizing the walkouts from the Security Council and other bodies to distract attention from the seating of Yugoslavia, and recalled the threats which Mr. Vishinsky8 made in the General Assembly about the election of Yugoslavia to the Security Council.

Mr. Lie said that if the USSR did leave the United Nations, he supposed that the Organization should go right ahead without her. I replied at once that this was our view. Mr. Rusk commented that, if for some reason we had to end UN today, in his opinion public opinion in the free world would demand that a replacement organization be set up tomorrow.

Mr. Lie said that he had been earnestly considering what, if anything, he could do to contribute to a solution of all these matters. He said that he had considered whether or not he should institute action to call a special session of the General Assembly. He said that he was fully prepared to act in this direction but he had not been able to convince [Page 207] himself that it would be helpful. I agreed with him that it would not be helpful in the present circumstances.

Mr. Lie said that last November Vishinsky had invited him to visit Moscow this spring and that he had declined the invitation. He said that he had recently reflected on whether a visit to Moscow by him would be helpful and that he was convinced that in the present circumstances it would not be. He asked my view on this and I agreed with him.

Mr. Lie expressed appreciation of the cooperation which he is receiving from Senator Austin and the Department of State in UN matters. He inquired about the prospects for approval of the Convention on Privileges and Immunities and I told him that this had a high priority with us and we were endeavoring to obtain favorable action at this session. He expressed his appreciation.9

Mr. Webb inquired whether Mr. Lie had any specific suggestions as to action which the US Government could take or any criticism of action we have taken. Mr. Lie said that he greatly appreciated the support and cooperation which UN is receiving from the United States. He said that he had very little criticism to make. He said that ERP was becoming “a little more political” than he liked to see and questioned the Spaak OEEC appointment. He did not elaborate these points.

Mr. Lie and Mr. Price both expressed appreciation for the frank and helpful talk with us.

  1. Dean G. Acheson.
  2. James E. Webb, Under Secretary of State.
  3. Dean Rusk, Deputy Under Secretary of State (for political affairs).
  4. John D. Hickerson, Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs.
  5. For President Truman’s statement of January 5 regarding U.S. policy towards Formosa, see Department of State Bulletin, January 16, 1950, p. 79.
  6. For text of Mr. Acheson’s remarks made before the National Press Club, Washington, January 12, see ibid., January 23, 1950, pp. 111 ff.
  7. For documentation on this subject, see vol. vi, pp. 256 ff.
  8. Andrei T. Vyshinsky, Soviet Foreign Minister and Chairman of the Delegation of the Soviet Union to the fourth regular session of the General Assembly.
  9. For documentation on this matter, see pp. 46 ff.