Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson)


Mr. Trygve Lie called me on the telephone Thursday night and asked if I would receive Abe Feller at his request on Saturday. I told him that I would and I invited Mr. Feller to lunch with me Saturday, June 3.

Mr. Feller opened the conversation by telling me that Mr. Lie had decided to transmit to all of the Member States of the United Nations his ten-point memorandum on the development of a twenty-year program for achieving peace through the United Nations. It will be recalled that Mr. Lie handed this memorandum to the President and the Secretary at the White House on April 20 last and subsequently gave copies of it to the British, French and Soviet Governments. Mr. Feller said that Mr. Lie believed that it would be only a question of time until the contents of this memorandum leaked to the press and appeared in public, and that he thought that he should at an early date, probably some time this week, transmit it to all Member States. Moreover, Mr. Lie believes that he should shortly thereafter make the memorandum and his transmitting letter public.

Mr. Feller thereupon handed me the enclosed draft letter from the Secretary General and said that Mr. Lie would be grateful if I would read this draft letter and give Mr. Feller informally any comments which I wished to make on it.

I said at once that I was sure Mr. Lie would understand that whereas I would be glad to read the letter and comment on it I was in no sense “clearing” the letter; that it was Mr. Lie’s memorandum and Mr. Lie’s initiative, and that my reading the draft and commenting on it was not to be interpreted in any sense as associating myself with Mr. Lie’s initiative in the matter. Mr. Feller said that this was understood.

I then read the draft letter and made the following comments to Mr. Feller:

I suggested that in the interests of accuracy the words “in detail” be omitted from the second sentence of the third paragraph on page 1. I said that Mr. Lie had not discussed the points of the memorandum in detail with us. Mr. Feller agreed that these words should be dropped.
My next comment dealt with the first full paragraph on page 2. I said that I realized that Mr. Lie would probably regard that single [Page 386] paragraph as the most important one in the letter and that he was speaking for himself and giving his estimate of his conversations in four capitals. I went on to say, however, that from what Mr. Lie told us of his conversations in Moscow it certainly seemed to me that he was overstating possibilities when he said “that the reopening of genuine negotiations on outstanding issues is possible”. I emphasized the fact that I realized Mr. Lie is describing his own conviction and that only he can do this, but I said that it seemed to me that it would be the more accurate statement to say that the reopening of negotiations on certain outstanding issues may be possible. Mr. Feller made a note of this and said that he would mention this to Mr. Lie but that he was pretty sure Mr. Lie would insist on retaining the word “genuine”. Again I said that this is Mr. Lie’s letter stating his conviction and that I had only stated my conviction based on Mr. Lie’s comments to us of his conversations in other capitals.
I then stated that in my opinion it would be quite unfortunate for the International Red Cross resolution on atomic energy to be highlighted by special mention in Mr. Lie’s letter (full paragraph 3 on page 2). I said that it seemed to me this resolution calling for the prohibition of the atomic bomb on humanitarian grounds was essentially a “phony”. I said that everybody favors the prohibition of the atomic bomb but that the United States Government and an overwhelming majority of the Members of the United Nations have taken action to put themselves on record making it clear that the prohibition must be a part of an effective control system that will make the prohibition effective. I went on to say that the Soviet Government is agitating for a treaty of prohibition which apparently would be based almost wholly on the good faith of the contracting nations. Such a treaty, I added, would be no better than the good faith of the participating countries and that simply is not good enough. The United States Government does not ask other countries to accept our statement that we will not make or use atomic bombs. We wish to see such a commitment contained in a general system of effective prohibition and control to the end that we could not make atomic bombs even if we wanted to since we would not have the nuclear fuel required to make bombs. We ask the same of other countries. We feel that agitation for prohibition of the atomic bomb, unless there is an effective control system to make it really effective, is a dangerous fraud and a phony. I asked Mr. Feller to be sure to give Mr. Lie my emphatic views on this subject and he agreed to do so.

Mr. Feller said that Mr. Lie would show his draft letter to Mr. Malik, the Permanent Soviet Representative to the United Nations, and “possibly” to the British and French Representatives to the United Nations. I stated that this is, of course, Mr. Lie’s initiative, but in my view he should show it to the British and French.

Mr. Feller said that he would let us know sometime Monday, June 5, about Mr. Lie’s proposed timetable for sending out and publishing this letter.

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I suggested that he give this information to USUN, to be passed on to us, and he agreed to do so.1


Draft Letter From the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Foreign Minister of Each Member State of the Organization

Sir: The deterioration of relations between leading Members of the United Nations has created a situation of most serious concern for the United Nations and the future peace of the world. In my capacity as Secretary-General, I have felt it my duty to suggest means by which the principles of the Charter and the resources of the United Nations could be employed to moderate the present conflict and to enable a fresh start to be made towards eventual peaceful solutions of outstanding problems.

To this end, I have drawn up a “Memorandum of Points for Consideration in the Development of a 20-year Program for Achieving Peace through the United Nations”, a copy of which is annexed hereto.2

I have personally handed this Memorandum to the President of the United States of America, Mr. Harry S. Truman, on April 20, to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Clement Attlee, on April 28, to the Prime Minister of France, Mr. Georges Bidault, on May 3, and to the Prime Minister of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Generalissimo Joseph Stalin on May 15. I had opportunity to discuss the points of this Memorandum in detail with the foregoing Heads of Governments and with other leaders of their Governments including the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Mr. Dean Acheson, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Mr. Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Minister of France, Mr. Robert Schuman, the Vice-Premier of the U.S.S.R., Mr. Viacheslav Molotov, and the Foreign Minister of the U.S.S.R., Mr. Andrei Vishinsky.

While it would not be appropriate for me to state the views of any of the Governments on the points of the Memorandum, I can say that I have drawn from my conversations a firm conviction that the United Nations remains a primary factor in the foreign policy of each of these Governments, and that the reopening of genuine negotiations on out-standing issues is possible.

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It is evident that no significant progress can be made while the Members of the United Nations remain sharply divided on the question of the representation on [of] one of the permanent members of the Security Council—the Republic of China. It is necessary that this question be settled.

There are three events which have occurred since the drafting of the annexed Memorandum which have relevance to certain of its points.

In connection with Point 2, I call your attention to the appeal circulated on April 20, 1950, by the International Committee of the Red Cross to the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War, to do everything in their power to reach agreements on the prohibition of the atomic bomb and “blind” weapons generally.

In connection with Point 7, the conversations of the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, Mr. Gunnar Myrdal, with various European Governments have emphasized the necessity for further efforts to liberate international trade from the restrictions and discriminatory practices which now hamper the free flow of goods.

Further in connection with Point 7, I call your attention to the statement unanimously adopted in Paris on May 4, 1950, by the Administrative Committee on Coordination (composed of the Secretary-General and the Administrative heads of the following specialized agencies: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, International Labor Organization, Food and Agricultural Organization, World Health Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund, International Refugee Organization, International Telecommunications Union, International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union, Interim Commission of the International Trade Organization). The Statement reads:

“The present division of the world and the increasingly serious conflicts of policy among the great powers have gravely impaired the prospects for world peace and for raising the standards of living of the peoples of the world. It is of particular concern to the administrative heads of the organizations that these conditions threaten the very basis of their work. The United Nations and the specialized agencies are founded upon the principles that lasting world problems—like disease, hunger, ignorance and poverty which recognize no frontier—can never be overcome unless all the nations join in universal efforts to those ends. We affirm the validity of this principle of universality. The United Nations system makes ample room for diversity within a universal framework. We believe it would be a disaster if efforts to realize the principle of universality in practice were to be abandoned now. We believe that the greatest efforts should, on the [Page 389] contrary, be directed towards achieving in fact true universality in the membership and programs of the United Nations and of those of the specialized agencies which are founded on that principle. We also believe that it is necessary for all the governments to renew their efforts to conciliate and negotiate the political differences that divide them and obstruct economic and social advancement. Specifically, we believe that it is essential to the future of both the United Nations and the specialized agencies that the present political deadlock in the United Nations be resolved at the earliest possible moment. The peace and well-being of all peoples demand from their governments a great and sustained new effort by the nations of the world to achieve a constructive and durable peace.”

I have the honour to request the earnest attention of your Government to the annexed Memorandum. I have in contemplation the possibility of its formal submission to the Security Council at an appropriate time, and I reserve the right to place it on the provisional agenda of the forthcoming regular session of the General Assembly.

I have the honour to be, etc.


  1. The Secretary-General’s 10-point memorandum with accompanying explanatory letter was circulated to the governments of Member States of the United Nations on June 6. For text of the letter as published, see GA (V), Annexes, vol. ii, fascicule 60; also Department of State Bulletin, June 26, 1950, pp. 1051 and 1052.
  2. For text, see p. 373.