The Department of State to the Embassy of the Union of South Africa



In his conversation with His Excellency the Ambassador of South Africa on Friday afternoon February 17, Assistant Secretary of State Hickerson made the following points with respect to the problem of Southwest Africa.1 The conversation should be construed as an entirely friendly one motivated solely by the desire of the United States to be as helpful as possible to the Union of South Africa in this matter. As the Ambassador knows, the United States has long felt South Africa has pursued an incorrect and injudicious course but we have pursued the policy of endeavoring to be helpful to the Union in the sense of moderating extreme criticisms. The United States has also felt that time is needed for South Africa to work out her difficulties on this problem and this was the primary motivation of the position [Page 1814] the United States Delegation took at the last Assembly in supporting strongly the request for an advisory opinion of the Court.2 The United States felt this procedure would gain needed time and in that respect would help South Africa. The Union Government should not, however, feel that the position was assumed merely to help her. The United States felt in view of the importance of gaining time that it was the correct position.

Mr. Hickerson then said that the United States hoped that the Union would take advantage of the time gained to develop some formula which could be accepted internationally and which will be a step forward towards the solution of the Southwest African problem. Mr. Hickerson said that he recalled what the Ambassador had said to him in New York that in the Union there was the problem of persuading people on the merits of the United Nations rather than the reverse but that he wished to cite the importance of the Union doing something on this problem which will permit her to emerge from behind the international cloud where she now finds herself. Mr. Hickerson stressed the contribution which South Africa can and should be making to the United Nations. By way of illustration he referred to our support of South Africa for membership on the Eritrean Commission stating that we had done this not only because we felt that South Africa can make a contribution to the work of this Commission but that we had wanted to afford her an opportunity to participate as it should in some United Nations body. Mr. Hickerson urged and reiterated the point of view that the Union Government should attempt to get itself into a frame of mind which would permit some constructive action on Southwest Africa, certainly promptly following the rendering of the Court opinion if not before. Mr. Hickerson mentioned the resumption of the filing of reports as an example of constructive action. Mr. Hickerson pointed out that the opportunity of time may not recur. He also pointed out that in view of the new and powerful forces now emerging in the world that the United States itself would find it increasingly difficult in the future to take positions on this problem helpful to the Union.

Mr. Hickerson also referred to the Court’s consideration of the request for an advisory opinion and the unfortunate international reaction to the attitude towards the Court which has been adopted by the satellite countries in the Human Rights case. He expressed the hope that any brief which the Union might file would be moderate in tone and not question the jurisdiction of the Court in this matter.

[Page 1815]

In concluding Mr. Hickerson reiterated our friendship for the Union and our hope that the Union will get itself into a position so that she can play the international role which she is capable of and which she should play.3

  1. With the exception of Southwest Africa, all territories held tinder mandate from the former League of Nations either had become independent or had been placed under the United Nations trusteeship system. South Africa had refused to submit a trusteeship agreement for Southwest Africa to the UN, and in July 1949 South Africa informed the UN Secretary-General that it would not submit any further reports to the UN on Southwest Africa.
  2. On December 6, 1949, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to render an advisory opinion on the international status of Southwest Africa.
  3. Regarding further developments in the Southwest Africa question, see the editorial note, p. 1828.