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Minutes of the Fourth Meeting of the United States Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly


[Here follow a list of those present (45) and a record of the discussion on general developments and the Michael Scott case, the first two items on the agenda of the meeting.]

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3. Korea (SD/A/C.1/340/Rev.1)1

Mr. Allison reviewed the recommendations set forth in the above numbered position paper. Paragraph 1 represented our overall policy toward Korea and emphasized the fact that our objective was to bring about a free and independent Korea consistent with the Charter and action by the Assembly. He referred to the relation between discussions in the Assembly and action by the Security Council on Korea. The Council was concerned with stopping aggression while the Assembly would devote itself to the long-term solution of the problem. He explained that the resolution appearing in the position paper was simply a first rough draft which would require some amendment in the light of the Secretary’s speech,2 particularly through greater emphasis on reconstruction and rehabilitation in Korea. The possibility of a separate commission to deal with this problem [was?] under consideration. He requested general approval for the approach outlined in the paper and suggested that thereafter the staff could draft an appropriate resolution to be brought back to the Delegation the first of the week.

He cautioned the Delegates that they would hear criticism of the Republic of Korea as a reactionary police state. He pointed out that the Syngman Rhee Government was the first modern government which Korea had ever had and noted that governments such as ours could not be achieved overnight. The Republic of Korea had progressed with substantial land reforms; in the elections last May there had been 2,000 candidates for 200 seats in the national legislature, thus evidencing interest in politics and, moreover, Rhee had not obtained a majority. These facts contradicted the allegation of a police state.

Senator Cooper3 asked whether it was proposed that the United States would introduce a Korean resolution. When this question was answered in the affirmative, he suggested that in view of Soviet propaganda claims that Korea was dominated by the United States, it would be worth considering whether some co-sponsors should be added. Mr. Allison saw no objection to co-sponsorship.

Mrs. Roosevelt4 observed that the paper indicated our readiness to have elections. Such elections, in her view, might easily result in a Communist victory inasmuch as all North Koreans had been forcibly indoctrinated with Communism, whereas no machinery to teach democracy had been set up in the South. If a Communist victory did result, she foresaw strong protests in the United States in view of [Page 745]the assistance we had given the Republic of Korea. Mr. Allison agreed that there was always a chance of a Communist victory. However, immediate elections were not advocated, and we were looking to the projected United Nations Commission to arrange proper timing for the elections. In addition, the Northern Zone of Korea contained only one-third of the population, and there had been a very light Communist vote in the South.

Mr. Allison emphasized that the Republic of Korea had a large delegation at the Assembly and suggested that the Delegates should be very careful in dealing with them not to give them any reason to think they constituted the Government of Korea. If elections were held, we would be bound by the results.

Mr. Cohen5 thought it quite important that the resolution should not simply be brought into line with what the Secretary had said, but that it should actually seem to have been drafted under the stimulus of the Secretary’s speech. Otherwise the impression might be given that our propaganda and action were not quite the same. He believed further that, since we took the position that the question of the 38th parallel should be decided by the Security Council, we should bear in mind that unless an agreement between ourselves and the Soviets could be made there would be no Council decision. Some thought should be given to meeting this contingency. Ambassador Austin inquired whether this might not be a military matter completely beyond our control. Senator Lodge6 asked what official statement had been made in this regard and Mr. Allison referred to the President’s statement that the question would be answered when we reached the 38th parallel;7 further we believed that any solution should be in line with past Assembly actions and the Charter. Senator Lodge concluded that these facts meant we had retained our freedom of action.

Mr. Dulles8 believed that the resolution was quite unrealistic and basically unsound in the sense that it assumed the military and political aspects of the situation could be kept in completely separate, watertight compartments. Referring to Ambassador Austin’s suggestion that the military should make the decision, he suggested this put the matter the wrong way round since the job of the military was to achieve political objectives. He himself had often felt that one of the great difficulties of American policy was failure to appreciate that military means were simply a way to carry forward political objectives. Obviously, political objectives had to be limited by military capacity, but it was unsound to allow the military to make political decisions.

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In Mr. Dulles’ view, it was unrealistic to assume that elections could be held throughout Korea. He did not think we would ever occupy the extreme Northern provinces bordering on Vladivostok and Port Arthur. For this reason, he wondered whether, unless we could make a proposal sound in principle, we ought to take the initiative and responsibility of sponsoring a resolution, thus committing ourselves to an impossible objective. India always wanted to settle other countries’ affairs. Perhaps we might say that Korea is an Asiatic problem and then sit on the sidelines and let India propose a solution; after that India might not be so eager to mix in other people’s business. By adopting this approach, we could shoot at what was proposed rather than putting up our own solution to be shot at and thus put ourselves in an extremely vulnerable position. He questioned whether it was necessary for the United States to take the initiative and preferred to see us hold back and let Asiatic countries take the lead. Thereafter, we could provide constructive criticism. It seemed to him this position was satisfactory and wise inasmuch as we had no solution to offer which was sound in both fact and principle. Senator Cooper asked how, if the job of the military was to carry out political objectives, we could avoid the responsibility of putting forward our own resolution. Mr. Dulles replied that it was one thing to know what we are going to do, but another to keep our own counsel.

The Secretary9 thought there was a great deal of wisdom in much of what Mr. Dulles had said. However, he could not agree that the situation was quite as bad as Mr. Dulles had suggested. At the present time we had good coordination between our political objectives and the conduct of our military affairs in Korea. If we were lucky and neither the Russians nor Chinese intervened in North Korea, General MacArthur could act consistently with our overall political plans. The Secretary suggested that Mr. Dulles’ suggestions be considered carefully by the staff. Mr. Allison pointed out the importance of having the United Nations go on record as to what it considered the right solution would be in Korea; whether it could be achieved was another matter.

Senator Lodge asked how soon the United States would have to come out publicly on this question. Mr. Bancroft thought that Committee 1 would take up Korea next week. The paper before the Delegation permitted our position to remain fluid, and, referring to Mr. Dulles’ remarks, he suggested we did not need to answer the “sixty-four dollar question” at the outset. We could certainly state unequivocally that the United Nations should do its best toward establishing a unified, independent Korea. Mr. Cohen agreed that the [Page 747]greatest freedom and maneuverability should be maintained and suggested that holding back might get us into greater difficulty than the recommended position. For example, a resolution might be proposed which we could not accept. He believed we should take an affirmative stand on this problem from the beginning. Otherwise principles might be adopted which we would find embarrassing.

Mr. Dulles agreed that it would not be practical or wise to propose a resolution which did not state as our goal the unification of Korea. If less than that were done, it would hamper, if not destroy, our own position in Korea since independence was the goal of Korean people, north and south. However, we were carrying ninety percent of the burden of the fighting, and if we put forward a resolution requiring unification, we would have to consider whether we were willing to have our troops fight their way through to the north. Mr. Cohen asked what position we would take if this course of action were proposed by another Delegation such as that of India. In that case, Mr. Dulles believed the sponsoring delegation should be asked if it was prepared to commit its forces to the achievement of this objective. He went on to say that from our overall strategic position, we should not commit ourselves to a war deep in Asia against the Chinese Communists and the Soviets. Sponsoring a resolution for unification of Korea might drive us into this position and would go a long way toward committing United States forces.

Mr. Allison agreed we should study further whether it was desirable for the United States to sponsor the resolution. He suggested as a first step that some of the points raised during the Delegation’s discussion might be used as a basis for consultations with other Delegations, during which we could obtain the ideas of such interested states as India and the Philippines, and afterward we would be in a better position to decide the question of sponsorship.

In response to a question from the Secretary as to whether Delegates or members of the staff should consult on this matter with other Delegations, it was agreed that for the present it would be desirable to keep our consultations informal and on the staff level. It was agreed further that the Delegation would review the situation next week after such preliminary consultations had been completed.

  1. For the text of this position paper, dated September 19, see p. 736.
  2. The text of Mr. Acheson’s address before the General Assembly on September 20 is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, October 2, 1950, p. 523.
  3. John Sherman Cooper, Senator from Kentucky, 1946–1948, U.S. Alternate Representative to the U.N. General Assembly.
  4. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, U.S. Representative to the U.N. General Assembly.
  5. Benjamin V. Cohen, U.S. Representative to the U.N. General Assembly.
  6. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, U.S. Representative to the U.N. General Assembly.
  7. See footnote 1 to telegram 16 to the Embassy in Korea, July 14, p. 387; also editorial note, infra.
  8. John Foster Dulles was a U.S. Representative to the U.N. General Assembly.
  9. Mr. Acheson headed the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. General Assembly.