Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Miller) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Matthews)


Subject: Proposed Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers.

Article XXXIX of the Charter of the Organization of American States,2 drawn up at Bogota,3 provides for the holding of Meetings of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs “in order to consider problems of an urgent nature and of common interest to the American States”. Article XL provides that any member state may request that a meeting of Consultation be held. It should be emphasized that such Meetings are different from the “Inter-American Conferences” also provided for in the Charter and which are much broader in scope. The Meetings of Consultation are of an emergency nature and their agendas are restricted.

The first point to be considered is should there be a Meeting at this time? There has been a desire expressed from time to time by Latin [Page 926] Americans for a Meeting of Consultation.4 While this desire has reflected the Latin Americans’ feeling of being neglected, specific pretexts have been advanced for a Meeting such as control of communism. Since Korea there has been an increased desire for a Meeting which we have discouraged primarily because until recently the desire for such a Meeting had been focused on the immediate question of Korea; it was our feeling that since this problem was being dealt with in the UN it was premature for OAS consideration of it. Since the Chinese Communists came into Korea we have been thinking more seriously about a Meeting, but we have been worried about the absence of a definite long-range program within our Government which could be presented for implementation to the Latin Americans in so far as their efforts and resources are concerned. We now feel that the impact of the President’s speech5 and of the program announced therein will be such in relation to Latin American public opinion as to make it inevitable that we will have to have a Meeting. All of us in ARA are convinced of the inevitability of a Meeting. We are also convinced now of the desirability of a Meeting for the purpose of identifying the Latin Americans more closely with our struggle and our objectives in the struggle and insuring their more spontaneous cooperation.

The next question then is whether we should take the initiative and make an immediate announcement of our intention to hold a Meeting. I strongly favor making an immediate announcement tomorrow or Sunday of our intention to request the OAS under Article XL of the Charter to convoke such a Meeting in the near future for the purpose of considering matters of an urgent nature related to the present emergency. Such prompt initiative on our part would have an electrifying effect upon public opinion throughout Latin America and would strongly crystallize opinion in our favor. The alternative to doing this is for the pot to boil over during the next week or two and for the smaller states to begin to make requests for meetings on specific grounds which might embarrass us with the result that we would ultimately appear to assent reluctantly to such a Meeting.

This, of course, raises the question of what would be the subject matter of the Meeting. It is not our intention to announce the agenda but rather our initial announcement would state that we will consult [Page 927] on the agenda items. In general we would anticipate that the following would be the main subjects of discussion:

Production and control of strategic materials.
Allocation of manufactured goods and meeting Latin American requirements to sustain their economies and to provide for development, especially with regard to materials essential to the war effort.
Internal economic controls essential to maintain and stabilize economic life of Hemisphere.
Implementation of United Action for Peace resolution6 on regional basis, including general problem of utilization of Latin American manpower.
Common political defense measures in regard to communism, sabotage and exchange of information.

It is obvious, in response to Mr. Acheson’s question,7 that as of this date there are some pitfalls in connection with such an agenda in the sense, for example, that we have not now within the Government a requirements policy which we could announce to Latin America immediately. However, it is not our intention to have such a Meeting until the middle of February at the earliest or possibly a month later. By then we should be in a position to discuss these questions intelligently enough to meet the very general requirements of a Meeting of Consultation. It should be emphasized that these Meetings are not intended to result in detailed programs of action and the implementation of many of the specific points at issue can be delegated by the Ministers to standing agencies of the OAS such as the Inter-American Economic and Social Council and the Inter-American Defense Board. In regard to matters of political defense, it might be desirable to consider the creation of an Inter-American Committee on Political Defense under the OAS similar to the body which operated in Montevideo during the war. The ARA staff has met twice today on this problem and we are unanimous in recommending strongly that the President and the Secretary authorize us as soon as possible to issue over the weekend an announcement along the line of the attached.8

  1. For text of the Charter, signed at Bogotá, April 30, 1948, and entered into force for the United States on December 13, 1951, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 2361, or United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST), vol. 2 (pt. 2), p. 2394.
  2. Reference is to the Ninth International Conference of American States, held at Bogotà, Colombia, March 30–May 2, 1948; for documentation on the conference, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. ix, pp. 1 ff.
  3. In a memorandum dated August 14, 1950, to Rollin S. Atwood, Acting Director of the Office of North and West Coast Affairs, Edward A. Jamison, Officer in Charge of Special Political Problems in the Office of Regional American Affairs, stated in part: “The recent Bolivian initiative toward holding a South American foreign ministers conference on communism, and the Chilean ideas about OAS coordination of assistance for Korea, indicate an attitude which may result in an early demand from Latin America for a Meeting of Consultation. There is also certainly a possibility that we may wish to ask for such a meeting in connection with developments in the Far Eastern situation.” (720.001/8–1450)
  4. Reference is to President Truman’s address on “The National Emergency,” broadcast from the White House on December 15, 1950; for text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1950 (Washington, 1965), p. 741, or Department of State Bulletin, December 25, 1950, p. 999.
  5. Reference is to Resolution 377 (V) of the General Assembly of the United Nations, November 3, 1950. For text, see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifth Session, Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly during the period 19 September to 15 December 1950, Supplement No. 20 (A/1775), pp. 10–12.
  6. In his summary of the Secretary’s regular morning staff meeting for December 15, 1950, Deputy Director of the Executive Secretariat William J. McWilliams recorded in part that Director of the Policy Planning Staff Paul H. Nitze “reported that Mr. Miller has expressed a desire to send out a call for a meeting of the OAS immediately following the President’s speech tonight. The Secretary said he thought this should be thought through very carefully since meetings of this kind can sometimes cause more harm than they do good. He asked Mr. Matthews to have this come up through the staff in an ordinary fashion.” (Secretary’s Daily Meetings, Lot 58 D 609)
  7. Mr. Miller stated in a memorandum of December 16, 1950, to Mr. Matthews, that a meeting of senior officials of the Department held that morning had unanimously approved the proposed conference. He asked permission to announce the U.S. request for it immediately. (363/12-1650)