Memorandum by the Director, Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs (Lacy) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Rusk)


Subject: Dissolution of UNCI

The dissolution of UNCI has been discussed by United States representatives with other members of the Commission, and with the Netherlands. To date, the Belgians and the Australians have indicated they will not agree to the early dissolution of the Commission unless the Dutch concur.

The Netherlands approached us on November 20 in regard to the dissolution of the Commission. They opposed its liquidation or curtailment of its activity at that time because the demobilization of the ex-KNIL had not been completed; there was no agreement on New Guinea; and because of the possibility that dissolution might be interpreted as acquiescence in the negation by Indonesia of the right of self determination.1

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Our present information from Djakarta indicates that the KNIL problem will probably be cleared up sometime in May. In regard to New Guinea, in view of the attitude expressed by Australia we do not believe that the Commission is competent to decide the substance of this issue. The Indonesians for their part have indicated that because of Australia’s participation they would not accept a solution by the Commission. The Commission could possibly be called upon, however, for procedural suggestions to solve the problem.

The question of the right of self determination has not been raised for sometime and the unitary state was established last August. We do not see how dissolution of the Commission could at this time be interpreted as acquiescence in the negation by the Government of Indonesia of the right of self determination.

At the beginning of February we requested our Embassies in Canberra, Brussels and The Hague to attempt to secure agreement on a target date of March 31 for the dissolution of the Commission. The Netherlands informed us that they believed a target date of March 31 was premature but that they could see no objection to the dissolution of the Commission following the solution of the KNIL problem. At this time we attempted to secure agreement with the Netherlands in Djakarta that barring any new developments and immediately following the solution of the KNIL problem that the Commission (a) report to the Security Council the conclusion of its work and recommend its dissolution and (b) disband leaving caretaker functions to members of the respective Embassies in Djakarta until such time as the Council notes and approves its report.

On February 27 the Dutch informed us that they will agree to the withdrawal of the Commission’s Secretariat and Military Observers following the solution of the ex-KNIL problem but that they do not want to see the Commission formally dissolved for the following reasons:

They consider the Commission should remain in being so long as the Indonesian question is on the agenda of the Security Council.
Other similar United Nations Commissions have not heretofore been formally dissolved.
Domestic political considerations in the Netherlands render agreement on the complete dissolution of the Commission at this time impossible.
Should the need for United Nations machinery in Indonesia again arise, they believe it would be impossible to establish another commission in the Security Council whose composition would be as acceptable as the present one.

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These reasons are not compelling from our point of view.

There is no necessary connection between the Indonesian case’s being on the agenda of the Security Council and the dissolution of the Commission. As the Netherlands must be aware there are a number of cases on the Council’s agenda in which there are no commissions in the field. We would consider, and believe other Council members would concur, in the propriety of the case’s remaining on the agenda of the Council after the Commission is formally dissolved.
Although it is true that other similar commissions have not been dissolved it is also true that the successful settlement of the Netherlands-Indonesian dispute was hailed by an overwhelming majority of the Members of the United Nations in December 1949. Presumably, therefore, there will be no reason for the Commission’s continued existence after its one remaining job is completed. From the standpoint of good United Nations practice it appears to us that a commission which is not in fact active is detrimental to the United Nations and detracts from dignity of its members. We do not believe that United Nations field commissions should be maintained indefinitely on the chance that there may possibly be a need for them at an unforeseen later time.
We are sympathetic, of course, to Netherlands domestic political considerations vis-à-vis the dissolution of the Commission. The question of the dissolution of the Commission, however, has been under discussion between our two Governments since November of last year and we hope that Dutch domestic problems in this regard will be resolved in the near future.
Although it is perhaps true that it would be impossible to establish another commission of the Security Council with a similar composition, it should be pointed out that other machinery of pacific settlement exists, such as the the Conciliation Panel and the Peace Observation Commission and would be available if a legitimate need arose for its use. Furthermore, we believe that the present composition of the Commission would militate against its participation in the substance of the only problem with which we can foresee at this time that it might have to deal, i.e., the New Guinea problem.

Although it has no objection to another approach to the Dutch on this issue, WE does not believe the Dutch are likely to alter their present position substantially, at least until a new government is formed in the Hague. UNA favors dissolution of the Commission but feels that representations to this end should be subject to political considerations of our relations with the Dutch, the Indonesians and the Australians. Nevertheless, in view of the other considerations outlined above, I suggest that you call in Ambassador van Roijen2 and [Page 612] express to him our considered view that the Commission should be dissolved following the liquidation of the ex-KNIL issue.

  1. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. vi, pp. 964 ff.
  2. J. Herman van Roijen, Netherlands Ambassador to the United States.