795.00/1–551: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom

top secret

3283. Pls deliver fol personal message from me to Mr. Bevin1 in explanation of course of action proposed in Depcirtel 334:

“Sir Oliver2 came in yesterday afternoon and outlined the thinking you had been doing on the situation in the Far East preparatory to the Commonwealth Meeting. From this I gained the impression, perhaps wrongly, that you were fearful that the naming of the Peiping Govt as aggressors would be followed by hostilities against China itself. I am not clear as to whether if you felt this it was because you concluded that that would be the attitude of the US or whether you concluded it was an inevitable sequence of events.

I want to assure you first that we here intend to do everything we can to prevent hostilities spreading from Korea to wider areas in the Far East. What the Peiping Govt will do we, of course, do not know. But we do not believe for a moment that Communists either in Peiping or elsewhere would extend the theatre of war by reason of their being named as aggressors. Therefore, it seems to us that whether or not hostilities can be prevented from spreading depends upon the deliberate choice of Peiping or those who inspire that regime.

We are deeply concerned that failure of the UN to recognize the present Chinese communist action in Korea as aggression and to name it as such will be the beginning of the end of the UN just as the end of the League of Nations started with their failure to take any action against Japan and Italy in similar circumstances. We believe that this is of utmost importance to the UN and the free world and to the establishment of an orderly international society. The UN, having resolutely met a small aggression cannot afford to close its eyes to large-scale aggression.

I would be less than frank if I did not also say that, important as the UN is, there is another aspect of the question which troubles me as much, perhaps more. As I read the barometer of our public opinion, [Page 28] I am deeply apprehensive that a failure of the UN to recognize this aggression would create a wave of isolationism in this country which would jeopardize all that we are trying to do with and for the Atlantic Pact countries. I believe, therefore, that the UK and the countries of Western Europe have this additional and vital interest in supporting UN action of the strength I have indicated.

The nature and extent of any action that should follow the naming of the Peiping Govt as aggressor is another matter. We believe only practical steps should be taken and great care exercised to avoid steps which would lead to broadening the conflict. The concept is inherent in the UN Charter that no aid should be given to aggressors. We believed this was a sound policy when it was put in the Charter and continue to believe so and, as you know, we have already taken action in the US to prevent any aid from going to Communist China. However, what is to be done, both to deny aid to the aggressors and to assist the UN meet the aggression is not for us to decide alone and it is our position that the question of what action should be taken should be referred to the Collective Measures Committee for consideration.

I am sending this message to you personally to stress the very great importance which we attach to the matter. I understand, of course, your desire to discuss this question at the Commonwealth meeting. I earnestly hope this discussion will be given an early place on the agenda, since events in Korea require prompt UN action. I am confident you will take fully into account these views. It is of the utmost importance for the free world to stand together on this serious question. To make this possible it is essential that the US and the UK and the Commonwealth and Western Europe do so.”

  1. Ernest Bevin, United Kingdom Foreign Minister.
  2. Sir Oliver Franks, United Kingdom Ambassador in Washington.