Memorandum by the Officer in Charge of General Assembly Affairs in the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs (Popper)2


Subject: United Nations Action to Apply Economic Sanctions Against China

Late in December, the Under Secretary requested UNA to examine, with other bureaus, the possibilities for United Nations action to apply economic sanctions against Communist China pursuant to a suggestion made by Assistant Secretary Thorp.3 While the subject has since been under general discussion, it is believed that the time has now arrived when draft instruction should be formulated for the use of the United States Representative on the Collective Measures [Page 1875] Committee4 in the event that the Committee is asked to make recommendations to the General Assembly or to Member States on the application of sanctions against the Chinese Communists.

Any action taken by the General Assembly or by Members on recommendation of the Collective Measures Committee would presumably be analogous to that envisaged in Article 41 of the Charter dealing with the power of the Security Council to call upon Members of the United Nations for measures such as the complete or partial interruption of economic relations and rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.

It is probable that if the Collective Measures Committee considers the matter, it will devote most of its attention to the question of economic sanctions. The United States Representative on the Collective Measures Committee should be given instructions detailing the types of multilateral economic measures, if any, which we consider appropriate to recommend in the circumstances and should be supplied with factual material which will enable him to press for the action desired by the United States.

It is therefore proposed that, at a meeting to be held in the office of Mr. Sandifer (Room 6115 NS) on Wednesday, January 10 at 3:00 p. m., a working group be established for the preparation of the various sections of the documentation needed by the United States Representative. It is believed that studies should be prepared on a list of questions such as the following:

Should the United States Representative press for a recommendation that Members completely interrupt all trade and communications with China?
If not, should he seek: (a) a complete embargo on exports to China, or (b) a selective embargo covering only materials of particular importance to the maintenance of Chinese war potential?
If the latter, what products should be included?
What effect would an embargo, either total or partial, have upon: (a) Chinese economy as a whole, or (b) Chinese war potential?
Which suppliers of the products included in a selective embargo would need to cooperate in order to produce a sufficient effect on Chinese potential to make such an enterprise worthwhile?
Assuming the effective participation of United Nations Members in the embargo, would any Member suffer appreciable economic losses from its application? Would it be possible to compensate any Member, or such areas as Hongkong and Japan, for losses which they suffered?
What techniques of control should be recommended by the Collective Measures Committee: The imposition of licensing and other export controls by supplying countries, the freezing of funds, control of shipping, naval blockade, other measures?
Would an embargo on the importation of Chinese products by United Nations Members seriously affect the Chinese economy as a whole? To what extent would it deprive United Nations Members of strategic materials?
If China should prevent the exportation of these strategic materials in retaliation for sanctions applied by United Nations Members, how serious would the effects be in the free world?
Aside from action in the field of trade, are there any possibilities for effective action against China through interruption of communications and transport between China and United Nations Members?
Would any special United States legislation be necessary for action on the subject matter covered in the previous questions?
Would steps along the lines suggested above have any appreciable consequences upon the war economy of the Soviet bloc?5

  1. This memorandum was forwarded, with a covering memorandum of January 9 by Durward V. Sandifer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs, to representatives of nine areas of the Department of State with the request that they, or officers designated by them, attend a meeting on January 10 to discuss this subject (493.009/1–951).
  2. Willard L. Thorp was Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.
  3. The United States Representative to the United Nations, Warren Austin, was the U.S. Representative on the Collective Measures Committee.
  4. For text of a draft position paper of February 12 as prepared by the working group, see the attachment to Mr. Allen’s memorandum of February 15, p. 1914.