Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson)2

  • Subject:
  • US–UK Divergence of approach to the United Nations
  • Participants:
  • Mr. Gerald Meade, Counselor, British Embassy
  • Mr. John D. Hickerson, UNA
  • Mr. Ward P. Allen, EUR

Mr. Meade stated that the UK Foreign Office continues to be somewhat disturbed at the difference between the UK and the US approach to the United Nations and the differing concepts as to its basic purpose. In the UK view the US is too inclined to regard the United Nations as an instrument of collective security against a certain group of states, whereas, the UK believes primary emphasis should be placed upon the UN as a world forum for discussion and for east-west rapprochement. The Foreign Office is now studying the last General Assembly from this point of view and is preparing a brief for high-level discussions with the US. Mr. Paul Mason from the Foreign Office had asked Mr. Meade to apprise us of the fact that they had planned in the near future to seek to have such frank discussions with us on the general topic.

Mr. Hickerson replied that we, ourselves, had been giving a good deal of thought to this divergence in our approach and to the general question “whither the UN”. We would welcome a full and frank discussion with the UK on this and believe it would be mutually profitable. In our view the General Assembly should be both the world forum which the UK has in mind and, since the Security Council is paralyzed, [Page 2] the action body for the United Nations in such matters as Korea, for example, where action is clearly necessary. In its role as an action body when action is necessary it should be a collective security instrument not “against a certain group of states” as such, but against any state or group of states that commits aggression. At the same time we must recognize that while the Charter3 places no limits on the General Assembly in its role as world forum, nevertheless there are definite limitations both in the Charter and in the nature of the institution on its role as the UN action body.

Mr. Meade stated that he felt the Foreign Office would in general agree with the concept as Mr. Hickerson had just stated it, although we agreed that, when confronted with specific problems in the General Assembly in the application of the principle, our positions might be different. We agreed to reserve further discussion of the general problem until the Foreign Office has completed its study.

J[ohn] D. H[ickerson]
  1. Drafted by Ward P. Allen, Special Assistant on United Nations Affairs, Bureau of United Nations Affairs.
  2. Charter of the United Nations, signed at San Francisco, June 26, 1945 (59 Stat. 1031). For documentation on the United Nations Conference on International Organization, held at San Francisco, Apr. 25–June 26, 1945, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. i, pp. 1 ff.