Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Matthews)


The enclosed memorandum deals with the subject of admission of new members to the United Nations which has plagued us since 1946 and on which there has been an absolute stalemate since 1950.

I am convinced that this stalemate cannot be broken unless we are prepared to acquiesce in a basket arrangement for the admission of a large number of states. As you know, we are under terrific pressure from Italy and FE and UNA attach very great importance to the early admission of Japan. I believe that the time has come when we should seriously consider whether we could acquiesce in an arrangement to blanket-in countries mentioned on page 3 of the enclosed memorandum. I should, therefore, be grateful if you would call a meeting early next week in order that we could discuss this problem.

It is my feeling that we should not, at this time, reach a final decision on this matter but that I should be authorized to begin consultation with our principal allies and tell them that although we have not reached a decision, we are giving the idea serious consideration. I would like to consult initially with the United Kingdom, France, and Canada, and following consultation with these three, with China, in view of her position on Outer Mongolia. Depending upon how our consultations with these countries go, I should then like to consult with the remaining friendly members of the Security Council—Brazil, Chile, Netherlands, Greece, Turkey, and Pakistan.

John D. Hickerson
[Page 818]

Admission of New Members to the United Nations

This paper presents the principal background factors regarding the possibility of an omnibus arrangement to resolve the long-standing stalemate over United Nations membership, and recommends that the Department begin consultations on this matter with its principal allies.

background of membership stalemate

Article 3 of the Charter provides that the original members of the United Nations are the states which, having participated in the San Francisco Conference or having signed the Declaration by United Nations of January 1, 1942, signed and ratified the Charter. There are fifty-one original members. These include the Soviet bloc of five.

The qualifications for new members and the procedures for their admission are governed by article 4, which reads as follows:

Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.
The admission of any such state to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

The International Court of Justice has given two advisory opinions on article 4. In the first, it stated that a Member cannot subject its consent to the admission of a state to the condition that other states be admitted simultaneously. In the second, the Court stated that the General Assembly cannot admit a state in the absence of a Security Council recommendation. It has been understood from the beginning that a recommendation for the admission of a new member is a substantive question subject to the veto.

Only nine states have been admitted as new members since the founding of the Organization. These nine are: Afghanistan, Burma, Iceland, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Sweden, Thailand, and Yemen. The last time that a state was admitted was in 1950, when Indonesia was accepted.

Fourteen others have been voted upon separately but have been rejected. The Soviet Union has used its veto 23 times to block the admission of nine of the fourteen (Austria, Ceylon, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Nepal and Portugal). The remaining five, all of which are Soviet-sponsored (Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Rumania, and Outer Mongolia),* have never received the seven [Page 819] votes required for a Security Council recommendation. In addition, there are four other applicants which have not been voted upon separately. These are Libya and Vietnam, which applied late last year, and Japan and Cambodia, which have just applied. It seems evident that the Soviet Union would veto these four if each were put to a separate vote.

The Soviet Union has for some time proposed the simultaneous admission of most (but not all) of the non-Soviet applicants and of the five Soviet candidates, always making clear, however, that it would continue to use its veto to block the admission of the non-Soviet applicants unless its own candidates were also admitted. Thus far the majority on the Security Council, including the United States, have not accepted this package deal. The membership question has therefore remained deadlocked, the Soviet Union vetoing the non-Soviet applicants and the majority rejecting the Soviet candidates or a package deal.

The large majority of Members have become increasingly concerned over this stalemate. At the last session of the General Assembly, a Soviet proposal which in effect recommended that the Security Council take favorable action on fourteen candidates (the Soviet five and Austria, Ceylon, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Libya, Nepal and Portugal) but which omitted the Republic of Korea and Vietnam, received, over the strong opposition of the United States, a vote of 21 in favor to 12 opposed with 25 abstentions in the Committee. It obtained a vote of 22 in favor to 21 opposed with 16 abstentions in the Plenary vote and was rejected only because the Assembly, upon the request of the United States, determined the matter to be an important question requiring a two-thirds majority. While this same Soviet package proposal was defeated in the Security Council on February 6 of this year, the vote on the Soviet resolution in the Assembly shows that a large number of Members are probably willing to compromise to break the deadlock.

The Soviet Union on June 14 of this year resubmitted its package proposal to the Security Council without including the Republic of Korea and Vietnam. Since it submitted the proposal, Japan and Cambodia have applied.

Our position is to postpone consideration of this proposal until shortly before the next General Assembly. We have taken this position because we wish to reconsider the possibility of an omnibus arrangement but do not want to make a decision now.

discussion of omnibus arrangement

It seems clear that the only way to break the membership stalemate is through an omnibus arrangement along the lines of the Soviet proposal. Obviously, such an arrangement should preferably include all [Page 820] of the non-Soviet applicants (Austria, Cambodia, Ceylon, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Libya, Nepal, Portugal, and Vietnam) and also the states which have not yet applied (Federal Republic of Germany, Spain and Laos). However, it appears certain that the Soviet Union would not accept a list which includes the Republic of Korea, the three Indo-China states, and the Federal Republic of Germany. At present, we have no way of knowing whether it would accept Japan or Spain, if it applies. It is believed that under no circumstances could the United States acquiesce in an arrangement which omits Japan and that we should also desire the inclusion of Spain if it should submit an application. The issue to be resolved is whether we could consider an arrangement which includes all the states we favor except the Republic of Korea, the Indo-China states and the Federal Republic of Germany and which includes the five Soviet candidates.

Some of the arguments which can be advanced to justify our acquiescence in such an arrangement are the following:

In 1946 the United States itself waived certain doubts regarding Albania and Outer Mongolia and proposed the en bloc admission of all the then eight applicants: Afghanistan, Albania, Iceland, Ireland, Jordan, Outer Mongolia, Portugal and Sweden. (This proposal was withdrawn when it became evident that the Soviet Union would not accept it.)
At the last session of the General Assembly many Members appeared ready to accept a package proposal. It is expected that there will be stronger pressure in this direction at the next session.
Admission to the United Nations is a matter of political importance to many of the non-Soviet applicants, particularly Italy and Japan. Their admission is also important from the standpoint of our own relations with these countries. We are under continuing and heavy pressure from Italy to get her admitted.
Perhaps a greater moral influence could be exercised over the Soviet satellites if they were inside rather than outside the United Nations.
The Soviet applicants are no worse than some present United Nations Members—i.e., the Soviet five.
United Nations membership, by furnishing an additional method of contact with the free world, tends to offset exclusive Cominform control over the satellite countries and might somewhat strengthen the position of elements therein opposed to Moscow domination.
The admission of a large number of countries would in all likelihood result in a reduction of the United States financial contribution to the United Nations to the one-third goal. We are under constant pressure from Congress to reduce our contribution to one-third and have with some difficulty defeated House moves the last two years to cut our appropriations arbitrarily to that level.

However, there are a number of arguments which can be cited against an omnibus arrangement including the following: [Page 821]

Since 1946, the United States has maintained that article 4 requires that each applicant must be considered on its own merits and that the Soviet candidates do not meet the Charter qualifications. At the same time, the conduct of the Soviet applicants has become progressively worse.
The admission of Soviet applicants might dignify the puppet regimes, could be interpreted as tacit acquiescence in their present status, and might have an unfortunate effect upon the peoples within these states still looking with hope to the West.
The admission of Outer Mongolia would give some sanction to the Soviet effort to organize Asia into pseudo-independent states.
If we accepted an omnibus settlement omitting the Republic of Korea, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Indo-China states, the U.S.S.R. would be even less likely to agree to their admission later. It would be difficult to omit the Republic of Korea, particularly at a time when the United Nations is taking action to defend it against Communist aggression.
Even though the questions of membership and representation are technically unrelated, willingness to admit the Soviet satellites might make it more difficult to obtain support for our position on Chinese representation.
Whereas the Soviet bloc now comprises only ¹⁄₁₂th of the total membership, it would represent between ¹⁄₇th and ⅛th of this total if the five Soviet applicants were admitted along with 11 non-Soviet applicants. This would increase Soviet obstructive capabilities. Further, on many issues we could not count on the votes of all eleven non-Soviet applicants.
An increase in the number of Soviet satellites in the Organization would correspondingly increase the scope of our internal security problem in New York.

On balance it is believed that some of the difficulties and disadvantages to an omnibus settlement could be overcome if the matter is handled carefully, and that the advantages of obtaining membership for Italy, Japan and others might make it worthwhile for the United States to acquiesce in such a settlement. We could not vote for an omnibus arrangement ourselves because of our strong objections to the satellite candidates. Nevertheless, if the other Members wish to accept the arrangement, and in view of our own deep interest in the admission of the non-Soviet candidates, we might indicate that we are prepared to see the plan carried out, making absolutely clear, however, that our attitude towards the Soviet candidates has not changed in any way and that we ourselves cannot vote for the proposal but will abstain.

The working levels of the Department have seriously considered this question during the past months. Although there are a number of differences as to details, there exists a general feeling that while an omnibus arrangement is in many respects distasteful, the need for some solution to the membership problem is urgent and that, subject to certain conditions, the United States could probably acquiesce in a package proposal.

[Page 822]

immediate action recommended

It is not believed that the United States should decide now whether to acquiesce in a package proposal or that it should decide the many questions of tactics and procedure that would be involved. Before doing so, it would be desirable to begin consultations with our principal allies in order to obtain their views. Such consultations would assist the United States in determining its own position.

During these consultations we would, of course, make it perfectly clear that we have not reached a decision with respect to an omnibus settlement but we would indicate that we are giving the idea serious consideration.

Since it is not known how long the membership question can be postponed in the Security Council, and in view of the considerable time that will be required to work out details if we should decide to acquiesce, it is believed that consultations should be undertaken as soon as possible.

  1. The North Korean and Vietminh regimes have also submitted communications purporting to be membership applications. [Footnote in the source text.]