UNP files, lot 59 D 237, “Membership”

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs ( Wainhouse ) to the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs ( Hickerson )1

  • Subject:
  • United Nations Membership Question

As you requested, UNP and L/UNA have again considered whether there is any feasible way to circumvent or override Soviet vetoes on applications for United Nations membership. We have reviewed the history of the membership problem beginning with Yalta and San Francisco [Page 836] and have gone over the actions of the Assembly, the Security Council and the Court. Our conclusions are briefly as follows:

In the first place, article 4 means that the Assembly cannot admit an applicant in the absence of a favorable Security Council recommendation. The Court’s 1950 opinion reaffirmed this, and the General Assembly has proceeded on this basis from the beginning. In the second place, it has always been understood by both the Assembly and the Security Council that a Council recommendation to admit a new member is subject to the veto. We do not see how we can get around this fact. In view of the history of the membership question and the stated positions of the permanent members, including the United States, and because of the procedural problems involved, it would be extremely difficult for the Council now to attempt to determine that a recommendation to admit a new member is a procedural decision. Although the Assembly could go to the Court on this question, it is far from certain that the Court would consider itself competent to give an opinion. If it should consider itself competent, it would almost certainly decide that the matter is substantive.

It has been suggested, as a way out of our difficulties, that the Security Council might determine that a negative vote cast solely on non-Charter grounds is null and void or that the General Assembly might assume this and itself take action to admit those applicants which the USSR has vetoed illegally. However, the General Assembly is hardly in a position to determine the effect of a vote in the Security Council and a Security Council determination that a negative vote cast on non-Charter grounds is null and void would be difficult if not impossible to obtain. Furthermore, an attempt by the Council, and certainly of the Assembly, to make such a determination would set an undesirable precedent for the future.

It has also been suggested that if the Soviet Union continues to veto on non-Charter grounds, the Assembly might request an opinion from the Court as to whether a negative vote of a permanent member cast on non-Charter grounds can nullify a recommendation for admission which has obtained seven or more votes. Of all the above alternatives, this course would seem least objectionable from our own standpoint, and we might have to resort to it in an effort to provide some new approach to the problem. However, we are not at all optimistic about the results.

In short, we believe that the various alternatives which have been suggested as ways to circumvent or override Soviet vetoes of membership applications are either illegal or are unlikely to achieve any results. Although some members will probably push for one of the above courses of action at the next session of the Assembly, it is likely that there will be strong pressure for an omnibus settlement as the only practicable solution. In this event, our opposition to a package deal [Page 837] will cause even more difficulties than we experienced at the last session.

It might therefore be desirable for you to explore with the Assistant Secretaries the possibility of bi-partisan consultations to ascertain whether there would be the necessary political support for our acquiescence in a package proposal. The package proposal would, of course, contain the maximum possible number of states we favor. We would try to obtain the inclusion of all the present non-Soviet applicants (Austria, Cambodia, Ceylon, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Libya, Nepal, Portugal and Vietnam) and also of Spain and the Federal Republic of Germany. However, it seems unlikely that the Soviet Union would accept the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Korea, or the Indo-China states, and we do not know whether it would accept Japan or Spain. We believe we would have to insist on the latter two countries, but the question remains whether we could in the end acquiesce in a list which was negotiated downward to include all the states we favor except the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Korea, and the three Indo-China states, and which also included the five Soviet candidates.

  1. Drafted by Paul W. Jones, UNP.