846E.2395/1–852: Telegram

The Chargé in Ceylon (Gufler) to the Department of State2


404. Yesterday evening Black and I were called to PriMin’s office. Min Home Affairs Goonetilleke, MinFin Jayewardene and MEA Parliamentary Secy Renanayake also present.

PriMin said MinFin proceeding London Wed for Commonwealth finance talks and it was most important he should know what future dollar position would be. He then quoted statistics to demonstrate reduction in US purchases Ceylon rubber. At this point Goonetilleke interjected that this decline coincided with Mickiewicz shipment to China3 and presumably some connection between two.

PriMin concluded by asking whether we considered this appropriate time hold discussions to re-estab normal pattern US rubber purchases.

We expressed categorical opinion no relation between Mickiewicz shipment and decline in US rubber purchases which should be attributed to purely econ factors. We then reviewed background original rubber purchase talks and mentioned that when Amb Corea raised question in Dept in Nov (Deptel 202, Nov 17)4 door was left open and that Emb subsequently indicated US willing discuss rubber contract [Page 1500] (Deptel 226, Dec 6)5 presumably on basis original ideas (Deptel 1, July 2).6

We concluded by saying that so far as we knew US position unchanged but that US definitely would not be willing send negotiator to Ceylon at least until gen principles had been agreed upon in Washington between two govts and under no circumstances would US official negot with Ceylon trade. We realized GOC could not conclude final agrmt without consultation trade here but time as to when trade should be brought into picture should be decided between two govts. If GOC desired resume talks it should take initiative by instructing Amb Corea approach Dept and GOC must suggest alternate procedure other than US send rep Ceylon, or at least indicate willingness consider US views on way discussions should be conducted.

There was gen agrmt US Govt should not be asked negot with Ceylon trade but PriMin pointed out it would be easier reach agrmt acceptable to trade if it were brought into negots at early stage.

Meeting ended with PriMin saying Amb Corea would be immediately instructed request resumption discussions and asking us advise Dept accordingly.

After meeting gov Central Bank Exter, who had been there prior our arrival, informed us that principal purpose calling us in was to dissipate PriMin’s fears US might try “push Ceylon around” if talks resumed.

During discussion there was no mention future shipments to Red China. Embassy had, however, previously made US attitude clear (Embtel 315, Nov 12,7 347, Nov 28,8 370 Dec 7).9

Emb still awaiting receipt airgram referred to Deptel 226.

  1. This telegram was repeated to London as telegram 186.
  2. The Mickiewicz was a Polish vessel which had departed Colombo harbor in early October 1951, with the first major shipment of Ceylonese rubber to Communist China. Since this action violated both the U.S. and UN embargo of strategic goods to China, undertaken as a Korean War measure, it consequently strained U.S.-Ceylonese relations. The U.S. Government shortly thereafter terminated all aid to Ceylon in compliance with the Battle Act (explained more fully in footnote 3, p. 1503). For an account of events surrounding the Mickiewicz shipment and the U.S. reaction to them, particularly for the months of September and October 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vi, Part 2, pp. 2013 ff.
  3. Telegram 202 to Colombo stated that Claude Corea, Ceylon’s Ambassador to the United States, had on his own initiative discussed with a Department official the possibilities of reopening talks with the United States on a rubber purchase agreement (846E.2317/11–1051). See footnote 2, Ibid., p. 2078.
  4. Telegram 226 to Colombo suggested that the Embassy indicate to Ceylon Government officials the continued U.S. willingness to discuss a rubber contract (746E.10/11–2851).
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vi, Part 2, p. 2031.
  6. See Ibid., p. 2074.
  7. Telegram 347 from Colombo reported a conversation between the governor of the Ceylon Central Bank and an Embassy official in which the possibility of a U.S. rubber purchase agreement was discussed. In this conversation, the governor assumed that the United States would not consider a bulk buying agreement unless Ceylon gave assurances that further rubber shipments to China would cease. (846E.10/11–2851)
  8. Telegram 370 from Colombo reported a conversation between the Ceylonese Prime Minister and Embassy officials in which the American attitude toward rubber shipments to China was again reiterated (493.46E9/12–751).