Secretary’s Letters, lot 56 D 459, “Korea”

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State1



  • Korean Question


  • Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, United Kingdom Delegation
  • Mr. Dean Acheson
[Page 567]

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd called at my request for a general talk. One of the subjects that Mr. Lloyd mentioned was the Korean issue in the UN. He said that he expected to speak on Thursday3 after Vyshinsky. He hoped to center his discussion on the question of non-forcible return, the principle of which he would strongly support. He would ask Vyshinsky a series of questions in an effort to find out whether the Russians were really sticking for the idea of repatriation by force. He thought this was an issue on which we had great support in the Assembly and was the one to push. He said that some of his delegation had felt that he should not speak until after our election since the Korean question had become involved in our political discussions. However, he did not see how he would be raising political questions if he spoke as he indicated since he saw no ground to believe that there was disagreement in the US on the question of no forcible return. I agreed with this and urged him to speak on Thursday.

He said that Mr. Menon of India was working on a proposal (and Mr. Lloyd believed that Mr. Menon was doing this in good faith in a real effort to be helpful) to support the principle of no forcible return and increase the possibilities of an armistice. He thought however that this idea was not very good because there were grave practical difficulties. Apparently Mr. Menon’s thoughts were about as follows:

That the armistice agreement on prisoners should be somewhat vague, such as an undertaking. Prisoners should be returned and repatriated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. It should provide that this should be carried out and interpreted by a protecting power which might in fact be a group of powers, say the armistice inspecting powers, with a neutral chairman. These powers having constructive possession of prisoners would then administer their disposition. Mr. Menon thought that this would produce an armistice and that if there were any disagreements about its administration they would be with the protecting powers and not with the UN Command.

I strongly opposed an approach of this sort. I said that an attempt to have vague principle which meant different things to the two sides would not succeed and would be very dangerous. It would not succeed because the Unified Command of the UN would have to make it absolutely clear that the principle of no forcible return was in effect. This would, of course, defeat the purpose which Mr. Menon had in mind and from which, in my judgment there was no escape. Mr. Lloyd agreed with this. I then said that to have a provision in the armistice which was so certain to present controversy would cause grave hazards for the Unified Command and the troops in Korea. Our defensive position [Page 568] would be weakened after the armistice and if a breach of the armistice occurred as a result of a dispute in so confused a manner as Mr. Menon’s proposal, it would gravely undermine the idea of the greater sanction. I thought that it was clear that we could not accept any such proposal and earnestly hoped that Mr. Menon could be dissuaded from making it.

Dean Acheson
  1. For Acheson’s recollections of this meeting and his view of what he describes as “the Menon cabal”, see his Present at the Creation, p. 700.
  2. This memorandum of conversation was originally written on Oct. 28 by Acheson; it was retyped on Oct. 29 for distribution.
  3. Oct. 30. For the text of the speech, see UN document A/C.1/SR.515.