The Secretary of State to the President1


Dear Mr. President: The situation here at the United Nations on the Korean question is continuing to develop along the lines I discussed with you Tuesday morning.2 Because of the potential dangers of this situation, I would like to keep you in as close touch with it as possible by frequent telegraphic reports.

I think we have reached a situation in this debate in which it is no longer a question whether the draft resolution we and 20 other states sponsored is to pass or the compromise resolution introduced by Krishna Menon of India will pass. Our resolution, you will remember, was a straightforward endorsement of the UNC position in the armistice negotiations. The Indian resolution includes complex procedural arrangements for carrying out the disposition of POWs and was drafted by him in such a way as to make it as easy as possible, in his opinion, for the Communists to accept it. We have now reached a point at which the only question is whether we can lead the 20 powers to amend Menon resolution along the lines worked out with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Menon made an emotional speech today in the political committee. It was fuzzy but nevertheless seemed to exert a powerful appeal to a large number of wavering delegations.

As I mentioned to you, our basic problem has not been with Menon, but with the British, Canadians and French, who feel strongly we should accept Menon’s resolution even though it waters down considerably [Page 663] the principles on which we have taken our stand at Panmunjom. The British, Canadians and French think such a resolution might produce an armistice. They have grave apprehensions about what the new administration may do regarding Korea, and therefore show a desperate anxiety to exhaust all possibilities for an armistice now, however remote. They argue that even if an armistice were not to result, Menon’s resolution would still attract solid Asiatic support. They are very soft on our principles, particularly on our insistence that all POWs who do not wish to return home be freed within a short period of time.

Following your instructions, I laid it on the line with Eden today. I said we wanted to know whether he was with us or against us. He assured me that he wanted to be with us. I told him we could not accept an arrangement for the prisoners which left them with no alternative except repatriation or continuing to rot in a POW camp, as is now provided in Menon’s resolution. He agreed that they could not either, but he stressed the importance of not changing Menon’s resolution so much that Menon might be unable to vote for it himself. I told Eden that he might have to choose between our vote or the Indian vote, and he said that in that case he wanted ours.

I think we may be able to work this out. It is clear that a General Assembly resolution will have to be based on the Menon draft, but I believe we shall be able to get many or most of our amendments accepted. The crucial amendment, about which we shall have the most difficulty, concerns Menon’s paragraph 17, on which I told Eden that there must be an absolutely flat time limit after which POWs who resisted repatriaton would be released. The British seem to be moving in our direction, but have not yet come far enough. I believe that with patience and continued pressure we can bring them along, and this will help to assure acceptance of our amendments by the Assembly.


Dean Acheson
  1. The source text was transmitted to the Department of State for the White House as telegram Actel 6, Nov. 20, 1952, 8:45 a.m., from New York.
  2. The reference was to a discussion on Tuesday morning, Nov. 18, at the White House, in preparation for the meeting with Eisenhower later in the day. Truman mentioned this morning conference in his Memoirs, vol. II, p. 513.