396.1 GE/5–354

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Technical Secretary of the United States Delegation (Van Hollen)1



  • The Secretary
  • The Under Secretary
  • Mr. Robertson
  • Ambassador Johnson
  • Mr. Phleger
  • Mr. Young


  • Guidance on Korea and Indochina Phases of Geneva Conference

Korean Phase

Support for UN—Ambassador Johnson asked the Secretary for guidance on the future of the Korean phase of the Conference, pointing out that all plenary speeches would probably be completed by Wednesday or Thursday3 and that last Saturday’s restricted session had not indicated any flexibility in the Communist position. Although it was hoped that the Allied side would be in a position to put forth a positive position—Plan B—within a short time, it did not appear that there was much likelihood or practicability of continuing the Korean phase for an extended period.

Mr. Robertson said that the Communists would probably press for the “international supervision” of elections in Korea as distinguished from elections under “UN supervision”. He felt it important that we clearly specify to our Allies that we were insistent upon UN supervision, otherwise our Allies would urge us to accept “neutralist” countries as members of a supervisory commission. Ambassador Johnson agreed but pointed out that UN supervision of elections would not necessarily preclude the possibility of the USSR, India, or other similar countries serving on a supervisory commission.

The Secretary stated that we should stand firm on the proposition that the Geneva Conference should not degenerate into a repudiation of the United Nations. Although the Communists would say that the UN had intervened in the war in Korea, that such intervention was outrageous, etc., it was of utmost importance that the UN be upheld. [Page 183] In fact, the issue of the UN and the entire concept of collective security was a much bigger issue at the conference than Korea. Should the conference end with a repudiation of the United Nations, the results could be tragic and actually lead to the end of the UN itself. While the Allies might attempt to derogate from the position of the UN, it was important that the US urge its Allies to continue to give strong support to the UN principle.

General U.S. Position—The Secretary agreed that the U.S. should adhere to a general position which would provide for the holding of all-Korean elections within the framework of the ROK constitution and under UN supervision. He felt we should take this position and stand on it.

Allied Proposal—Pointing out that the French wanted to have each country put up a proposal in its own name with the right of other delegations to comment on or amend such proposals, Mr. Phleger said that it was important that all Allied delegations reach agreement on a single proposal and that they stand together in support of this proposal. With reference to an Allied proposal, the Secretary felt the Communists would reject any supervised elections because of the repercussions of the acceptance of such supervision in Germany. On the question of supervised elections, the Communists would have Germany in mind, while the Allies should keep Indochina in mind.

Second Phase—Ambassador Johnson explained that when it is apparent that the unification efforts at Geneva had failed, we would be under considerable pressure, particularly from the British, to enter into some type of “second phase” in Korea. The British have in mind (1) a possible withdrawal of troops from their present positions and the establishment of a 40–50 mile buffer zone; (2) a ROK-North Korean transportation and communication arrangement; (3) customs union. Mr. Young added that if reunification failed at Geneva, the British also were thinking in terms of some type of permanent subcommission, composed of the so-called “Big Five” plus the ROK and North Korea, which would be set up following Geneva in order to ameliorate tension between the two sides. It was generally agreed that such attempts to establish a modus vivendi between the ROK and the North Koreans would prove completely unacceptable to the ROK.

Mr. Phleger suggested that rather than say that the Geneva Conference had failed or consider the establishment of a “second phase”, it would be advisable to refer the entire Korean question back to the UN, with an indication that the matter had always been before the UN and was, therefore, simply being sent back to the UN for further consideration.

[Page 184]

[Here follows the remainder of the conversation which dealt with the Indochinese phase of the Conference; for the text, see page 670.]

  1. The source text indicates that Van Hollen was the drafting officer for the memorandum, although he is not listed as being one of the participants.
  2. The meeting must have taken place in the morning of May 3. The minutes of the meeting of 16, cited in footnote 1, infra, indicate that Eden left to bid farewell to Dulles who was leaving Geneva around midday and did not return for the balance of the Conference.
  3. May 5–6.