MacArthur–Spaak Meeting, Geneva, April 30, 11:45 a.m.: Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor (MacArthur)1
I called on Mr. Spaak this morning at 11:45 pursuant to the Secretary’s instructions. I said to Mr. Spaak that the Secretary had asked me to come to see him informally to lay before him a very serious problem and to seek his advice how best it might be met. I then described the problem in the following terms:
The Geneva Conference has been in session almost one full week and thus far not a single Western European country has made any statement at the Conference or attempted in any way to rebut the Soviet thesis. The Plenary sessions, I understood, were scheduled to end very soon. If some of the Western European countries do not make statements rebutting the Communist charges American Congressional and public opinion will most certainly interpret it as meaning that the Western European countries ask us to stand up and be counted with them whenever they are in difficulty and also ask us for all kinds of material and moral assistance, but at the same time they are unwilling to face up to the Soviets when purely European interests are not involved. This is not calculated to inspire confidence among the American people in the determination of Western Europe to stand together with the United States in attempting to prevent the Soviets from taking over not only Asia but also Europe. I thought there would be a direct effect on the Congressional support we could get for our [Page 163]European policy. It would certainly reinforce all elements in America who wished to withdraw and adopt the “Fortress America” concept.
The second point which I wished to mention was the fact that Chou En-lai, because it is the first time he has spoken in any international gathering of this kind, had largely captured the headlines throughout the free world and also in Asia. If his accusations against the United Nations and general deformation of history were not rebutted, the Soviets would have the cheapest and most extensive propaganda victory in recent years. I felt we should recognize that the impact on public opinion of Geneva Conference would probably be its most important single outcome, just as had been the case of the Berlin Conference. As Mr. Spaak had said yesterday, we could not get agreements with the Soviets because they did not wish to reach reasonable agreements. To accept the Soviet and Chinese Communist declarations and statements at the conference table without rebutting them was certainly not calculated to gain the support of public opinion in the free world for what we were doing.
I said that I was not suggesting that Mr. Spaak get up and make a speech on the South Korean proposal for unification of Korea. I was fully aware of the difficulties which he would have in supporting the opening ROK proposal. What I was suggesting was that possibly himself and other Western European Foreign Ministers make statements attacking the false Soviet and Chinese charges against the United Nations and in general pointing out the total Communist distortion of history in their statements. I felt that both in terms of Western and Asiatic opinion, it was most important to develop the theme of Soviet imperialism which has manifested itself in the Eastern European satellites, East Germany, Austria, and also in North Korea and Indochina.
Mr. Spaak replied that he had not thought about the impact on American opinion of a failure of the Western European countries to stand up and speak. If it was our judgment that there would be such a reaction, it was essential that some of the Western European countries make statements. He had talked with most of his European colleagues including Mr. Eden and he had the strong impression that there was a feeling of lassitude and inutility in just a series of speeches rebutting the same old Soviet charges. There was however another point which made them instinctively shy away from making a statement. This was the fact that if they were to make a statement, it should be aimed at the problem which was the establishment of a unified, free, and independent Korea. The ROK had put forth a position which none of the Western countries liked. The North Koreans had countered with a plan calling for all-Korean elections. Actually under the present circumstances [Page 164]the North Korean plan which came second and could be construed as a counter proposal was really the basis for discussion. It was not in anybody’s interest to have the North Korean proposal the basis of discussion and this was why it was so important to counter with a ROK proposal for all-Korean elections supervised by the UN. Mr. Spaak inquired whether Rhee would agree to such a plan by the beginning of next week. I said in my judgment there was no hope and that it would probably take at a minimum a week to bring Rhee around if indeed he could be brought around. Mr. Spaak said that under these circumstances he could make a speech along the lines which I had outlined, but it would be negative with respect to Korea, which he regretted. He said the problem now is to decide when he should speak. He is obliged to leave for Brussels tonight to meet with the other new Cabinet Ministers tomorrow2 and Sunday morning, since the new Cabinet will be presenting itself to the parliament next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. If the Prime Minister agreed, he could possibly fly back to Geneva Monday morning, make his speech and return to Brussels Monday night. This would be a very difficult thing but he would be glad to see what could be done, and in any event he would be glad to come back next Thursday, May 6, if he could not get away on Monday. The Dutch Foreign Minister, who he said was due to arrive today, had sent him a message that he would not make any statement at Geneva unless Spaak did. The thing now to do was to get the Dutch to make a statement also, and he would be glad to approach the Dutch with us at the conference meeting this afternoon. He asked whether I would make such an approach with him. I said I would be glad to, although I thought the Secretary would wish to talk to him this afternoon and might wish to make the approach with him.
Mr. Spaak then said that he is totally unclear as to what is going to happen here at Geneva next week. Are there going to be restricted sessions on Korea? If there are, what is going to be the basis of the discussion of the Korean problem at such restricted sessions? Restricted sessions are pointless if each side simply rests on its present position, and to be very frank he said that the North Korean position, unless it was exposed for what it really was, was a much sounder position in terms of general public impression than the ROK position. He personally thought it was extremely unwise to have restricted sessions on Korea until the ROK’s had some kind of a better position involving UN supervision for all-Korean elections. This however was simply his own personal thought. I said to him that if the Dutch would come along and we could get some other European countries to [Page 165]make statements rebutting the Communist charges, we could probably schedule two or three speeches for each day next week, and we might be able to consume several days. Mr. Spaak said that he thought it was better to engage in this process rather than to go into restricted sessions without adequate preparation and the best possible case. He wondered if several days next week could be taken up with procedural questions on Indochina. If this were not possible, maybe it would be preferable to recess for two to three days until we had a better position on Korea. He made clear that none of these were suggestions and that he was simply thinking out loud.
It was agreed that Secretary Dulles would see him at the meeting this afternoon to discuss:
- When it seemed best for Spaak to speak next week (Monday or Thursday)
- To approach the Dutch jointly to get them to make a statement
- To exchange any further ideas which might be forthcoming on how the conference was to be handled next week.