29. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Wilcox) to the Representative at the United Nations (Lodge)1

Dear Cabot: I am enclosing a copy of the draft circular on the enlargement of United Nations councils which has been revised to take account of your views (Usun 10722). You will note that our embassies would be limited, for the time being, to indicating in response to queries that the United States is prepared to support an increase of two in the number of non-permanent seats in the Security Council (one each to Western Europe and the Far East). The present draft makes no reference to the geographic allocation of the seats as a whole.

While we agree that perhaps now is not the time to commit ourselves on an understanding regarding the allocation of a seat to the Soviet bloc, we nevertheless believe it will be necessary, very likely well before the opening of the General Assembly, to discuss in detail the allocations question as a whole. I cannot imagine that any of the regional blocs will limit their discussions in the ensuing weeks to the question of the number of seats. Equally, and possibly more important, to them will be the question of how the seats are to be distributed so as to protect their own interests and at the same time to secure Soviet assent to an increase in the Council. We can expect that an overwhelming majority will insist on one Council seat for the Soviet bloc in the firm belief that this is the minimum price that will have to be paid for Soviet agreement. In fact, I foresee the danger that we might be confronted with the choice of agreeing to such an allocation under Soviet pressure or thwarting the will of the [Page 104] majority. Unless we are prepared to state concretely and in detail our views on both the size of increase and the allocation of seats, which I believe are inseparable, we will not be able to exert maximum influence on others in order to achieve a solution which fully meets our views.

I have not discussed this letter with the Secretary since we now appear to be in substantial agreement regarding our proposed circular message. We shall, of course, defer transmittal of the circular until we have your reaction to the revised text.

Cordially yours,



Draft Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Diplomatic Missions3

On December 14, 1955, sixteen countries were admitted to the United Nations (Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Ceylon, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Laos, Libya, Nepal, Portugal, Rumania, and Spain). It is anticipated that the question of amendments to the U.N. Charter to enlarge certain organs in view of this increase in membership will be considered at the Eleventh Session of the General Assembly, scheduled to convene in November of this year. Various proposals are already being discussed among U.N. Members and the Latin American countries are now considering the submission of an agenda item. The United States is prepared to support an appropriate agenda item on this question.

Amendments to the Charter come into force when they have been adopted by a vote of two-thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.

The following sections include essential background information on this problem and also a summary of the present U.S. positions. The Embassies are not requested to take any initiative on the basis of this circular. However, if approached by the Foreign Offices regarding U.S. views, the Embassies to which the circular is sent for action are authorized to inform the Foreign Offices along the lines indicated below.

[Page 105]

1. Security Council. Under Article 23 of the Charter, the Security Council consists of five permanent members (Republic of China, France, U.K., U.S. and U.S.S.R.) and six non-permanent members elected for two year terms. A retiring member is not eligible for immediate reelection. The six non-permanent members at the present time are Australia, Belgium, Cuba, Iran, Peru, and Yugoslavia. (The latter was elected on the understanding that it would withdraw at the end of 1956 and that the Philippines would be elected to serve the unexpired portion of its term.)

There are two principal inequities in the present allocation of seats. First, despite the fact that a number of countries from the Far East have been admitted to the United Nations since 1946, this area has never been allocated a non-permanent seat. Second, only one seat is allocated to Western Europe, whereas a substantial number of new members from this area have been admitted to the United Nations.

If the question of the enlargement of the Security Council is considered at the Eleventh Session, the present position of the Department is to support an increase of two in the number of non-permanent seats (one Western European and one Far Eastern), bringing the total of such seats to eight.

The United States would strongly oppose consideration by the Eleventh Session of an increase in the number of permanent seats on the Security Council. This question has serious implications for the status of the Council and its operations, would be likely to embroil the Assembly in difficult collateral issues, and could delay action on an increase in the number of non-permanent seats.

2. Economic and Social Council. Under Article 61 of the Charter the Economic and Social Council consists of eighteen members, elected by the General Assembly for a term of three years. A retiring member is eligible for immediate reelection. The Charter does not designate any countries as permanent members but in fact the five permanent members of the Security Council have always been reelected to ECOSOC.

In addition to the five permanent members of the Security Council, the following countries are presently members of ECOSOC: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Yugoslavia.

If the question of the enlargement of ECOSOC is considered at the Eleventh Session, the present position of the Department is to favor an increase of four in the number of seats, bringing the total to 22.

In considering the question of the enlargement of ECOSOC, it should be kept in mind that one of its primary functions is the [Page 106] coordination of the economic and social activities of the U.N. and the Specialized Agencies. This function cannot be undertaken by a body that is too large for effective operation. A body of 22 would be manageable, though it comes close to being unwieldy in size. An even larger body would make more difficult ECOSOC’s operation and extend the length of the Council’s meetings excessively.

3. Trusteeship Council. Article 86 of the Charter provides that the Trusteeship Council shall consist of: a) those Members which administer trust territories; b) such of those Members which are permanent members of the Security Council as do not administer trust territories; and c) as many other members elected for three-year terms by the General Assembly as may be necessary to ensure that the total number of members of the Council is equally divided between those members of the United Nations which administer trust territories and those which do not. The present members of the Trusteeship Council are Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, New Zealand, U.K., and the U.S. which administer trust territories; China and the U.S.S.R., which are members of the Council because they are permanent members on the Security Council; and Burma, Guatemala, Haiti, India and Syria, which are elected members.

The United States believes that Article 86 is a sound provision and should be maintained without change. Under this provision, the last session of the General Assembly elected Burma to the Trusteeship Council as the seventh non-administering member after Italy was admitted to the United Nations and automatically became the seventh administering member of the Trusteeship Council, bringing the total number of the Council members to fourteen.

4. International Court of Justice. Article 2 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice provides that the Court “shall be composed of a body of independent judges, elected regardless of their nationality from among persons of high moral character, who possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, or are jurisconsults of recognized competence in international law.” Article 3 provides that the Court shall consist of fifteen members. Article 9 states that the electors (the General Assembly and the Security Council) “shall bear in mind not only that the persons to be elected should individually possess the qualifications required, but also that in the body as a whole the representation of the main forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems of the world should be assured.”

The United States believes that no change should be made in the size of the Court. In view of the nature of the Court’s work and its special judicial procedures, an increase in its present size, which is already unusually large for a Court which sits en banc, would tend to hinder the proper functioning of that organ. A Court of fifteen, [Page 107] moreover, is sufficient to assure, in accordance with Article 9 of the Statute, the representation in the body as a whole of the main forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems of the world.

The present Court consists of; Hackworth, U.S.; Abdel Hamid Badawi, Egypt; Guerrero, Salvador; J. Basdevant, France; Winiarski, Poland; Zoricic, Yugoslavia; Klaestad, Norway; Read, Canada; Hsu Mo, China; Armand-Ugon, Uruguay; Kojevaikov, Russia; Khan, Pakistan; Lauterpacht, Great Britain; Quintana, Argentina; Cordova, Mexico.4

FYI—If the Court is not enlarged there may be pressure in future elections to reduce the number of seats now held by other areas in order to enable the election of an additional judge from the Arab-Asian group which besides the Chinese member has only two judges. The US is not committed to supporting the existing pattern at future elections. The Department anticipates that some redistribution of the existing pattern would in fact be sought, and there is no assurance that other areas would be able to maintain their present number of judges. It is therefore possible that these areas will urge strongly an increase in the size of the Court. The Embassies should report any indication which will assist the Department to gauge the strength of the sentiment concerning an increase in the Court. End FYI.

For LA posts: This circular is intended to supply further background in connection the Department’s circular 820 of May 25.”5

  1. Source: USUN Files, IO, SC, Membership. Confidential.
  2. Supra.
  3. The source text indicates that the telegram was to be sent to 74 missions.
  4. Green Hackworth (President), Abdel Hamid Badawi (Vice President), Jose Gustavo Guerrero, Jules Basdevant, Bohdan Winiarski, Milovan Zoricic, Helga Klaestad, John E. Read, Hsu Mo, Enrique C. Armond-Ugon, Feodor Ivanovich Kojevaikov, Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Sir Hersch Lauterpacht, Lucio M. Moreno Quintana, Roberto Cordova.
  5. Document 26.