310. Telegram From the Embassy in South Africa to the Department of State1

111. Reference Embtels 109, USIS 2, London 3.2 Had long talk with Jooste Secretary ExtAff yesterday compliance Gadel 105.3 In addition points made above reftel gave him argumentation that it was in Union’s own interests, as well as Western world, to remain in UN. This included undesirability Union’s absenting itself from forum in which it could effectively continue anti-Communist stand; weakening of UN itself in its period of greatest strains; on long-range ill effects of inevitable adverse world opinion and press treatment; effects of this on business climate and future foreign investment.

Jooste stated these points were largely those that had kept Union in UN for many years in face of what was felt most unjust treatment. Although disposed personally keep Union in UN, Jooste presented Union’s case, which very familiar to Department, with considerable feeling.

Jooste spoke at length on general feeling South African people about UN and their judgment they had been treated badly after their support on Korea. He said people felt UN had caused nothing but trouble for Union. I replied that outcome of struggle for men’s minds between East and West, partly based on this same issue of human rights, was of utmost importance to Union. He agreed but said governments had to be realistic and public opinion in Union was not based on such broad issues. He further asserted domestic politics was very important factor in decision to be made.

Also discussed matter informally with Strijdom last night. He advanced no new argumentation but spoke with strong feeling. While not definitely saying so, confirmed my impression he personally stood for withdrawal.

Understand cabinet discussing subject fully in sessions this week. One source told us last night cabinet was split on issue. In this situation recommendation of Foreign Minister Louw may be very important.

Within Nationalist Party walkout from UN would be popular move and Nat press has frankly discussed possibility withdrawal. If Union withdraws I gather permanent withdrawal is under study. [Page 801] Jooste feels in that case Union would remain outside UN at least until change of government which looks quite distant at this time. Am aware of course that, if decision has been reached to remain in UN, Jooste and Strijdom would not at this stage have communicated it to me as this would reduce whatever bargaining position Louw might have in New York. Nevertheless did gather from their attitudes that they were not bargaining.

In letter November 15 to Rountree Embassy submitted some thoughts on this problem.4 In view of serious precedent which would be established, Union’s strategic position, and US business interests here, we feel every effort consistent with our principles should be made to conciliate Union and forestall withdrawal.

Our principal conclusion, already conveyed to Department, is that unfortunately public pressure through UN will not succeed in effecting reform here but serve instead merely to harden attitudes. Our only hope of change seems to lie through quiet persuasion leaders this country. Viewed this light we’re caught in dilemma where no actual good is being done and some damage by continued UN discussion. We hope Department will be able find some formula of bridging gap between intransigent position this government and continued fruitless discussions which may certainly sooner or later cause Union’s permanent withdrawal, and quite possibly this session.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 310.2/11–2156. Confidential; Niact. Repeated to London. Passed to USUN.
  2. Telegram 109, repeated to USUN and to London, indicated that South Africa did not seem to be bluffing in its threats to withdraw from the United Nations. (Ibid., 310.2/11–2056)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid., 845A.411/11–1756)
  4. A letter of November 15 from Byroade to Rountree enclosed a memorandum of the same date from Counselor of Embassy William P. Maddox commenting on position papers on South Africa-related issues in the U.N. General Assembly. Maddox commented that the Department seemed to be moving away from its policy of neutrality toward one of alignment against South African positions and argued that if the U.S. purpose was to influence South Africa to revise its racial attitudes and policies, such a shift would be counterproductive. (Ibid., AF/AFE Files: Lot 64 D 358, United Nations—General—Union of South Africa)
  5. On November 27 Louw informed the U.N. General Assembly that until Article 2, paragraphs 1 and 7 of the Charter were adhered to, South Africa, while remaining as a member of the international body, would reduce its level of representation to a token basis. Louw told Acting Secretary Hoover on December 10 that South Africa would only play an active role when it could directly assist its own security interests and those of the Western nations. (Memorandum of conversation by Hadsel; Ibid., Central Files, 033.45A11/12–1056)