6. Minutes of a Meeting, Secretary Dulles’ Office, Department of State, Washington, January 18, 1955, 2:30 p.m.1


  • Afro-Asian Conference, Secretary’s Office, 2:30 p.m., January 18, 1955


  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Murphy
  • Mr. Allen Dulles
  • Mr. MacArthur
  • Mr. McCardle
  • Mr. Robertson
  • Mr. Key
  • Mr. Bowie
  • Mr. Sebald
  • Mr. Jernegan
  • Mr. Barbour
  • Mr. Roosevelt
  • Mr. Stelle

Mr. Murphy submitted to the Secretary for approval a draft circular telegram2 to our Missions in friendly Afro-Asian countries. He recalled that we had previously circularized our Embassies suggesting that the governments concerned withhold a decision as to whether or not to attend the Bandung meeting. On balance, the Working Group now believes we should decide whether or not to advise our friends to attend; and, if the decision be affirmative, to persuade them to send the ablest possible representatives.

After reading the suggested circular telegram the Secretary expressed general agreement with its tenor and said he wished to voice [Page 12] a few questions. First, the Secretary noted that the phrase at the end of the first paragraph, “could only be misunderstood by free world”, seemed to imply that our friends in Asia and Africa are not a part of the free world. The Secretary suggested that the phrase “by free world” be deleted, and “by non-Communist nations not participating in Conference”, substituted. The Secretary then asked what will transpire at Bandung which will be disadvantageous to United States interests.

Mr. Murphy replied that a resolution on Morocco might well be adopted which would embarrass France and possibly, the United States. Mr. Robertson added that any resolution adopted at Bandung unanimously, that is in concert with Communist nations, would have a very bad effect in the United States, particularly in Congress. Mr. Robertson also emphasized that the people of China would be represented at Bandung by the Chinese Communist Government and that this very fact was diametrically opposed to United States policy and to the position we have championed in the United Nations. The Secretary then asked what type of resolution the Communists might introduce at Bandung in addition to Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa and the Congo,—the colonialism theme, which they would obviously try to exploit. Mr. Robertson said the Communists might try to win unanimous support for a resolution endorsing the NehruChou En-lai Five Principles.3 Mr. Allen Dulles added that there might be a resolution endorsing the admission of Communist China to the United Nations. Mr. Sebald suggested that a resolution condemning nuclear tests in the Pacific was a possibility.

The Secretary said we must work up a list of subjects that will possibly be raised by the Communists during the Bandung meeting. In effect, we shall need to make a briefing book for our friends. Mr. Allen Dulles expressed agreement and added that we should also prepare a number of positive resolutions which our friends might introduce. The Secretary nodded and said that this would raise another problem, namely how we would communicate with our friends before and at Bandung without letting this liaison become public knowledge. Mr. Murphy said communications to Bandung are less than good and that this condition will make it more difficult for us to render assistance.

The Secretary then asked the meeting when the United States should “adopt a public position” toward the Conference. Is it appropriate for the United States to make its views known at the present [Page 13] time, he asked? In reply Mr. Murphy said that we should at this stage consult with the United Kingdom; Mr. MacArthur expressed a caveat, lest we overplay publicly the United States position and thus unwittingly publicize a conference which we do not welcome. The Secretary said he might possibly include a few remarks in a foreign policy speech on February 16 at the Waldorf Astoria4 just before proceeding to Bangkok.5 Mr. MacArthur said he favored a reply to a question at a press conference in the near future, since unfriendly elements abroad are now up-playing the apparently negative U.S. position to our detriment. In support of this, Mr. Jernegan cited the heavy press play in India, and Mr. MacArthur referred to recent radio broadcasts from Moscow.

The Secretary questioned the wording in paragraph 4 of the suggested telegram noting that no reference to African, as distinguished from Asian states, was made in this paragraph. Mr. Jernegan explained that the British had considerable misgivings regarding attendance by such non-Arab African states as the Gold Coast and the Central African Federation. The Secretary said he surmised we are witnessing the beginning of a new Communist drive into Africa. Mr. Allen Dulles added that such a Communist thrust had been long expected but delayed until now because they lacked trained people to man the program.

… Mr. Allen Dulles reported that Iran was unenthusiastic about the Conference and that Lebanon was waiting to learn of the Arab League’s decision. Mr. MacArthur said the Turks, who were solidly behind us and were certainly not dupes, would need a special solid instruction from us before they would attend. Mr. Robertson said if our Chief of Mission has close relations with a foreign government he should speak very frankly; he should not encourage the conference; he should not minimize the dangers attendant on it; he should point out the many pitfalls to be expected.

When the Secretary inquired whether invitations had actually been despatched by the sponsoring nations, Mr. Sebald replied that Embassy New Delhi had reported that invitations were now ready to be sent. The Secretary said he would not be surprised if various [Page 14] countries invited began to have doubts once they had a chance to look at the conference a little more closely. He said he didn’t think we should push forward too quickly in our planning since the whole Bandung Conference could conceivably collapse due to the weaknesses inherent in it. Mr. Robertson expressed his wholehearted agreement with the Secretary. Mr. Murphy said that in his view the most that could be expected was a postponement of the conference and not a cancellation, since the Prime Ministers of the sponsoring nations had taken a public position from which there was no easy face-saving retreat. Mr. MacArthur said the Indonesians are pushing very hard to hold the conference before their local elections. Mr. Jernegan reported the trend in the Near and Middle East was to attend the meeting, and that the January 22 Arab League meeting to discuss the proposed Pact between Turkey and Iraq, might also deal with the Afro-Asian Conference problem. The Secretary noted the injection of this new element might cause something less than a unanimous decision on the part of the Arab League. Mr. Jernegan demurred saying that if the Arab states should split on the Turkey–Iraq issue it would be in the Arab character to present a united front on another issue such as this one.… Egypt and Libya have pretty firmly decided to attend the meeting, and that chances are that all Arab states will attend, Mr. Roosevelt said. After being informed that the French attitude paralleled that of the British, the Secretary said the telegram under discussion was generally satisfactory but that it should not affirmatively back the conference nor should it give that impression. He said that we should be careful in all our public statements to include the phrase “if a conference is held”. We should not accept the fact that the conference will be held as a matter of course; indeed, we would all be relieved if it never came off.

Mr. Allen Dulles suggested that point 1 of paragraph 5 be amended, and his amendments were agreed to by the meeting. The discussion then turned to point 3 of paragraph 5 and substitute language was agreed on. The Secretary observed that the words “free world” recur many places in the telegram. He recalled having used this phrase in a speech in Egypt and the considerable comment it occasioned. He subsequently learned that the Egyptians equate “free world” with the West. He said he feared this phrase might create an unfortunate impression in many other foreign minds and that, he preferred the word “non-Communist”. Mr. Murphy commented that the Bandung conference was dangerous to us, not only because of the resolutions that would be adopted, but also because of the personal associations between Communist and non-Communist leaders which would be formed there.

Returning to the text, Mr. Jernegan expressed his dissatisfaction with the first portion of the telegram, saying it was a simple repetition [Page 15] of our earlier message to the Chiefs of Mission and that it might be construed to mean that the U.S. sought to block the conference. Mr. MacArthur admitted that our representatives in the field might try to read more into the telegram than it actually contained.

The Secretary said we wish that the conference were not held; but if it is to be held, we must try to get the best representatives of friendly countries to Bandung, and they must be armed with the best available information. The United States is in an awkward position because we do not know whether the conference will be held. On the one hand, we cannot afford to be simply negative, the Secretary said; but if we are unduly constructive we might help the sponsors. Mr. Allen Dulles estimated that chances were two-to-one that the Bandung meeting would occur. The Secretary and Mr. Allen Dulles agreed that the only cohesive force was the group of sponsoring powers and that the nations being invited are quite ignorant of the status of the invitations. The Secretary then added that it seems likely that many nations will hesitate to decline the invitation until the last minute and will ultimately accept.

Acknowledging that we are not too well informed on the present situation Mr. Bowie advised that we pick a date on which to fix the U.S. position. If we wait too long, he said, we shall not have time to do adequate preparatory work and inform our friends. The Secretary said he saw no reason why we should delay making preparations, concerting with the British, and determining what the Communist and Neutralist nations planned to do at Bandung. We should proceed with perfecting our ideas and our resolutions, and the means by which we would convey them to our friends. Mr. Murphy reaffirmed his view that Chiefs of Mission need additional guidance. Mr. Allen Dulles disagreed saying the U.S. cannot send any guidance until the nations to be invited have received their invitations.

Summing up, the Secretary said he thought it best to wait a few days before sending any circular. In his judgment, the situation had not yet crystallized. Indeed we know little more now than at the January 7 meeting after which the field had been circularized. Mr. Murphy reaffirmed his view that the Chiefs of Mission need more guidance as to our thinking in the Department if they are to succeed in persuading foreign governments not to take a public position. The Secretary noted that, in all probability, no government would receive an invitation for a few days yet, and that the invitations might contain some inkling as to the agenda or procedures at Bandung. This might help us and our friends to determine the path we are to follow. Recalling the difficulties we faced in organizing the Geneva Conference, the Secretary said that the sponsoring nations face similar and possibly greater problems in preparing for Bandung. Mr. Allen Dulles agreed, noting that many of the nations invited do not [Page 16] recognize Communist China or the Associated States. The Secretary closed the meeting by observing that if we make our decision too soon we may well help the sponsoring powers to make Bandung a success.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 670.901/1–2155. Secret. Drafted by McAuliffe, who is not listed among the participants in the meeting, on January 21. The source text bears the following handwritten notation by O’Connor: “OK for dist RO’C”.
  2. Not found in Department of State files.
  3. First set forth in the agreement of April 29, 1954, between India and the People’s Republic of China on trade between Tibet and India, the five principles were: (1) mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; (2) nonaggression; (3) noninterference in each other’s internal affairs; (4) equality and mutual benefit; and (5) peaceful coexistence.
  4. In his address before the Foreign Policy Association on February 16, the Secretary did not specifically mention the Afro-Asian Conference. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, February 28, 1955, p. 327.
  5. Secretary Dulles and his party left Washington on February 18 to attend the meeting in Bangkok of the Council established under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty. The Council met February 23–25. Thereafter Dulles visited several Asian countries and arrived back in Washington on March 6.

    For texts of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty and the Pacific Charter, both signed at Manila on September 8, 1954, by representatives of Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, see 6 UST 81 and 91, respectively.

  6. At another meeting held on January 25, attended by many of the same officials, Murphy informed Secretary Dulles nothing additional had been learned concerning the nature of the Afro-Asian Conference but that by then it seemed certain the conference would be held. “Mr. Murphy suggested that the time had come to send the circular cable discussed at the January 21 meeting. He thought it the consensus of the group that we should now state that we were in favor of our friends going to the Conference.” After some discussion the Secretary agreed to sending an instruction along those lines. See Document 8.

    McCardle then “proposed the establishment of an Interdepartmental Working Group to ‘knock down or take over’ the Conference. The most feasible means seemed to be the presentation of a general resolution, so worded the Conference would have to pass it.” The Secretary agreed to the Working Group and “stated that the resolution should include parts of the Pacific Charter, and references to the fraternity of men and to cooperation on the basis of sovereign equality.” (Memorandum of conversation by McAuliffe, January 27; Department of State, Central Files, 670.901/1–2755)