183. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Ball) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (McGhee)1

In reading cables over the weekend, I was again stuck with the necessity of our staying out of any quarrel with the Union Miniere or other financial interests in Katanga. Elizabethville’s #904,2 for example, reports Urquhart’s views that General Raja and other Afro-Asians believe Union Miniere and other businesses in Elizabethville are evil.

One of the consequences of our attacking the Union Miniere would be to give our own position a taint of association with that of the Afro-Asians who I suspect reflect strong anti-capitalist tendencies.

I think we would be well advised to lend whatever hand we could to support the efforts of Urquhart and others to get the Katanga economy going as fast as possible.

I would appreciate it if you would talk with Harlan and see what can be done in New York to improve Urquhart’s instructions on this question.3 It certainly isn’t in our long-range interest to run European business out of the Katanga. We ought to make this emphatically clear both to IO and AF, as well as to P.

As a matter of fact, I think we might do well to get word to the Union Miniere that we were going to do what we could to help them keep their operations going in Elizabethville and the Katanga; that we thought it important that they remain and flourish there; but that of course their continued prosperity would depend upon a peaceful Congo which could only be secured through a reintegration of the Katanga.

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Perhaps this has already been said to Kirk,4 but I do think that we ought to try to get an explicit message through to the Union Miniere people somehow before too long. Furthermore, we should let the Belgian Government know what we are doing. I am very much afraid that unless we take some action of this kind, the Rowan statement5 will be interpreted in Brussels and Elizabethville as reflecting an American intention to destroy the Belgian financial and commercial interests there. It is also likely to be interpreted in this manner in London, which would of course only feed the fires of anti-Americanism which are already burning with a gem-like flame.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 870G.00/1–262. No classification marking. Drafted by Ball. Filed with McGhee’s memorandum in reply, also dated January 2, which states that much of the information in Ball’s memorandum was covered in McGhee’s conversation that day with the Belgian Ambassador (see Document 184), but that he was taking the remaining points up with AF and IO.
  2. Dated December 30. (Department of State, Central Files, 325.70G/12– 3061)
  3. A January 5 memorandum from Cleveland to Ball called his attention to telegram 2305 from USUN, January 4, in which Yost reported that in recent talks with Thant and Bunche, he had emphasized U.S. concern for the prompt reestablishment of normal economic life at Elisabethville and for a cooperative attitude by U.N. forces there toward Union Miniere and other business interests. Both had given him firm and explicit assurances that these were essential elements of U.N. policy. (Ibid., 770G.00/1–562 and 770G.00/1-462, respectively)
  4. Former Ambassador Alan Kirk had agreed on December 27 to undertake a mission to Elisabethville to try to persuade Tshombe and the Belgian business community there that adherence to the Kitona agreement would be in Katanga’s best interest. He went first to Brussels, but when he met with Robiliart and Societe Generale Vice Governor E. Van der Straeten on December 29, they said they had understood he was going to Katanga on an official mission and they did not think it would be useful for him to go in a private capacity. Kirk did not go to Katanga but remained in Brussels for several days for further discussions with Belgian businessmen and officials, which he described in a memorandum of January 9 to McGhee. (Ibid., 332.70G/1–962) Other material bearing on his mission are ibid., 770G.00 and 870G.00.
  5. Reference is to a December 27 speech by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Carl T. Rowan. Telegram 1594 to Brussels, December 27, noted that the advance text of the speech contained “certain derogatory references activities Union Miniere in Congo which at Department’s request were eliminated in final speech.” (Ibid., 855.25/12–2761)