185. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Belgium1

1663. Deptel 1662.2 In addition to points made by McGhee to Belgian Ambassador Jan. 2 following considerations re US policy towards Congo should be reflected in your talks with Belgian officials:

UMHK must realize that it must in its own interest take steps accommodate itself to new situation in Katanga which is inevitable and be prepared collaborate with UN and central government.

Tshombe and Adoula cannot be equated, since former only provincial president.

Recognize deep concern felt over plight Belgians in Elisabethville and that UN action has become profoundly emotional issue to which reports of “atrocities” have contributed. However, these reports should not be accepted at face value. Unfortunate acts have been committed by both sides and many Katangan accounts of atrocities have not stood up under investigation. (In this connection would appreciate knowing extent to which Socialist and other papers have supported Spaak and whether they have taken positions less hostile to US than Libre Belgique.)

US supported only limited UN military objectives in recent Katanga action and did not condone any UN action against non-military installations outside those limited objectives. We repeatedly made this position clear to U Thant and his aides and brought to their attention reports of UN atrocities. Also took this position so far as possible in our public statements. We not always in agreement with UN policies and actions, but must seriously consider implications for UN itself of US publicly criticizing UN in every disagreement. Undoubtedly following latter course of action would undermine US ability influence UN privately.

US affirmative vote for November 24 SC resolution, after Soviet veto US-inspired amendments confronted US with difficult decision. US abstention would have been counter-productive and propaganda bonanza for certain African and Asian nations and for Soviet bloc powers which were seeking much more aggressive action against Katanga. Moreover, US abstention would have made difficult US support UN operation in Congo which as you know is in US national interest.

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Re Embtel 1147,3 cannot agree ball only in GOC court re stand-by program. While, to put pressure on Tshombe, recognize certain measures being proposed to GOB depend in their implementation to large extent on GOC’s and UN’s ability enforce them in Katanga, you should continue do your best persuade GOB agree generally to program and have measures prepared now so they can be rapidly implemented as necessary in concert with measures being proposed to GOC and UN. Detailed comments on this matter follow separately.4

It is important note that we are purposely bringing only some portions of program to attention of GOC in order avoid possible legislative steps by GOC toward unilateral integration of Katanga which might be used by Tshombe as excuse to renege. If Tshombe should renege, such legislative steps will of course be necessary.

GOB should understand that objective of threat of economic pressures to Tshombe is to decrease possibility his reneging yet we reluctant tell him of program without GOB agreement on program in general. GOB reluctance agree now at least in principle to program proposed could weaken impact of program on Tshombe if he learns of GOB hesitation.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/1–262. Confidential. Drafted by Miller, cleared in draft by Vance and Wallner, and approved by McGhee.
  2. Document 184.
  3. In telegram 1147 from Brussels, MacArthur stated that although the Belgian Government agreed that economic pressures would be preferable to military measures if Tshombe rejected the Kitona agreement, the Belgians had pointed out that their ability to implement the three-stage program depended on actions to be taken by the Congolese Government in Léopoldville and on its ability to make those measures effective in Katanga. Therefore, he stated, “the ball is at present not in Brussels court but in Léopoldville.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Congo Cables)
  4. Telegram 1208 to Léopoldville, January 4. (Department of State, Central Files, 870G.00/12–2761)
  5. MacArthur replied in telegram 1216, January 5, that the Embassy had been working hard to bring home to influential Belgians the “facts of life concerning necessity U.N. presence in Congo and real causes outbreak hostilities of December 5,” but that its efforts lost all credibility when U.N. “atrocities” were ignored. He concluded that acceptance by Belgian public opinion of the necessity of U.N. operations in Katanga “depends upon effective control U.N. military there.” (Ibid., 770G.00/1–562) He commented in telegram 1221, January 6, that Belgian officials felt they could not agree to the economic program without knowledge of Congolese intentions and concluded: “For these reasons it seems clear ball essentially still in GOC court.” (Ibid., 870G.00/1–662)