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18. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • United Nations: Chinese Representation Problem


  • US
    • The President
    • The Secretary of State
    • The Secretary of the Treasury
    • Ambassador Stevenson
    • Ambassador Bruce
    • Mr. Dean Acheson
    • Mr. McGeorge Bundy
    • Mr. Walt W. Rostow
    • Mr. Charles E. Bohlen
    • Mr. George C. McGhee
    • Mr. Harlan Cleveland
    • Governor Williams
    • Mr. William C. Burdett
    • Mr. James W. Swihart
  • UK
    • The Prime Minister
    • Lord Home
    • Ambassador Caccia
    • Sir Frederick Hoyer Millar
    • Sir Patrick Dean
    • The Honorable Peter Ramsbotham
    • Mr. Philip de Zulueta
    • Mr. John Russell
    • Mr. A.C.I. Samuel


Washington, April, 1961

The President stated it is a fact that there is a division between us on China.1 He would, however, like to stress the importance of this issue to this country. When he last saw President Eisenhower on January 19 the latter stated that he hoped to support him on all foreign policy issues but would feel it necessary to return to political life if the Chinese communists [Page 43]were admitted to the United Nations.2 If they are brought in a great wave of distrust about the United Nations would arise. We could not acquiesce in their admission. The problem then is how to prevent us from being defeated in the United Nations and to prevent increasing communist prestige throughout the world. Even though we differ, we assume the UK does not want the US public to distrust the United Nations nor to increase communist prestige. We have been considering various alternatives. There is the position of Formosa in the General Assembly and in the Security Council. There is the problem if there are to be two China’s in the UN, would Communist China be willing to join.

Ambassador Stevenson observed that assuming the objective to keep Taiwan in the United Nations we have been considering various possibilities. Our first objective is to avoid action by simple majority on a credentials vote. On this issue we believe we would be defeated. One possibility would be to have a proposal for a resolution which stated that Communist China was eligible for admission. This would take a two-thirds vote. We would abstain. Whether Taiwan would we don’t know. But at this point we doubt, however, such a resolution would get a two-thirds vote. Also, it might look as a delaying tactic by putting Communist China at the mercy of the Republic of China’s veto. There is the question also of the Security Council seat problem. Another approach is the successor nation one. This would take the form of a resolution stating that two states have succeeded to China’s seat. The Prime Minister asked whether this would be the same as the India and Pakistan example. Ambassador Stevenson said it was somewhat different; India kept its seat and Pakistan got a new seat. Under the successor nation theory Communist China could apply for admission. Another possibility which has occurred to us would be for the US to make it clear it backs Taiwan as a sovereign country with a right to a seat in the United Nations and let others worry about Peiping. The last alternative we have considered would be to amend the United Nations Charter. In our view probably the best way is for a resolution stating Communist China is eligible to apply for admission. This leaves the problem of the Security Council seat in abeyance for a while. We recognize that the moratorium device has had its day and that something must be done. Lord Home stressed the UK understands the US position. In fact, it does not particularly want Communist China in the United Nations but as the UK has recognized Communist China it would have to vote for it in any credential vote. The UK would be happy to cooperate on any resolution we would want. Nevertheless, [Page 44]he felt none suggested were practical unless Formosa became a separate independent country without any pretense of any rights to the mainland. The President asked whether it was important whether China and Communist China both claim to represent all of China, or whether the use of the name China for either or both was essential. Patrick Dean doubted any formula would be acceptable to most members that did not recognize Communist China as in effect China. The Secretary thought the name would have no great importance. We are presently negotiating with Peiping in Warsaw and, the President added, will soon be in the 14 Nation Committee.3 The President reiterated we could not support Red China’s admittance to the UN. We needed to find a formula for keeping them from wanting to get in. We believe we are in the best position to defend Formosa’s position of having a right to be in. The Secretary thought that if we could get a reasonable position so that the world could see that Communist China has impossible conditions for admission which we could not accept, this would be salutary. The President felt although the fact may be that Formosa should be a separate country the Republic of China won’t admit it. He inquired what were the UK’s views as to the effect of a defeat of the US on a direct vote, particularly in Southeast Asia. Lord Home thought the effect would be bad. The Secretary remarked that Americans would pick up the tally vote and wonder why we had not put more pressure on countries voting for Red China. Lord Home reported that at the recent Commonwealth Conference only Menzies was not in favor of seating Communist China in the UN. The Prime Minister wondered whether it is important what people called themselves. He recalled that the King of England called himself the King of France for many years when in fact he had no such position. He wondered whether we couldn’t express it in terms of the truth. There are two countries, each claiming control of the other. Couldn’t we have a resolution which would find both should be in the United Nations, a resolution which appealed to everyone along the lines of the successor state theory. Lord Home reiterated that if they both called themselves China there would be difficulty. The President asked whether some other UN members don’t have claims over other areas also. Sir Patrick Dean observed there are some, India in particular, who want the Security Council enlarged. Possibly, therefore, some resolution might succeed and we could get their help if they understood we are working on the Security Council enlargement problem. Ambassador Stevenson thought we could get a two-thirds vote this fall on a successor state resolution. The Prime Minister felt this would leave only the problem of name. Ambassador Caccia pointed out such a resolution would name only two states and the question of name would be up to the countries concerned. The [Page 45]President suggested that Sir Patrick Dean and Ambassador Stevenson work together on this problem and that either through correspondence or the next time the Prime Minister and he were together they take a look at the results. In the meantime we want to avoid a major defeat during the next year. He added that we would of course have to stay arm’s length away from any resolutions of the sort we have been discussing. Lord Home felt it was necessary to devise a most ingenious resolution. Ambassador Stevenson thought this was not too difficult. It would merely state that two countries have succeeded to the rights of China and automatically they would have the right to be members in the United Nations. This would leave unresolved the Security Council problem. He added he thought there would be enough support for such a resolution. Lord Home thought that if Formosa were dropped from the Security Council such a resolution would get more support. The Secretary thought that later on we could put the interest of others in Security Council membership into the pot for consideration which would help drag out this problem. The President said it would be best from our standpoint if Red China were not admitted this year. He would like to see if we could not address ourselves to a resolution they would not be likely to accept. If they were admitted it would raise incalculable problems for us. Furthermore, from a purely domestic political point of view it did not look good for a new administration to have allowed Chinese Communist admission so soon. The Prime Minister wondered whether a resolution which in effect said that there were many changes and many new members since the UN had started and that therefore a committee should be set up to consider the problem of divided countries and enlargement of the Security Council. The Secretary commented that the latter might help but he doubted the former. The Prime Minister said that Communist China really knows the UK would not support their taking over eight million people. He suggested we should consider first a delaying resolution and secondly a successor nation resolution. The President reiterated we would have to stay way in the background as far as a successor state resolution was concerned. Sir Patrick added the UK would have to be careful too. The Prime Minister thought it could be farmed out to a neutral.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1833. Secret. Drafted by Swihart. A notation on the source text indicates it was uncleared. The meeting was held at the White House. According to Kennedy’s Appointment Book, those present for this portion of the discussion, which took place between 4:30 and 6:10 p.m. were Kennedy, Rusk, Stevenson, Bruce, Cleveland, Steeves, Kohler, and Bohlen, and on the British side, Macmillan, Home, Caccia, Permanent Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs Sir Frederick Hoyer Millar, Representative to the United Nations Sir Patrick Dean, Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook, and Macmillan’s private secretary Philip de Zulueta. (Kennedy Library, President’s Appointment Books) Macmillan visited Washington April 4-8; see vol. XIII, pp. 1035-1039.
  2. Secretary Rusk and Lord Home discussed this issue on April 4. A memorandum of the conversation by Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Ivan B. White is in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1833. See the Supplement. Cleveland and Deputy Legal Adviser Leonard C. Meeker briefed the President on the subject at breakfast on April 5. Meeker’s record of the conversation is in Department of State, Central Files, 303/4-561. See the Supplement.
  3. The January 19 meeting between Kennedy and Eisenhower is summarized in separate memoranda, both dated January 24, by Kennedy’s adviser Clark M. Clifford and Secretary of Defense-designate Robert S. McNamara. Neither records any discussion of China. (Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, White House Correspondence, 1/61-11/63, and Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 65 A 3464, respectively)
  4. Reference is to the proposed 14-nation conference on Laos.
  5. Kennedy and Rusk later raised the subject of Chinese representation in an April 8 meeting with Macmillan. According to a memorandum of conversation by Burdett, Kennedy stressed the political sensitivity of the China problem, and Rusk indicated that any change in U.S. policy would be particularly difficult if it appeared to be made “because of the eloquence of our friends from London.” Macmillan replied that in his public comments he would emphasize the complicated nature of the issue. He added that further relaxation of multilateral restrictions on trade with China would tend to mute criticism in the British business community. (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1833) See the Supplement.