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28. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy 0


  • China and the United Nations
  • Basic Elements of the Problem

Informal discussions among the delegates in New York, and our own formal discussions with the Government of the Republic of China, have somewhat clarified the alternatives open to us on the Chinese representation issue—by narrowing them.

It now seems clear that there is potentially a majority vote in the Assembly for two propositions:

that the Government of the Republic of China should remain a member of the United Nations; and
that the People’s Republic of China should become a member of the United Nations.

Our judgment is that we cannot postpone substantive voting on the China question in the General Assembly beyond the 16th session of the General Assembly this fall. The moratorium can no longer be relied upon.

It is, further, our judgment that if the Assembly is asked to choose between the Chinese Communists and the Chinese Nationalists as occupants of a single China sent in the Assembly, a majority of the General Assembly would vote to seat the Chinese Communists. Such a vote would, moreover, find a number of important countries, including friends and allies, on the opposite side of the fence from the United States. You will remember that Prime Minister Macmillan and Lord Home said as much in the discussions with you on April 5 and 6, 1961.1

It seems clear that the best way to avoid having the Chinese Nationalists thrown out of the United Nations in a vote against our position, which might have extremely adverse effects on American public opinion about the United Nations, is to develop some form of “Two Chinas” proposal which can command wide support in the United Nations. To this [Page 67]end early consultation, well before the opening of the General Assembly on September 19, will be required.

Chinese Position

We have discussed the problem with Ambassador George Yeh and Ambassador T.F. Tsiang, who represents the GRC at the United Nations.2 This discussion and reports from Embassy Taipei have made it clear that, in connection with the problem of finding a practical alternative to the moratorium, the GRC will not take any action implying acceptance of a “Two Chinas” concept.

The “New Member” approach was thoroughly explored with the Chinese Ambassadors. In addition to the difficulties they found with the “Two Chinas” implications, they said this approach was unacceptable on two other grounds. First, the GRC could not make any public declaration foregoing its right to use the veto on membership applications. Secondly, the position of the GRC in the Security Council would be in jeopardy. The “Successor States” approach was also discussed. Although the two Ambassadors made it clear that this proposal was also unacceptable, they indicated that if the majority of the General Assembly voted to accept a resolution based on a “Successor States” approach, they “could do nothing about it.” A “Successor States” approach would not require any affirmative action by the GRC. They stated however, that they would be “greatly surprised” if the United States were to sponsor such a resolution.

Suggested Solution

The attitude of the Republic of China, in our judgment, renders the “New Member” approach politically unfeasible. We have therefore prepared an alternative designed to eliminate the need for any public declaration of agreement or acquiescence by the GRC or any affirmative action by it. This is a marriage of the “Successor States” approach and the “New Member” approach.

Under this alternative the General Assembly would adopt a resolution: (a) noting the significant political changes which have taken place in China since 1945 and the fact that governmental authority in the territory which was under Chinese administration when China became a member of the United Nations, is now exercised by the Government of the Republic of China with its seat of government in Taipei and by the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China with its seat of government in Peking, (b) affirming the continuing membership of the Republic of China in the United Nations, and (c) expressing the Assembly’s willingness to consider credentials of a delegation of the [Page 68] PRC, as a member of the United Nations in addition to the Republic of China, upon being informed by the CPG of the PRC that it has accepted the Charter of the United Nations and the obligations of membership. This expression by the Assembly would be based on the proposition that the PRC is not to be regarded as a UN Member unless it elects to regard itself as already a UN Member (in accordance with a decision under Article 55 of the Chinese Communist Common Program) and informs the UN that it accepts the Charter and the obligations of membership. We believe that the U.K. could support this proposal, that the GRC could tolerate it, that it would find wide support in the General Assembly, and that the Chinese Communists would reject it. This approach should result in the continued exclusion of the Chinese Communists who have been strongly opposed to a “Two Chinas” concept. It should also serve to shift the onus for their exclusion to the Chinese Communists themselves.

Securing a reliable majority in support of the above proposal would require active US consultation with many other governments during the next three months. When the resolution came to a vote in the General Assembly, the US could, in theory, vote against or abstain on parts of the resolution or on the whole resolution. However, there are some strong considerations for our voting in favor: voting in favor would make a major contribution to our holding together a large coalition. It would also avoid our appearing to be dissatisfied with the outcome and treating the result as a defeat for the United States. Finally, US strong and open support for the resolution would maximize the chances of Chinese Communist refusal to come into the United Nations. The decision on how we would vote on such a resolution need not be taken at this time.

Security Council Problem

The foregoing approach leaves open the question of which China should sit in the Security Council. There would undoubtedly be considerable pressure in the General Assembly at the time the membership question was raised to give the seat to the Chinese Communists, but we believe we could avoid any definitive recommendation on this point in the General Assembly resolution on the grounds that the issue is one which should be decided by the Security Council itself if and when there are physically present in the United Nations two claimants for the same permanent seat.

However, if the Chinese Communists should agree at some point to take up their seat in the General Assembly on the foregoing basis, it is unlikely that they could be kept out of the Security Council for any extended period of time. That time period could probably be prolonged somewhat by getting this question involved with the question of enlarging the Security Council and proposing the addition of India or other states as permanent members.

[Page 69]


Taking into account the foregoing analysis and the exploratory discussion held with you on May 24 (summary attached), I request authorization to proceed on the following basis:

That you approve in principle the proposals for a solution of the China problem in the United Nations along lines outlined above.

That you authorize consultations on a confidential basis with China, the U.K. and Australia. The purpose of talking with the Chinese would be to seek their acquiescence. The object of consulting with the British is to get their cooperation. As to the Australians, we should seek to have them take the lead at an early date in presenting the proposed course of action “as their own” in private consultations with selected key delegations. In this way, it might be possible for soundings to be taken on the above course of action without the US directly being connected with such a proposal at the outset.

Once consultations begin along the above lines, however, press leaks are inevitable. Consultations with a limited number of key Congressional leaders, therefore, should be undertaken at an early stage, preferably in advance of the proposed consultations with the U.K., Australia and China, and certainly before Australia begins its own broad consultations.

It is important for us to face realistically the fact that an indefinite deferral of an active US role is dangerous because weeks of hard negotiations and consultations will be needed to develop the stable majority required to avoid the substitution of Communist China for the Republic of China in the United Nations.

That you authorize us to consult, informally and confidentially, with various other friendly governments who would be influential in determining how the General Assembly deals with this issue, such as Canada, Norway and Japan. As part of the preparation for your conversations with the Japanese Prime Minister, it is important for the Japanese to focus on this problem and the complex procedural issues involved. It is our impression that the Japanese have not yet done so.

Dean Rusk 3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 303/5-2661. Secret. No drafter is indicated on the source text but an attached covering memorandum of May 25 from Cleveland to Rusk indicates that it was drafted in the Bureau of International Organizational Affairs. A handwritten note on the source text states that the original was returned to the Secretary and sent at his request to Deputy Under Secretary Johnson on May 29.
  2. See Document 18 and footnote 4 thereto. No record has been found of any discussion of China on April 6.
  3. See footnote 6, Document 27.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.