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48. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • U.S. Strategy in the 16th General Assembly


  • The President
  • Ambassador Adlai E. Stevenson
  • Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Special Assistant to the President
  • Harlan Cleveland, Assistant Secretary of State

[Here follows discussion of a possible Presidential speech to the General Assembly and other issues before the United Nations.

Chinese Representation 1

Ascertain by intensive consultations (in New York and through diplomatic channels at government level around the world) what proposition can command a majority vote in the General Assembly.

Action: IO

Including an explicit arrangement with the French Africans as to their affirmative action of ChiRep if we are able to get Mauritania’s membership application past the Soviet veto in the Security Council.

Action: USUN

Proposition to be floated will include two elements for a start:

the procedural proposition that ejecting the Chinese Nationalists or seating the ChiComs requires a two-thirds General Assembly vote as an “important” matter. (Watch out for pitfall of two-third requirement for acceptance of GRC credentials.)2
the procedural step of establishing a committee of the Assembly to study Chinese representation in the context of proposals for enlarging [Page 113]the Councils. (Composition of such a committee would, of course, be highly important, and should reflect the relative strength in the General Assembly of the Peking recognizers (33) and the Taipei recognizers (49).)

Ambassador Stevenson gave his opinion that these propositions would not be sufficient, and that something like the successor state idea should also be in the picture.

The President said he realized the committee or any other means of postponement might only lead in time—next year, perhaps—to a Two-China proposal or even to ChiCom admission in some form. But he wanted to avoid taking any major step along this road this year. He also was determined that the United States was not to be defeated on this issue in the United Nations. Based on discussions with Chen Cheng this past week, the President fears that Chiang Kai-shek may be in what Mr. Schlesinger called a “gotterdammerung” mood, ready to pull the house down on himself—and on us in the process. Nevertheless, we had to keep on trying to persuade him that in the interest of protecting his UN seat (a national interest of the U.S. as well as of the GRC) some tactical adjustments would be required as we went along. One notable adjustment is the non-use of the GRC veto on the admission of Outer Mongolia.

The President wants to send a letter to Chiang this next week on this matter. Chiang’s friends in this country, notably Roy Howard and Henry Luce, should also be enlisted in this effort of persuasion.

Action: FE

[Here follows discussion of unrelated issues.]

Membership. While no decision was recommended at this stage on just how to vote when the Mongolia-Mauritania issue comes up in the Security Council, the President did not exclude the option of voting for the Mongolia application if we could be assured that as a consequence the French Africans would stand with us on Chinese representation.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated issues.]

Tibet. Ambassador Stevenson expressed the opinion that the legal grounds for objection to China’s action in taking over the administration of Tibet were relatively weak.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated issues.]

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Box WH 22, Subject File, U.N. Speeches, 8/3/61-8/11/61. Confidential. Drafted by Cleveland. The memorandum states that it records two discussions, one in the middle of the day and one late in the afternoon. For Schlesinger’s account of the conversation, see A Thousand Days, pp. 479-481.
  2. An August 31 memorandum from Cleveland to Rusk reports that at the August 5 meeting with Stevenson, Schlesinger, and himself, the President had requested them to “ascertain by intensive consultations what proposition could command a majority vote in the General Assembly that would keep the Chinese Communists out of the United Nations and the Republic of China in.” (Department of State, Central Files, 303/8-3161)
  3. In an August 7 telephone conversation, Ball asked Stevenson about the Hyannis Port meetings. Stevenson said that the President was “flexible on the China thing” and that both he and the President felt an investigating committee had more promise than “’important question’ gambit which could be turned against us on credentials.” (Kennedy Library, Papers of George Ball, China (Taiwan))