301. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) and Samuel Belk of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson1


  • Your Working Meeting with U Thant, August 6, at 11:30 A.M.

U Thant will arrive in Washington immediately following visits to London, Cairo, Paris, Geneva, Rangoon and Moscow. U Thant will be eager to review his recent trip with you—especially his meetings with De Gaulle and Khrushchev. Foremost in his mind will be (1) the three-fold problem of financing; peacekeeping; and the application of Article 19 of the Charter (under which a member loses its vote in the General Assembly if it is more than two years behind in its dues); (2) Southeast Asia; (3) Cyprus, and (4) Cuba.

Financing, Peacekeeping and Article 19

Background: De Gaulle received U Thant warmly but offered no hope that the French intend to pay the approximately $15 million they owe the UN. Under Article 19 the French would lose their vote in the [Page 649] General Assembly after January 1, 1965 if no alternative—such as a “voluntary contribution”—has been found.

Contrasted with De Gaulle’s noncommittal attitude toward financing, Khrushchev was adamant against paying the $55 million of Soviet arrearages. Khrushchev told U Thant that if the USSR were deprived of its vote, it would leave the UN. This may be merely a bluff, but it probably has made U Thant more eager than ever to find a compromise and avoid an Article 19 showdown. There will be further exploratory exchanges of views between the U.S. and the Soviet missions in New York before the General Assembly opens on November 10.

Response: It would be helpful if you would emphasize to U Thant that we are firmly committed to the application of Article 19 under which the Soviet Union and other countries will lose their votes when the next General Assembly opens. U Thant should be left with no doubt that future support of the UN by the U.S. and other free world democracies—which supply 3/4 of the UN budget—will be seriously impaired if the law of the Charter is not upheld. U Thant should understand that it is not our objective to deny the Soviet Union its vote but rather to find, with them, a workable formula for past and future financing.

Southeast Asia

Background: U Thant has tended in the past to speak as a Burmese, rather than a UN official, and has been critical of our present military effort in this area, expressing strong views in favor of an early Geneva conference. He also has been doubtful of the value of UN observers on the Cambodian-Viet-Nam frontier. He thinks much like De Gaulle on this.

Response: U Thant should be reminded that the U.S. has taken the lead in seeking the establishment of a UN Commission to deal effectively with the Cambodian-South Viet-Nam border difficulties. We continue to favor this approach provided it can have sufficient mobility, freedom of movement and means of communications to operate effectively. However, there seems little hope that Sihanouk will accept a UN border group of any kind.

On the broader question of Southeast Asia, emphasize to U Thant our continued willingness to participate in a Geneva conference on Laos if Souvanna Phouma’s conditions can be met (primarily the withdrawal from the Plain of Jarres).


Background: U Thant is deeply concerned about the overall Cyprus problem, and specifically about the recent arms and personnel buildup in Cyprus and Cypriot interference with the UN forces freedom of [Page 650] movement which has inhibited the UN from detecting the buildup more accurately. Makarios has shown contempt for the UN. While using it as a shield against Turk action, he flouts its efforts to control the Greek military buildup and harasses the peacekeeping force. U Thant may submit a report to the Security Council expressing his concern over these developments. U Thant has been kept informed by Dean Acheson and the UN Mediator on the status of the talks in Geneva.

Response: We have to convince U Thant not only that we continue to support the UN effort but that he should be as worried as we are about Makarios. We want to convince him that he must be tough with Makarios, because it will help us box him in—the best argument (to avoid suspicion that we are pro-Turk) is that we think UN prestige suffers and a bad precedent is set when the UN is “used” in this fashion.

We continue to believe that a Security Council meeting would not be helpful at this time because of the adverse effect it might have on the Geneva talks.


Background: U Thant probably will tell you Khrushchev told him that continued U-2 flights over Cuba were unacceptable and that if one were brought down, and there were difficulty, the USSR would then come to the aid of Cuba. Khrushchev said he could wait until after the elections in the hope that a better attitude would prevail. Khrushchev confided to U Thant that he might visit Cuba in December or January if the atmosphere had improved following the elections.

The Cubans have asked U Thant to take some action (unspecified) with regard to the overflights.

Response: As Governor Stevenson already has informed U Thant, the Cuban failure to permit safeguards against the re-entry of offensive weapons required the U.S. and OAS members to develop other means of checking on military activities in Cuba. The U–2 flights over Cuba are necessary. They will continue until other effective means are found. We are ever ready to explore this problem.

  • Samuel E. Belk, III 2
  • McGeorge Bundy
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, U Thant Visit. Confidential. A memorandum of the President’s conversation with U Thant on Southeast Asia is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. I, Document 298.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears these typed signatures.