308. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • UN Matters


  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • The Under Secretary
    • William R. Tyler, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
    • Harlan Cleveland, Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs
    • Adlai E. Stevenson, Ambassador to the UN
    • Richard I. Phillips, P/ON
    • Thomas M. Judd, EUR/BNA
  • UK
    • Patrick Gordon Walker, Foreign Secretary
    • The Lord Harlech, British Ambassador
    • Sir Eric Roll, Economic Minister, British Embassy
    • Sir Harold Caccia, Permanent Under Secretary, Foreign Office
    • Michael Stewart, British Minister
    • Reginald M. Hadow, Head of Foreign Office News Department
    • John N. Henderson, Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary
    • Richard Faber, First Secretary, British Embassy

Article 19

The Secretary led off by saying we don’t want a confrontation on that issue. But a wrong answer by the General Assembly would create trouble for us. He said if Article 19 were not sustained, “I literally don’t know if we could get an appropriation from Congress at all.” The British asked whether that applies to the Regular Budget as well as to the peacekeeping expenses, and the Secretary replied that the Court had decided that these were not really two different categories of UN expenses.

The Secretary went on to say that he could not, of course, predict what an American administration would do in an unpredictable tactical situation. But he certainly could not guarantee that if the Article 19 issue came out wrong, we would be able to get funds for the UN until we ourselves were as far behind in our dues as the Russians were. Governor Stevenson added that on the present basis it looks as if we would win a straight challenge to Article 19, even on the basis of a two-thirds vote, but there would probably be massive abstentions. (A little later in the discussion, the Secretary handed Mr. Gordon Walker our present estimate of the voting on Article 19 showing 47 yeas and 23 nays. The [Page 662] British looked at it for several minutes with great interest and then handed the document back to the Secretary.)

Gordon Walker responded to the Secretary’s comments by saying flatly “We will continue to back you on Article 19. Some solution needs to be found, but it would not be a solution for us to give way.”

He added that there would obviously be some tactical discussions at the very last moment. If the Soviets show some sign of movement, we (US and UK) will obviously have to be in close touch on how to handle negotiations with them. But if they don’t budge, we certainly are not going to budge.

The Secretary suggested to Mr. Gordon Walker that it would be helpful if the UK would pass along to other countries a sense of alarm based on what he had heard in Washington about the vigor of the U.S. position. He referred to the double standard in the UN, one illustration of which was the contrast between world attitudes on U.S. nuclear testing, and the general reaction that the Chinese Communists nuclear test qualified the Chinese for admission to the UN. Mr. Gordon Walker agreed that the double standard was “tiresome”.

Mr. Gordon Walker asked whether there wouldn’t be some trouble about the automatic application of Article 19. He had the impression that a number of countries thought the General Assembly should vote Article 19 up or down. Governor Stevenson said there were indeed a number of delegations that had this feeling. Mr. Gordon Walker referred to the conversations he and Harold Wilson had had in Moscow on their last visit, in which the Russians made mention of this point. In the same discussions, he said, the Soviets put most of their emphasis on essentially legal arguments, emphasizing the view that peacekeeping actions taken outside the framework of the Security Council constitute illegal amendments to the UN Charter.

There followed for a few moments a wide ranging discussion of the basic constitutional issues involved. With respect to the past, both the United States and United Kingdom sides were agreed that there was no particular difficulty in finding some satisfactory method of payment that enabled the Soviets to maintain their position of principle on the peacekeeping operations as long as an actual payment was made. As Mr. Gordon Walker put it, “they could pay to the General Fund or something”.

With respect to the future, the Secretary said that we might want to explore the revival of procedures in Chapter 7 of the Charter and present the Soviets with the opportunity of doing as much as possible of the peacekeeping job in the Security Council, while maintaining the emergency escape hatch to the Assembly. Our own proposals of last March were recalled, and various possibilities canvassed by which the [Page 663] Security Council would become in fact the major organ for peacekeeping problems, and might share with the General Assembly some responsibility even in cases where the veto was an obstruction to action. In this connection, for example, the Secretary suggested that an issue might start in the Security Council and then, when action was frustrated by a veto, would go to the General Assembly, which could by a two-thirds vote send it back to the Security Council for action, with the previous vetoes becoming abstentions in the second go-round.

In this connection, Mr. Cleveland mentioned we would probably be looking for arrangements that amounted to an increased degree of bicameralism between the General Assembly and the Security Council. Mr. Gordon Walker said that moving in this kind of direction made sense to him and acknowledged that we shared with the Soviets some interest in building up the restraints on the Assembly and the position of the Security Council, short of making everything subject to the Soviet veto.

The China Seat in the United Nations

The British Foreign Secretary led off on this subject. He said that the UK:

Would continue to vote for the substitution of Communist China for the GRC in the UN.
Was not very clear what ought to be done about Formosa.
Would definitely not lobby for a change in the Chinese representation in the 19th General Assembly.
Could not guarantee not to lobby in the 20th General Assembly.

He said the one argument they were now using on this subject was the importance of China being subjected to the pressures of world opinion.

The Secretary said that there is no doubt in our minds about the existence of Communist China as an important political fact, and we do in fact deal with Communist China on various subjects; we even have regular conversations with Peking through Ambassadors in Warsaw. These talks are not very productive.

But the Secretary said he wanted to put this problem in the larger context of the world’s security situation. He thought there was a reasonable prospect of developing favorable relationships with the Warsaw Pact countries and the NATO countries, which would lead away from war. But the same could not be said about Peking. The Politburo in Peking must be trying to decide whether they are on the right track in pursuing the rather primitive, truculent, and aggressive policies of these veterans of the Long March. “Anything that helps them decide they are on the right track is a step toward war in the Far East”. This is, the Secretary said, why we were bothered by the French recognition [Page 664] of Communist China, and by the growth of free world trade with the Chinese mainland, even by countries like Australia which have a considerable stake in the security of the Far East.

The ouster of Khrushchev was presumably read in Peking as confirmation of the wisdom of Chinese policies and plans. If they can achieve admission to the UN without modification in their behavior, then this will be further confirmation that their kind of toughness pays. We do not, he said, think that Chinese admission under present circumstances would have a taming effect on Peking; the UN cannot operate as reform school.

Mr. Gordon Walker said that, of course, the British policy on Chinese representation could be interpreted in Peking as confirmation of present Chinese policy although the Labour Government will be merely carrying on a long-standing policy of its predecessors in London.

The Secretary referred to the “important question” tactic, and Mr. Gordon Walker said that he “thought” he agreed that the UK should maintain its previous position that a change in Chinese representation requires two-thirds vote of the General Assembly. He said he hadn’t fully studied the brief or discussed this matter with his colleagues in the new government, so he was not prepared to give us a definite answer on this subject, but from what he knew about it, he thought he agreed that that should continue to be the UK position.

Mr. Gordon Walker said we should know that Douglas Jay, new President of the Board of Trade was going to Peking. The reason was that his Conservative predecessor, Ted Heath, had planned a trip to Peking, and was even thinking about extending more credits to Peking, while he was there. “We won’t do that, for the time being”, he said.

The UK wishes, however, to establish fuller diplomatic relations with Peking and to try to get an Ambassador there with better access to the Peking authorities than their present Chargé has. Sir Harold Caccia mentioned that this would be rather difficult because, he said, one of the three grounds for refusing a UK Ambassador in Peking had been the “important question” issue in the UN.

The Secretary ended this phase of the meeting by mentioning that in our judgment, if we’re going to discuss practical steps toward peace with the Chinese Communists, Laos would be a good place to begin.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Conference Files: CF 2440. Secret. Drafted by Cleveland and approved in S on November 9. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s Conference Room.