404. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1

2564. For the Secretary and Sisco. I sought a meeting with SYG this afternoon for purpose of specifically ascertaining his intentions about extending his term as SYG. No one except SYG and myself were present at his conversation which was frank and extremely candid.

I told SYG that time had come when it was necessary for him to make final decision as to whether he was willing to stay for another term. I said that he knew our govt’s position and that of other members of SC, as well as the overwhelming sentiment in the Assembly and that it would be pointless for me to review the many discussions which had taken place on this subject. I also said that while I knew his strongly held views about Vietnam, he could not anticipate that our govt’s course would be changed in the interest of inducing him to remain in office. I thought it necessary to be very forthright and candid with him on this point. I did say that he knew we desired a peaceful solution but that it was not our considered view that the course he specifically recommended would bring this about.

I reiterated to him what we said publicly, that it would be by mutual reciprocal actions only that a diminution of hostilities could occur. I added, however, that this did not mean that we did not believe that he could play an ultimate role in bringing about an honorable settlement. He is an Asian who by virtue of his office and his own personality enjoys prestige in SEA and it was my personal view that circumstances might be such that his good offices could be helpful to both sides. Despite our differences concerning Vietnam, our govt held him in high regard and believed strongly that the interests of the world organization would be impaired if he did not agree to continue on. I further emphasized that campaigning had already commenced and that names of various candidates were being bandied about. This, in my view, was undesirable and made it even more imperative that a final decision be reached now about his status.

SYG said he appreciated the extreme candor of my statement, particularly my frank exposition about his views concerning Vietnam. He said he had never intended his expression on this subject to constitute a condition for reconsideration on his part. He commented that he was too aware of the political realities to believe that his reappointment [Page 877] would affect our deeply held views on this tragic conflict. He said, however, that since he had stated in September that he would not stand, some concrete step would have to be taken other than Vietnam, in order to make it possible for him, with dignity and face, to accept an appointment. I in turn stated that the time had come when subtlety and indirection had no place, and that it would be necessary for him to be specific. He replied that he understood this and that he would talk specifically but only on the level of personal confidence with me and as a friend whose judgment and discretion he valued. On that basis he stated that if the financial problems of the UN were alleviated and if on my initiative as President of the Security Council a private meeting were held where the Council would determine their inability to agree upon another candidate, this would afford him the basis to accept reappointment.

I expressed appreciation for his candor and said that I would undertake to see what could be done about the financial matter. I added that I saw no difficulty in getting the SC to agree at a private meeting to the lack of ability to find a suitable successor, and a unanimous desire to extend his term.

On the financial matter I indicated disappointment with the Russian proposal to contribute seven million dollars. SYG inquired whether I knew what amount the French had in mind and I said I did not, and he in turn said that the French had never indicated to him what contribution they were willing to make. SYG further emphasized that if action was to be taken by SC, he would hope it could be taken during my Presidency. He said that while the next President, Amb. Berro of Uruguay, is a fine mean, he would not feel comfortable or trusting enough to have him handle this delicate matter, nor would he feel warranted in confiding his innermost thoughts to the Amb of Uruguay. SYG and I noted that this leaves us with only one week to conduct this very delicate operation.

Comment: The significance of this conversation is, of course, self-apparent and in my judgment requires a re-evaluation on our part of our willingness to make a financial contribution in concert and in harmony with Soviets, French and British, plus such others as may like to join. I know deeply held views of Dept. We are not defaulters, and the French and Russians are. On other hand it seems clear that unless we act quickly and in concert with them, it is very likely SYG may conclude that there is no dignified basis for him to stay on. If he does leave, the conclusion among a considerable body of responsible American opinion as well as world opinion is that he will be leaving his post because of frustrations over our Vietnam policy. It is in my considered view a cheap price to pay to guard against this type of reaction, for US to come up with a contribution to the UN deficit. I have in mind our attempting [Page 878] to get agreement on matching contributions between the four permanent members based upon what the British have already paid, namely, 10 million dollars. This would mean an additional 30 million from the US, USSR, and France, since the British have already paid their contribution, plus what can be collected from other members. It should be possible if the permanent members each contribute 10 million dollars, to raise better than 5 million dollars from all other members who have not yet contributed to the deficit. While this would not solve the financial problems of the UN, it would contribute considerably towards their solution and would enable the SYG to conclude that a substantial response has been made to his appeal to keep the UN house in order.

In making this recommendation I do not mean to say that I would start on this basis with the Russians. I would ask them for the contribution they originally implied—15 million. For this, state our willingness to contribute 10 million. My judgment is, however, that after initiating such negotiations, what I have recommended is the only feasible course for bringing the matter to a speedy conclusion.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 5. Secret; Nodis.