423. Letter From the Representative to the United Nations (Goldberg) to President Johnson1

Dear Mr. President:

Several weeks ago I wrote you about the importance of the early ratification by the United States of the United Nations Convention on Privileges and Immunities. Earlier this year, when members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee visited New York,2 the Secretary General spoke to them in some detail about the problems which, in his judgment, result from our failure to ratify. Since then several members of the Committee have sent inquiries to me and to the Department of State regarding our plans for submitting the Convention. As you know, I think our failure to ratify the Convention over these past twenty-one years is damaging to our position here out of all proportion to the relatively minor extension of diplomatic privileges and immunities which would be entailed.

Obviously it is now too late to submit the Convention to the Congress during the present session. And I fully appreciate your view that you would not wish to submit it now without some assurance of substantial Congressional support. It would, however, be most helpful to me to have a statement of intent from the Secretary of State indicating that the Convention will be submitted early in the next session.

This matter is of particular importance right now in view of the impending debate in the General Assembly on diplomatic privileges and immunities. As originally proposed by the Secretary General this item was confined to specific immunities of representatives to the United Nations; however, we were successful in broadening the focus so that it will now encompass incidents such as attacks on our diplomatic missions abroad—a subject in which the United States has a deep interest. Nonetheless, the United States will be under heavy attack with the usual charges on host country problems. Our failure to ratify the Convention on Privileges and Immunities gives each nation so inclined an irrefutable springboard from which to attack us.

As a result of our last discussion on this matter within the State Department, a letter from the Secretary to me was drafted and submitted [Page 916] to the White House for approval. I understand that Joe Califano is taking the view that the letter is too specific a commitment. I enclose the text of the letter as drafted, and a slightly modified version which—in the light of Joe’s comments—is less specific in its commitment.3

While I would, of course, prefer the original and stronger version, I strongly recommend that you approve the Secretary’s addressing to me one or the other of these letters. I propose in turn to convey its substance as a reply to the latest inquiry from the Secretary General, and also make use of it, as necessary, to deflect criticism of our position during the forthcoming debate on privileges and immunities.


Arthur J. Goldberg
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 9. No classification marking.
  2. March 22. For notes of the meeting, see U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, A Conversation with U Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations, 92nd Congress, 2nd session (Washington, 1972).
  3. Attached but not printed.