424. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Sisco) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Future of the Trusteeship Council

In light of your question to Dave Popper, I am submitting a review of where we stand on the future of the UN Trusteeship Council.

With the termination of the Australian-New Zealand-UK Trusteeship Agreement for Nauru on January 31, 1968, New Zealand will drop off the Trusteeship Council and it will no longer be possible to maintain parity between administering authorities and non-administering members as stipulated in Article 86 1(c) of the Charter. The composition will then be as follows: Australia and the U.S. as administering powers; the Republic of China, France, USSR, and UK as Permanent Members of the Security Council; and Liberia as the only elected member under Article 86 1(c). Moreover, there will only be two remaining [Page 917] Trusteeship Agreements, i.e. Australia’s Agreement for New Guinea and our own strategic trust with the Security Council for the TTPI.

We concluded some time ago that the lack of parity should not—at least in a legal sense—disrupt the continued existence of the Trusteeship Council, especially since the imbalance will be in favor of the non-administering members. This opinion has now been strongly endorsed by the SYG’s Legal Adviser in a document to the Trusteeship Council (Attached).2 No objections were raised by any member of the Council, and even the Soviets agreed to this interpretation while reiterating their complaint that the Trusteeship Council is too conservative and that the work of decolonization should be carried on by the Committee of 24 and General Assembly.

We are not certain how this problem will evolve. Many of the former colonial states which are so heavily represented in the Committee of 24 and the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly would like these bodies to take over as much as possible of the Trusteeship Council’s residual activities. While we are prepared to discuss our dependencies as appropriate in the General Assembly, neither we nor the Australians are willing to have the Committee of 24 become the UN’s agent for surveillance in our trust territories. Full controversy may not develop until Liberia’s term on the Trusteeship Council expires on December 31, 1968, but we cannot rule out considerable difficulty beginning within the next few weeks when the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly considers the question of Nauru’s independence. Hopefully, however, the UN Legal Adviser’s opinion and its acceptance by the Soviets will help hold controversy to manageable proportions for the time being. As far as we are concerned, we have an important protection in that our Trusteeship Agreement is with the Security Council. We would prefer to continue reporting to the Trusteeship Council but we could very properly decide to begin reporting to the Security Council if the Trusteeship Council ceases to operate.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 UN. Confidential. Drafted by Gleysteen. A copy was sent to the Under Secretary.
  2. Not attached.