221. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Posts 1

119761. Subj: Successor to U Thant.

FYI. Dept concerned that despite U Thant’s recent reiteration of earlier statement he not candidate for reappointment, there still is disposition to question finality Thant’s decision and assume he would, as in 1966, respond to draft. Many UN members therefore appear inclined take easiest way out and not address themselves to question of suitable successor. This situation raises possibility that opportunity may go by default to appoint well qualified successor who would bring to crucial and difficult SYG post greater vigor and administrative/managerial ability than U Thant has demonstrated. End FYI.
We do not wish to make any formal approach to governments at this time but we do want to encourage others to accept as fact need to find successor to U Thant and to stimulate them to active consideration of problem. As informal occasion arises to raise subject with official of responsible level or to respond to queries, you should draw on following to discuss SYG question:
US has good reason to take at face value U Thant’s statements to press on January 18 and June 3 and to conference of Non-Governmental Organizations on May 25 that his decision not to be candidate for reappointment is final (his term expires at end 1971). It is our understanding that he has taken this line also with delegates who are pressing him to allow himself to be drafted.
US has so far taken no firm position on successor to U Thant, and we have little indication of views of other UN members. However, we believe time has come to search for best qualified candidate. Obviously, to be successful candidate must be acceptable to UN membership generally and to five permanent members of Security Council, and development of necessary consensus takes time and active effort. If such consensus is to develop over next few months, other UN members [Page 396]will have to begin soon to give serious consideration to question of finding best qualified successor.
We also place great stress on need for SYG with outstanding qualifications as statesman and with managerial talent to weld Secretariat into effective organization and to attack UN’s serious financial problems. We view candidate’s ability as far outweighing any regional consideration.
We are aware of only three announced candidates. (1) Most active is Max Jakobson who has endorsement of Scandinavian countries and for whom soundings have been taken with number of governments. Some question of Arab attitudes toward him have been raised, but as far as we know no formal objections have yet been voiced. He appears to enjoy considerable degree of respect among UN colleagues as effective mediator and conciliator. He has had long experience in UN matters and has been Finland’s permanent representative since 1965.
Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe (Ceylon) has recently been endorsed by his Government but we do not know how many other governments, either Asian or other, have been approached on his behalf.2 Amerasinghe is career civil servant who has served as permanent secretary in Ministry of Finance and External Affairs, High Commissioner to India and since 1967 as Ceylon Permanent Representative to the UN. He has handled competently the thorny chore of Chairman of the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of the Seabed.
Endalkachew Makonnen has been Ethiopian Minister of Communications since 1969 and was Ethiopian Permanent Representative to UN 1966–1969. He has the endorsement of his government but we are not aware of official representations on his behalf. President of OAU summit meeting noted Makonnen candidacy but summit did not endorse it.
Former Austrian Foreign Minister Waldheim, recently defeated in his bid for Austrian Presidency, and now Austria’s UN rep, while not a formal candidate has let it be known he would be available for SYG post.
Among others whose names have surfaced as possible SYG is UN High Commissioner for Refugees Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (Iran) who has also served with UNESCO. Dept has as yet no basis to weigh measure of his support. We also believe it possible Latin American candidate could yet develop.
If host government official volunteers any views Dept would be interested.
For Kuala Lumpur: You should reply to MFA inquiry reported Kuala Lumpur 22413 above lines, adding that Dept gratified know GOM currently considering its position this matter and would appreciate being kept informed GOM thinking as it develops.
For London: You should inform FonOff that we are doing this to stimulate other governments to become more actively concerned with SYG problem.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 8–3. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Armitage and Hartley; cleared in draft by Ambassador Bush; cleared by Daniel Goott, William Witman, Masters, Curran, B.A. Poole, Assistant Secretary Sisco, and Pedersen; and approved by Assistant Secretary De Palma. Sent to Abidjan, Accra, Amman, Addis Ababa, Ankara, Athens, Bangkok, Beirut, Belgrade, Bogota, Brussels, Bucharest, Buenos Aires, Canberra, Caracas, Dakar, Djakarta, Dublin, Freetown, The Hague, Islamabad, Kinshasa, Kuala Lumpur, Lagos, Managua, Manila, Mexico City, Monrovia, Nairobi, New Delhi, Ottawa, Rabat, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Tokyo, Tunis, and Wellington. Repeated to London and USUN.
  2. Amerasinghe announced that he was not a candidate for UN Secretary-General on July 6. (Telegram 2010 from Colombo, July 9; ibid.)
  3. Dated June 18. (Ibid., UN 8–1)