86. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Highlights of the 24th United Nations General Assembly

At Tab A is a State Department message to all diplomatic posts which gives a useful rundown of the principal events of this fall’s United Nations General Assembly session.2 Following are the major highlights.

General. The three month session was relatively quiet with no particular issue dominant. It demonstrated once again both the UN’s usefulness for public and private diplomacy and its limitations as a legislative body. A good deal of the attention was focussed on preparations for this year’s 25th Anniversary. The Assembly was marked by a more muted East-West atmosphere, some quiet U.S.-Soviet cooperation, and a growing revolt of the smaller countries against the large, wealthy, nuclear nations.

Your September Speech.3 Your address served both to reaffirm American support for the world body and to lay out some concrete, non-ideological tasks on which there has already been some movement. The Assembly passed a resolution urging nations to take effective actions against air hijacking; encouraged the sharing of benefits on earth resource surveying techniques; established a Preparatory Commission for the 1972 International Conference on Environment in Stockholm; and spurred preparations for the Second Development Decade.

Seabeds, CBW and Disarmament. This was the most striking area of small nation rebellion against the superpowers. A resolution was adopted, over U.S. and Soviet opposition, providing for a moratorium on claims and exploitation of seabeds beyond national jurisdiction pending establishment of an international regime. The draft seabeds disarmament treaty was referred back to the Geneva disarmament talks, there being insufficient time to incorporate small power changes and obtain Assembly endorsement. A Mexican resolution passed (U.S. and Soviets abstained) welcoming SALT talks but calling for a preliminary moratorium on testing and development of new strategic systems. An omnibus CBW resolution, co-sponsored by the U.S., the Soviets and others, [Page 141]unanimously referred all action proposals, including a Soviet draft and the UK Biological Convention, back to Geneva. A Swedish resolution passed decisively (only the U.S., Australia and Portugal opposed with most Western Europeans abstaining) which intends to declare the use of tear gas and herbicides as contrary to international law under the Geneva Protocol.

New York Headquarters Expansion. We scored a major success in our effort to keep UN activities focussed in New York when the Assembly authorized the construction of an additional Secretariat office building in New York, provided an appropriate financial package can be assembled. This was made possible largely due to two of your recent decisions: your intention to request $20 million in the FY 1971 budget for this project and your submission of the UN Convention on Privileges and Immunities to the Senate. There is still great opposition to New York expansion from communist nations, Arabs, France and black Africans for several reasons, including the inconveniences and expenses of New York, the belief that social-economic units should be in Geneva, and straight politics.

25th Anniversary. For 1970 the Assembly decided upon a short commemorative General Assembly session culminating on October 24 and attended by many Heads of State; endorsed the convening of a World Youth Assembly for ten days in July in New York; and adopted various preparatory documents. (Secretary Rogers will soon be sending you his recommendations with regard to the UN’s Anniversary, including a proposal that you appoint a Commission of outstanding private citizens to advise and publicize the U.S. role.)

Perennial Issues. There were few surprises on the major traditional questions. Our victory margin on Chinese representation was narrowed by six votes (the Albanian resolution was defeated 48–56 with 21 abstentions), with the Soviets playing a passive role. We maintained traditional margins on the Korean questions, including continuation of the UN role. There was some quiet progress with the Soviets in devising outlines for UN peacekeeping observer missions. Southern Africa and colonialism issues generally followed the pattern of recent years. The Assembly, including the U.S., welcomed the moderate Lusaka manifesto, in which the black Africans prefer non-violent solutions to southern African questions. In addition to the private Middle East talks, there was bitter public debate on refugees and Palestine, and concern over the fedayeen role in refugee camps served by UNRWA. There was generally constructive progress on the preparation for the Second Development Decade, including the Pearson Commission Report on foreign aid and a hard-hitting study by Sir Robert Jackson (Australia) on the UN’s capacity in the economic/social field. Human Rights action included our focus on the plight of Vietnam POWs and movement toward establishment of a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 296, Agency Files, USUN, Vol. II. Limited Official Use. Sent for information.
  2. Airgram CA–6802, December 22; attached but not printed.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 12.