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Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961–1963
Volume XXII, Northeast Asia, Document 44


44. Memorandum of ConversationSourceSource: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China. Secret. Drafted by Rinden and approved in S on August 8 and by the White House on August 10. According to Kennedy's Appointment Book, other participants were present for part of the discussion, which included Southeast Asia as well as preparations for Ch'en Ch'eng's visit. (Kennedy Library)

  • SUBJECT
  • Conference at White House on China Representation at United Nations and Outer Mongolia-United Nations Membership Application
  • PARTICIPANTS
  • The President
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. George W. Ball, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs
  • Mr. Walter P. McConaughy, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Mr. Harlan Cleveland, Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs
  • Ambassador Everett F. Drumright
  • Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President
  • Mr. Walt W. Rostow, Deputy Special Assistant to the President
  • Mr. Robert W. Komer, The White House
  • Mr. Robert W. Rinden, Acting Director for Chinese Affairs

With respect to the China representation issue at the United Nations, the Secretary recommended the “important question” device as the best tactic to use since it offered us a reasonable chance of getting a clear, blocking one-third. In response to the President's question whether Ambassador Stevenson thought this tactic would get us more votes than the moratorium, the Secretary said that Ambassador Stevenson thought that it would. He said that any “two Chinas” proposal was unacceptable to the GRC.

The President asked about the usefulness of the Swedish proposal for a commission to study the problem and report back to the 17th United Nations General Assembly.

Mr. Cleveland said that the GRC was allergic to the Swedish proposal because of its fears about the composition of the commission.

The Secretary thought GRC fears were well founded as the Commission would likely recommend some sort of two Chinas solution.

The President asked that some variant of the Swedish proposal, acceptable to the GRC, be devised. He said that to use only the “important question” device would be too transparent a blocking measure. It was important, he declared, to formulate a more attractive proposal, apparently moving towards a final solution of the China representation issue. Nigeria and certain other countries would be willing to support us on the China representation issue if we presented a proposal offering suitable rationale.

Mr. Rusk said that, in view of United States interest and the damage to the United Nations that might result, the China representation issue was, on its merits, an important question.

The Secretary said that there are governments who recognize Peiping but do not want Peiping in the United Nations. They would vote against United Nations membership for Peiping if they had a justification to use vis-a-vis Peiping. He thought that the proposal for a commission to study the China representation issue might be more attractive to such countries if the commission were also to look into the problem of the allocation of United Nations seats, not just the problem of the China seat. No one, however, he said, would be fooled by whatever device we used.

In reply to the President's question as to what Ambassador Stevenson and his USUN colleagues thought about the various proposals, Mr. Cleveland said that they seemed to prefer the “successor state” formula. The President was concerned to have Ambassador Stevenson's agreement on the proposal to be used as he would have to carry the fight in the United Nations.

Mr. Cleveland said that there was also the timing problem; other countries want to know what we will do before they will decide their position. In response to the President's query when the United States proposal should be floated, the Secretary said that it should be deferred until after the talks with Premier Ch'en.

The President said that, as the moratorium was impossible, to fight for it would be the ultimate futility. What we must work on now is the “important question” and what to add to it in order to win.

We must also convince the GRC the United States and GRC have a common objective: to keep the Chinese Communists out of the United Nations. We want to give away as little as possible of the GRC position in order to attain our common purpose. The GRC must recognize that there is good faith on both sides and that there is no ambiguity in the United States position. If we were defeated on the China representation issue, it would be almost as bad for the United States as the GRC. Some friendly countries like Nigeria, Pakistan and Great Britain say they can't vote with us, and Japan says we can't win. But we can't allow ourselves to be beaten; we must do what we have to in order to win. The GRC will be asked to give up as little as is essential to winning.

With respect to Outer Mongolia's United Nations membership application, the President said the GRC must not veto the application. He also indicated that United States recognition of Outer Mongolia should be put aside in the interests of victory on the China representation issue.

The Secretary said that we did not want to organize abstentions to defeat the Outer Mongolian membership application although we and the GRC would abstain. There was the possibility that, in addition to Mauritania, Kuwait and Sierra Leone might also be involved. In any case, if Mauritania was kept out of the United Nations, we would infuriate the Africans and our goose would be cooked.

* Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China. Secret. Drafted by Rinden and approved in S on August 8 and by the White House on August 10. According to Kennedy's Appointment Book, other participants were present for part of the discussion, which included Southeast Asia as well as preparations for Ch'en Ch'eng's visit. (Kennedy Library)