No. 632 NAI DFA 27/18A

Extracts from a letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(S. 7/11/45) (Confidential)

Geneva, 13 February 1932

Convocation of Assembly

[matter omitted]

The Committee of Twelve sat for nearly 22 hours discussing the situation. You will notice that three modes of procedure were suggested. In the first place China formally requested that the dispute be referred to the Assembly; it was necessary to do so yesterday (the 14th day) to safeguard her right under Article 15. If the Council were to declare its intention to do so of its own accord China would however withdraw her request. Similarly, if the Council 'in virtue of the general powers vested in it to summon the Assembly for consideration of the dispute'. The latter procedure, by the way, is based on the Rules of Procedure and not on Article 15. The first two suggestions would involve the de-seizure of the Council of the question; the third would not.

The opinion was generally expressed that the Council would hardly be justified in voluntarily passing the question to the Assembly on the grounds that the Secretary-General had not yet received the reports and information asked for under § 1 of Art. 15, but it was of course accepted that the Chinese delegation was entitled to do so if they so desired.

The Secretary-General said he was informed that the Chinese had no intention of immediately convoking the Assembly but were primarily concerned in preserving their right to do so later.

I asked if the request, made within the time-limit provided for, and in view of the Chinese desire not to act immediately, could remain as it were in suspense and the Secretary-General said he thought it would be right to consult the delegation concerned as to the time when the Assembly would meet; on the other hand he pointed out that that could not be long delayed as the report of the Assembly would have to be made within six months of the submission of the dispute to the Council (see Article 12).

After further discussion the President (Mr. Paul Boncour) read a draft letter (or resolution). It was held that the final paragraph of the Chinese letter called for a reply. The proposed reply had an introduction something like this:- 'While waiting the result of the negotiations at present taking place regarding the cessation of hostilities' etc., the Council could not see its way to refer, of itself, the dispute to the Assembly at the present stage.

Sir John Simon objected to the reference to the negotiations. It would, he said, be morally his responsibility if it were stated that the negotiations were still in progress, and he could not say that that was the case. The President put up some arguments based on keeping the Council's actions fully justified in the eyes of the public, but Simon persisted in his objection. It was clear that he thought, if he did not indeed know, that the negotiations had failed.

The Committee having agreed on the substance of the reply the terms of the introduction were left to the President and one or two others.

While the President's draft was under discussion I said that care should be taken not to say anything which might be interpreted as suggesting that the Council's decision prejudiced in any way its liberty to send the matter to the Assembly not merely under Article 15 but also under the Rules of Procedure. The situation in the Far East was developing so rapidly that even next week the Council might wish to secure the additional moral support of e.g. an Assembly resolution.

The President rather indignantly pointed out that his draft included that provision, a fact of which I was fully aware but I desired to have on record as it were a reservation as to the use of the Assembly.

[matter omitted]


Seán Lester
pp. [signed] M. Burgi1

1 Secretary to Lester.

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