John F. Kennedy photo

Letter to the Presidents of Indonesia and Mali Concerning the Message and Declaration of the Belgrade Conference.

September 14, 1961

[Released September 14, 1961. Dated September 13, 1961]

Dear Mr. President:

I have studied with care the message from the Conference of Nonaligned Nations which you were good enough to present in person. The United States Government is aware that the nonaligned powers assembled at Belgrade represent an important segment of world opinion, and, especially, that their peoples share with ours a vital stake in the maintenance of the peace. In our continuing deliberations within the United States Government and with our Allies, we will give the message from the conference most careful consideration.

As regards the proposal that I enter into direct negotiations with Premier Khrushchev, we are prepared to use existing and appropriate channels to establish the possibility of surmounting the present impasse. It has been and continues to be our policy to seek to settle our problems with others by peaceful means. We have not attempted to create crises, and we believe it is incumbent upon all responsible governments to explore all possible avenues, including negotiations at the highest levels, for mutually acceptable solutions of current international problems. However, unless such negotiations are carefully prepared beforehand they risk failure and may lead to deterioration of the situation. We therefore feel that a time of great tension it is particularly necessary that negotiations of the kind proposed by the Belgrade Conference not only have careful preparation but also a reasonable chance of success.

The Foreign Ministers of the Western powers are meeting in Washington tomorrow. Next week the Secretary of State will head the United States delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations. We understand that Foreign Minister Gromyko will also be present. This will provide an opportunity for serious talks about Germany and other problems if the Soviet aide proves willing. The channels of diplomacy are open for the exploration of constructive steps toward a reduction of tension. Other means are available when they can serve a useful purpose. Meanwhile, it is clearly of the utmost importance that there be no unilateral acts which will make peaceful progress impossible.

Given a realistic approach and a sincere desire on the other side as well as ours to reach a mutually acceptable solution, we see no reason why eventual negotiations should not be successful in coping with the present crisis. However, we do not intend to enter into negotiations under ultimate or threats. It is also clear that we do not propose to discuss either abdication of our responsibility or renunciation of the modalities for carrying out those responsibilities.

Nevertheless, we believe it possible to find a solution which can accommodate vital interests on both sides of the crisis.

The United States has carefully noted the statements in the Belgrade Declaration recognizing that the Berlin and German situations are of vital importance to future developments in international relations. It has consistently been, and will continue to be, our policy to settle differences with realism and responsibility. We would note that this crisis has been initiated by Soviet not by American action. We endorse the Declaration's reference to the rights of all nations to unity, self-determination, and independence, and its condemnation of intimidation, intervention, and interference in the exercise of the right of self-determination. We presume that these principles apply equally to the people of Germany and Berlin.

Our policies in this area have sought to respect these principles. We have absolutely no intention of resorting to force or threats of force to solve the Berlin and Germany problems, but we are determined to honor our commitments and are prepared to meet force with force if it is used against us. While the United States and its Allies are all agreed there must be negotiations on the problem, the Soviet Union must give indication of a readiness to engage in discussion based on mutual respect. The only conditions it has yet exhibited any willingness to consider are conditions which involve the surrender of Western rights.

The United States continues to believe that conclusion of an adequately controlled test ban agreement is a matter of greatest urgency. We wish to reaffirm, however, our belief that test ban negotiations should be resumed separately from negotiations on general and complete disarmament. The Soviet resumption of atmospheric testing has increased the urgency which attaches to the signature of a complete treaty test ban. Complex negotiation on general disarmament should not be permitted to delay the achievement of this significant step forward.

I would emphasize again my regret that the Soviet Union has rejected the offer of the United Kingdom and the United States Governments to halt atmospheric tests creating fallout.

Only after a searching review of vital U.S. security interests and after the utmost provocation did we announce our intent to resume underground tests. The nonaligned nations may be assured of our continued willingness to negotiate an effective treaty; but, meanwhile, the national security interests of our country and of our Allies in the Free World must be protected. The United States looks forward to full consideration of the test ban issue in the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly which we hope will move the Soviet Union to abandon its opposition to effective controls and toward acceptance of a test ban agreement.

The United States is pleased to note that the participants in the recent conference in Belgrade mentioned the importance of an effective system of inspection and control. This is the crux of the matter. It is clear from United States proposals in the nuclear test negotiations that the United States contemplates inspection and control procedures in the disarmament field in which the nonaligned countries, as well as others, would participate.

For some months the United States has been conducting an intensive study of the problem of general disarmament which resulted in a request to Congress to create a disarmament agency. The study has also resulted in the development of a comprehensive plan for general and complete disarmament which is in the final stage of preparation for public presentation. This plan provides for a program which will insure that the disarmament is general and complete; that war is no longer an instrument for settling international disputes; and that disarmament is accompanied by the creation of reliable procedures for peaceful settlement of disputes and maintenance of peace in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.

The American commitment to these objectives goes deep. Our colleagues in the world community will not find us fainthearted in this cause.

Talks between the United States and the Soviet Union resumed September 6 in New York in a further effort to bring the two sides closer together and to work out a satisfactory disarmament forum. The proposals put forth by the United States by these talks provide for participation of nonaligned countries in future broad disarmament negotiations. They also provide for negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations if the Soviet Union will agree. The United States believes the General Assembly will have an opportunity to go into the matter since a Committee of the Whole exists in the form of the Disarmament Commission, which can be convened at any time.

In conclusion let me say, Mr. President, that we found elements in the message and in the Declaration which reflected a genuine desire to bring about a relaxation of tensions and which, if applied in a truly neutral and objective manner, could be of positive benefit in easing world tensions.

We respect, as always, the desire of other nations to remain non-aligned. We understand with sympathy and share their passion for peace. We are, as always, prepared to cooperate with all initiatives to bring about an improvement in the world situation. We look forward to continued friendly relations with the governments and peoples participating in the Belgrade meeting.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to His Excellency Dr. Sukarno, President of the Republic of Indonesia, and His Excellency Modibo Keita, President of the Republic of Mali.

The text of the message from the Belgrade Conference is published in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 45, P- 543).

For the President's -message to the Conference, see Item 334 [4].

John F. Kennedy, Letter to the Presidents of Indonesia and Mali Concerning the Message and Declaration of the Belgrade Conference. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives