HC Deb 15 June 1954 vol 528 cc1739-41

Statement by the Rt. Hon. Anthony Eden, M.P. 11th June, 1954.

I am in complete agreement with all that has been said today by my Commonwealth colleagues from Canada and New Zealand. The debate on the Korean question at this conference has thrown into relief two fundamental issues.

The first is the question of the authority of the United Nations. The United Nations enshrine the principle of collective security, and provide the machinery by which alone it can be safeguarded. The League of Nations failed because it could not act upon its principles. The United Nations have shown in Korea that they can successfully defend the victim against the aggressor. Even before the attack of June, 1950, the United Nations had long been dealing with the problem of Korea. Now, since an armistice has been concluded under their authority, the United Nations are more closely concerned than ever with the peaceful solution of the Korean question. It has been said in this room that this conference has nothing to do with the United Nations. I cannot accept that. It is only by carrying out the principles and purposes of the charter of the United Nations that this conference can fulfil its mandate of finding a peaceful settlement in Korea. It has also been said here that the United Nations have lost their moral authority and their competence to deal with the Korean problem impartially. The delegation of the United Kingdom rejects this contention. We can never agree that, by taking up arms to fulfil their obligations and resist aggression, the United Nations have thereby forfeited their rights and duties as the supreme international organisation. On the contrary, we believe that they have strengthened their authority.

The second vital issue is the question of free all-Korean elections. We all say that we agree that Korea should be unified and that this unity should be brought about by means of free elections throughout the country. We do not agree on the methods and procedures for holding the elections. This is not a superficial difference. It is a difference of principle, and we have faced it before—most recently over Germany at Berlin. On our side we maintain that the elections must be a truly free expression of the will of the Korean people. To ensure this, genuinely impartial and effective international supervision of the elections is indispensable. We have proposed that this supervision should be carried out under the auspices of the United Nations, as the most appropriate body. The members of supervisory commission could, if desired, be chosen from nations which did not take part in the Korean war. But, in any event, it is essential that the supervisory commission should be truly impartial. It must also be so composed that it can take effective decisions, and it must command the authority to carry them out.

Other proposals have been put forward which are incompatible with these principles. These proposals provide that all foreign forces should first be withdrawn, leaving a vacuum in which the two Koreas would remain confronted, unreconciled and without mediation. They contemplate that a mixed commission should be established, composed equally of representatives of these two antagonists. This commission would act only on the basis of decisions taken unanimously. Yet it is to have responsibility not only for preparing and holding the elections but also for promoting the economic and cultural unity of the two parts of the country. The effect of this proposal would be to give a veto to the Communist North Korean minority. It is not in dispute that differences are bound to emerge between North and South Korea. If a mixed commission which could not work effectively is to have the main responsibility, must not the result be either that elections would never be held, or that they would not be free?

On 22nd May, the representative of the Peoples' Republic of China put forward a proposal for a neutral nations supervisory commission. This was to assist the proposed all-Korean commission in preparing and holding elections. But this suggestion leaves unaltered the functions and responsibilities of the all-Korean commission, and it is to these that we object so strongly. Moreover, this supervisory commission is to be of the same type as that which, in our judgment, has proved unsatisfactory in supervising the armistice in Korea. That experience has convinced us that any commission composed of members, one half of whom are committed to certain positions in advance, is bound to lead to deadlock. Unless we can all agree, as we have hitherto failed to do, upon a genuinely impartial commission, with effective powers there seems no hope of progress on this issue.

On 5th June the representative of the Soviet Union asked us to consider a draft proposal of five points on which we might reach agreement in principle, leaving methods and procedures for later discussion and the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has just endorsed that proposal. But would this really help us, when we now know that it is just on the question of methods of application that the divergence of view between us is so sharp? The careful analysis of the five points of the Soviet proposal that has been made today by the representatives of Canada and New Zealand has shown beyond any doubt that this is so. I will not go over the same ground again, but I must emphasise that the second of these five points embodies the proposal for an all-Korean commission on which I see no prospect of agreement here.

Therefore, as it seems to me, two issues are now clearly before us: the authority of the United Nations, and the principle of free elections. Unfortunately no real progress has been made to bridge our differences over either of them. We have to acknowledge candidly the position in which the conference thus finds itself. The delegation of the United Kingdom takes its stand firmly on the two principles which we consider essential to a solution of the Korean problem. While we are ready to explore every possible means of reaching agreement, there must be some sign that agreement is possible. If no way can be found of resolving the differences of these two main issues, then we shall have to admit that this conference has not been able to complete its task. It is our view, as members of the United Nations, that it would then be right to report back to that organisation upon the position we have reached. This would ensure that, while the existing military armistice in any event remained in force, the search for a political settlement in Korea could be resumed whenever the right moment came.