Transcript

The Foreign Secretary said that on the 1st May he had received a personal message from the United States Secretary of State dealing with a number of points of policy relating to the situation in Korea. In this message Mr Acheson had clarified his attitude towards the questions of economic sanctions against China, Chinese membership of the United Nations and the need for a further declaration of Allied aims in Korea. But the most urgent of the questions raised by Mr Acheson was that of retaliatory bombing if a major air attack on the United Nations forces in Korea was made from bases on Chinese territory. Mr Acheson suggested that, if such an air attack was launched, the decision to strike back must be taken by the United States Government, representing the unified command of the United Nations forces, since there would be no time for consultation with the other Governments concerned.

The Foreign Secretary said that, if it was clearly established that a major air attack had been made on the United Nations forces from Chinese bases, we could not challenge the view that this must be answered by retaliatory bombing of those bases. We must, however, seek to secure agreement that we should be consulted before such retaliatory action was authorised … At the same time, we must be able to promise to give an immediate reply when we were consulted; and he therefore suggested that the Cabinet should … delegate [the decision] to the Prime Minister …

In further discussion the following points were made:
(a) Although the United States Government had been pre- occupied for some time with the danger of air attacks on Korea from China, it was not clear that they had taken any steps to reduce the effect of such attacks, e.g., by the dispersal or protection of military targets or by the provision of more night-fighters.
(b) An air attack from bases in Soviet territory would raise separate and very grave problems, and we should make it clear to the United States Government that full consultation would be necessary before we could agree to retaliatory action against those bases.