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Following Dag Hammarskjöld's visit to Peking, 30 December 1954 to 13 January 1955, 15 detained American fliers who had served under the United Nations Command in Korea are released by the Chinese People's Republic.

Dag Hammarskjöld remained in Peking until 13 January. In the introduction to his Annual Report to the General Assembly (A/2911) [Chinese|French| Russian|Spanish], he explained that, since the Government of the People's Republic of China was not represented on any of the organs of the United Nations, it had been necessary for him to establish a direct contact with that Government in order to carry out the mandate entrusted to him.

Both Mr. Hammarskjöld and the United Nations considered the detained airmen who had served under the United Nations Command in Korea to be prisoners of war; the government of China did not.  Eleven of the fifteen imprisoned airmen had already been convicted under national law. Thus, the government of China considered the debate on whether or not to change the verdict to be strictly an internal issue. Because the remaining four, however, had not yet been convicted, the Secretary General saw an opportunity for negotiation. Subsequently, Chou En-Lai agreed that photographs of the prisoners would be taken and information on their state of health exchanged, confirming the Secretary-General’s hunch that the government of China was not completely inflexible on the matter. Thus, upon his return to the United States, he announced to the press that: 
"The door that has been opened can be kept open, given restraint on all sides".

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After Mr. Hammarskjöld departed Peking, negotiations with Chou En-Lai continued in a series of personal communications [French |Russian| Spanish].  Mr. Hammarskjöld termed his approach to the negotiations as the "Peking Formula" and defined it as: 
"acting in his role as Secretary-General under the Charter of the United Nations and not as a representative of what was stated in the General Assembly resolution".

The distinction was to be used again, in other contexts, by Mr. Hammarskjöld when he wanted to:
"distance himself from undiplomatically formulated resolutions".

The negotiations culminated with the messages of the Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China on 29 May and 1 August, respectively, announcing the release of groups of four and of eleven airmen.   According to Chou En-lai, he timed the release of the remaining eleven prisoners as a way of maintaining his personal friendship with Hammarskjöld and as a 50th birthday gift. Because of coding and cable delays, together with transmission via a small post office in southernmost Sweden where he was on holiday,  the Secretary-General did not receive the message until 1 August, upon his return to a farmhouse in Skåne after a day of fishing. The Secretary-General's report [French |Russian| Spanish] on the question  was submitted to the General Assembly on the next month...

Immediately after his holiday in Sweden, Mr. Hammarskjöld travelled to Geneva where, on 8 August, he opened the International Scientific Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy.  The Conference was organized in response to President Eisenhower's proposal made to the General Assembly in December of the previous year. An  Advisory Committee, headed by Ralph Bunche, had assumed responsibility for its planning and preparation just four days after the Secretary-General had returned from Peking. (January 17th, 1955).

The Conference was to be non-political in nature and devoted solely to the exchange of technical information.  At a press conference held a few months prior, Mr. Hammarskjöld stated that: 
"the very study of disarmament may be the vehicle for progress towards greater international political understanding. That is to say, disarmament is never the result only of the political situation; it is also partly instrumental in creating the political situation”. 

In his opening address to the Conference, Mr. Hammarskjöld stated the following:
"One is often asked whether this conference has any political significance. In its conception, its purpose, and its approach, this conference is as non-political as a conference of this nature should be. The personalities that we see around us are not concerned with expediency, with strategy, or with tactics of any kind, but with the search for truth and with the idea of brotherhood based on the concept that all knowledge is universal. Nevertheless, since their deliberations are bound to affect human life in all its aspects, it would not be correct to say that they have no political significance. I am sure that their cooperation will ease tensions. I am sure that their exchange of scientific data will inspire confidence and I am sure that the trend of their discussions will turn men's thoughts away from war to peace. We all should render our thanks to the scientists who, by moving in this direction, will expiate, on behalf of all of us, that feeling of guilt which has so universally been felt, that man in his folly should have thought of no better use of a great discovery than to manufacture with its help the deadliest instruments of annihilation."

Another milestone during the year, was the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. At various addresses commemorating the anniversary, Mr. Hammarskjöld seized the opportunity to speak at length about the duties and privileges of international service, always underlining the positive ideals and loyalty that guide it. At the Johns Hopkins Commencement ceremonies in June, the Secretary-General said:
"Politics and diplomacy are no play of will and skill where results are independent of the character of those engaging in the game.  Results are determined not by superficial ability but by the consistency of the actors in their efforts and by the validity of their ideals.  Contrary to what seems to be popular belief there is no intellectual activity which more ruthlessly tests the solidity of a man than politics. Apparently easy successes with the public are possible for a juggler, but lasting results are achieved only by the patient builder……Those who are called to be teachers or leaders may profit from intelligence but can only justify their position by integrity”.

In other addresses throughout the year, Mr. Hammarskjöld discussed the necessity to be open to change and to strike a balance within the Organization between conference diplomacy and quiet diplomacy, a phrase that was to appear for the first time in the official documentation of the Organization (A/2911) [Chinese| French| Russian| Spanish]. His hope was that progress could be made within the United Nations to develop: 
“new forms of contact, new methods of deliberation, and new techniques for reconciliation thus adding to the strength and prestige of the Organization as well as drawing strength and prestige from it”.

To that end, he lobbied intensively for a strengthening of the judicial process in the international sphere.  He felt that:
“the world of order and justice for which we are striving will never be ours unless we are willing to give it the broadest possible and firmest possible foundation in law”. 

In order that Member governments give renewed consideration to the task, he suggested, in his Annual Report 1954-1955, that each Government constitute a specialized group of highly qualified jurists to carry on the work on a national level. He also urged more frequent submissions by the Member Sates of their legal disputes to the International Court of Justice.

Another idea first introduced in his annual report to the General Assembly (and later elaborated upon in a press conference) was that Security Council members should be kept in touch with developments concerning peace and security as they evolve, through informal, closed door meetings.  He believed that simple and modest meetings of this type would  prepare the ground for debate should an issue reach the crisis level and be formally raised before the Council.  His aim for closer collaboration with the Council members was soon to be labeled "preventive diplomacy".

The work of the Secretariat was another topic he spoke about frequently and passionately:
"I have told you how we in the Secretariat dream that one could improve the working of the Organizaton we serve, which to us  is very precious.  However, whatever changes in the balance between the main constitutional organs may take place, the Secretariat will be happy in its role.  It is for us a privilege to serve the community of nations. We do not ask for wider powers, but we are ready to accept fully all the responsibilities that the Member governments may entrust to us. We are willing to risk our personal peace and security and welfare if this can help world peace, world security and world welfare.

The motto of one of the old ruling house in Europe was:  ‘I serve’.  This must be the guiding principle, and also the inspiration and the challenge, for all those who have to carry the responsibility of office for any community.  Is it not natural that this motto should be felt with special faith, sincerity and loyalty by those who assist in the greatest venture in international cooperation on which mankind has ever embarked?

At the induction in my present office I quoted these lines by a Swedish poet:  ‘The greatest prayer of man is not for victory, but for peace".

Unless otherwise noted, the information included in these pages is based on the "Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations: Volumes II-V: Dag Hammarskjöld", selected and edited with commentary by Andrew W.Cordier and Wilder Foote, Columbia University Press, 1974-1975. 
Events of 1953 Events of 1954 Events of 1955 Events of 1956 Events of 1957 Events of 1958 Events of 1959 Events of 1960 Events of 1961