The political forces that led to the establishment of two interrelated United Nations missions in New Guinea—the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) and the United Nations Security Force (UNSF)—can be traced to the end of World War II. Almost immediately following the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945, Indonesian nationalist leader Sukarno announced the country’s independence from The Netherlands.

The Dutch initially refused to recognize the new government, and aided by British forces they sought to retain control of the country. After several years of military conflict and political turmoil, an agreement between the two nations was reached at The Round Table Conference held at the Hague between August and November, 1949, which culminated in formal Dutch recognition of sovereignty of the Republic of the United States of Indonesia and the withdrawal of all Dutch military units. However, the agreement did not resolve the status of West New Guinea, which remained under Dutch control.

In 1961, Indonesia began a military incursion into the disputed territory, and soon the United States became involved as an intermediary between the countries. On August 15, 1962, Dutch and Indonesian representatives signed what became known as the New York Agreement, which specified that control of West New Guinea would be handed over by The Netherlands to a United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA). The end goal of this process was to eventually placed the disputed area under Indonesian administration.

UNTEA’s mandate, which included maintaining a ceasefire between the two countries and overseeing the establishment of a local police force, was enforced through a United Nations Security Force (UNSF). Troops for UNSF were provided by Pakistan, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Ireland, Sweden, Canada, and the United States.

The official transfer of West Guinea to Indonesia took place on May 1, 1963. The United Nations Medal for the UNSF mission is awarded to those serving under U.N. command between October 1, 1962, and April 30, 1963.

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