500.A15A4 Steering Committee/53: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the American Delegate (Wilson)

207. Your 380, September 21, 9 p.m. Do you mean that the French would insist on “extended supervision” of manufacture of [Page 334]gas by industrial concerns or only on state preparation for chemical warfare? If the former, it runs into so many difficulties of a practical nature including the question of legitimate trade secrets as to seem in theory inacceptable and in practice unworkable. If the French mean only a strict control of Government manufacture, it would not solve the problem so long as civilian chemical industry could operate without hindrance. Until it is a little clearer just how this difficulty is to be met, and in particular just what concrete measures are envisaged in an abolition of means of chemical warfare and training, it is impossible to send you specific instructions. Meantime, I feel that your best tactics would be to avoid commitment.

There is one other consideration which should not be overlooked. That is, that no nation could give up all peacetime preparations, for or against chemical warfare unless all nations did the same. This raises as a preliminary question the conditions under which the treaty shall come into force. We fear that if the treaty must be ratified by every nation, even those where the armament problem is not immediately pressing, the entry into force of the convention might be delayed for a period of many years. Rather than wait for ratification by all states, our feeling has been that provided the principal European Powers, Japan and Russia ratified the treaty, it could enter into force at once without awaiting similar ratification by numerous other states. If preparation for or against chemical warfare in time of peace were prohibited in the Convention, then it would probably require universal ratification to enter into effect.