500.A15A4 General Committee/33: Telegram

The Acting Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Acting Secretary of State

132. The meeting of the General Commission opened this morning with the acceptance with one contrary vote (Soviet Russia) of the draft resolution adopted by the Drafting Committee which reads as follows:

“In view of the proposals submitted by various delegations concerning the criteria for the limitation and reduction of armaments,

The General Commission declares that, in determining these criteria, the provisions of article No. 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations shall be applied and that in consequence armaments must be reduced to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.

It will be necessary further to take account of the geographical situation and special circumstances of each state.

The General Commission decides that the application of these criteria and the methods by which the reduction and limitation of armaments must be effected shall be immediately examined from a practical standpoint.”

Litvinoff (Soviet Russia) maintained his opposition to the inclusion of any reference to Article 8 of the Covenant in any resolution of the Conference.

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This resolution disposed of paragraphs A and B point 2 of the agenda (Conference Document 10392). And after my statement summarized in telegram No. 131, April 20, 2 p.m., the Commission heard Sir John Simon who spoke most effectively in further development of the principle of qualitative limitation. He passed in brief review the numerous statements made by various delegations in support of this thesis and introduced a resolution which read as follows:

“Without prejudice to other proposals which fall to be discussed under later heads of the agenda, the Conference declares its approval of the principle of qualitative disarmament, that is, the selection of certain classes or descriptions of weapons with a view to prohibiting by international convention their possession or use by any state.”

He concluded with a strong appeal for consideration of this principle before that of quantitative limitation.

In seconding Sir John’s proposal Nadolny urged that the time had come for the Conference to proceed to the adoption of this important contribution to disarmament and added that in the opinion of the German delegation the prohibitions thus envisaged should go beyond merely the use of such weapons.

He was followed by the Yugoslav representative who proceeded to a justification of the draft resolution submitted by his delegation this morning. This resolution embodies:

the abolition of all warships of all categories including submarines of a large cruising radius, vessels required for defense or policing purposes excepted.
a limitation to the present level by all signatory states of heavy artillery and tanks, these latter to be under the permanent and direct control of the League of Nations; and finally the prohibition of aerial bombardment, chemical and bacteriological warfare, and all preparation for the same even in case of legitimate defense.

Both Grandi (Italy) and Wilford (New Zealand) warmly supported the British resolution. The former stated that the problem now before the Commission was not the method of application of the principle but the principle itself which should easily be adopted.

The Secretary did not attend this morning’s meeting.

  1. Conference Documents, vol. i, p. 175.