500.A15A4 General Committee/36: Telegram

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

140. The discussion continued in the General Commission this morning on the British resolution qualitative limitation. The following delegations took part in the debate: Canada, Norway, France, Ireland, South Africa, India, Japan, Australia, Portugal, China, Sweden, Switzerland, Rumania, Soviet Russia and the United States of America.

A summary of the remarks in support of the British resolution is contained in the delegation’s telegram 138.93

An overwhelming number of delegations expressed themselves as strongly adhering to the British resolution.

The Chinese representative, in reaffirming his adherence to the British proposal, reminded the Commission that his delegation had recommended the abolition of air-craft carriers, battleships and submarines. The Japanese representative expressed the opinion that the technical committees should be charged with the duty of defining aggressive weapons and in favoring the British resolution suggested that the word “prohibiting” in that resolution should be followed by the words “or limiting”.

Motta of Switzerland, while supporting the British resolution maintained that it in no way prejudiced the French thesis and considered that qualitative limitation opened the way to quantitive disarmament. The British resolution, he considered, expressed a principle while reserving the methods of application.

The only note of direct opposition to the British resolution was voiced by Paul-Boncour, France, who in more parliamentary terms [Page 101] reiterated Tardieu’s speech of last week. He advanced much the same arguments against other abolition of aggressive weapons as increasing means of defense and appealed for their maintenance by the League as giving it a means for enforcing peace through an international organization and armed force.

It was more than probable that the French delegation had been aware of the support which would be found in the General Commission for the British resolution and had laid its plans accordingly. This appeared evident when Titulesco, Rumania, arose just prior to the close of the session and announced that he would submit a draft resolution on the part of 14 countries which he did not name and for which he was the spokesman to the following effect. He stated that three conclusions had emerged from the debate:

That there was unanimity in regard to the qualitative principle;
That different methods were proposed for its application; namely, by prohibition or internationalization. There was, however, no question of choosing between these two methods and the question remained reserved for future discussion.
That practical work had to be accomplished. A vote of principle therefore was no longer sufficient. It would have to be accompanied by a reference to the competent technical commission.

Briefly, the draft resolution he submitted may be summarized as follows: that the technical commissions should study:

To what arms qualitative limitation should be applied.
To what methods should be applied each of these arms.

Furthermore, that the General Commission when examining point 4—reduction subject to measures to be taken in regard to the organization of peace, Conference Document 103—should reserve the discussion as to whether security can be obtained solely by technical measures.

He concluded by suggesting that the British proposal and that of the 14 states should be referred to a drafting committee in order that the desired unanimity should pass from theory to the practical stage.

It is learned from a reliable source that the following 13 of the 14 countries supported the resolution: Yugoslavia, Roumania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Persia, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. It is almost certain that the fourteenth country was either Belgium or Spain.

Litvinoff supported the British resolution claiming that the Titulesco draft resolution was more an evidence of irresolution than a resolution.

  1. April 21, 4 p.m., p. 98.