500.A15A4 General Committee (Arms)/104: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the American Delegate ( Wilson )

472. Your Nos. 983, February 20, 5 p.m., 984, February 20, 6 p.m., 985, February 21, 1 p.m., 987, February 22, 5 p.m., 988, February 22, 6 p.m., 989, February 23, 5 p.m., and 990, February 24, 1 p.m.

1. Instruction in regard to French proposal concerning advance publicity will be deferred until your despatch No. 109 of February 12 has been received and considered.

2. In the light of our present information, we are strongly opposed to the British proposal to limit publicity to global returns by categories. It would seem that the more full and detailed the published statistical information in regard to arms manufacture and traffic the more likely we are to accomplish the end we have in view. Telegraph briefly a statement of the reasons which the British adduce in support of their proposal.

3. It is difficult to reconcile the Italian attitude toward Article 2 with the obligations which Italy has assumed under the Covenant of the League or with Italy’s compliance with the recent recommendations of the League in regard to shipments of arms to Bolivia and [Page 23] Paraguay.48 Nevertheless, you are authorized, if circumstances require it, to fall in with Ruspoli’s suggestion and to accept, should he introduce it and should you be assured that it would remove the fundamental Italian objections to the Convention, a paragraph to be inserted at the end of Article 2 substantially as follows:

“Nothing in this Convention shall be construed as obligating the H. C. P. to prevent the export or transit in time of war for the use of either belligerent of arms and implements of war, nor shall the permitting of such export or transit or the issuance of such licenses as are required by the provisions of this Convention be considered an unneutral act.”

The insertion of some such provision would be less objectionable than the insertion of any provision modeled after Article 33 of the Arms Traffic Convention of 1925. The suspension of the licensing provisions in time of war would greatly weaken the Convention. Full publicity in regard to shipments to belligerents should be insisted upon as even more important to the general interest than such publicity in time of peace. It is our understanding that there is nothing in the Draft Articles as they now stand which would prevent any High Contracting Party from carrying out its own policy in regard to shipments of arms to belligerents. Nor would this amendment affect the situation. A High Contracting Party could if it saw fit issue licenses for exports to both belligerents, refuse to issue licenses for exports to either belligerent, or issue licenses for exports to one belligerent while refusing to issue them for exports to the other.

4. The Soviet proposals raise questions which the War Department now has under consideration. In any case it is doubted whether in practice the information obtained by following the Soviet suggestion would be of much value. It is comparatively easy for a factory equipped to manufacture certain types of arms to modify its equipment so as to be prepared to produce certain other types. Your proposed amendments of Article 7 (a) and (b) are approved. It is hoped that they will meet the Soviet objections.

5. You are authorized in your discretion to concur in the British proposal in regard to governmental export credits. It is suggested, however, that you defer concurring therein until you have assured yourself that other delegations—particularly the French—will not oppose this proposal.

6. Your amended (3) (e) and your proposed (4) (d) in Article 30 approved.

7. No. 988, final paragraph. Your assumption is correct.