The American Member of the Inter-American Neutrality Committee (Fenwick) to the Secretary of State
Attention of the Under Secretary of State.
Dear Mr. Welles: In the course of the past two months I have on several occasions written to Mr. Bonsal12 describing to him the progress of the discussions in the Neutrality Committee relative to the problem of the extension of territorial waters, submitted to the Committee by the Meeting of Foreign Ministers at Havana.13 May I now sum up the development of the problem for you, and at the same time enclose copies of the various projects which I put before the Committee during the sessions at which the question was discussed.14
When the problem first came up for study, I presented to the Committee a tentative draft of an opinion based upon what seemed to me to be the lesson to be drawn from the Conference for the Codification of International Law held at The Hague in 1930,15 where, in view of [Page 8] the conflicting opinions, no agreement could be reached. This draft (see Enclosure No. 1) proposed as a compromise that the existing situation in respect to strict territorial waters should be maintained; but that a limited jurisdiction or control be recognized to a distance of twelve miles for customs, police and sanitary administration, and to a distance of not less than twenty-five miles (as proposed by the Uruguayan Government) for protection against hostilities in time of war.
This compromise, however, proved unacceptable to other members of the Committee, and a majority insisted that there must be an extension not merely of control but of sovereignty. I raised the objection that this would involve encroachment upon existing fishing rights on the high seas, as well as other rights associated with the freedom of the seas; and that these were problems that could only be settled at a general international conference of all nations. Besides, the Committee had no data before it to justify recommending an extension of exclusive fishing rights, quite apart from the fact that the three-mile limit was fixed in numerous treaties. But the objection was waived aside as of minor consequence.
I then argued that an extension of sovereignty, being made for the obvious purpose of protection against hostilities, would weaken the force of the Security Zone convention now pending adoption by the American Governments. In line with this approach I introduced a project (see Enclosure No. 2) reciting the fact that the Havana Meeting had indicated the determination of the American Governments to maintain the Zone in spite of violations of it, and affirming that the pending convention could furnish the desired protection against hostilities in so far as the American Republics were willing to resort to sanctions to enforce it. No mere assertion of a wider sovereignty, not accepted by the belligerents, would have any greater effect.
This second project being unacceptable, I then insisted that before the Committee could come to an adequate decision in respect to the variety of questions associated with the extension of territorial waters in addition to the primary interest of protection against hostilities, it should be better informed in respect to the intentions of the American Governments with regard to these problems. With that object in view I introduced a third project (see Enclosure No. 3), reciting the fact that there were other interests at issue as well as protection against hostilities, and recommending that an inquiry be made of the American Governments to find out which of the various objectives they had in mind in asking the Committee to give an opinion on the general subject. But this project met with no greater favor than the others.
During the course of the discussions the Chairman of the Committee introduced a lengthy statement in answer to my objections to the extension of territorial waters. I made a formal reply to the statement [Page 9] at the next meeting of the Committee (see Enclosure No. 4). My reply more or less sums up the situation as it had developed in the Committee by that time. It had no effect in changing the opinions of the members in respect to the advantages, as they saw them, of the extension of sovereignty. Much stress was put upon the alleged approval which the Havana Meeting had given, in principle, to the extension of territorial waters, by the fact that the sub-committee had revised the Uruguayan proposal so as to make it read that territorial waters “should be extended” instead of that it was “desirable” to do so, I argued that the change introduced by the subcommittee was merely one of drafting, and that the project came to the Neutrality Committee without a prior expression of approval or disapproval from the Meeting. But to no effect.
I enclose a copy (see Enclosure No. 516) of the dissenting opinion which I entered in the minutes and which was attached to the copy of the recommendation sent by the Committee to the Pan American Union. While it was with regret that I found it necessary to disagree with the majority of the Committee, it was better to disagree than to compromise on issues that I felt were fundamental. Besides, the dissenting opinion gave me an opportunity to emphasise points which it would have been impossible for me to have introduced into the Considerando prepared by the majority of the Committee.
The various points of view expressed by the members of the Committee during the course of the discussions will appear in the minutes of the sessions during June and July, which will be published in due time by the Pan American Union. In the meantime you may find the above summary convenient. I assume that the next Meeting of Foreign Ministers will refer the matter to the Ninth International Conference of American States, which is due to meet in 1943.17 By that time the problem of hostilities in territorial waters may have been disposed of in more effective ways.
With warm personal regards,
- Philip W. Bonsai, Acting Chief of the Division of the American Republics. Letters not printed.↩
- For text of Resolution VIII of the Habana Meeting, see Department of State Bulletin, August 24, 1940, p. 134.↩
- Enclosures 1, 2, 3, and 4 to this document not printed, but see Atas.↩
- For correspondence on this Conference, see Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. i, pp. 204 ff.↩
- The enclosure printed below.↩
- The Ninth International Conference of American States which was scheduled to meet in Bogotá and which under ordinary circumstances would have convened in 1943 was, on January 6, 1943, postponed. The Conference was held in Bogotá March 30–May 2, 1948.↩
- Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. v, p. 36.↩