Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

I today handed the attached memorandum of agenda29 to Mr. Michael Wright of the British Embassy.

[Page 377]

I said that in my view it seemed desirable to call the Canadians into the discussions, with the general understanding that they would participate in all of the subjects in which they had an interest; naturally we and the Canadians or we and the British might have matters to discuss of no possible interest to the British or the Canadians, respectively.

I further stated that I thought it was of very great importance that we advise the Soviet Government that we proposed to have preliminary discussions and that, if the British saw no objection, we intended to inform Moscow of the conversations now planned, with a view to ascertaining whether they had any interest in joining such discussions. It was our urgent feeling that if the Soviet Government indicated that it wished to join such discussions, opportunity should be given for it to do so. We had no indication as yet that they were thus interested.

I asked Mr. Wright’s view as to whether he thought the Chinese Government ought to be drawn in. Mr. Wright said that he thought their participation would be rather unreal. I said that though it would be unreal from the point of view of present contribution to aviation, it might be very real from the negative point of view—that is, if the Chinese Government were hostile to the principles we worked out, this might limit the benefit to be received from the principles agreed on. I said that we had not crystallized our ideas on this point, but merely wished to make the statement so that the British Government should be on notice that we might raise it later.

Mr. Wright inquired whether we had thought of these discussions as being on the ministerial level with Lords Beaverbrook and Leathers, or whether they would be on a lower level. I said that it seemed to us that the major questions involved were broad policy in respect of which purely technical discussions could not contribute much. We had hoped to keep them quiet and modest. Mr. Wright suggested that would be difficult in view of the personality of one of the negotiators, but he agreed that publicity was as likely to come from the other side of the water as from this, were the discussions on any other level.

He then inquired what kind of a team we planned to work out so that they might have a somewhat similar team. I said this was not altogether settled; I thought that four or five of us would be working together, of course drawing in such technical assistance as might be needed. Mr. Wright inquired what kind of people ought to come along with Beaverbrook and Leathers. I said I thought that they ought to have the equivalent of our Civil Aeronautics Board men.

Mr. Wright asked whether we had any desires as to the place. I said I thought that the discussions presently contemplated might be held in Washington. I then said that we felt that these discussions [Page 378] should lead towards a United Nations conference later on, and that, although we had not yet consulted the Canadians, we were thinking of proposing Ottawa, assuming the Canadian Government was willing.

Mr. Wright concluded by saying that he would put up the whole matter to London and let us know. I said that we were going to inform the Soviets of what was going on, but following his reply we would see whether we should not go further in a definite attempt to draw the Soviets into the discussions. It was obvious that they would have aviation, and quite likely would want to project it beyond their own borders.

A. A. B[erle], Jr.
  1. Infra.