IO Flies: USGA/1a/AECom/30

United States Delegation Position Paper


Terms of Reference of the Commission20

The general purpose is to give the Commission the greatest possible freedom in investigating all aspects of the problem and in making such recommendations as it deems advisable. There are no limits on the subject matter of its inquiries, save as the Security Council may direct in matters affecting security. Aside from this the Commission itself determines its own program and decides what is relevant to the questions arising from the discovery of atomic energy.

There is an implied obligation on the part of all the United Nations to provide such information and give such other assistance as may be necessary to enable the Commission to carry on its work. The success of its efforts will depend in large measure on the degree of cooperation of the various member states in supplying such assistance.

The listing of the four subjects on which the Commission is to make [Page 724] specific proposals does not exclude others, nor does it require the Commission to take these subjects up first or in the order mentioned. It is for the Commission to decide the best method of handling each problem.

The first specific objective—that of “extending between all nations the exchange of basic scientific information for peaceful ends”—is broad enough to include the normal interchange of scientists and scientific knowledge in all fields. The term “basic” is not intended to cover the mechanical or technical knowledge concerning the manufacture of the bomb. While this subject is not directly excluded from the scope of the Commission’s work, it must be assumed that the United States is not prepared to reveal such knowledge until adequate safeguards have been erected against its misuse. The general purpose underlying this first provision is to bring about a resumption of normal intercourse among scholars to the fullest extent possible without endangering the security of any state.

The second specific objective—the “control of atomic energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes”—is concerned with the ways whereby the fullest possible advantage can be taken of the peacetime uses of atomic energy without at the same time increasing the likelihood of its use for destructive purposes. The problem here arises out of the relative ease with which plants and materials for peacetime use of atomic energy can be converted into war uses. The Commission is asked to make proposals as to how such conversion can be subjected to effective control. The general purpose is to retain the widest potential employment of atomic energy in peace while removing the threat of atomic warfare.

The third objective—the “elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction”—approaches the problem of international control through the method of limiting or eliminating the weapons themselves. The major questions here raised are whether elimination or limitation of existing weapons and plants would remove the threat of atomic warfare, and whether some stockpiles and plants must be kept in existence in order to provide adequate means of sanction against a state violating the terms of international control.

The fourth objective is to find “effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying states against the hazards of violations and evasions”. Such safeguards are made necessary by the exceptional risks which any nation would take in refraining from building up to its full capacity to conduct atomic warfare. Because of this risk, any international limitation agreement would have to include adequate means of reassuring the states complying with [Page 725] the agreement that they would not be at the mercy of any violator of it. Such safeguards might take the form of an inspection system designed to give adequate warning in advance of any steps toward violation, as well as of sanctions of sufficient force to deter any potential violator. Because of the possibilities of surreptitious evasions, the success of any system of safeguards would seem to depend to a large extent on the creation of conditions under which all states would have a strong interest in making the system work.

The paragraph proposing that the Commission should proceed by “separate stages” does not mean that the four objectives previously specified are to be treated as separate stages and each one taken up and completed before the next one is considered. This provision takes account of the fact that the setting up of the essential conditions for a workable system of control cannot be accomplished in one stroke, but must be undertaken gradually, as confidence develops. It recognizes that successful international action with respect to any phase of the problem is not necessarily a prerequisite for undertaking affirmative action with respect to other phases.

The final provision takes note of the fact that the subject of atomic energy necessarily extends into fields already assigned to other organs of the United Nations. Where this is so, the Commission is directed not to infringe upon the responsibilities of such organs but to make recommendations which can be considered by them in the performance of their tasks. In line with paragraph II(a) dealing with the relations of the Commission with the organs of the United Nations, such recommendations would be transmitted through the Security Council.

  1. This paper concerns itself with the resolution on Atomic Energy (Section VII) contained in the Communiqué of the Moscow Tripartite Conference of Foreign Ministers, December, 1945; for full text of the Communiqué, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ii, p. 815; for Section VII, see ibid., p. 822.