Memorandum by the Acting State Member of the State–War–Navy Coordinating Committee (Hickerson) to the Committee 34

SWNCC 219/5/D

U.S. Position on Traffic in Arms Phase of the Regulation of Armaments

A memorandum of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dated January 14, 1946 (SM 4717), which was circulated with a note by the Secretaries of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC 219/4),35 relates to a position paper, Traffic in Arms (USGA/Gen/1),36 prepared in this office for the United States Delegation to the United Nations meeting at London. Below are the comments of this Office together with the reasons which make it unable to approve in full the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

This Office concurs in the desirability of emphasizing in this paper the responsibility of the Security Council under Article 26 of [Page 732] the Charter in contradistinction to the General Assembly’s functions under Article 11 relating to the regulation of armaments. Accordingly, it is proposed to amend the position paper by adding to the second paragraph of the section, “The United States Position”, a sentence as follows:

“However, in consideration of these subjects by the General Assembly, it should be borne in mind that the Assembly’s jurisdiction is limited to ‘principles’ whereas it is the responsibility of the Security Council, with the advice and assistance of the Military Staff Committee, to formulate plans in this field (See Article 26).”

This Office cannot concur in the recommendation that a statement be included to the effect that this country “maintain freedom as to our rights to export arms and munitions to those nations with which we may reach agreement in this respect,” as it is felt that the addition of such a statement would not be necessary to protect such rights in the General Assembly, but might serve as an impediment to the drafting of the desired proposals.
Considering that the manufacture of arms and munitions in some states, notably the Soviet Union and Mexico, is a government monopoly, this Office cannot concur in the suggestion that the arms traffic discussions be limited to the private traffic in arms. The tentative position proposed in this paper indicates the advantage of establishing in the various governments a definite responsibility for supervising arms manufacturing activities, and controlling arms exports and imports, and that an approach to the various problems of international regulation could be achieved through uniform domestic legislation enacted by the various states.37

  1. Prepared in the Division of International Security Affairs of the Office of Special Political Affairs.
  2. Supra.
  3. Ante, p. 716.
  4. The international traffic in arms was not considered by the General Assembly at its first session. Efforts to formulate a unified United States policy on the subject fell into abeyance thereafter. Regarding the status of policy at mid-year, see document PCA D–5, June 7, p. 840.