810.24/2–1146: Airgram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Chile (Bowers)


A–81. In reply to your telegram 170, February 11, 6 p.m.,21 there are quoted below those sections of Mr. Bevin’s letter of January 14 to the Secretary of State concerning the sale of arms by British representatives in Latin America:

“You spoke to me on January 10th about the question of the arms traffic, and, you mentioned, in particular, the sale of arms to Latin America.

“I have been looking into this matter, and find that, about a month ago, your Department approached our Embassy in Washington in connexion with the visit to Brazil and certain other South American countries of Mr. Levison [Levenson] of Vickers, and suggested that we ought to renounce our old-established trade in armaments with the Latin American countries, because it might lead to an arms race, and would interfere with the orderly development of inter-American defence plans.

“We do not seem to have received any information from you as to the scope or nature of these plans, but, before we received your Department’s above-mentioned request, we had set on foot a far-reaching enquiry into our own arms export position, with a view to initiating a discussion with you as a first step towards a world arms traffic control convention.

“We are pressing this enquiry forward, but, until its results are known, we must naturally reserve our position, and can return no final reply to your above-mentioned request about Latin America. This trade is quite legitimate in itself, and it is an old established one—most of the South American navies, for example, are and have always been British built, and we know also that some of these countries want to keep up their old connexions. But I am sure that I do not need to assure you that we are as alive as anyone can be to the disadvantages of an armaments race, whether in Latin America or elsewhere throughout the world, and that we are always willing to discuss suggestions for dealing with special cases. You will recollect that we have agreed with you in the last few months to withhold warlike supplies from Argentina, for example, and from Santo Domingo.”

  1. Not printed.