500.A/1–647: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Acting United States Representative at the United Nations (Johnson)

us urgent

2. Dept appreciates impossibility of foretelling now date and form of development of SC debate re GA Resolution on regulation and reduction of armaments, and manner in which US Resolution introduced Dec 31 will be discussed (Dept’s 327, Dec 30,1 and 1, Jan 2). Following points are for use as indicated in such formal discussion when it occurs and also for your background information in informal discussions with other members of SC.

In dealing with regulation of armaments and disarmament it is vital to success to take first things first. We think first thing is effective international control of atomic energy. We find it impossible to believe that regulation of armaments generally can be achieved without control of atomic energy. Indeed, so important to success in the general field do we consider international atomic energy control that substantial progress in this limited, though crucial, field is needed before consideration can be given to other parts of the problem such as [Page 340] elimination of other weapons adaptable to mass destruction and regulation of conventional weapons and equipment and of armed forces. Council has recently received from AEC its first report. Consideration of this report with its recommendations and findings should be first SC action in response to GA Resolution. This is purpose of our resolution introduced Dec 31. We feel strongly that conclusion of forthcoming discussion of GA Resolution in SC should be early decision to take up AEC report. The Commission has worked for months in producing this first report and it seems to us not only natural but proper for SC to decide to deal with these findings and recommendations for atomic energy control before dealing with other parts of the problem.
The GA Resolution of Dec 14 on principles governing the general regulation and reduction of armaments reflects this assignment of highest priority to atomic energy control. In this Resolution there is found accurate expression of our views. In this connection, reference could be made to my speech of Dec 13 to GA.2 There it was made clear that in our opinion the matter having highest priority of all matters in field of general regulation and reduction of armaments is effective international control of atomic energy to extent necessary to insure its use for peaceful purposes only. This is our understanding of that part of para 2 of GA Resolution referring to “practical measures, according to their priority,” as viewed in the light of paragraphs 3 and 4, with their urgent objectives of prohibiting and eliminating from national armaments atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable now and in the future to mass destruction and of the GA recommendation of expeditious consideration of AEC reports by SC. Throughout my statement, there are numerous passages which reiterate this understanding that first priority is to be given to atomic energy part of the subject. Furthermore, para 8 of GA Resolution states specifically that nothing in said Resolution is to alter or limit Resolution establishing AEC. My statement was made to GA before Resolution was adopted in plenary and while there was still opportunity for representatives of other governments to take issue, if so inclined, with our understanding of priorities; as there was no such statement by representatives of other governments, our understanding of priorities should be regarded as expressing GA’s understanding.
There is obviously no need for additional UN machinery to deal with atomic energy, or with other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction, which are also within AEC’s terms of reference. In view of priorities set forth in para 1 above any additional commission or other subsidiary organ to deal with other aspects of problem is at [Page 341] present time also obviously unnecessary, and would probably cause confusion and therefore be harmful to attainment of objectives of GA Resolution. (It is of course assumed that there would be no question of referring determination of priorities to such a body; SC should, in accordance with para 2 of GA Resolution decide priorities itself.)
Upon conclusion of SC’s consideration of AEC report, it will then be time enough to consider what further steps Council should appropriately take in response to GA Resolution.
As regards UK, French and Australian views (your 10, Jan 4) Dept believes you should on basis of above point out that general discussion of GA resolution can serve little useful purpose at this time. If discussion is kept on general plane it could only be a repetition of GA discussion. If it becomes specific there is serious danger of introduction of substantive proposals which may affect adversely desired priorities outlined above. It therefore seems most desirable to us not to enter into discussion until SC is ready to discuss AEC report. Please stress importance which we attach to this question.
  1. Telegram 327 to New York, December 30, 1946, contains the text of the United States resolution; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. i, p. 1105.
  2. For text, see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, First Session, Second Part, Plenary Meetings, pp. 1289–1296 (hereafter cited as GA (I/2), Plenary).