501.BC/1–1047: Telegram

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

us urgent

30. I would like to summarize for you the results of today’s meeting on the subject of the general regulation and reduction of armaments.1 We have forwarded to you in separate telegrams the Australian statement,2 the French Resolution,3 the regular summary of the meeting and my statement.4

My estimate of the situation as it exists at the present moment is that there is no chance that the US Resolution will receive the necessary support for its approval. I believe that if we press for a vote on our Resolution we will receive little if any support, and may stand alone. The US has received no backing from any delegation. The positions of Syria, Belgium, Brazil, China are uncertain. The statements made by the five representatives who have spoken up to the present, namely USSR, Australia, France, UK, Poland, make it quite clear that they will not oppose the proposal for a commission to discuss general regulation of armaments concurrently with the continued discussions in the AEC. Lopez,5 Colombian delegate thinks we are making a great mistake to bar concurrent discussions. The Russians, he believes do not want to exercise a veto and could probably be brought to accept our concept of priority for atomic agreement, if we concede concurrent discussion on the general problem. Lopez expressed opinion that if we make concession on this line it will create highly favorable impression and be of much political value. He made it clear that he did not agree with our present position. He did not indicate what Colombia’s official position will be.

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All those representatives with whom I have spoken have expressed their inability to understand why it is not possible for us to agree to concurrent discussion of the problems of general disarmament and the problems of control of atomic energy. They feel that it is politically impossible to take such a position themselves. In spite of Cadogan’s promise of limited support as reported in my 21, January 8, he provided no assistance in his speech today. Moreover, Bathhurst (UK) told US Del after hearing exposition of US position by Johnson at Council table that in his opinion that US argument was eloquent but “indefensible”. He thought that decisions regarding international control of atomic energy should precede decisions to be made regarding other weapons mass destruction or conventional weapons, but added firmly that public opinion in UK could not understand refusal even to discuss regulation non-atomic armaments prior to decision on AEC report.

I assume the Department will wish to reappraise its position in view of the present situation as summarized above, and I am therefore setting forth the alternatives as I see them from here. I assume first that the Department does not desire us to go so far as to veto or attempt to veto a proposal along the lines of the French proposal, and therefore conclude that we must face the prospect that the Council will establish a disarmament commission in the near future. On this assumption, the following seem to me to be the alternatives.

Alternative I. We could decide to maintain our position and to press for a vote on the US motion. As I said, it is my estimate that we will receive little, if any, support. The advantage of such a tactic would be that we would maintain our position on principle. The disadvantages from a political point of view are obvious, particularly since we are assuming a decision that we will not attempt to veto a resolution along the lines of the French proposal, but will instead abstain. We could, of course, after losing our own motion attempt to rally sufficient votes to prevent the approval of a resolution along the lines of the French proposal. There is little likelihood, in my opinion, that such efforts would be successful.

Alternative II. We could attempt to work out a compromise, accepting the principle of concurrent discussion and at the same time maintaining our main objectives that the question of atomic energy control must receive first priority. If we adopt this course, we might withdraw our motion in its present form and attempt to get agreement from the Council on inserting a new paragraph in the French proposal or whatever proposal is used as the basis for consideration, indicating that the Council accepts the principle that the work of the AEC should receive first priority and should proceed with the utmost dispatch and that the decisions with regard to atomic energy should be taken before any attempt is made to reach decisions on any other aspects of the regulation [Page 350] of armaments. I think the Council might be willing to accept some statement of principle along these lines if we were to accept the principle of concurrent discussions of the question of general disarmament and of atomic energy control.

  1. Reference is to the 90th Meeting of the Security Council, January 9.
  2. Telegram 22, January 9, not printed; for the text of the Australian statement, see United Nations, Official Records of the Security Council, Second Year, No. 2, pp. 24–28 (hereafter cited as SC, 2nd yr., No. 2).
  3. Telegram 28, January 9, not printed; for the text of the French resolution, see SC, 2nd yr., Suppl. No. 2, pp. 33–34.
  4. Telegram 31, January 10, not printed; for the text of Johnson’s statement, see SC, 2nd yr., No. 2, pp. 31–34.
  5. Alphonso López, Colombian Representative on the Security Council.