501.BC/1–1147: Telegram

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


35. In view of the fact that the Trieste matter took up the entire time of the Council at yesterday’s meeting, I decided not to discuss with any of my colleagues the program of action agreed upon with Under Secretary Acheson in my telephone conversation with him yesterday noon.1 I have already been informed by Cadogan that he was planning to introduce his complaint regarding the Corfu matter very shortly and that he was planning to press for quick action by the Council next week. This will obviously give us a further opportunity to attempt to sidetrack temporarily discussion of the disarmament question. I fully agree with the Department that a suggestion on our [Page 354] part to the other members of the Security Council that we proceed to take up the Atomic Energy Commission report before returning to a discussion of the General Assembly’s resolution on the regulation of arms would have a much greater appeal to them if I were also able to give them some indication as to our plans in that regard along the lines which the Under Secretary suggested.

We had further discussion with some of the other members of the Council which confirms my previous estimate of the situation reported in my telegram No. 30. The Australians are prepared to introduce a resolution of their own which I assume will establish a commission for the regulation of arms and also contain a statement on the principle that atomic energy control shall receive first priority.

The Chinese delegation has informed us that they also have a draft resolution which they intend to submit. As described to us, this would contain a statement that the Security Council would consider and act upon the report of the AEC immediately. Second, that the Council would establish immediately a commission on the regulation of arms. Third, a decision under paragraph 2 of the General Assembly Resolution to fix priorities. They propose to give atomic energy control first priority; then weapons of mass destruction; then, finally, conventional weapons.

Nisot (Belgium)2 indicated that his government felt that concurrent discussion of general regulation of arms and of atomic energy control was the proper course. They did not feel that our principle of giving first priority to atomic energy control was inconsistent with the above. In this respect they agreed with the Australian position. He indicated that they were not prepared to take a position on the question at this meeting and appeared anxious to avoid taking sides publicly. He also was concerned as to whether this was a procedural or substantive decision and expressed the view that it should be considered procedural.

The French delegation indicated that they have been impressed with the arguments which Sir Alexander Cadogan had put forward as to the details of the work of the commission and that they would probably revise their resolution in a number of minor respects. It was not clear as to exactly what they had in mind. They reiterated the difficulty they had in understanding why it was impossible for us to agree to concurrent consideration of the general regulation of armaments and atomic energy control. They urged that they were as anxious as we were not to permit discussion of atomic energy control to drown in the larger field of general regulation of armaments. They felt, however, that we would have ample support in the Council to prevent the USSR from accomplishing this if they should attempt to do so.

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The Brazilian representative expressed his full support of the principle that the atomic energy discussion should receive first priority and was sympathetic with our position that it was important to have an early discussion of the AEC’s report so as to find out where the Russians stood on some of the fundamental questions involved. He was elusive as to whether he would accept concurrent discussion of the question of general regulation of arms. He indicated that while he was sympathetic to our proposal he was not prepared to support it if it appeared likely that he would be our sole support. He also indicated that because of the fact that his representatives on the AEC had given us such all-out support he was most anxious to know whether there was any chance that we might be planning to modify our position.

A member of the Canadian delegation to AEC indicated general sympathy with our position but felt it would not prevail, as other delegations believed public pressures would not permit them to support delay in discussion of general regulation of armaments. When questioned as to what he thought the nature and content of such discussions should be, he acknowledged that he believed that little of a fruitful character could be accomplished by discussion at this time. When it was suggested that, if a commission or committee were to be established, its terms of reference particularly in relation to AEC, must be clearly defined, he wholeheartedly agreed. He likewise appeared to accept the proposition that it might be difficult to define these terms of reference satisfactorily before agreement had been reached as to the content of the phrase “other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction”, plans for the control of which are within the competence of the AEC. Subsequently (apparently after a conversation with the UK delegation) he said he thought Cadogan would continue to press Gromyko for an elaboration of his position on the commission’s terms of reference.

With respect to Council consideration of the AEC report, the Canadian indicated he thought this should be directed toward determining the precise areas of agreement, with a view to referring the matter back to the AEC for drafting a convention. He thought the areas of disagreement might similarly be referred back for further consideration by the AEC. Linking this subject to the question of the work which the proposed commission on the general regulation of armaments might perform, he suggested that the Council might transmit the principles respecting safeguards and controls of atomic energy which it approved to the proposed commission as an indication of the approach which the latter should make. This would have the advantage of focusing that commission’s work on safeguards, rather than allowing it to become lost in attempts to find equivalents between different categories of arms. He thought that if a procedure of this [Page 356] nature, which would probably mean that discussion of the general regulation of armaments would not begin until after the council has considered the AEC report, could be worked out, it might resolve the difficulties which the UK, French and Australian delegations see in our position, and form a procedure acceptable to them.

  1. For an account of this telephone conversation, see Ross’s memorandum of January 10, supra.
  2. Joseph Nisot, Alternate Belgian Representative on the Security Council.