Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State ( Acheson ) to the Secretary of State 1


Subject: Forthcoming Security Council Consideration of Regulation of Armaments Matters

It is necessary to establish the position to be taken by Mr. Austin in the Security Council when that body resumes on February 4 its consideration of the whole problem of the regulation of armaments, which was postponed, on our request and over the objection of the U.S.S.R.

The agreed United States position has been that armaments regulation should be dealt with in the following order of priorities: (1) atomic energy, (2) other weapons of mass destruction, and (3) conventional weapons and armed forces.

The U.S.S.R. has proposed that the Council immediately establish a commission to submit to it in not less than three months recommendations covering the whole subject. The United States, on the other hand, has proposed that the Council first proceed to a consideration of the December 31, 1946, Report of the Atomic Energy Commission, and then determine the matter in which it will implement the rest of the Assembly Resolution.

The U.S.S.R. has never stated the exact purpose of its proposal, although one point is absolutely clear,—that the U.S.S.R. desires that the atomic bomb be immediately outlawed, and that a system of control and inspection of atomic energy be considered only subsequently.

The majority of Security Council members are in favor of concurrent action, that is, of considering the Atomic Energy Commission Report immediately and also establishing at once a commission to consider the rest of the armaments problem. Many of these members have told us they are unable to understand our opposition to such a commission, and some of them evidently think we have an ulterior motive in opposing it. Unless the situation changes markedly between now and February 4, it is therefore very likely that, while the Council will [Page 370] agree to immediate consideration of the Atomic Energy Commission Report, it will also approve the establishment of a commission of some kind to deal with the regulation of armaments.

The United States must, before February 4, decide:

how best to ensure first priority for consideration by the Security Council of the Atomic Energy Commission Report,
how far it is necessary or desirable to go in satisfying the desire of other Council members for discussion of the general regulation of armaments, and
the manner in which we wish to have the Council deal with the Atomic Energy Commission Report. In this connection Senator Vandenberg recently stated that he wished us to press for a decision on sanctions, although the United States Delegation had, under authorization from the Department, informed other delegations that we would not now press for a vote on controversial issues.

There are attached:

A draft of a resolution which might be substituted for the one we have already proposed.2
An alternative draft of a resolution, setting forth a position to which we might recede, if necessary.2
A summary of suggested points to be covered in a speech by Mr. Austin in the Council on February 4, 1947.3
The January 21, 1947, draft proposal regarding consideration of the Atomic Energy Commission Report in the Security Council.

Also attached is a folder of relevant documents. You will probably wish to examine particularly Mr. Byrnes’ letter of January 8, with its enclosed memorandum,4 the joint reply of Messrs. Forrestal and Patterson, dated January 17,5 and the Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum of January 15.6

D[ean] A[cheson]
[Annex 4]7

Statement of Position of the United States on the Procedure To Be Followed With Respect to the Report of the Atomic Energy Commission

The Council should make plain its appreciation of the work of the Commission to date; that the first stage of this work has been completed; [Page 371] that the second stage now begins; and that any agreements proposed to be reached are tentative, depending upon the fate of each factor essential to a complete system because such a system is indivisible. It should also be made plain that in making the proposals for drafting it is recognized by the Council, as it has already been recognized in the Commission’s Report, that there must be further studies and deliberations by the Commission in regard to many problems antecedent to drafting.
Our objectives in the Security Council are:
Discussion in the Security Council of the Recommendations of the Commission with a view to developing agreement on as many as possible of the Recommendations, having regard to the considerations developed in this memorandum.
Reference back to the Commission of agreed Recommendations for the drafting of treaty provisions and the necessary deliberations and studies connected therewith.
Reference back to the Commission of those Recommendations as to which agreement is not reached in the Security Council for further consideration in the Commission and possible resolution of differences in the drafting process. However, a special problem is presented by Recommendation 3e of the Report relating to the basic principles underlying punishment for violation. In the event that all Members of the Security Council approve this Recommendation, it will, of course, be referred back to the Commission as provided above. In the event that a majority of the Members of the Council agree to the Recommendation in question, with the Soviet Government or other Governments abstaining from the vote, the Recommendation will also be referred back to the Commission, as provided above. In the event, however, that the Soviet Government, or other permanent Members, vote against the principles embodied in the Recommendation in question, the U.S. will oppose reference back to the Commission of the Report or any of its Recommendations. The course to be followed thereafter by the U.S. will then be reconsidered in the light of the discussions in the Security Council and the situation existing at that time.
The Security Council should regard portions of the Report other than the Recommendations, e.g., the Findings and the Technical Discussion, for what they are, namely, the interim product of the Commission helpful in providing the Security Council with the background for its consideration of the principles recommended, but not calling for approval by the Council.
There is widespread belief that the only issue as to which unanimity was lacking in the submission of the Report to the Security Council was on the much publicised question of punishments for violation of the treaty. This, however, is supported neither by the [Page 372] record nor by the votes in the Commission. Accordingly, it is important to keep in mind the desirability of seeking agreement on as many of the principles recommended as possible. With respect to matters as to which agreement is not now possible, (except as indicated in paragraph 2 above) it is desirable to adopt methods by which agreement might be reached, namely, further studies and consideration by the Commission and the use of the drafting process.
Another aspect of the recommendations requires special comment, namely the relationship between the international control authority and national agencies concerned with atomic energy. We should make plain that any approval by the Council of the recommendations dealing with this subject in no way prejudices the basic principle that the international authority must have all the powers necessary to insure adequate safeguards.
If the discussion in the Council proceeds along the above lines it should be our effort to keep it from being too detailed or prolonged. We would aim to have the consideration concluded by a general resolution reciting the nature of the Council’s consideration, the agreement reached by it with respect to certain principles and directions for further study during the drafting process in the Commission of unagreed points, as well as drafting of agreed points.
  1. On January 21, George C. Marshall had succeeded James F. Byrnes as Secretary of State.
  2. The attached draft resolution is not printed. For the text of the draft resolution subsequently approved by the President, see p. 388.
  3. The attached draft resolution is not printed. For the text of the draft resolution subsequently approved by the President, see p. 388.
  4. Annex 3, not printed.
  5. Ante, p. 341.
  6. Ante, p. 362.
  7. Ante, p. 364.
  8. The annexes do not accompany the file copy of the covering memorandum; the source text for this annex is located in the Department of State Atomic Energy Files.