Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Acheson)


Subject: Discussion of the Question of Disarmament by the Security Council

The British Ambassador1 called on me at his request. He handed me the attached aide-mémoire and read me the attached confidential explanation of Mr. Bevin’s attitude.

Dean Acheson
[Annex 1]

The British Embassy to the Department of State


Since the Security Council’s agreement on the 20th January to the request of the United States Delegation for postponement of consideration of the question of disarmament, His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have been considering future procedure on this matter.

They consider that in all the circumstances the United States Delegation’s request for delay was reasonable and that the Security Council was right to comply with it. On the other hand they have some difficulty in understanding the United States Delegation’s firm insistence upon priority for the discussion of the control of atomic energy. They understand it to be the general sense of members of the Security Council that it would not be desirable to attempt to pigeonhole [Page 377] the Soviet resolution on disarmament and that it should be possible to résumé work on atomic energy and to begin work on general disarmament simultaneously.

His Majesty’s Government feel considerable sympathy with this view. Provided it is clearly understood that what is now under discussion is the preparation of plans and that the implementation of these plans will not take place until agreement has been reached over the whole field of disarmament, atomic and general, they consider that it should be possible for the Security Council to agree to deal with the problems before them on the following general lines.

The Security Council might:

Formally set up the Disarmament Commission as a parallel body to the Atomic Energy Commission.
Instruct the Military Staff Committee to expedite its work on the “agreements under Article 43.
Receive the report of the Atomic Energy Commission, approve it in principle (leaving the veto issue open at this stage) and then set the Atomic Energy Commission working in parallel with the Disarmament Commission.
Consider the veto issue as a whole at a later stage when the drafts to be produced by the Atomic Energy Commission and the Disarmament Commission come (as His Majesty’s Government understand the situation) before the Security Council for final approval in accordance with the General Assembly’s resolution of the 14th December, before submission to a special session of the General Assembly.

His Majesty’s Government consider that it should be possible in practice for (a), (b) and (c) to be dealt with by the Security Council almost simultaneously, particularly if the Council do not go over the Atomic Energy Commission’s report in detail but merely instruct the Atomic Energy Commission to work out a detailed plan on the basis thereof. Such a procedure should eliminate the necessity for argument about priorities.

His Majesty’s Government have not modified in any way their views on the international control of atomic energy or on the importance to be attached to devising means of ensuring that there must be no evasion of the system of control of atomic and other armaments through the right of veto. They do not, however, consider that their views on these points, which they believe, correspond closely with those of the United States Government, would in any way be prejudiced if the Security Council planned its programme on the lines indicated above. His Majesty’s Government would be grateful to learn the views of the United States Government on this whole question and in particular to know whether they feel able to agree with the foregoing procedure. If they do, His Majesty’s Government would propose to urge it also on the Soviet Government.

[Page 378]

Meanwhile His Majesty’s Government have decided to establish forthwith an official Committee on Disarmament under the chairmanship of Mr. Gladwyn Jebb of the Foreign Office and containing also senior representatives of the Dominions Office, the three Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply, with the following terms of reference:

To make an early examination of the resolution on the principles. governing the general regulation and reduction of armaments adopted by the General Assembly.
On the basis of this resolution, to prepare and submit to the Defence Committee of the Cabinet draft proposals to be submitted to the Disarmament Commission of the Security Council by the United Kingdom representative.
To keep under constant review the proceedings of the Disarmament Commission and of the Security Council when the latter body is itself considering disarmament.
In conjunction with the Official Committee on atomic energy, to coordinate policy regarding the regulation and reduction of armaments with policy regarding the control and prohibition of weapons of mass destruction.

No information is being published about the establishment of this Committee and it is requested that the foregoing particulars may be treated as strictly confidential. His Majesty’s Ambassador at Moscow has been instructed to inform the Soviet Government in strict confidence and in general terms of the establishment of the Committee.

[Annex 2]

Explanation of Mr. Bevin’s Attitude for Use in Informal Oral Discussion


We want to get the United States Government to agree that the establishment of the Disarmament Commission is not held up by detailed examination at this stage in the Security Council of the Atomic Energy Commission’s Report. Similarly we want to get the Soviet Government to agree to accept in the Security Council the Atomic Energy Commission’s Report in principle and to allow that Commission to pursue further studies on that basis in parallel with the studies to be undertaken by the Disarmament Commission.

Both sides have therefore something to gain as well as to give by adopting the procedure proposed by His Majesty’s Government and it should not be too difficult to get it agreed. Otherwise it is difficult to see how work on the Assembly Resolution of December 14th can ever get started.

  1. Lord Inverchapel.