800.014 Antarctic/12–1647

Memorandum by the Acting Chief of the Division of Northern European Affairs (Hulley)

I propose, in oral reply to Mr. Hadow’s aide-mémoire of December 10 and letter of December 9, 1947,1 to limit myself substantially to stating again our position as expressed in recent instructions to American Embassy, London (A–865, September 8, 1947; cable No. 4090, September 22, 1947, and instruction No. 485, December 8, 1947).2

If the policy recommended in our memorandum recently sent to the Army and Navy (and now being sent to the Air Forces and Weather Bureau)3 becomes in fact the policy of the United States, the British would lose nothing by limiting their communication to a reiteration of their position and not proposing that the dispute be taken to court at present. In any case the British position would not be seriously prejudiced by a reasonable delay. Adjudication of the Chilean-British and Argentine-British conflicts, even if accomplished, would be only a partial settlement.

Practically, there appears little doubt that Chile and Argentina would not submit their claims to judicial settlement, so that probably we are safe in not emphasizing too strongly to the British our preference that the proposal for court settlement be omitted. On the other hand, there may be some real risk that one of those countries, prodded by too sharp British action, might submit the whole matter to the United Nations in a way that would make the issue hard to handle gracefully. I think this point might be usefully made to Mr. Hadow, in addition to the points more specifically covered in the communications to London.

I shall therefore comment to Mr. Hadow along the following lines:

We have advanced no claims to territory in Antarctica, and we recognize no claims of other nations to any part of that area. We reserve all our rights in the event that other nations do advance claims.

Department has recently asked Embassy, London to convey informally to Foreign Office the following comments.

Department’s impression is that Argentina and Chile, regarding Antarctic problem as matter of prestige, are prepared to go to great lengths to defend their claims and probably would not accept [Page 1058] reference of their claims to an international court for settlement. Department’s impression coincides with British view that the Argentine-Chilean accord on the subject is more apparent than real. However, it seems probable that the accord would be firm against Britain.

The United States as a potential claimant in Antarctica and being especially desirous of cooperating with Britain as well as with Chile and Argentina will avoid a position which could be interpreted as favoring any claimant.

Department believes that partial settlement is not urgent at this time and that action might well be delayed until agreement can be reached on manner of arriving at overall settlement.

Although not committed, Department is currently studying desirability of some arrangement, possibly a special United Nations Trusteeship which would (1) remove Antarctic problem as a whole from area of international dispute, (2) promote international scientific development, and (3) at the same time safeguard special interests of certain countries by giving them permanent control of trusteeship administration.

The sharpening of the issue between Britain, Argentina and Chile might make such an arrangement less likely to find acceptance and might also run the risk of causing Argentina or Chile to jump the fence and throw the matter into the United Nations in a way that would be difficult for the United States and Britain to handle gracefully.

The Department, while recognizing fully the British feeling that it cannot permit its position to be weakened by allowing conflicting Chilean and Argentine claims to go unchallenged, would—in the light of the foregoing—prefer for the present to see British protest limited to a reiteration of its view of the position in the disputed territory.

Benjamin M. Hulley
  1. In a letter to Hulley, dated December 9, and an aide-mémoire, dated December 10 (neither printed), Robert H. Hadow, Counselor of the British Embassy, outlined the protests which the British Government contemplated making to Argentina and Chile with regard to their recent “encroachments” upon Antarctic territory under British sovereignty—namely, the Falkland Islands Dependencies, including Greenwich Island and the South Shetlands (800.014 Antarctic/12–1047).
  2. Ante, pp. 1050, 1051, and 1053, respectively.
  3. Supra.