The Assistant Secretary of State for American Republic Affairs (Braden) to the Secretary of State


Subject: Your Request for Information Concerning the Argentine Navy’s Purchase of Four Frigates

These four frigates were sold as surplus to a private United States concern which made an application for an export license. This application [Page 216] was denied and the Argentines then made a similar application which was also denied. Thereafter, and with full knowledge of the fact that export licenses would not be granted, the Argentine Government purchased the four frigates in question and then informally requested that they be transferred to Argentine registry, a request which, had it been granted, would have nullified the previous actions on the export applications by placing the vessels outside of United States jurisdiction.

The principal basis for denying export of the frigates is that the Policy Committee on Arms and Armaments has classified them as vessels of war; and, under the procedure established by that Committee, they could be exported only on the express recommendation of the geographic office concerned. I have not considered it wise to make such a recommendation, particularly in view of the fact that the frigates could be re-militarized and made capable of tactical use by merely replacing the 3-inch guns and other armament which have been removed therefrom.

Borderline cases inevitably arise in administering our policy of withholding arms and vessels of war from Argentina. In administering this policy we are guided by whether the item for export is in fact an implement or vessel of war rather than by the alleged use to which the equipment will be put.

Spruille Braden