Department of State Disarmament Files

The British Embassy to the Department of State


An informal meeting of members of the United States, United Kingdom, French, Canadian and Chinese Delegations at New York was called by the United States Delegation on the 28th of July to discuss the question of future tactics on the control of atomic energy and disarmament.1

2. As regards atomic energy control, the United States representative proposed a draft resolution to be submitted to the General Assembly jointly by the countries that had subscribed to the major decisions of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. The resolution would call upon all nations to fulfil their responsibilities to the world community by accepting the necessary basis for effective international control of atomic energy as set forth in the relevant passages of the Atomic Energy Commission’s reports.

3. As regards disarmament, the United States Delegation proposed a draft resolution2 for adoption by the Commission on Conventional Armaments calling for the submission to the Security Council as an interim report the records of the Commission’s proceedings and drawing attention to the Soviet and Ukrainian Delegations’ obstruction of the Commission’s work.

4. These proposals have doubtless been formulated by the United States Delegation in pursuance of the policy described in the paper handed to the British Embassy in Washington by the State Department on the 9th of July. Under point two in that paper, it was stated that one of the principal objectives of the United States in the coming [Page 376] Assembly would be the adoption by the Assembly of the majority proposals of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission and the belief was expressed that this objective would be furthered by having the least possible public recognition of the problem of Conventional Armaments. Under point ten of the paper it was stated to be the hope of the United States Government that the emphasis in the security field at the General Assembly would be placed on atomic energy.

5. The Foreign Office are seriously concerned over these developments, which indicate that the present views of the United States Government on this whole question are at variance with their own.

6. The policy which the Foreign Office have hitherto had in mind is to use the attitude of the Soviet Government not only in the Atomic Energy Commission but also in the Conventional Armaments Commission (and, if possible, also in the Military Staff Committee) to show how impossible it is to make progress on all these subjects (whether in the Commissions or in the Security Council itself) so long as the Soviet Government are determined to stick to the letter of their rights on all matters on which they do not see eye to eye with the majority views. The Foreign Office attach high importance to tackling the matter on these lines rather than by attempting the fruitless task of trying to push through the Assembly the majority report of the Atomic Energy Commission by itself. They consider that there is serious objection to making the subject of atomic energy as such a major question at the next Assembly instead of using it as an illustration of a wider thesis. The view of the Foreign Office is that the question of atomic energy disarmament and security should be treated at the Assembly as connected parts of the same major problem, namely, whether the United Nations can make any real progress in such matters (or indeed in any matter coming before the Security Council), so long as certain member governments are unwilling to abandon in any degree in the common interest the letter of their rights under the Charter. This ultimately involves the whole question of the voting position, which of course lies at the root of all the three issues mentioned above as well as of other issues which come before the Security Council.

7. It is a matter which, in the opinion of the Foreign Office, requires most careful thought as to handling. The Foreign Office hope to be in a position during the next few weeks to put up some definite proposals for careful study before the Assembly by the Governments who think in the same general way as the British Government about the present abuse of voting rights. Meanwhile, the Foreign Office cannot regard as an adequate or appropriate substitute for such inter-governmental [Page 377] study the informal discussions which have been initiated by the United States Delegation in New York.

8. It is of course a foregone conclusion that the inter-governmental exchange of views which the Foreign Office have in mind will result, so far as the United Kingdom are concerned, in the inclusion in any line of tactics and in any resolution which may be worked out, of some phraseology which will endorse the majority views of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. The British Government are not in any sense weakening in their general support of those views. But they are convinced that to attempt to force those views through as an isolated issue will not only prove fruitless but will also make it impossible to secure any objective consideration of the far wider point mentioned in paragraph 6 above.

9. The Foreign Office accordingly wish to urge the State Department, in consideration of the views outlined above, to refrain from pressing for the time being their view about the isolated handling of the atomic energy issue at the Assembly. They strongly hope that the State Department will agree as a matter of urgency to send appropriate instructions in this sense to the United States Delegation in New York and to such of their representatives elsewhere as may be concerned. It is understood that a further informal meeting in New York has been planned for the 4th August, and it is hoped that an expression of the State Department’s views may be forthcoming before that date.

  1. For Osborn’s memorandum of conversation on that meeting, see p. 385.
  2. For text, see footnote 1, p. 377.