IO Files: US(P)/A/M(Chr)/12

Minutes of the Twelfth Meeting of the United States Delegation to the General Assembly, Hotel d’léna, Paris, October 7, 1948


[Here follow a list of persons (33) present and discussion of various matters.]

3. Developments on Atomic Energy (Mr. Osborn)

Mr. Osborn explained that, after six days of debate in Committee 1, the Soviet bloc had been able to keep the situation sufficiently confused so that the majority of the delegates did not correctly understand the issues involved and the various proposals which had been introduced. The debate had started with the introduction by General McNaughton of a resolution approving the reports of the Atomic Energy Commission and stating that its work should be suspended until the USSR agreed to participate on the majority basis.1

Subsequently, a number of other resolutions had been submitted. Syria had proposed an amendment calling for the conclusion of the convention even though such a convention might not be agreed to by the USSR.2 An Australian resolution followed this same general line.3 Rolin of Belgium had proposed that an agreed resolution could best be worked out in sub-committee, although Mr. Osborn noted that this proposal presupposed that the USSR would agree with the majority, which it had failed to do for the last two years in the Atomic Energy Commission.

Mr. Vyshinsky had confused the debate further by the introduction of a resolution which would have repudiated all the work that had been done by the Atomic Energy Commission and which would require starting over on the basis of the action of the General Assembly [Page 452] in 1946, as this action was interpreted by the USSR.4 Mr. Osborn noted that from the time Mr. Vyshinsky had introduced his proposal, it had become apparent that a majority of the Assembly delegations simply did not understand the problem.

With one speaker inscribed on the list, the Chairman of the Committee had announced that after this speaker, the debate would be closed and the Committee would proceed to vote. Ambassador Austin, recognizing that the Committee was not ready to vote, had discussed the situation with the Canadian representative, who then asked for an adjournment on the grounds that he wished to modify his original proposal. This was the situations of last night.

During the evening, members of the Delegation, including Ambassador Austin and Mr. Osborn, had met with the British, French, Belgians and Canadians. Mr. Osborn said that Rolin, McNeil and Parodi had argued insistently that the temper of the Assembly required the appointment of a sub-committee to go into the various atomic energy proposals. Although Ambassador Austin had pointed out the difficulties which such a procedure would raise (in particular, having to debate the Vyshinsky resolution), the others had still insisted on a drafting sub-committee, and he reluctantly agreed. Mr. Osborn pointed out that with this adverse sentiment it was doubtful whether, if the United States had pushed for an immediate vote, it could have obtained a significant majority in favor of its position.

After it was agreed to constitute a sub-committee, Mr. McNeil promised to arrange for New Zealand to introduce the amendment previously discussed, asking the sponsoring powers to consult and to report the results of their consultations to the next meeting of the Assembly. After this resolution was introduced, the Canadians would accept the idea of a drafting committee. Mr. Osborn thought that it was very likely that the drafting committee would report on the Canadian resolution, plus the amendment introduced by New Zealand, together with a minority proposal by the USSR. Under these circumstances, he believed there would be no question that the United States would obtain a substantial majority for its position.

Ambassador Austin emphasized that the present situation was one which, if not handled carefully, could result in the acceptance of the Syrian amendment to proceed to the drafting of a convention. This was true because the chairman of the Committee had announced that he would put the amendments to the vote in the order in which they had been submitted. In fact, Ambassador Austin believed that unless the sub-committee were successful, the Committee would still approve the Syrian amendment. He felt the Canadian resolution as amended [Page 453] would hold out great promise to the other delegations since it contemplated unanimity, and, if the Assembly strongly backed the idea of further consultations, there was a chance agreement might be reached. In other words, the events of the last six days’ debate had brought the United Nations to a parting of the ways, and if he had not gone along with the views of the others last night, the United States position would have been severely beaten on the vote.

Ambassador Austin did not think a sub-committee was necessary, but hoped that its work might make the other members of the United Nations understand the actual situation among the five great powers. He hoped that the sub-committee would serve as a sort of solvent in this increasingly difficult situation. The Secretary asked for other comments and himself pointed out that this problem must be considered in relation to the total present situation regarding the maintenance of international peace.

[Here follows discussion of other subjects.]

  1. For information regarding the Canadian draft resolution, A/C.1/308, see footnote 2, p. 441.
  2. For text of the Syrian amendment to the Canadian resolution, A/C.1/309, see GA (III/1), First Committee, Annexes, pp. 4–5.
  3. For text of the Australian amendment to the Canadian resolution, A/C.1/313, October 6, see GA (III/1), First Committee, Annexes, pp. 5–6.
  4. For text of the Soviet resolution, A/C.1/310, see footnote 1, p. 445.