800.014 Antarctic/3–2648

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director, Office of American Republic Affairs (Woodward)

Participants: Senor Felix Nieto del Rio, Chilean Ambassador
G—Mr. Norman Armour1
ARA—Mr. Robert F. Woodward

As background, the Chilean Ambassador had requested an appointment with the Secretary of State on March 9 to discuss the Chilean position concerning Antarctica. The appointment was made but the Chilean Ambassador was not able to keep the engagement because he was ill for about ten days. When he again sought an appointment, a few days before the Bogotá Conference, the Secretary of State asked Mr. Armour to go to the Chilean Embassy to see the Chilean Ambassador to satisfy the need for a discussion on the subject and to show courtesy to the Chilean Ambassador since it was impossible for the Secretary of State to see him because of the pressure of business. (After Mr. Armour’s interview, a telegram2 explaining the circumstances was despatched to the Embassy at Santiago in order that the Chilean Government might know that the Department of State has full respect for the Chilean Ambassador.)

The Chilean Ambassador said that his Government felt the “armed threat” carried out by the British in sending the Cruiser Nigeria to the Antarctic islands was sufficient basis for appealing for inter-American collaboration under the Rio Treaty. He said that the Chilean Government had come to an agreement on March 7, 1948 with the Argentine Government that the two Governments would maintain a “united frontier” [“united front”?] on matters pertaining to the disputed claims in the Antarctic area,3 and he said that the Chilean Delegation at the Bogotá Conference would request a declaration by the Conference that the Rio Treaty is applicable in instances such as the “armed threat” he had mentioned.

In the course of further conversation with the Chilean Ambassador, it appeared to be the consensus that the question of whether reciprocal assistance could be appropriately requested concerning “armed threats” or “gestures of force” to support the claims of one party in a disputed area was not clearly answered in the Rio Treaty. While it is true that the Delegation of the United States had made a “statement” at the Rio Conference recording its position “… the Treaty of Rio [Page 971] de Janeiro has no effect upon the sovereignty, national or international status of any of the territories included in the region defined in Article 4 of the Treaty”, there seems to be a gap in the existing Treaty structure so far as concerned the question set forth in the preceding sentence. The Chilean Ambassador appeared to agree tacitly that it would be difficult to interpret the Rio Treaty so that it would apply in such cases.

It was intimated to the Chilean Ambassador that the British Government might be disposed to offer to discuss with the Chilean and Argentine Governments the whole question of disputed claims in the Antarctic islands, and it was pointed out that if such a discussion were to appear imminent there would be no reason for bringing up the question of applicability of the Rio Treaty at the Bogotá Conference. The Chilean Ambassador said that he would appreciate receiving information when the Department of State may have anything more concrete to indicate the possibility of the British disposition to enter into such discussions.

  1. Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
  2. Telegram 104, March 27, to Santiago, not printed (800.014 Antarctic/3–2748).
  3. The reference here is presumably to the Argentine-Chilean agreement of March 4, 1948; the text of that agreement is printed in Carlyle, Documents on International Affairs, p. 815.