800.014 Antarctic/6–2548

The Department of State to the British Embassy 1



The following considerations, in briefest outline, have led us to the conclusion that the establishment of an international status for the Antarctic area is the most practicable and preferable method of solving [Page 988] the problem of conflicting and potentially conflicting claims in that area.

In view of the engagement in the area of the prestige of various nations; in view of the very difficult problems which would be posed, should a division among the various national sovereignties be sought through the International Court; in view of the fact that the foreseeable values of Antarctica are scientific rather than strategic or economic; and because an international regime would be well calculated to promote the exploitation of these scientific values: internationalization appears to present the best possibility of removing the area from the field of present or potential future contention, at the same, time preserving to the most interested nations control over the strategic use and possible economic value of the area.

Strategic Significance. Strategic interest in the area centers on the Drake Passage between Tierra del Fuego on the north and the South Shetland Islands on the south. In the event of the closing of the Panama Canal, this Passage would become an important sea route and hostile naval or air units based on either side of it could interfere with passage of naval or commercial shipping. Chile and Argentina are the recognized sovereigns over Tierra del Fuego and islands adjacent thereto. Whatever the attitude of Argentina and Chile under war conditions, it is hardly likely that they would voluntarily give up control of their territories to the north of the Drake Passage. Exclusive control of the Drake Passage by Argentina and/or Chile would be prevented if Great Britain, Argentina and Chile share control of the South Shetland Islands or, preferably, if those islands were made part of an international area administered jointly by the several interested powers, including the United States and Great Britain. It will be noted that under the proposal, no additional nations could be included without the consent of all the original signatories.

Need for a Settlement. The conflict of interests, the friction and disagreement generated by the conflict of claims, and the unsettled status of Antarctica perturbs otherwise amicable relations and is susceptible of exploitation by the USSR to the disadvantage of the interested nations.

Values of a Settlement. An international administration for the Antarctic continent and sub-Antarctic islands would promote the further systematic scientific exploration and investigation of Antarctic phenomena. It would facilitate the correlation of meteorological observations of practical significance in long range weather forecast, particularly for countries of the Southern Hemisphere.

  1. This aide-mémoire together with a copy of the Draft Agreement on Antarctica (supra) were handled to Sir John Balfour, the British Minister, on June 25; see telegram 2424, June 26, to London, infra. The aide-mémoire and the Draft Agreement were subsequently sent to the Embassy in London under cover of instruction 285, July 1, not printed (800.014 Antarctic/7–148).