IO Files: SD/A/C.1/336

Position Paper Prepared in the Department of State


International Control of Atomic Energy

the problem

What should be the position of the United States with regard to the international control of atomic energy?


The United States should not encourage substantive debate on this question in the General Assembly.
If debate develops, the United States should take the following position:
Continue its support for international control by means of the United Nations plan, while making it clear that any other proposals which would be equally or more workable and effective would receive our sympathetic consideration.
Support continuation of the forum of the Six Permanent Members (the Sponsoring Powers) of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission as the only appropriate one for seeking a basis for agreement, and oppose resumption of negotiations in the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission itself.
Press the view that, although the system for international control of atomic energy is necessarily different from the system for the regulation and reduction of conventional armaments and their formulation and elaboration must be kept separate, the two must be coordinated in their implementation once agreement has been reached on the respective systems.


The underlying causes for the impasse in atomic energy negotiations first reported on May 17, 1948 by the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission1 have become increasingly obvious. The negotiations have been thwarted by an “impasse in depth”: the persistent refusal of the Soviet Union either to accept the only effective plan for control and prohibition so far devised or to put forward any effective proposals of their own stems from the fundament of Soviet refusal to become a cooperative member of the world community. No effective prohibition is possible without an effective system of control. This is rejected by the Soviet Union because any such system would open up the Soviet Union, and therefore cannot be tolerated by the Kremlin. So long as the Kremlin maintains its present methods, policies and aims there is no hope of securing dependable agreement on effective international control.

The forum of the Six Permanent Members of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, established by the General Assembly in 1948, is the appropriate body in which to seek a basis for agreement. To it should be referred any substantive proposals that may be made in the General Assembly debate. Composed of those Members of the United Nations whose agreement is essential if any system of control and prohibition is ever to be established, at is the proper body for exploiting or exposing to the fullest any change in Soviet attitude or position. The United States is prepared to resume consultations in this forum whenever the Soviet Union chooses to return to it.

It is obvious that a system of control aimed at prohibition of atomic weapons should be put into effect in phase with the implementation of a system for regulation and reduction of conventional armaments. As appropriate in the debate, the United States should re-emphasize the view set forth by the United States Delegation on November 19, 1949 in the debate on conventional armaments as follows:

“At no time has any one denied that the two fields [atomic weapons and conventional armaments]2 are closely interrelated—that they are two aspects of the one problem of disarmament. The Atomic Energy [Page 86] Commission has been endeavoring to work out a suitable and effective system for the control of atomic energy and the prohibition of the atomic weapon. The Commission for Conventional Armaments has been endeavoring to work out the preliminary steps for the development of an effective plan for the regulation and control of conventional armaments and armed forces. If and when the two commissions succeed in developing suitable and acceptable plans in their respective fields, there will be a necessity for coordinating the two plans in an over-all system of collective security.”3

  1. Reference is to the Third Report of the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC, 3rd yr., Special Suppl., or Department of State Publication 3179 (July 1948)).
  2. Brackets appear in the source text.
  3. For the record of the 42nd Meeting of the Ad Hoc Political Committee, November 19, 1949, during which John D. Hickerson, the United States Representative, made the statement here quoted, see GA(IV), Ad Hoc Political Committee, pp. 234–245.