The British Embassy to the Department of State
There have been recent conversations between officials of the State Department and the British Embassy on disarmament.
2. There is attached, for the secret information of the State Department, a copy of a paper resulting from an interdepartmental study of this subject at the official level in London. It would be appreciated if this could be returned as soon as possible to the British Embassy as it is the only one available here.
3. His Majesty’s Government still have under active consideration the question as to the best forum in which to launch any concrete proposals on disarmament which may be agreed, but have reached no final conclusion on this point. They are, however, of the opinion that neither the Committee of Twelve on Disarmament at present in session in New York nor any joint Commission which might be set up as a result of its recommendations would be suitable. The need to take account of the forces of Communist China is an important consideration. Further it would clearly be advantageous to reserve any proposals on this subject for a more impressive occasion, such as a Four or Five Power Meeting or the opening session of the General Assembly.
4. Since, however, the proposals have a bearing on the work of the Committee of Twelve it is important that nothing should be done in that Committee’s discussions which would be a hindrance to discussions in another forum, or to force His Majesty’s Government or other friendly powers to reveal their position prematurely. It is therefore hoped that in the meantime and pending further discussions between officials, the United States representative on the Committee will refrain from putting forward any proposal to which the attached paper indicates serious objection.
5. So far as safeguards are concerned, His Majesty’s Government have, after careful study of the United States proposals set out in Security Council Document S/C.3/43 of 9th August 1950,1 come to [Page 502]the conclusion that such a comprehensive system of inspection would be unacceptable to the United Kingdom, since it would involve an undue degree of interferences in national life and the disclosures of secret industrial processes. United Kingdom support for the majority proposals for the control of atomic energy, which include a rigorous scheme of inspection, cannot therefore be taken to imply support for the extension of a similarly rigorous scheme to the field of conventional armaments.
6. It should also be emphasized that the attached paper has been based on the assumption that atomic weapons would be simultaneously brought under international control on the lines outlined in the majority proposals endorsed by the General Assembly. His Majesty’s Government would welcome an assurance that the United States Government still adhere to that plan, since otherwise it would clearly be necessary for His Majesty’s Government to reconsider their entire position.
7. In conclusion it should be repeated that the attached paper cannot be taken as committing His Majesty’s Government in any way at this stage. It is put forward as a possible basis for secret discussions on the official level with State Department representatives, for study and comment in the light of a similar study which it is understood has been independently undertaken in Washington. It is hoped that by means of a free interchange of opinions identity of view may be reached on the question of positive disarmament proposals which might be put forward by the Western Powers.
8. Since no copy of the document has in the meantime been communicated to the representatives of any other Government, observation of strict secrecy in regard to these discussions and the contents of the attached paper is of the utmost importance.
S/C.3/43, a progress report by the Working Committee of the Commission
for Conventional Armaments, is not published. However, four working
papers submitted by the United States and included in the progress
report, papers to which the present reference is directed, appear in Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1959, vol. i, pp. 233–239 and 240–248. For additional
documentation on the work of the CCA, see
Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. i, pp. 1 ff.↩
- On September 25, 1948, Andrey Y. Vyshinsky, Deputy
Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union and Chairman of the Soviet
Delegation to the Third Session of the General Assembly at Paris,
introduced a draft resolution (document A/658) providing for a
one-third reduction in armaments and armed forces by the permanent
members of the Security Council and the prohibition of atomic
weapons. On November 19, 1948, the General Assembly rejected a
revised Soviet draft (document A/723; for text, see Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1959, vol. I,
pp. 187–188). For text of the original Soviet proposal and
documentation on consideration of this matter by the General
Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. i, Part 1, pp. 431 ff.↩
On the basis of an equal percentage cut in each of the services, this would give:
Army 288,800 Navy 100,600 Air Force 186,600
[Footnote in the source text.]↩
- British Deputy Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.↩