Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Ferguson)

top secret

Subject: Study of Disarmament Proposals; San Francisco Conference1

Participants: Sir Oliver Franks, British Ambassador
Secretary of State Dean G. Acheson
John H. Ferguson—S/P

The Secretary had called in Sir Oliver in order to discuss with him the British Aide-Mémoire and report by the official committee on disarmament.2 The Secretary told Sir Oliver that we had read these papers with interest and that the U.S. Government had also had a working group addressing itself to these problems during the past few months. He said that we had felt that it was necessary to be in a position to put forward proposals which could be used at the meeting of the General Assembly in the fall, and he indicated that it might be a good idea to advance the proposals before or at the General Assembly in order to wrest the initiative in the matter from the Soviet Union.

The Secretary told Sir Oliver that the British and U.S. working groups had dealt with many of the same points in the course of their studies and he gave Sir Oliver a modified copy of the report of the U.S. Working Group,3 together with a brief memorandum which discussed [Page 514]the manner of advancing the proposals.4 The Secretary pointed out that we felt that consideration also had to be given to the political problems in the world on which we would need to move forward as we moved forward on this question of disarmament, and Sir Oliver agreed that it would be necessary for these matters to move together.

The Secretary said that the two major respects in which our analyses differed were:

That the British had addressed themselves to a possible program applicable only to the Big Four or the Big Four plus Communist China while the U.S. had felt that a broader system was necessary. He said that the British group had seemed to underrate the importance of the satellites.
That we had placed a good deal of emphasis on disclosure and verification because that would be a good test of whether the Soviet Union really intended to go forward with any program. He noted that the British working group had rejected the idea of a thorough inspection and said that he felt this was a matter which should be considered very carefully.

The Secretary told Sir Oliver that the report of our working group had been considered rather widely in the Government and was now the subject of further study in order that more specific suggestions could be worked out. He emphasized the fact that we were not discussing this question with any other governments and that he would like the British to handle the matter with the greatest secrecy. He said that he felt it would be better to have the matter handled between Ministers and their top advisers with views exchanged through our Ambassadors than to attempt to raise the matter in the bipartite or tripartite ministerial conferences in September5 when there would be a great many people involved. He added that after we had discussed the problem further with the British we would want to bring the French in on some basis.

The Secretary asked Mr. Ferguson if he had anything to add, and Mr. Ferguson spelled out briefly the fact that our working group report had concluded that a program for regulation and reduction would have to be phased from the less sensitive to the more sensitive aspects of armaments and that we thought this approach should be a very basic part of any program.

Sir Oliver said he would not attempt to read our documents during the meeting but would like to study them and would welcome the opportunity to talk further with the Secretary at a later time.

Mr. Ferguson mentioned to the Secretary that some consideration had been given to the advisability of putting forth some indication of [Page 515]our views with respect to disarmament at a fairly early date and the Secretary told Sir Oliver that he had considered the possibility of raising the armaments points and several others in San Francisco if the Russians put forth programs of their own. He indicated that Mr. Dulles6 and others in the Department thought that this would be an unwise course at San Francisco since it would doubtless prolong and confuse the meeting there. The Secretary asked Mr. Ferguson if any consideration had been given to a statement that might be made in the armaments field, and Mr. Ferguson said that he and Mr. Jessup had been working on such a possible statement, but that it was not at all clear that we would be in any position to use it prior to San Francisco. Mr. Ferguson pointed out that we had looked into the question of a proper occasion but that we had not arrived at any agreement on it and that probably the differences between the British study and our own were such that it would be hard to work it out in so short a time. Sir Oliver said that he had some doubt whether it would be possible by advancing proposals before the Russians did to blunt what they had launched. He was inclined to feel that no great advantage would be gained by trying to anticipate their approach.

[Here follows discussion of matters pertaining to the San Francisco Conference.]

  1. For documentation on the San Francisco Conference for the conclusion and signature of the Peace Treaty with Japan, see vol. vi, Part 1, pp. 777 ff.
  2. For the British Aide-Mémoire and committee report, August 9, see p. 501.
  3. The modified report, not printed, was in large part identical with Annex “A” of NSC 112, July 6. However, references to the specific views of the United States Atomic Energy Commission and the intelligence agencies were deleted in the modified version. (PPS Files, Lot 64 D 563) For text of NSC 112, Annex “A,” see p. 483.
  4. Infra.
  5. For documentation on the meetings of the Foreign Ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France in Washington, September 10–14, see vol. iii, pp. 1163 ff.
  6. Special Representative of the President, with the personal rank of Ambassador, to negotiate the Treaty of Peace with Japan; Consultant to the Secretary of State.