PPS Files, Lot 64 D 563

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Howard Meyers of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs

top secret

Working Papers Advancing Disarmament Proposals on the Basis of NSC 112


  • Mr. Harry Hohler, UK Foreign Office
  • Mr. C. A. Gerald Meade, Counselor, UK Embassy
  • Miss Barbara Salt, First Secretary, UK Embassy
  • Mr. John D. Hickerson, UNA
  • Mr. John H. Ferguson, S/P
  • Mr. Bernard C. Bechhoefer, UNP
  • Mr. Joseph Chase, S/AE
  • Mr. Ward P. Allen, EUR
  • Mr. James C. H. Bon-bright, EUR 1
  • Mr. Howard Meyers, UNP

1. Mr. Hohler read from a telegram which had just been received that day from his Foreign Office, noting that the State Department [Page 530]now agreed that the initial emphasis in presentation should be on limitation and reduction of armed forces and armaments and, on the other hand, that the United States still wished to adhere to the principle of universality in applying the limitation formula. The Foreign Office, while delighted with the agreement on the initial emphasis in presentation, could not at the moment give a final commitment in regard to the universality approach. London inquired regarding the United States attitude on presenting a compromise proposal in two stages:

Parity for the five major powers;
Universality of application for the 1 percent–1 million-man limitation on effectives.

In addition, what was the Department’s estimate regarding United States public opinion reaction toward the original United Kingdom proposal for a 3 million-man limitation on the forces of the US–UK– France and of the USSR–Communist China?

Mr. Hickerson replied that, speaking first about the original United Kingdom proposal and United States public reaction thereto, he believed our public opinion would regard it as impossible to leave out the Soviet satellites. He noted that the United States proposal actually strengthened the position of our friends, since Yugoslavia, Turkey and Greece would have more effectives than the Balkan satellites. He reiterated our previous comments that the United Kingdom proposal was only a variation on past propositions made by the Soviets and strongly rejected by the United Kingdom and the United States, so that it would be hard to explain this shift in our position.

Regarding the compromise proposal suggested by the Foreign Office, he believed that we would encounter all of the obstacles which the United States saw in the original British proposal. Moreover, we would find that there would be discussion in the General Assembly centering on whether the first step should be the final one or not. Also, the United States wanted to concentrate on the initial first step of disclosure and verification as part of a general program for regulation, limitation and balanced reduction of all armed forces and armaments. While we have now turned around our proposal to give first a general outline of the disarmament program, thus meeting the United Kingdom view, we still thought that the first step in carrying out this program was discussion on disclosure and verification.

2. Mr. Hohler said that the Foreign Office had not understood that the text of the United States basic paper, which he had telegraphed to London, was not intended to be used as the Tri-Partite statement. He thought it might be advisable to send the Foreign Office a rough draft of this tri-partite statement.

[Page 531]

Mr. Hickerson thought that it would be better not to send a draft at this time, since this would be a good place at which to bring in the French as a full drafting partner, thus assuaging French feelings of annoyance at not having partaken in previous UK–US discussions on the basic paper.

Mr. Allen agreed that we should not go to the French with a tri-partite statement already worked out, but suggested that we might have a tentative UK–US draft.

Mr. Meade suggested that Mr. Hohler might ask the Foreign Office to prepare a draft of a tri-partite statement, and then the United Kingdom, United States and France could each work out their own draft and compare them at the same time in working out an agreed tri-partite statement. He remarked that the Foreign Office would like an explanation why the program could not be initiated by the Secretary of State in the General Assembly, rather than give its initial impetus by a Presidential speech.

Mr. Hickerson replied that our thinking was conditioned by the fact that the President is the Chief of State and in general charge of foreign relations, the Secretary of State being his agent. Moreover, under the United States law regarding atomic energy, we could not give information on atomic weapons to any other country. Thus, the President would have to request a change in the law. Thirdly, it would have more psychological impact if the President presented the program.

3. Mr. Hohler said the Foreign Office had very little doubt that the French would go along with this program, but did not understand why the United States wished to present these proposals alone if the French would not join with the United Kingdom and the United States in presenting the program. The United Kingdom would like to join with the United States in offering disarmament proposals in the General Assembly, in any event. Mr. Hickerson said that the United States attitude had two elements:

If the French say that they do not like these particular proposals although they are interested in some disarmament proposals being made, then he thought that it was inadvisable for the United Kingdom and the United States to go ahead and present these proposals since it might appear that we were ganging up on the French. In this instance, the United States alone should present this program.
The French would say that they did not wish to join the United Kingdom and the United States in making any disarmament proposals, in which case the United Kingdom and the United States should join in advancing the program without French participation.

Mr. Bonbright thought that this exercise was somewhat academic, as he believed that the French would want to join in any disarmament [Page 532]proposals advocated by the United Kingdom and United States. If the French were given an adequate period for consultation and then turned down the idea, he believed that it would be alright for the United Kingdom and the United States to go ahead with the program anyhow.

4. Mr. Holder said that Sir Gladwyn Jebb3 had criticized our proposed timing as regarded informing the French about the detailed proposals only shortly prior to the General Assembly. The Foreign Office concurred in Jebb’s belief this was inadvisable, thinking that this would be too great a risk in terms of relations with France.

There was general agreement on the part of the conferees that we needed to give France more time [to] consider the proposals. Of course, it depended on when there would be a cleared United States paper, but it was hoped this might be expected by October 16.

5. Mr. Hohler said that Sir Gladwyn Jebb had emphasized the necessity for simplicity of approach in order to obtain the best propaganda advantages, consequently, Jebb had thought that there should not be too much emphasis on disclosure and verification.

Mr. Bechhoefer remarked that Jebb’s arguments were devoted toward the question of presentation and not to the plan. The plan was somewhat complicated, but we would have a much similar form of presentation.

Mr. Ferguson supported Mr. Bechhoefer’s remarks, adding that the Department could not accept the Jebb thesis in view of the attitude of our military people and of other United States officials. We needed to concentrate great effort on rearmament, and we were afraid of the effect on our rearmament program if we emphasized too strongly the criteria for limitation of effectives and armaments.

6. Mr. Hohler read from the telegram saying that the Foreign Office was somewhat confused by the relationship to paragraph 2–d of the basic paper, which reaffirmed the United Nations plan for control of atomic energy, and paragraph 3–d, which spoke of disclosure and verification of atomic weapons.

Mr. Ferguson explained that paragraph 2–d referred to international ownership and control of atomic energy, to which the United States still firmly adhered. Now, however, as regarded disclosure and verification, paragraph 3–d declared the United States was willing to include atomic weapons before there was international control of atomic energy.

There was general agreement that the language of these two paragraphs should be clarified, although this might be done at a later stage in order not to hold up clearance of these papers.

  1. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.
  2. Permanent British Representative at the United Nations.