460.509/9–2252: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Dunn) to the Department of State1


1781. Excon. Ref Embtel 1751, Sept 19 rptd above missions.2 Fol is summary of CG discussion of secrecy Sept 18 and 19.

Discussion of secrecy issue resulted in decision request COCOM draw up explicit proposals for submission to govts. US proposed three lists of items be developed: (1) Items which cld be disclosed hereafter without consultation (2) Items which must be kept secret in any case and (3) Items on which consultation was necessary prior to disclosure. While considerable support for this approach, some objections raised as well and unclear whether COCOM committed fol this pattern. In any event no commitment by any govts to accept proposals COCOM is to develop and perfectly evident that French, if faced with decision now, wld be unable accept because of decision made personally by Schuman just prior to mtg.
As indicated below, discussion made clear that various countries were more sympathetic to need for disclosure than has previously been case. Not clear however what “more disclosure” means to most countries, since little has been said by them in explicit terms. Discussion centered on US proposal (Doc 885) and on Ital proposal (Doc 900),3 latter being effort at “middle of road” compromise [Page 874]which emphasized that “any new info released shld aim at facilitating fulfillment of commitments entered into in COCOM” (e.g. publicity on IC/DV system in order make transit controls more effective). There was general reaffirmation of “principle” of maintaining considerable secrecy (i.e. existing rules of “minimum” and “necessary” disclosures and of prior consultation remain unchanged).
Question as to amount of publicity (or secrecy) re COCOM work which might be helpful in terms of making control effort more effective was left for COCOM to work out. Except for France, all members showed greater recognition of need for greater flexibility but did not go into detail and emphasized retention of basic bias in favor secrecy as point of departure. Main positions were as fols:
France stated that despite recent publicity, which it regretted, it must confirm its position that secrecy be maintained concerning existence and activities of COCOM (incl therefore existence of internationally agreed security controls over strategic trade). If any such disclosures made, it wld have to protest. On other hand French found US “procedural” proposals in Doc 885 “interesting” and would consider them “with objectivity”. Nevertheless, French del in COCOM wld have to adopt formal position stated above (see para 4 below). (At quad session before CG mtg Charpentier stated that, on Schuman instruction, Fr position is against any disclosure concerning concerted effort deny goods to Sov bloc. Explained position stems from French-Russ protocol provision guaranteeing MFN treatment. Despite recognition of factors favoring disclosures, Fr unwilling officially confirm inhibition exists. Extent juridical question actually controls Fr judgment this issue not clear. Linder expressed hope French wld withhold final decision until after hearing other PC views in CG.)
Ger considered it absolutely necessary to change rules but did not go into detail. More publicity wld have no very sensational results, whereas impossible obtain necessary support from trade and legislatures unless more could be told. Necessary to prevent false rumors and dissipate unjust suspicions.
Denmark saw good reasons for more flexibility, especially where this wld be of practical help in implementing controls, but considered “principle” of secrecy should be maintained defining this in terms of permitting disclosures only after consultation in COCOM. Believed COCOM shld agree on some matters to be released, other to be kept secret, and on common line for certain other matters.
Norway agreed generally with Denmark but emphasized maintenance of secrecy as guiding principle and thought COCOM shld only draw up “positive” list of what cld be revealed. (Concurred in this end however that COCOM shld not be tied down by CG to any single approach in further study of question.)
Belg and Netherlands recognized practical problems involved, and considered docs 885 and 900 acceptable as basis for discussion. Belgium specifically stated that its former attitude on secrecy had [Page 875]changed and it wld not oppose more flexible rules. Luxembourg agreed.
Canada emphasized strongly that lists shld not be published. Thought that amount of info to be released depends upon administrative and political interest of member countries not merely upon their “security” interests.
Italy mentioned that its “compromise” proposal (Doc 900) would keep disclosures more or less within limits of what is already known to public. Believed COCOM shld study problem carefully and reach decision which wld not impede the useful work already accomplished.
Japan emphasized that its people interested in having as much info as possible, especially re China controls, and that “active free press” there would compound confusion by making up inaccurate stories on basis foreign press accounts unless Jap Govt on occasion in position to give true story.
UK took major part in discussion. Emphasized differences between what govts say about their own controls and what they say publicly about collective action thru COCOM. Statements in latter field affect all other countries. Thought it useful to collect and review all that has been said publicly, but did not consider it necessary confirm all matters which may have leaked to press. Stated UK had not been “firmly pro-secrecy” in past. General UK belief was that, on the whole, it is better maintain secrecy over as wide an area as possible, main consideration being whether it would help or hurt efficiency of controls if more disclosures made. Recognized that views differ on this, according to situation in various countries. UK took no position itself. Felt, however, that it was not consistent with concept of an informal ad hoc body that there should be publicity concerning its existence and activities as though it were a formal organization. Such confirmation wld naturally start chain of inquiries. Nothing more needed than mere recognition that there is an informal ad hoc group. Recommended problem be remitted to COCOM with instr to collect published material, “study what extension can be given” to present publicity, and make positive recommendations to govts. At early stage in CG discussion, UK stated that it wld pose fol question to other dels: How embarrassing wld it be if there were no strictly uniform rule on publicity but some flexibility admitted for individual countries to handle their own problems? UK later withdrew this question, stating that COCOM wld consider what might be said and that “whatever is agreed cld be permissive, with some countries using it and others not”, hence there wld be flexibility in any event.
The US made prepared statement and series of comments pointing up practical aspects of situation and noting question of relaxation shld be considered in light of benefits to whole mutual def program rather than in light COCOM activity alone. (Text of statement being airpouched by Embdesp 603 Sept 224).
[Page 876]

Immed fol CG mtg, COCOM resumed consideration Battle Act report (Doc 8995). Outcome being reported by separate cable.6

  1. Repeated to Bonn, Brussels, Copenhagen, The Hague, London, Lisbon, Oslo, Rome, Luxembourg, Tokyo, Ottawa, Stockholm, Bern, Berlin, Helsinki, Trieste, and Vienna.
  2. Supra .
  3. Neither of the reference COCOM documents was found in Department of State files.
  4. Not found in Department of State files.
  5. Not printed.