S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 5424 Series

Statement of Policy by the National Security Council1

NSC 5424/1


general considerations

Antarctica, comprising a vast continent and nearby islands, is not readily accessible even during the brief Antarctic “summer” and much of it has never been seen or explored. It has little or no present economic value and only remote strategic significance. However, it has considerable immediate importance for scientific purposes; our understanding of the physical structure of the world and its atmosphere will be materially advanced by data obtainable only in Antarctica. Moreover, Antarctica may have other potential values not now determinable, so that its importance could conceivably increase greatly with additional knowledge and new technical developments.
Formal claims to Antarctic territory have been made by the Governments of Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the U.K. The U.S. has not recognized any of these claims. It has made no such official claim but has reserved all its “rights”. The USSR has made no Antarctic claim but has asserted a right to participate in any territorial settlement.
The U.S. has potential claims to major areas in all of the explored parts of Antarctica, as the result of discovery and exploration, and unofficial claims made in behalf of the U.S. Sustained activities by other claimants now threaten to weaken potential U.S. claims in certain parts of the Antarctic which may be of considerable future importance to the U.S. Comparable activities (expeditions, bases, etc.) requiring continuing investment of funds by or in behalf of the U.S. will be necessary if our potential Antarctic “rights” are to be preserved.
In the absence of U.S. activities in all or certain portions of the region, the only feasible way of protecting our potential claims from relative deterioration would be a standstill agreement among the U.S. and the present claimants. Such an agreement might well be very difficult to negotiate.
Reassertion of U.S. “rights” in the Antarctic will in any event be desirable in the near future. Decisions as to the nature and timing of such a U.S. reassertion must take into account the possibility of objections by friendly governments, as well as propaganda from unfriendly quarters.


Orderly progress toward a solution of the territorial problem of Antarctica which would ensure maintenance of control by United States and friendly powers and exclude our most probable enemies.
Freedom of exploration and scientific investigation in the Antarctic for nationals of the United States and friendly powers and maximum interchange of Antarctic mapping and scientific data.
Access to natural resources which may be found to be useful.

courses of action

At an appropriate time simultaneously:
Reassert U.S. “rights” in the Antarctic, which have been ours as the inherent result of discovery and exploration, and unofficial claims made in behalf of the U.S.
Seek to reach an agreement among the U.S. and free world claimants to Antarctic territory which will (1) reserve their respective rights pending future solution of the territorial problems (2) reduce international friction among them and (3) permit freedom of exploration and scientific investigation in the Antarctic by free world nationals and maximum interchange of Antarctic mapping and scientific data.
Support a planned program in the Antarctic for scientific purposes only, based on Government responsibility for financing the activities required by the national interest. Specifically:
Such a program should include periodic expeditions to the Antarctic and the maintenance of permanent stations in the Antarctic area for scientific purposes only.
U.S. programs in Antarctica in connection with the International Geophysical Year should be designed in support of this policy.
The Department of Defense will act as the Executive Agency for operations in the Antarctic by or on behalf of the U.S. in cooperation with private interests and other interested Government Agencies.

[Here follow a “Financial Appendix,” a “Staff Study on Antarctica,” and a map setting forth proposed U.S. claims in Antarctica as suggested by the Central Intelligence Agency, all of which are identical to those documents found with NSC 5424, page 1743.]

  1. A covering transmittal note to the NSC by Acting Executive of the NSC S. Everett Gleason, dated July 19, 1954, states that the President approved the statement of policy on July 16 and that accordingly the NSC 21 series was superseded.