S/PNSC files, lot 62 D 1, NSC 112 Series

Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay)

top secret
  • Subject:
  • First Progress Report on NSC 112, “Formulation of a United States Position with Respect to the Regulation, Limitation and Balanced Reduction of Armed Forces and Armaments”.1

NSC 112 was approved as Governmental policy on July 19, 1951. It is requested that this Progress Report (as of January 7, 1952) be circulated to the members of the Council for their information.

The National Security Council at its 106th Meeting, October 23, 1951, as action number 578 b,2 noted that the Secretaries of State and Defense would undertake to reach an agreement, for submission to the President, as to the position of the United States Delegation at the Sixth General Assembly of the United Nations with respect to a proposal for limitation of armed forces and armaments, in accordance with the policy established in NSC 112. The two Secretaries accordingly agreed upon the “Outline of Program for Regulation, Limitation and Balanced Reduction of All Armed Forces and Armaments” attached hereto as Appendix A and submitted it to the President on October 24, 1951.3 The President approved it on the same date.

After discussion the governments of France and the United Kingdom joined this Government in sponsoring for consideration by the Sixth General Assembly proposals for the regulation and reduction of armed forces and armaments consistent with Appendix A. A joint statement on the subject by the three governments was accordingly released on November 7, 1951. The President a few hours later made a broadcast address on the subject, and the Secretary of State devoted to this subject a large part of his address on November 8, 1951 during the opening general debate of the General Assembly. A resolution sponsored by the three governments for consideration by the Assembly was made public on November 18, 1951.4

[Page 860]

The Soviet Representative promptly made it clear that the views of the Soviet Union on this question differed widely and fundamentally from those of the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, and on November 24, submitted counter-proposals in the form of extensive amendments to the three-power resolution.5 Since regulation and reduction of armaments and armed forces would clearly be impossible without the cooperation and support of all four governments, the First (Political and Security) Committee of the Assembly after public debate adopted on November 30 a resolution, sponsored jointly by Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria, establishing a subcommittee, consisting of the President of the General Assembly, as Chairman, and representatives of the United States, France, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. The subcommittee was instructed to seek to formulate proposals acceptable to all four powers for the regulation of armaments and armed forces and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and to report to the Committee by December 10.

Private discussions in the subcommittee resulted in no apparent progress toward reconciling the fundamental differences in views, although some agreement was reached on procedures. The Chairman therefore prepared and on December 10 submitted to the First Committee a memorandum approved by the four other members of the subcommittee outlining the differences in views and the areas of agreement disclosed by the discussions.

After further public debate the First Committee on December 19 adopted the resolution in Appendix B6 by a vote of 44 in favor to 5 opposing (the Soviet bloc, consisting of the Soviet Union, Byelorussia, the Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, and Poland), with 10 abstentions from voting (Afghanistan, Argentina, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen) and one member of the United Nations absent (Burma). The Department of State expects the resolution in Appendix B to be adopted by the General Assembly by about the same vote.7

The resolution in Appendix B does not differ in any fundamental respect from the draft resolution originally introduced by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, although minor amendments were accepted in order to secure a maximum affirmative vote. The Soviet Union has indicated that in spite of its opposition [Page 861] to the resolution it intends to participate in the work of the new Disarmament Commission.

The areas of agreement and disagreement between the Soviet Union and the other three powers may be summarized as follows: The Soviet Union joined the other three in advocating the establishment of the new Disarmament Commission to supersede the two previously existing commissions. However, it has shown no indication of any willingness to modify its previous position on any substantive phases of this question. The Soviet Representative made it clear that his government would not accept a balanced reduction of armed forces and armaments; that it would not agree to progressive disclosure and verification; and that it would not agree to a plan for the control of atomic energy and the prohibition of atomic weapons which involved international ownership of important atomic energy facilities. It appeared that in the field of atomic energy control the Soviet Union would not be willing to go further than to grant limited rights of inspection—precisely how limited is not clear. The main features of the Soviet proposals on substantive phases of the question were: 1) That the General Assembly forthwith “declare an unconditional ban on atomic weapons and the establishment of strict international control over the enforcement of this ban”. The ban would apparently apply to the use and to the assembly of such weapons but not to the production of fissionable material or of other weapon components which might be used for other purposes. (In defending this proposal the Soviet Representative declared that “no sober-minded person could believe that the bomb could be produced or used after it had been outlawed by the Assembly”.) 2) That the Assembly recommend that the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the Soviet Union within one year after passage of the resolution each reduce by one-third the armaments and armed forces at its disposal at the time of passage, 3) That the Assembly instruct the Disarmament Commission to prepare and to submit to the Security Council by February 1, 1952, “a draft convention providing for measures to ensure the implementation of the General Assembly’s decisions relating to the prohibition of atomic weapons, the cessation of their production, the use, solely for civilian purposes, of the atomic bombs already produced, and the establishment of strict international control over the implementation of the said convention”, and to prepare and to submit to the Security Council within three months “practical proposals for the application” of the Assembly’s recommendation concerning the one-third reduction of armaments and armed forces. And 4) that the Assembly “invite the governments of all states, both Members of the United Nations and states not at present members of the United Nations, to examine at a world conference [Page 862] [to be convened at the earliest possible moment and in any case not later than June 1, 1952,]8 the question of a substantial reduction of armed forces and armaments and also of practical measures for the prohibition of atomic weapons and the establishment of international control over the enforcement of such prohibition.” The Soviet proposals contemplate disclosure of information about the matters to be controlled, inspection for control purposes, and establishment “within the framework of the Security Council” of an international control organ. But the Soviets declined to consider the establishment of any control system until after the prohibition of atomic weapons.

Egypt was the only state, other than the Soviet Union and its satellites, which proposed and insisted on bringing to a vote an amendment to the three-power resolution unacceptable to this Government. The Egyptian Representative expressed the opinion that the three-power proposals were a constructive plan earnestly presented but that they did not deal squarely enough with the problem of atomic weapons. He therefore proposed the addition to the three-power resolution of a directive to the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the General Assembly immediately to begin a study of the unconditional prohibition of the use (but not the production) of atomic weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction with the object of “establishing” before the end of the current session of the Assembly a draft treaty providing for such a prohibition. In this connection the Egyptian Representative cited the convention barring the use of poison gas. The Soviet bloc supported this amendment. It was voted on in two parts, a preamble paragraph and an operative paragraph. The proposed preamble paragraph was defeated by a vote of 14 in favor to 35 opposing, with 5 abstentions, and the proposed operative paragraph by a vote of 9 in favor to 39 opposing with 9 abstentions. States in addition to the Soviet bloc which voted in favor on one or both occasions included Lebanon, India, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq. States which abstained included Argentina, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt (second votes), Iran, and Equador.

An interesting sidelight may be found in the reasons for that action given by states which abstained from voting on the resolution as a whole:

  • Pakistan gave as its reason that while there was much in the three-power resolution that Pakistan could support, it should not commit itself in view of its probable membership in the new Disarmament Commission.
  • Indonesia gave as its reason that the main task now was to bring the great powers together.
  • Syria gave as its reason that under present circumstances it could not support the proposals of either side.

It is the intention of the Department of State to keep attention in the Disarmament Commission focused on the problem of disclosure and verification, principally for the reasons set forth in Conclusion m on page 9 NSC 112.9

Dean Acheson
  1. For the text of NSC 112, a report to the National Security Council by the Secretaries of State and Defense, July 6, 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. i, p. 477.
  2. In NSC Action No. 578, taken by the NSC at its 106th meeting, Oct. 23, 1951, the Council called for the development of an agreed position on the regulation of armaments, as described below. (S/SNSC files, lot 66 D 95, “NSC Records of Action, 1951”)
  3. Appendix A is not printed here, but text of the outline of the program, submitted to the President on Oct. 24, 1951, is printed in telegram 2418 to Paris of that date; see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. i, p. 559.
  4. For the tripartite draft resolution, submitted on Nov. 19, 1951 (UN doc. A/C.1/667), see ibid., p. 584.
  5. For text of UN doc. A/C.1/688, containing the Soviet amendments, see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1951 (New York, United Nations Publications, 1952), pp. 163–164. For the reaction of the United States to these proposals, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. i, pp. 592 ff.
  6. Appendix B is not printed here, but see the editorial note, ibid., p. 612.
  7. See the editorial note, p. 845.
  8. Brackets in the source text.
  9. The reference paragraph reads as follows: “A proposal for an international system of phased disclosures and verification of all armed forces and armaments, including atomic, as the first step in implementation of a program for the regulation, limitation and balanced reduction of armed forces and armaments (including international control of atomic energy), with adequate safeguards, would be advantageous to the United States if accepted by the USSR and would be advantageous to the United States for its propaganda value even if rejected by the USSR.”