Disarmament files, lot 58 D 133, “Chron”

Report Prepared by Howard Meyers of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs 1


Status Report on the Work of the Disarmament Commission 2

1. Establishment of the Disarmament Commission

General Assembly Resolution 502(VI) of January 11, 19523 established the United Nations Disarmament Commission to take the place of the existing United Nations Atomic Energy Commission and the Commission for Conventional Armaments. The Disarmament Commission is composed of the members of the Security Council plus Canada, and is directed by this resolution to prepare draft proposals to be embodied in a draft treaty or treaties for submission to a conference of all states, concerning: (i) regulation, limitation, and balanced reduction of all armed forces and all armaments; (ii) elimination of all major weapons adaptable to mass destruction; (iii) effective international control of atomic energy to ensure the prohibition of atomic weapons and the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes only, with the present United Nations plan being used as the basis for the Commission’s considerations until a better or no less effective plan is devised; (iv) progressive and continuing disclosure and verification of all armed forces and all armaments, including atomic, this problem to be considered as a first task; (v) methods for fixing over-all limits and restrictions on all armed forces and armaments, and for determining the allocation within their respective military establishments of the permitted national armed forces and armaments; (vi) the establishment of an international control organ (or organs) to ensure the implementation [Page 1044] of the treaty or treaties; (vii) an adequate system of safeguards to ensure observance of the disarmament program.

2. Disarmament Commission Activities from Establishment Until Present

The Commission held its first meeting on February 4, 1952, and carried on its discussions with considerable regularity throughout the year until the opening of the Seventh Session of the General Assembly. During its meetings, the Commission considered the following working papers:

“Proposals for Progressive and Continuing Disclosure and Verification of All Armed Forces and All Armaments, Including Atomic” (UN Doc. DC/C.2/1, April 5, 1952).4
“Essential Principles for a Disarmament Program” (UN Doc. DC/C.1/1, April 24, 1952) setting forth objectives and principles to guide the Disarmament Commission5
“Proposals for Fixing Numerical Limitation of all Armed Forces” (UN Doc. DC/10, May 28, 1952), suggesting possible levels of armed forces for the five Great Powers with negotiated ceilings for all other states having substantial military power.6
“Supplement to Numerical Limitation Paper” (UN Doc. DC/12, August 12, 1952), suggesting procedures for working out ceilings on armed forces and the armaments to support these forces.7
“Summary of United States Proposals for Elimination of Bacterial Weapons in Connection with Elimination of all Major Weapons Adaptable to Mass Destruction” (UN Doc. DC/15, September 4, 1952).8

All these papers were submitted by the United States, individually or, as in the case of the numerical limitations paper and its supplement, jointly with the UK and France. Most of the other members of the Commission, while advancing views for discussion, did not present formal papers.

The Soviet Union continued to insist upon its often-rejected proposals for one-third reduction of armed forces and armaments by the Big Five; a “paper” prohibition of atomic weapons through a mere declaration these weapons should be prohibited, with prohibition to be effective at the same time as the institution of agreed controls over that prohibition; disclosure only of official data on armed forces and armaments; and inspection on a “continuing basis” but with no right to “interfere in the domestic affairs of states.”9 The USSR also charged that the United States was using [Page 1045] bacteriological warfare in Korea and China, and called for prohibition of BW and ratification of the 1925 Geneva BW Protocol.10

3. Future Work of the Disarmament Commission

Subject to a possible reevaluation of our policy with respect to disarmament negotiations, it is the current estimate of the Department, concurred in by Defense, that the United States should continue efforts in the Disarmament Commission or elsewhere as appropriate, to obtain, if possible, some agreement with the Soviet Union on Disarmament. At the present, disarmament activities return little but propaganda benefits but these are sufficiently large, in our estimate, to warrant continuation of our efforts in the Disarmament Commission. There are two basic motivations for such activity: (a) the need to demonstrate that a door is open to the Soviet Union to reach accommodation with the West in this important security field, through peaceful means; (b) the strong popular desire for disarmament among the peoples of the Free World which requires that we show by concrete proposals the desire of the Western governments to relieve, them of the burdens of armament by attaining security through safeguarded reduction of armed forces and armaments.

In the Disarmament Commission, while avoiding where possible “freezing” positions, the United States should concentrate efforts on basic principles and concepts of the plans which the Commission has been directed to work out, and should attempt to induce the Commission to avoid over-immersement in details. It should be made clear that the United States believes the best approach to achieve disarmament is by practical negotiations, not by abstract formulae, and that attempts should not be made to fill out details until the Soviets affirm their willingness to negotiate, which they have not done yet. With this in mind, in the coming year, the U.S. might present working papers on some of the following topics, presently under study by the Department of State Disarmament staff in conjunction with other agencies:

Technical safeguards (military and industrial); co-relationship between principal components of a comprehensive disarmament program; [Page 1046] establishment of international control organs; identification of major weapons adaptable to mass destruction; certain military-political problems relevant to establishing numerical ceilings on all armed forces; distribution of permitted armed forces within national military establishments; means of determining standard armaments to support permitted armed forces; treatment of violations.

  1. The source text is accompanied by a covering memorandum by David W. Wainhouse, Director of UNP, to Arthur C. Nagle, Acting Chief of the Policy Reports Staff, dated Nov. 26, which reads as follows: “The attached report is submitted in accordance with your request for a summary of the status of the Disarmament Commission’s work, for use as a briefing document for Mr. Dulles.” John Foster Dulles became Secretary of State on Jan. 21, 1953. For documentation on the foreign policy aspects of the transition of administrations in January 1953, see vol. i, Part 1, pp. 1 ff.
  2. More detailed information on this subject is contained in Department of State position paper SD/A/C.1/393/Rev.1, “Regulation, Limitation and Balanced reduction of All Armed Forces and All Armaments: Report of the Disarmament Commission”, comprising 20 pages, and dated Oct. 3, 1952. The position paper was prepared as guidance for the U.S. Delegation to the Seventh Session of the General Assembly which opened on Oct. 14. (IO files, lot 71 D 440) The delegation discussed disarmament at its third meeting, Oct. 16. (IO files, lot 71 D 440, “Delegation Minutes”) The subject, however, was not addressed by the General Assembly until early 1953.
  3. See the editorial note, p. 845.
  4. See footnote 1, p. 872.
  5. See the editorial note, p. 895.
  6. See footnote 2, p. 954.
  7. See the second editorial note, p. 989.
  8. See the editorial note, p. 994.
  9. For the Soviet draft resolution “Measures to Combat the Threat of a New World War and to Strengthen Peace and Friendship Among the Nations”, UN doc. A/C.1/698, Jan. 12, 1952, see Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1959, vol. I, p. 340. For the Soviet draft plan of work introduced in the Disarmament Commission, Mar. 19, 1952 (UN doc. DC/4/Rev. 1), see ibid., p. 344.
  10. For the Soviet proposal “Consideration of the Question of the Impermissibility of the Use of Bacterial Weapons,” Aug. 27, 1952 (UN doc. DC/13/Rev. 1), see ibid., p. 381. For text of the Protocol Prohibiting the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, Geneva, June 17, 1925, see 94 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 65, or Disarmament and Security, A Collection of Documents 1919–1955: Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Disarmament (Committee Print), 84th Cong., 2d sess. (Government Printing Office, 1956), p. 169.