Disarmament files, lot 58 D 133, “NSC Papers, 1953–55”

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

top secret
  • Subject:
  • Second 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. Courses of Action Fully Implemented:

NSC 112 was approved as Governmental policy on July 19, 1951.1 It is requested that this Progress Report as of January 15, 1952 [1953] be circulated to the members of the Council for their information.

The NSC at its 106th Meeting on October 23, 1951, as action number 578 b, noted that the Secretaries of State and Defense [Page 1092] would undertake to reach an agreement, for submission to the President, as to the position of the U.S. Delegation to the Sixth General Assembly of the United Nations regarding a proposal for limitation of armed forces and armaments, in accordance with the policy established in NSC 112. The two Secretaries agreed upon such a position and submitted it to the President, who approved it on October 24, 1951. This position, when submitted to the Sixth Session of the General Assembly, in a resolution sponsored by the United States, France and the United Kingdom, after slight modification resulted in approval by the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly (with the Soviet bloc opposed) on January 11, 1952, as Resolution 502(VI).2

By this resolution, the General Assembly established a Disarmament Commission, composed of the members of the Security Council plus Canada, and directed the Commission to prepare draft proposals to be embodied in a 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 were 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 of the treaty or treaties; (vii) an adequate system of safeguards to ensure observance of the disarmament program.

The Disarmament Commission held its first meeting on February 4, 1952, and carried on its discussions throughout the year until the opening of the Seventh Session of the General Assembly.

A principal thesis of NSC 112 was that attention should be kept focused, in any international discussions on disarmament, upon the problem of disclosure and verification, in order to test Soviet willingness to accept effective inspection, because it would be acceptable to the U.S. if accepted by the U.S.S.R. and advantageous to the U.S. for its propaganda value if rejected by the U.S.S.R., and because it was the first step in implementing a disarmament program. [Page 1093] The U.S. on April 5, 1952, submitted to the Disarmament Commission “Proposals for Progressive and Continuing Disclosure and Verification of All Armed Forces and All Armaments, Including Atomic” (UN Doc. DC/C.2/1).3 The Soviet Union attacked this paper, and the emphasis on disclosure and verification as the necessary first step in implementing a comprehensive disarmament program, as proof that the U.S. desired only a gigantic intelligence program and was uninterested in reduction and limitation of armed forces and armaments. The other members of the Commission indicated that it was necessary that the Commission discuss other elements of the work assigned by the General Assembly. Consequently, it proved impossible to focus the attention of the Disarmament Commission principally on the disclosure and verification paper and, after relatively little discussion on this subject, the U.S. proceeded to develop and submit the following working papers, cleared throughout the Government, concerning other elements of a comprehensive disarmament program:

Essential Principles for a Disarmament Program (UN Doc. DC/C.1/1, April 24, 1952)4 setting forth objectives and principles to guide the Disarmament Commission; Proposals for Fixing Numerical Limitation of all Armed Forces (UN Doc. DC/10, May 28, 1952),5 suggesting possible levels of armed forces for the five Great Powers with negotiated ceilings for all other states having substantial military power; Supplement to Numerical Limitation Paper (UN Doc. DC/12, August 12, 1952),6 suggesting procedures for working out ceilings on armed forces and the armaments to support these forces; Summary of U.S. 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).7

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; and disclosure only of official data on armed forces and armaments. The U.S.S.R. also charged that the U.S. was using bacteriological warfare in Korea and China, and called for prohibition of B.W. and ratification of the 1925 Geneva B.W. Protocol.

[Page 1094]

The U.S.S.R. in addition proposed in the United Nations Security Council, on June 15, 1952, that the Council urge all states to ratify or accede to the 1925 Geneva Protocol if they had not yet done so. On June 26, the Soviet motion failed by a vote of 1–0 with 10 abstentions, since most of the Council members believed that this question was properly within the jurisdiction of the Disarmament Commission, which was considering the problem of prohibition and regulation of armaments.

In the Security Council on June 20, the U.S. submitted a draft resolution by which the Council would request the International Committee of the Red Cross, with the aid of such scientists and experts as it might select, to investigate the charges concerning the use of B.W. by UN forces in Korea, and report the results to the Security Council as soon as possible. The United States’ Representative pointed out that the Soviet Union Representative had attempted to make a careful distinction between B.W. charges and the resolution calling for ratification of the 1925 Geneva Protocol because the introduction of the germ warfare charges inevitably invited investigation into the charges. He furthermore suggested that U.S.S.R. Representative Malik had attempted to invoke the Geneva Protocol in order to cast the invidious implication that U.S. failure to ratify the Protocol was proof that the United States wanted to have a free hand to wage germ warfare. On July 3, 1952, a Soviet Union veto prevented passage of the U.S. resolution, although all other members of the Security Council had approved the resolution. The U.S. immediately introduced another draft resolution, which concluded from the refusal of those making the charges to permit an impartial investigation that the charges must be presumed to be without substance and false, and condemned the fabrication and dissemination of such charges. The U.S.S.R. cast its 50th veto to prevent passage of this resolution.

At the 30th Meeting of the Disarmament Commission on October 1, the Commission adopted the report which summarized its activities (UN Doc. DC/20)8 by a vote of 11–1 (U.S.S.R.). Consideration of this report was placed on the agenda of the General Assembly which opened its Seventh Regular Session in New York on October 14, but the item had not been reached by the time the session was suspended on December 22. The item will be discussed when the Assembly reconvenes in the early spring of 1953.

On October 17 the Polish delegation submitted a resolution9 which was referred for consideration to the General Assembly’s Political [Page 1095] Committee, but also was not reached before the session was suspended. The portion of this resolution involving disarmament was almost word for word identical with the proposals made by the Soviet Union at the Sixth Session of the General Assembly in Paris in 1951. This part of the Polish resolution put forward the time-worn Soviet proposals for one-third reduction of the armed forces of the Five Great Powers within one year; submission of full data on armaments by these Powers; calling of an international disarmament conference by the Security Council “as soon as possible”; adoption of a decision on Unconditional prohibition of atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and establishment of strict international control over the implementation of that decision; adherence to the 1925 Geneva poison gas and bacteriological warfare Protocol by all states which had not ratified or adhered to the Protocol. Finally, the Polish resolution requested a General Assembly declaration that participation in NATO could not be reconciled with membership in the United Nations and called upon the governments of the United States, U.S.S.R., Great Britain, France and China to conclude a peace pact.

On October 20, 1952, the United States filed as an urgent and important matter a request to add to the General Assembly’s agenda an item entitled “Question of Impartial Investigation of Charges of Use by United Nations Forces of Bacteriological Warfare”.10 In its explanatory memorandum, the United States referred to the Communist propaganda campaign to inspire hatred of the United States and to discredit United Nations action in Korea, and cited the fabrication of “scientific evidence” by so-called investigation commissions carefully selected to ensure they were biased. Note was taken that these charges had just been repeated in the present session of the General Assembly by representatives of Poland and the Soviet Union; that the charges themselves, coupled with the refusal of those making the charges to agree to an impartial investigation, impaired friendly relations and created a situation which should be considered by the General Assembly as an urgent and important matter and on which appropriate action should be taken. On October 21 the United States request was also added to the agenda of the General Assembly but was not discussed before the Assembly suspended its session in December, and will be considered in the Spring of 1953.

2. Courses of Action Currently Being Implemented:

The Department of State’s Disarmament Staff, in conjunction with other agencies represented on the Working Group on Preparations [Page 1096] for the Disarmament Commission (DAC) and certain consultants, is presently working on the following projects among others, with the intent of developing papers which may possibly be presented in the Disarmament Commission after appropriate modification for public presentation:

Technical safeguards (military and industrial); Co-relationship between principal components of a comprehensive disarmament program; 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, and means of determining standard armaments to support permitted armed forces; Treatment of violations.

In addition to these studies, there is a Panel of Consultants to the Secretary of State which has independently examined the entire range of disarmament-security problems. The consultants are: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Vannevar Bush, John Dickey, Allen W. Dulles, Joseph E. Johnson. The Panel has now concluded its work with the submission to the Secretary of State of a study concerning armaments and American policy, which embodies the findings and recommendations of the Panel and will be available to the incoming Secretary.11

David Bruce
  1. For text of NSC 112, dated July 6, 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. i, p. 477.
  2. See the editorial note, p. 845.
  3. See footnote 1, p. 872.
  4. See the editorial note, p. 895.
  5. See footnote 2, p. 954.
  6. See the second editorial note, p. 989.
  7. See the editorial note, p. 994.
  8. United Nations, Official Records of the Disarmament Commission, Special Supplement No. 1. Second Report of the Disarmament Commission.
  9. UN doc. A/2229.
  10. UN doc. A/2231.
  11. Supra.