Press Release No. 1917 Issued by the Mission at the United Nations, May 14, 1954 1
Statement by Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, Concerning the Marshallese Petition on Thermonuclear Tests in the Pacific Trust Territory
The United States Government is very sorry indeed that some inhabitants of the Marshall Islands apparently have suffered ill effects from the recent thermonuclear tests in the Pacific proving grounds, as described in the petition to the United Nations. This is a matter of real and deep concern to the American people and government, who take very seriously our responsibilities toward the inhabitants of the trust territory of the Pacific Islands.
I can assure them, as well as the members of the United Nations, that the authorities in charge are doing everything humanly possible to take care of everyone who was in the area affected by the unexpected falling of radioactive materials caused by a shift in the wind during the March 1 test.[Page 1489]
The 236 Marshallese citizens in the affected area were immediately given the same medical examination as the American personnel of the test group who were similarly exposed. They were promptly evacuated to the United States Naval Station at Kwajalein, where their needs were immediately provided for by the United States Navy. In addition, a team of medical experts from the Atomic Energy Commission, United States Navy and Army, was promptly formed and sent to Kwajalein—and the services of the American Red Cross office at Kwajalein were enlisted—to assure any necessary medical attention and care for the personal well-being of all concerned. They are remaining under close observation and any of them who may need it will continue to receive the best medical attention.
I am informed that there is no medical reason to expect any permanent after-effects on their general health, due to the falling of radioactive materials.
The United States Government considers the request and the suggestions of the petitioners both reasonable and helpful. The restraint and moderation with which they have been presented evokes admiration and sympathy.
Regarding the petitioners’ request, that “all experiments with lethal weapons within this area be immediately ceased,” attention is called to the United States Government’s announcement of May 13 that “the 1954 series of tests … have been completed,” and that “within a few days sea and air traffic may be safely resumed within the ‘warning area’ which was set up for safety purposes for the time when the tests were taking place. Official notice to mariners and airmen will be published.”
As the petitioners rightly imply, the United States would not have been conducting such tests if it had not been determined after very careful study that they were required in the interests of general peace and security. The selection of test sites in this particular area was made only after very careful examination of the alternative possibilities, and in an effort to insure that the tests were carried out with least possible danger. It will be recalled that, pursuant to the provisions of the trusteeship agreement which designate the trust territory as a strategic area, the United States notified the United Nations on April 2, 1953 that the area of the Pacific proving grounds was being closed for security reasons in order to conduct necessary atomic experiments.
Let me also assure all the inhabitants of the Pacific trust territory, and the members of the United Nations, that the United States authorities are doing everything possible to prevent any recurrence of possible danger. United States Government is taking and will continue to take “all possible precautionary measures.… before such weapons are exploded,” as suggested by the Marshallese citizens. We also agree that “all people in the area be instructed in safety measures,” and that [Page 1490] instructions be given to Marshallese medical practitioners and health aides which will be useful in detecting danger and avoiding harm.
Further, it is reasonable and right, as the petitioners suggest, that any Marshallese citizens who are removed as a result of test activities, will be re-established in their original habitat in such a way that no financial loss would be involved.
The United States Government, and the officials immediately concerned with the administration of the territory, greatly appreciate the words of commendation of the petitioners with respect to the way the territory is being administered.
The welfare of the inhabitants has been the constant concern of the United States Government, and particularly of the High Commissioner, who will continue to spare no effort necessary to give effect to the Trusteeship Agreement.
- Source: This statement was based on a substantial revision of the Department of State draft, the revision being transmitted by Lodge in telegram 706, May 7, 1954, 7:07 p.m., file 799.021/5–754, and approved by the Department in telegram 549, May 10, 1954,6:57 p.m., file 799.021/5–754, neither printed.↩