ODA files, lot 62 D 225, “Trust Territory of Pacific Islands”

Memorandum for the Files, by Charles D. Withers of the Office of Dependent Area Affairs


On August 17 a meeting was held in the office of Mr. Gerig (UND) to discuss US strategy in the General Assembly in dealing with a threatened Indian move to have the GA recommend a cessation of nuclear tests in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands pending an ICJ opinion on the legality of those tests. Participating in the meeting were the following: [Page 1517]

  • L/UNA—Mr. Fensterwald,
    • Mrs. Fleming;
  • L/FE—Miss Fite;
  • EUR—Mr. Allen;
  • ARA—Mr. Monsma;
  • UND—Mr. Gerig,
    • Mr. Ross,
    • Mr. Withers;
  • UNP—Mr. Bechhoefer,
    • Mr. Meyers;
  • NEA—Mr. Howard.

Participants in the meeting were in agreement in general on the following points:

The Indians are determined to bring up the question of nuclear tests in general, and probably the Trust Territory bomb tests in particular, before the General Assembly. As a matter of fact, the Indian proposal for a general moratorium on nuclear tests is an annexed document to the report of the Disarmament Commission, and, as such, will be on the First Committee agenda. No advance appeal to the Indians would deter them from raising the issue.

In addition to the Disarmament Commission report in Committee One, it is believed that India will ask for a separate agenda item for the Fourth Committee on the tests in the Trust Territory. It is possible, however, that instead of specifying the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Indians may broaden the issue to tests of this nature in any Trust Territory. For us to have the issue raised by a friendly power in the Security Council in order to dispose of it before its consideration in the General Assembly would be poor strategy in as much as it would be obvious to others that this move was designed to preclude a resolution by the General Assembly. And if the Indian idea on the tests in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands did not prevail the door would be left open for them to broaden the issue in the General Assembly, possibly to our disadvantage. Our basic policy requires the continuation of the nuclear tests in the Trust Territory and we do not want to be placed in a position of having to defy an opinion by the ICJ. It was felt that we have a strong position, legally and morally, in this matter. However, we realize that there is risk of an adverse Court decision, due to the possibility of political factors entering into the decision. We must therefore endeavor to keep the issue away from the Court.

As to the voting position in the plenary of the Assembly, it was recommended that we oppose strongly any move to have those nuclear test issues decided by a simple majority vote. Under Article 18, questions involving the “maintenance of peace and security” and the “operation of the trusteeship system” require a two-thirds vote. It would be highly important to secure at least 31 votes against the Indian proposal in the committee stage, and if this fails to have at least 21 or more to defeat it in the plenary. In view of the general predilection in the Sixth Committee for referring nearly all disputes to the Court, we should endeavor in the strongest way possible to keep the issue out of Committee Six.

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In view of the decision that it would be almost impossible politically and practically to keep the Indian theme from being discussed in the General Assembly and in view of the inadvisability of having the problem seized on our initiative by the Security Council, the main problem is to enlist as much support in the Assembly as possible toward defeating any resolution which would refer the question to the Court. To this end, it was agreed that an Aide-Mémoire should be sent to selected posts in the field covering (1) a general restatement of our position on disarmament, (2) our position on the Indian proposal for a general moratorium, scheduled for Committee One when the Disarmament Commission report is discussed, and (3) our position on the possible Indian move in the Fourth Committee on tests in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The Aide-Mémoire would be held in abeyance to see whether or not the Indians make their move to inscribe the item before the deadline of August 21. Should they do so, the Aide-Mémoire should be delivered to selected friendly governments in an endeavor to enlist their support. At the same time it was recommended that an instruction should be sent to New Delhi requesting the Ambassador, at his discretion, to bring to the attention of the Government of India our position on this Indian move.

(Should the Indians fail to make a move before August 21 and elect to attempt to inscribe the item later on an urgent basis, our position might be to fight this move on the ground that the general subject is being or will be discussed in Committee One under the Disarmament item.)