The British Embassy to the Department of State

top secret


Reference is made to the State Department’s Aide-Mémoire dated December 20th, 1951,1 on the subject of the United Kingdom’s recommendations for action to suppress contraband arms traffic in South East Asia.

In this Aide-Mémoire it was stated that the Government of the United States would be glad to give consideration to detailed proposals for an approach on this subject to other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (N.A.T.O.), the Commonwealth countries which are not members of the N.A.T.O., and to the Governments of Switzerland and Sweden.
As regards the other members of the N.A.T.O., there is annexed a draft memorandum setting forth the lines on which this question might, in Her Majesty’s Government’s view, profitably be handled by the N.A.T.O. This memorandum is in the form of an Anglo-United States-French submission which might, if convenient, be made to the Council of the N.A.T.O.
As regards the question of non-Commonwealth countries outside the N.A.T.O., notably Switzerland and Sweden, Her Majesty’s Government propose the following procedure:

The United Kingdom, United States and French Governments should exchange or furnish all information available to them about proposed shipments of arms and military equipment to South East Asia from either Switzerland or Sweden—or from any other non-N.A.T.O., non-Commonwealth countries—and agree to make joint representations to the country concerned where it is their common view that the proposed arms shipment is undesirable or excessive. The United Kingdom Government would propose, when the procedure is agreed, to make a suitable approach to the non-N.A.T.O. countries of the Commonwealth.

Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would be glad to know the views of the United States Government on the foregoing proposals and on the draft memorandum referred to in paragraph 3 above and annexed to this Aide-Mémoire.
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Arms Supplies for South-East Asia

The Governments of the United Kingdom, United States and France are impressed by the dangers inherent in an uncontrolled traffic in arms and military equipment in, and into, South-East Asia.

Part of this traffic is illicit, notably the supply of arms and equipment by the Chinese People’s Governement to insurgent groups in the Associate States of Indo-China and in Burma. There is also some small amount of arms smuggling among the countries of South-East Asia. By far the greater part of the South-East Asian arms traffic consists, however, in orders placed by South-East Asian Governments with the “Western” nations.
It is natural that the newly emerged Governments of South-East Asia should wish to see themselves fully equipped militarily and should be tempted, under current conditions when Western rearmament threatens a growing stringency in arms supplies, to accumulate stockpiles of arms, ammunition and military equipment. This trend is nevertheless dangerous, both because of the competition thus offered to Western re-armament and because of the risk that in the conditions of local insecurity which exist in some South-East Asian countries such stocks of arms may fall into the hands of rebels seeking to undermine the government, or into the hands of smugglers—e.g. from Thailand and Indonesia into Malaya.
It is therefore important that the Western Nations should cooperate to ensure that only such quantities and types of arms, ammunition and military equipment reach South-East Asian countries as can be regarded as necessary to ensure the internal security of the country concerned and to equip its armed forces in a manner appropriate to the stage of development attained by the latter.
In the view of the United Kingdom, United States and French Governments, this objective can best be achieved by action on the following lines:—
All members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation should agree to inform the Military Representatives Committee immediately any request for the supply of arms, ammunition or other military equipment is received from any of the following governments: Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines.
It should be the responsibility of each member of the Military Representatives Committee to report to his own government any such information communicated to the Committee, it being understood that if any government represented on the Committee wishes to express views on the proposed transaction it will do so within one month of the original communication of the information to the Committee.
Any comments which other governments may have on the proposed transaction should be communicated in the first instance to the Military Representatives Committee where the representative of the government concerned in the transaction should—if necessary after consulting his government—inform the Committee whether these comments are accepted.
Comment in the Military Representatives Committee will be in no sense binding on the government concerned in the transaction. But, if that government is unable to accept such comment, this should be made clear to the Committee, it being then left to the governments concerned to pursue the matter directly should they so desire.