Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 323

Memorandum by the Adviser to the United States Delegation (Dwan) to the Head of the Delegation (Johnson)



  • Talking Point on Joint Commission

In the many exchanges at the Conference on the subject of the joint and international commissions everyone talks about the joint commission as if it could have inherent authority in its own right. I think there is a point to be made about the character of the joint commission, regardless of whether it is parallel to the international commission or whether it accepts decisions of the latter, that might help clarify and support our position.

The joint commission will consist of representatives of the military commanders of both sides. The representatives can only reflect the wishes of the two autonomous commanders. Bringing the representatives together in a commission does not produce a body capable of performing a command function. Only the two commanders, separately, have authority over their respective armed forces. They do not invest in the joint commission, composed of their representatives, command authority over the forces of both sides, as to do so would be to give representatives command authority over the commanders themselves.

Thus the real function of the joint commission can be no more than a coordinating or liaison role. Only the commanders of both sides can [Page 1293]actually carry out the terms of an armistice agreement. To assume that this job can be performed by the joint commission is not realistic. The joint commission can at best only coordinate the implementation of the agreement by the two commanders.

It seems to me to be important that this fact is made clear, because it refutes the idea that the joint commission can reach “decisions” and therefore “control” (as the Soviet proposal states) the implementation of the agreement. The joint commission cannot possibly have powers of control, since representatives do not give orders to their principals.

Therefore, it is not a question of choosing which of the two commissions should have control authority. The question is whether there is to be an international body with control authority, or whether there is to be none and no control at all. If this point can be convincingly established it might be easier to argue the necessity for an international control body.

A realistic description of the various elements in a cease-fire situation might be:

  • Commanders of both sides—implement terms of agreement
  • Joint commission —coordinates implementation
  • International commission —supervises and controls implementation

It might be useful to make this point in conversations with the French and others, and include it in our critique of the Soviet 14 June proposal.

J. E. D.