274. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Greece1

3312. Department informed International Law Commission adopted following at Geneva:

“1) The Commission recognizes that international practice is not uniform as regards traditional limitation of the territorial sea to 3 miles. 2) The Commission, without taking any decision as to the question of the proper extension of the territorial sea, considers that in any case international law does not justify the extension of the territorial sea beyond 12 miles.”2

ILC now considering additional proposals by François.3 “Subject to any historical right which a state might claim over a greater breadth, the breadth of the territorial sea which a state can lawfully claim against all other states is 3 nautical miles. Other states are under an obligation to recognize territorial waters fixed by the coastal state at a greater breadth than that laid down in the foregoing paragraph only if: one, they have assumed treaty obligations in the matter or claim an equal or greater breadth for their own territorial sea; two, they have been parties in a case which has given rise to a judgment by the International Court of Justice or an award by a court of arbitration recognizing the legitimacy of the extension.”

These proposals favored by 6 members Fitzmaurice (UK), Scelle (France), El Khouri (Syria), Sandstrom (Sweden), Edmonds (US), Garcia Amador (Cuba), Francois (Netherlands). Opposed by 6 members Krylov (USSR), Zourek (Czechoslovakia), Salamanca (Bolivia), Amado (Brazil), Spiropoulos (Greece), Hsu (China).4

US Government considers proposals Francois essential to prevent chaotic world conditions respecting territorial waters and numerous bitter controversies between States. Effective fisheries conservation can be much better and more cooperatively handled on a friendly [Page 532] basis through fishery articles now favorably considered by ILC than by extension of territorial waters. Extension of territorial waters would increase complications of navigation and effectiveness of naval patrols as well as have other disadvantages to maritime and naval nations.

You are instructed immediately make strong representations to the Governments of Greece and China5 in support of Francois proposals making clear importance to security interests of Allied Powers and expressing hope that an adequate understanding of the situation can be brought to the attention of Mr. Spiropoulos, Athens and Mr. Hsu, Taipei.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 700.022/6–1655. Confidential; Niact. Also sent to Taipei and repeated to Geneva.
  2. See draft articles on the Regime of the Territorial Sea adopted by the International Law Commission at its seventh session, which met from May 2 to July 8, 1955, in ILC Yearbook, 1955, vol. II, pp. 34-41. The Commission, at the same session, also adopted draft articles on the Regime of the High Seas; for text, see ibid., pp. 20–34.
  3. Professor J.P.A. François of the Netherlands, Rapporteur Spécial of the International Law Commission for the Regime of the High Seas and the Regime of the Territorial Sea.
  4. Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, Georges Scelle, Faris el-Khouri, A.E.F. Sandstrom, Douglas L. Edmonds, Francisco V. Garcia Amador, S.B. Krylov, Jaroslav Zourek, Carlos Salamanca, Gilberto Amado, Jean Spiropoulos, and Shuhsi Hsu, Members of the International Law Commission for their respective countries.
  5. Appropriate representations were made to the Chinese and Greek Governments. Shao-Hwa Tan, Minister of the Chinese Embassy, informed various officers of the Department of State on June 29, that his government had suggested to Dr. Hsu his full cooperation with the U.S. Delegation. The Department spokesman pointed out to Tan the great importance attached by the United States to the 3-mile limit, particularly from the standpoint of allied naval operations. (Memorandum of conversation by Yingling; Department of State, Central Files, 320.31/6-2955)

    The Greek Foreign Office, on July 1, advised the American Embassy that in the interests of its national security, the Greek Government would not support the François proposals. (Telegram 2 from Athens, July 1; ibid., 700.022/7–155)