276. Editorial Note

The Tenth Inter-American Conference, which met in Caracas in March 1954, passed a resolution calling on the Council of the Organization of American States to convene a Specialized Conference [Page 536] to study the juridical and economic aspects of the continental shelf and oceanic waters, and their natural resources. To prepare for the Conference, the Council requested the Inter-American Council of Jurists, its technical advisory organ on legal matters, to make a preparatory study on the legal aspects of the subjects to be treated at the Specialized Conference. The Council of Jurists met at Mexico City from January 17 to February 4, 1956, and passed a resolution by a vote of 15-1, with 5 abstentions. The resolution stated that the 3-mile limit for territorial waters was insufficient and did not constitute a rule of international law and that each state was competent to establish the extent of its territorial waters within reasonable limits, taking into account geographical, geological and biological factors, and its economic and security needs. The resolution also dealt with the continental shelf, conservation of the living resources of the high seas, base lines, and bays. The measure was vigorously opposed by the United States Representative. For an account of the meeting, as well as the texts of the resolution and of the formal declaration and reservation by the United States, see Department of State Bulletin, February 20, 1956, pages 296-299.

Instruction 6347 to all American diplomatic offices in the other American Republics, February 18, informed them of United States concern over actions taken at the Inter-American Council of Jurists meeting in Mexico City in January. The Department of State concluded that vigorous action should be taken to correct the situation created by the adoption of the Mexico City Resolution, and requested the Chief of each Mission to communicate the United States position to the President or Foreign Minister of the country to which he was accredited. He was to emphasize the fact that the extension of territorial waters was of particular concern from the standpoint of security. That extension over wide areas of the sea, and airspace above, would create large and complicated problems in connection with necessary naval and air activities, not only in the Western Hemisphere but also in other areas of the world associated with the defense of the Americas. In addition, the Mexico City action had led to a highly unfavorable reaction in the United States, and similar actions at the Ciudad Trujillo Conference were likely to reduce seriously Congressional and public support for programs planned to contribute to the progress and development of Latin America.

Emphasis was to be put on the fact that the Mexico City resolution was completely unacceptable as a basis for discussion at Ciudad Trujillo. If it became the basis of consideration there, the United States saw no way to avoid open controversy, with unfortunate political consequences. The United States believed that a positive solution would be for a mutual understanding in advance of the [Page 537] Ciudad Trujillo Conference regarding a resolution to be adopted there.

The Chief of Mission was instructed to deliver an Aide-Mémoire to the President or Foreign Minister, incorporating paragraphs 6 to 8 of the instruction which read as follows:

  • “6. The United States believes it would be extremely helpful for a firm understanding to be reached in advance of the Ciudad Trujillo Conference regarding a principal declaration which would constitute the main resolution to be adopted there. This resolution should be drafted in such a way as to take advantage of agreement wherever agreement exists and to avoid resolutions on aspects which remain the subject of sharp controversy. Specifically, the United States has in mind that the Ciudad Trujillo Conference adopt a resolution covering recommendations on the following points:
    • “a) that all States accept the responsibility to cooperate in international efforts to assure the conservation of the resources of the sea.
    • “b) that States directly concerned with specific fishery conservation problems enter into agreements for the purpose of establishing and maintaining adequate conservation regimes for the fishery resources involved.
    • “c) that the special interests of the coastal State in the continued productivity of the fishery resources in the high seas contiguous to its coast be recognized through granting it the right (1) to participate in any research and regulatory program for the conservation of such resources even though its nationals do not engage in the fishery, and (2) to impose conservation measures based on scientific findings which are required to maintain the productivity of such resources and which will be applicable to the nationals of other countries, when the need for such action is urgent and agreement between the States concerned has not been possible, and subject to adequate provision to protect other nations against discriminatory or arbitrary measures.
    • “d) A declaration regarding the rights of the coastal State over the subsoil and seabed of the continental shelf (a relatively noncontroversial subject).
  • “7. The above declaration would, of course, be in addition to the various technical reports which the Ciudad Trujillo Conference might make, and would, in the opinion of the United States, constitute a definite and constructive contribution to the inter-American consideration of these important questions. It is recommended that the Ciudad Trujillo Conference not attempt to resolve the question of the breadth of territorial waters, but that if some expression on this subject is felt necessary, a resolution be adopted recognizing that the diversity of views with regard to territorial waters must be resolved on a world-wide basis through appropriate international consultation taking into account the numerous legal, economic, technical and security considerations involved.
  • “8. Thus, the Ciudad Trujillo Conference could adopt a program which would: [Page 538]
    • “a) set aside the problem of the breadth of territorial waters, without favoring or opposing the divergent positions of any of the States;
    • “b) give due recognition to the importance of international cooperation as the basis of the conservation of the resources of the sea; and
    • “c) recognize limited special rights and interests of the coastal State to be taken into account in the future development of the juridical regime of the high seas and continental shelf.” (Department of State, Central Files, 397.022 IA/2–1856)