281. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Finland 1

227. 1954 UN General Assembly requested International Law Commission complete study Law of Sea for consideration 11th session Assembly (1956). ILC completed work July 1956 and submitted final report General Assembly. Report contains 73 articles on Law of Sea.2

ILC report (paragraph 28) recommends “General Assembly summon international conference plenipotentiaries examine law of sea, taking account not only legal but also technical, biological, economic and political aspects problem, and embody results work one or more international conventions or such other instruments as appropriate.”

ILC proposals include new concepts far reaching importance. To be sound and persist, essential they be considered carefully in relation technical, biological and economic effects as well as legal aspects. If new propositions not create more problems than they resolve, they should be studied relation various problems by technical [Page 558] experts and specialists affected fields so as to minimize chances of hasty emotional decisions and conflicts.

In view close relationship various sections proposed Law of Sea, action taken respect one section may directly affect nature action required resolve problems covered by other sections; e.g., determination breadth territorial sea directly affects fishery, air and surface navigation, security and other problems. Those problems also affected by decisions regarding scope articles re fishery conservation, contiguous zones, continental shelf, base lines, and special jurisdiction. Hence clear that adequate solutions various problems can be achieved best by special conference equipped consider all aspects subject.

After careful consideration Department has decided support ILC recommendation, since for reasons indicated special international conference method dealing entire subject preferable consideration subject General Assembly.

Bring matter attention local Foreign Office and endeavor obtain expeditious reply since time for planning action General Assembly short.

If reaction favorable, supply Foreign Office copy our draft resolution pouched,3 stating Department will also supply copy to UN Delegation that Government.

Inform Department all developments promptly.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 399.731/10–2056. Official Use Only. Repeated to Athens, Djakarta, Tehran, Monrovia, Stockholm, Bangkok, Manila, and Copenhagen.
  2. The report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its eighth session is printed in ILC Yearbook, 1956, vol. II, p. 253. Its 73 draft articles concerning the law of the sea are ibid., pp. 256–264, and its commentary on the articles is ibid., pp. 265–301.
  3. The Department forwarded the U.S. draft resolution to the recipients of telegram 227 in circular airgram 3438, October 19. The key paragraph proposed the following: “[The General Assembly] Decides, in accordance with the recommendation contained in paragraph 28 of the Commission’s report, that an international conference of plenipotentiaries should be convened to examine the law of the sea, taking account not only of the legal but also of the technical, biological, economic and political aspects of the problem and to embody the results of its work in one or more international conventions or such other instruments as it may deem appropriate.” (Department of State, Central Files, 399.731/10–1956)
  4. Circular telegram 182, similar in content to telegram 227, was sent to all diplomatic missions in the American Republics on September 7. (Ibid., 399.731/9–756)