54. Letter From the Secretary of State to the Deputy Representative on the United Nations Disarmament Commission (Stassen)1

Dear Harold: I have your letter of August 5, 1955,2 in which you outlined a suggested position for the United States in the meetings of the United Nations Disarmament Subcommittee which will begin August 29th. Perhaps it would be useful for me to comment on the points included in this position as you presented them.

We agree that the US should make a formal presentation of the President’s July 21 proposal3 to the Subcommittee, and that we should expect the other representatives similarly to put forward the proposals made at Geneva by their heads of government. In presenting the President’s proposal, we should be prepared to spell it out in some detail, and to deal with its relationship to eventual broader disarmament objectives. A position paper on this subject will be required for interdepartmental review.
The Department agrees that a primary objective should be to focus attention on the problem of inspection. The proposal you put forward for a reciprocal exchange of pilot inspection by a panel is a good one, and the Department believes it might serve as an effective channel towards agreement on some of the technical elements of control. Here again our position would have to be worked out carefully and in some detail before the proposal is tabled.
We agree that pending further studies of inspection, previous United States positions on disarmament should be placed “in a reserved and inactive status”, if it is agreed that this means that the United States, without either reaffirming or withdrawing these previous positions, states that it would be premature to arrive at decisions on their continued validity before we have assessed the possibilities of establishing an inspection system adequate to assure reasonable knowledge of possible violations. We might, of course, even at this time reiterate our present view that there are as of now no known inspection procedures which could provide adequate support for an agreement to eliminate atomic weapons. One consideration which must be kept in mind is that many of our previous positions have been taken jointly with the United Kingdom, France and Canada. It will be important for us to seek to the degree possible a common approach with them vis-a-vis our previous proposals. A position paper will be required on this matter.
It is the view of the Department that a suggestion for a drafting commission for the preparation of a convention is premature. We believe that before progress could be made in such a task it would be necessary to have considerable agreement on the responsibility and [Page 173] scope of an international armaments commission, i.e., what kind of inspection it will carry out or what kind of regulation of armaments system will it supervise?
We believe consideration of the possibility of putting forward other segments of the substance of United States policy on disarmament should be deferred pending decisions by the National Security Council and the President on such policy and in the light of the developing international situation.
We agree that detailed position papers should be prepared on the anticipated proposals of the USSR, the United Kingdom, France and Canada, which should include papers on elements of the Soviet May 10 proposals4 as well as those put forward by the other heads of government at Geneva. Since many of these proposals, including the Soviet May 10 plan, are based on or incorporate elements of previous United States positions, it will be necessary to prepare these US position papers in the light of the comments made above in paragraph 3.


  1. Source: Department of State, Disarmament Files: Lot 58 D 133, U.S. Disarmament Proposals. Secret.
  2. Document 51.
  3. For portions of Eisenhower’s “Open Skies” proposal, see Document 48.
  4. See Document 24.