264. Memorandum of Discussion at a Department of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, Washington, January 10, 1958, 11:30 a.m.1

[Here follow a list of participants and discussion of items 1–5: India-Pakistan, Korea, Indonesia, Japan, and Iraq.]

6. Antarctica

Ambassador Daniels outlined the Department’s activities with regard to Antarctica. He referred to secret conversations conducted with the UK, Australia and New Zealand last October pursuant to NSC and OCB directives.2 These directives provide that the U.S. should (1) assert claim to unclaimed areas and reserve our rights with regard to other areas and (2) consider, with other claimant nations, the establishment of an international regime. This would involve nations having direct and substantial interest, including the Soviet Union.

Basic discussions to be reached include:

Should there be an international regime? An international regime might enhance scientific collaboration and might provide assurances of non-military use.
Could the Soviet Union be better controlled in or out of such a regime?
Should Japan participate?
At what instant should the U.S. make public its position—what might be the possible effect on the activities of the IGY?

Mr. Murphy explained that at this point the State Department is concerned with a determination within the U.S. Government of what the U.S. position should be. The Soviets seem to be moving forward very rapidly in their activities in Antarctica.

Admiral Burke referred to the great interest of the Navy in McMurdo Bay and to New Zealand claims of sovereignty. Ambassador Daniels observed that in light of the New Zealand claim we have refrained from making a direct claim for sovereignty in this area but that we reserve all rights devolving from our own activities in the area. Mr. Murphy likened the situation to a sort of joint tenancy.

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Ambassador Daniels pointed out that an international regime, if it could successfully be established, would avoid the difficult questions of sovereignty and would provide guaranteed access to the whole of the continent.

Admiral Burke noted that the U.S. Navy was spending a great deal of money in McMurdo Bay and elsewhere, and expressed concern that the U.S. might be “building a house on someone else’s lot”. If we did not assert specific claims at an early date, we might find ourselves in the position where lack of good will on the part of one party could successfully frustrate a multilateral solution. He suggested that perhaps Australia, New Zealand and the United States might jointly assert sovereignty in all areas which they respectively claim at the present time. The possibility of Soviet intervention seemed progressively more likely with awkward implications for the U.S. and her friendly allies.

Mr. Murphy commented that the Soviet Union may previously have been prevented by lack of capability from entering actively into the Antarctic area, but that this period may well be passed and that we must expect an increasingly aggressive policy from the Soviet Union in Antarctica. Admiral Austin noted that under the NSC directive the U.S. was required to firm up the basis for its claims and to establish them. Mr. Murphy commented that at this point, if the Soviet Union were to announce claims based on its present activities in the IGY (which are supposed to be without political implication), the U.S. would find itself undecided as to what areas it should or could claim.

There was general agreement that this was a problem which demanded serious and urgent study.

  1. Source: Department of State, State-JCS Meeting: Lot 61 D 417. Top Secret.
  2. For the NSC and OCB directives, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. xi, p. 693.