358. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Germany1

2639. Law of Sea. US has decided vigorously support Canadian compromise as only proposal with realistic chance averting result of 12-mile territorial sea. Since such latter result would affect surface and air navigation as well as fishing it would be economically harsher on countries of action addressees than would Canadian proposal and, in addition, would seriously impair defense capabilities US and free world. (Canadian formula would preserve three-mile territorial sea but would add 9-mile contiguous zone wherein coastal state would have full control over fishing. Retention three-mile territorial sea essential for US to carry out most effectively its burden defense responsibilities free world.) Practically all states pressing for extension territorial sea (except Soviet and Arab blocs) doing so to control adjacent resources. It appears they have good chance achieving at least 12 miles that purpose by one means or another.

Canadian proposal had begun make headway with that group and others when UK announced its six-mile compromise. As we see it UK compromise will not attract pivotal group and can only split forces who must pull together if 12-mile territorial sea is to be averted.

UK proposal likely encourage those willing to settle for Canadian formula to hold out for more. Anticipate move to blend Canadian and UK proposals so as to come out with six-mile territorial sea plus six-mile fishery zone.

Conference breakup in present temper undesirable since in such event very likely large number states would afterwards act unilaterally in way perhaps at least as seriously jeopardizing our interests as Conference adoption 12-mile territorial sea. E.g., FonMin Iceland recently announced whatever outcome Conference Iceland will extend its fishery limits.

Acceptance Canadian formula is least damaging course; offers only realistic hope Conference agreement which necessary avoid wholesale unilateral extensions.

US fully understands undesirable economic impact Canadian proposal particularly on those who have historically fished certain areas since US itself has similar problems off Canada and Latin America. US [Page 683] hopeful suitable arrangements can be worked out since states such as Canada, Ireland and Denmark have at Geneva confidentially indicated some willingness discuss measures to mitigate economic effects on fishing states. Believe something constructive can be achieved this respect provided states concerned avoid public emotional campaign. US must endeavor resolve problem satisfactorily through some technique in order meet needs US fishermen.

Meanwhile, Canadian proposal needs strong support in order avert result with graver economic and security consequences.

  1. Source: Department of State: Central Files, 399.731/4–858. Confidential; Priority. Drafted and approved by Pender who signed for Dulles and cleared with Looney, UNP, and EUR. Also sent to Brussels, Lisbon, Luxembourg, Madrid, Paris, Rome, and The Hague, and repeated to nine other Western European capitals.