365. Telegram From the Delegation to the Conference on the Law of the Sea to the Department of State1

1154. Law of Sea. Coming at moment of deepest pessimism and frustration, new American proposal2 has kindled imagination of delegates holding widely divergent views and revived hope for successful outcome of conference. While many delegates will need new instructions before they can commit their governments, and while we realize that the time for such instructions involving in many cases cabinet [Page 694] decisions is very short, we are most encouraged by progress we have made since we began to discuss new proposal 36 hours ago. Following is summary of our most important discussions.

Late evening April 13 I had long and extremely frank session with Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller (UK), Drew of Canada and Bailey of Australia from which it quickly appeared that conclusion was inescapable that both Canadian and UK proposals were lost and that there was real danger of bandwagon movement toward Mexican-Indian proposal. I put to our guests the question what was the least that could be done to prevent a conference breakdown which would be most harmful to us all. In canvass of various possibilities it soon became apparent that six plus six with historic rights offered best hope. Since I had not yet been authorized to make new proposal I could not ask others to seek decisions from their governments, but it was obvious that Sir Reginald was personally much impressed and that Drew, while deeply disappointed, recognized the inevitable. Bailey made flat statement that in his opinion such a proposal could easily obtain two-thirds majority.
After receipt of authorization to proceed April 143 I at once informed Canadians and British. Canadians were downcast but appreciated we had given every support to their proposal as long as it had reasonable chance of adoption. Sir Reginald indicated he would personally support our proposal and would recommend that British Cabinet approve it, saying he would if necessary fly to London for purpose.
I thereupon informed Sen (India), who said he could make no immediate commitment but was obviously personally delighted. He said he would inform his government at once and thought that even Indian co-sponsorship might not be out of the question. Like a number of others to whom I spoke later in the evening he was high in praise of “constructive” US attitude. Same note was struck by number of delegates of various countries to whom I spoke at Ceylon reception evening April 14.
To head off possible complications I spoke to Sen morning April 15 re Indian proposal to amend Article 49 of ILC text in Committee III to include twelve-mile fishing zone. Sen agreed he would not push his amendment to Article 49 until he received instructions re our proposal.
I spent most of this morning seeing heads of Western European Delegations individually and explaining our proposal to them. Reaction most encouraging. Principal points as follows:
Denmark—Finds proposal very constructive but needs new instructions. Last Friday received instructions withdrawing support from Canadian proposal.
Ireland—Believes proposal acceptable but needs instructions. Unhappy at six-mile provision since does not want responsibility for patrolling more than three miles.
Norway—Will probably accept if British accept and if Canadian proposal withdrawn.
Belgium, Holland, Sweden—Preliminary reaction favorable but Sweden raised problem of schools of fish which move substantial distances and which would not be covered therefore by provision for historic rights in zones.
Spain—Without instructions but personally favorably disposed.
Portugal—Proposal completely acceptable.
Germany—Could have accepted Canadian proposal with Portuguese amendment. Accept our proposal contingent upon formulation. Portuguese representative later informed US Del they had persuaded Germany in favor our proposal.
Turkey—Believes proposal acceptable to Turkey.
Greece—Favorably disposed but asking instructions.
Italy—Concerned about situation vis-à-vis Yugoslavia in Adriatic. Accepts our analysis conference situation. Probably will support.
Israel—Noncommittal but pointed out that cut-off date for established fishing will affect their decision.
At luncheon today (15th) I heard that the Indians had asked Stavropoulos for advice as to how we would feel if they amended our proposal to provide that any state which had had twelve-mile limit over a certain period of years or prior to a certain date would not be required to change it to six. Purpose of this amendment would be to get Soviet support for our proposal by in effect recognizing status quo as regards USSR. A number of delegates urged me strongly to see Tunkin and some were clearly hopeful of agreement on this basis. Naturally we expressed view this proposal totally unacceptable. Saw Sen later and pointed out that proposal to hand Soviets diplomatic victory would be sorry return for US demonstrated spirit of compromise.
Gros (France) inquired carefully whether there were qualitative or quantitative limits on historic fishing rights or subdivisions of contiguous zones to which historic rights would be limited. I assured him there were not. Although Gros made it clear French would prefer historic rights be linked to schools of fish wherever they migrated rather than to specific contiguous zones, he indicated French would support on this basis if “regularly” could be changed to “fair degree of regularity” because of bad seasons, etc.
Report circulated in conference this afternoon that Canadians planning to introduce new proposal consisting of straight six-mile territorial sea plus straight six-mile contiguous fishing zone without [Page 696] historic rights. No such proposal yet tabled to our knowledge.4 Will seek clarification from Canadians soonest. Further report indicated initiative came from Arabs who urging this course on Canadians.
Petren (Sweden) stated he was strongly in favor of our proposal in principle but doubted Swedish Cabinet could take decision to support it unless conference were adjourned for two weeks. Ruegger (Switzerland) thought we had made most constructive gesture but wondered whether there was time to sell it unless conference were adjourned for brief period. Krispis (Greece) said he was bound by instructions to three miles and was not sure that Greek Cabinet could approve change in time remaining to conference.
[paragraph (40 lines of source text) not declassified]
Manningham-Buller and I saw Tunkin this afternoon. Tunkin refused comment on proposal pending study and took position that only real compromise was for US to accept twelve-mile territorial sea. We urged postponement of voting in order permit states consider US compromise proposal. Tunkin pleasant but completely noncommittal.
Ceylon will support.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 399.731/4–1658. Confidential. Received at 6:35 a.m.
  2. For text of the U.S. proposal, circulated as ACONF.13/C.1/L.159, which called for a territorial sea of 6 miles and an additional 6-mile fishing zone subject to historic rights, see U.N. doc. ACONF.13/39, p. 253. Text of Dean’s statement made on April 16 introducing the proposal was transmitted in telegram 1152 from Geneva, April 16, and amended in telegram 1159 to Geneva of the same date. (Department of State, Central Files, 399.731/4–1658)
  3. See Document 361.
  4. For text of this proposal, which offered two 6-mile zones without historic rights, and which was introduced during the 50th meeting of the First Committee on the afternoon of April 16 and circulated as ACONF.13/C.l/L.77/Rev. 2, see U.N. doc. ACONF.13/39, p. 232.