382. Circular Airgram From the Department of State to Certain European Missions1


The Department has accepted an invitation by the UK to send representatives to meet in London on November 16 to discuss preparations for the second Law of the Sea Conference. The US delegation [Page 733] will be headed by the Honorable Arthur H. Dean. Other countries invited and expected send representatives are: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.

FYI Only: The Law of the Sea was discussed between US and Canada at meetings held in Ottawa on October 23.2 Following is text of “Summary of Conclusions” of these meetings:

“(I) Canada and US will enter into bilateral discussions in November 1959. These discussions will be designed to achieve bilateral agreement on a tapering off period for exercise of traditional fishing rights. The entering into such an agreement would be conditional on straight unqualified 6 plus 6 formula being adopted by Conference.

“(II) The US will attempt to gain support of European countries on November 16 for a straight 6 plus 6 formula to be supplemented by bilateral agreements—conditional on straight 6 plus 6 formula being approved by Conference.

“(III) Canada will approach Norway, Denmark, Ireland and possibly Iceland in order determine whether they would accept this plan.

“(IV) On broad basis, an informal network of undertakings would be established—all conditional on straight 6 plus 6 position being adopted at 1960 Conference.”

In informing British Chargé October 28 of “Conclusions” reached at meetings in Ottawa, Under Secretary Murphy said it clear Conference failure would result in acceleration trend toward 12-mile territorial sea by unilateral acts with consequent threat free world security and damage to US and foreign fisheries. Though US/UK formula probably acceptable to as many or more countries than any other so far considered it now apparent this formula unlikely command safe margin support at Conference. In fact US now considered it probable Conference would adopt no formula which would provide for foreign fishing in outer zone in perpetuity. Agreement on a narrow (not greater than 6-mile) territorial sea was overriding US objective. It sought achieve this objective with minimum damage traditional fisheries. US had reluctantly concluded formula along lines “Conclusions” offers best (and possibly only) chance to accomplish this. Canadians had accepted necessity work out network of pre-Conference bilateral arrangements as regards continuation fishing; also Canadian position would be public thus making possible open US, UK, Canadian collaboration which would increase chances acceptance formula by Conference. He sincerely hoped UK would support the US/Canadian agreement and would continue lend its great influence to Conference success.

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Referring to paragraph (II) of “Conclusions” Mr. Murphy suggested UK inform countries invited to London meeting in advance of substance of US/Canadian agreement.3

End FYI.

As suggested by Mr. Murphy, UK expected inform addressee countries of substance US/Canadian agreement quoted above. Embassy should not take initiative this regard.

Embassy requested however report promptly any information which may be developed as to probable attitude of addressee countries at London meeting on November 16; also names and positions officials to attend meeting.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 399.731/10–2959. Confidential. Drafted by Richards; cleared with Taylor, Nunley, Yingling, and NEA; sent to Ankara, Athens, Bonn, Brussels, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, Rome, and The Hague; and repeated to London, Ottawa, New York, Copenhagen, Dublin, Oslo, and Reykjavik.
  2. A memorandum, to which is attached a U.S. talking paper for these meetings, is ibid., 399.731/10–2359.
  3. On October 30, the Embassy in London reported that the working level in the Foreign Office considered the U.S.-Canadian agreement “not at all satisfactory.” (Telegram 2323; ibid., 399.731/10–3059) A similar reaction was reported to Richards by the Second Secretary of the British Embassy on November 2. (Memorandum of conversation, November 11; ibid., 399.731/11–259) On November 6, the Department cabled further that the conclusions should not be distributed before the London meeting. (Circular telegram 627; ibid., 399.731/11–659)