383. Message From Secretary of State Herter to Foreign Secretary Lloyd1

Dear Selwyn: I appreciate your recent message2 giving us the benefit of your views on the thorny problem of our approach to the 1960 Conference on the Law of the Sea. Your letter gives me a welcome opportunity to review our position and to clarify certain aspects of the “Conclusions”3 which resulted from our meetings with the Canadians in Ottawa, which aspects, I fear, were not adequately covered [Page 735] in official communications. This is especially opportune as Arthur Dean will be in London within a few days to discuss prospects for the Conference.

Our thinking has gone through several phases. After the defeat of our final proposal at the 1958 Conference at Geneva we were of the view that in order to achieve success at a subsequent conference we should in the interim press for resolution of the bilateral and regional fishery problems, which existed among members of the North Atlantic community and which were such a divisive influence. We had concluded that it was almost impossible to write a general formula which would take cognizance of these particular problems and yet be sufficiently simple and politically attractive to marshal the necessary widespread support, especially from the Latin American and Afro-Asian countries.

Later, however, we once again began to reflect on the possibilities of a formula which would achieve much the same end as the one we sponsored finally at Geneva, but so modified as to meet some of the objections which prevented some countries from supporting it at Geneva. Your experts and ours developed such a formula and during the past year we both have been discreetly sounding out numerous other countries to ascertain whether such a formula was likely to be accepted by the required two-thirds.

The results of our efforts in this direction have not been encouraging. After a hard and soul-searching look at the situation we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that no general formula which provides for traditional foreign fishing in a so-called outer 6-mile zone in perpetuity is likely to be accepted by the required majority. In addition we have reverted to the view we held at the end of the first Geneva Conference that the soundest approach may be through bilateral or regional arrangements as regards fisheries.

The “Conclusions” reached in our talks with the Canadians reflect this line of thought, that broad support for a formula providing a narrow territorial sea is our principal objective, that such support can be achieved only through suitable accommodations on fisheries in the North Atlantic area, and that the best chance for achieving such support now appears to lie through the bilateral or regional approach. It is therefore our intention to explain the “Conclusions” reached at Ottawa and the considerations involved to the conferees at London and to elicit their views. Further steps in the plan of action outlined in the “Conclusions” and any ultimate obligations resulting from such steps, must depend upon and be conditioned by the reactions of the participants at the meeting in London.

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I am quick to admit that I share your concern as regards tactics with respect to the 1960 conference. It may be desirable that any agreed proposal be managed so as to give it the earmarks of a fallback or compromise position, although such a tactic presents obvious difficulties.

As regards your request that we do what we can to discourage the Canadians from making their proposed approach to Norway, Denmark, Ireland and possibly Iceland, I am not sure at the moment just how far the Canadians may have already gone. It appears that they have already talked to the Norwegians at least. However, we shall suggest to the Canadians that they will be better able to approach the others later and that meanwhile it is in our common interest to handle the matter most discreetly. For our part, as you request, we shall refrain from circulating in advance of the London meeting the proposed memorandum embodying the “Conclusions”.

As you point out, the Atlantic community should stand together. We have the widest area of common interests and hence if we cannot settle our differences among ourselves the chances of success at the Conference will be critically reduced if not eliminated altogether.

I trust that the foregoing will enable you to see our recent activities in a better light. In any case we shall, as you request, hold our hand until Arthur Dean has an opportunity to explore the whole situation thoroughly with your people in London.

With warmest personal regards,

Most sincerely,

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 399.731/11–1159. Confidential; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Richards on November 9; cleared by Taylor, Nunley, Hager, and Pender; and initialed by Herter. Transmitted in telegram 3816 to London, which is the source text, for delivery. Telegram 3816 was repeated by pouch to Ottawa and to USUN for Dean.
  2. Dated November 5; in it, Lloyd advised Herter that the United Kingdom could not support the U.S.-Canadian proposal (see supra) and regretted that it had been made without prior consultation with the British. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204)
  3. See supra.
  4. Telegram 3816 bears this typed signature.