198. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations1

2458. Subject: Definition of Aggression Committee. Refs: USUN 3009, 3115.2 Dept adheres long established conviction that definition of aggression would not aid UN in maintaining peace and that further efforts arrive at definition be undesirable and unproductive. UN Charter contemplates determination of aggression be based on political evaluation by competent UN organ of all circumstances pertinent to incident in question, rather than automatic application or a priori formula. Pursuant this conception, San Francisco Conference specifically declined include definition of aggression in Charter.

Definition of aggression considered by GA at fifth, sixth, seventh, ninth, eleventh, and twelfth sessions. Also considered by ILC at its third session, and by special committees appointed by GA in 1953 and 1956. Fact that these efforts did not result in agreement on definition indicates futility of further efforts. Dept. accordingly hopes Committee will adjourn without recommending further consideration definition by aggression in GA.

Pursuant GA res 1181(XII),3 committee composed of states members General Committee of most recent GA. Mission should consult with those delegations along foregoing lines in effort secure agreement committee should not recommend further consideration definition of aggression in GA.

In past, committee before adjourning fixed date for further meetings. If possible, Dept prefers omission this step. Instead, committee [Page 425] should adjourn with understanding it might meet in future at such time as majority its members deem fruitful. Thus necessity meetings at fixed intervals would be avoided.

Mission requested ascertain who will represent members in committee. FYI. Dept considers high level representation would lend undesirable importance to question, and does not contemplate high level US representation unless necessitated by representation other committee members. End FYI.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960–63, 320/3–1462. Official Use Only. Drafted by Leonard C. Meeker and Ernest L. Kerley (L) on March 23, cleared by Joseph J. Sisco and Stephen M. Schwebel (L/UNA), and approved by Woodruff Wallner (IO).
  2. In these telegrams from USUN, the Mission observed that the Representatives of Australia, the Netherlands, and Italy had inquired about U.S. views on a General Assembly committee meeting, tentatively set for early April, on the question of defining aggression. (Ibid., 320/3–862 and 320/3–1962)
  3. Resolution 1181 (XII), approved by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1957, asked the Secretary-General to request the views of member states, particularly new ones, on the question of defining aggression. Replies were to be referred to a committee composed of member states whose representatives had served on the General Committee at the most recent regular General Assembly session. The Committee was to study the replies to determine when it would be appropriate for the General Assembly to consider the question of defining aggression, and would report to the Secretary-General. Proponents of the resolution hoped that the subject could be placed on the General Assembly’s provisional agenda no later than the 14th session.