345. Memorandum of Conversation1 2


  • Seabed Principles


  • Senator Henry M. Jackson;
  • Jerry T. Verkler, Staff Director Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs;
  • Warren Nutter, Assistant Secretary of Defense;
  • Russell E. Train, Under Secretary of Interior;
  • Boyd Gibbons, Special Assistant to Mr. Train;
  • U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary for Political Affairs;
  • Herman Pollack, Director, International Scientific and Technological Affairs

Approximately three weeks ago Under Secretary Johnson requested a meeting with Senator Jackson following the oral insistence of Under Secretary Train that the Department of Interior would have to reserve its entire position on seabed principles pending consultation with the Senator. The meeting took place this morning in Senator Jackson’s office.

Almost at the outset of the conversation Senator Jackson asserted that under the Geneva Convention, there is no definition of a boundary and concurred in Under Secretary Johnson’s statement that there is a need to draw a line. Under Secretary Train observed that until the character of the regime beyond the line was clearer, we need to go slow on the location of the boundary. Senator Jackson at that point repeated an earlier statement about the very great complexity of the problem. He went on to say that the process of coming up with answers would be a long one and initiated the suggestion that an international moratorium was needed on boundary claims. All of the Executive Agency participants agreed on the necessity for a moratorium.

Under Secretary Johnson said that one of the pending questions within the Executive Branch was whether to seek a definition of a boundary by international agreement or by unilateral actions and [Page 2] stated the general preference of the State Department for the international agreement. Senator Jackson said that he looked forward to seeing the definition in the form of a treaty which would come before the Senate.

Under Secretary Train said that the oil industry wanted us to move slowly, maintain the present status quo, and avoid commitment to a boundary line at this time. Senator Jackson stated that he had not yet consulted the economic interests involved but had asked Charlie Jackson to provide him with some information on the industry points of view. (He described Charlie Jackson as a former Senate staff member.) Senator Jackson went on to suggest that he establish a subcommittee which might hold executive session hearings to obtain the view points of the interested executive agencies and of industry. In response to his question as to the urgency of the subject, Mr. Nutter spoke about the current discussions with the Soviets on territorial seas and straits, the pending discussions with the Peruvians, and the ENDC seabed discussions in Geneva. Mr. Pollack described the increasing difficulty of our position at the UN where the Seabeds Committee was currently conducting “informal” discussions on seabed principles. He made clear that there was on the table for discussion the U.S. June 28, 1968 Principles, Rio sets A and B, and 3 or 4 other sets of principles introduced by participants in the informal discussions.

Under Secretary Train stated that there was no disagreement on the need for principles, but that the Interior Department wanted to be very sure that the words used in formulating the principles would not give away anything we might later wish to retain. He cited as an example the proposed change in the word “arrangement” to “regime.” Regime connoted institutions, whereas arrangements was a broader and looser term. He also referred to the question as to whether the boundary should be “agreed” or “accepted.”

Senator Jackson alluded again to the proposal to establish a subcommittee to hear the views of the several Executive Departments. Mr. Pollack stated that he thought it would be unfortunate if the subcommittee’s time was taken up with hearing [Page 3] explanations with the differences between “arrangements” and “regime.” Under Secretary Johnson suggested that State, Defense, Interior and other Executive Departments continue to work on the principles and moratorium language. Once that had been worked out, a meeting with the subcommittee would be most useful. He went on to suggest that it would be helpful if the several interested committees—Interior, Commerce, Armed Services, and Foreign Relations—could agree to combined consultations or hearings. Senator Jackson said that he would look into that possibility.

Under Secretary Train said that the Interior Department was preparing a memorandum to be sent to State listing the words which were troubling them and seeking clarification as to their precise meaning. He hoped to show this memorandum on Thursday to Secretary Hickel who would be returning to his office on that day, but hoped to be able to make it available to the State Department even before that time. Under Secretary Train made it clear that he could not commit Secretary Hickel’s position on the principles. Senator Jackson said that he thought that the Departments ought to proceed with their efforts to get together on the language of the principles. Under Secretary Train asked if Senator Jackson was saying that the State Department should not go forward with the discussions in the UN and its guidance to the U.S. delegation. The Senator responded that he was sure that the State Department would have to do what was necessary.

Mr. Pollack said that it would be necessary for the U.S. delegation to proceed in the “informal” discussion on the basis of the June 28 Principles. Under Secretary Train wanted to know if it would be necessary to do this this week. Mr. Pollack said that he would want to talk to those who were following the discussions more closely in New York, but that from his knowledge of that, it would appear to be necessary to do this by the end of this week or the first of next. Under Secretary Train asked what our position would be if Secretary Hickel were to conclude later this week that the present administration of the Interior Department could not concur in the language of the June 28 Principles. Mr. Pollack then proposed that the delegation be instructed [Page 4] to state that the United States had under consideration clarifying changes in the language of the principles and that it be authorized to discuss the substance of the principles without continuing commitment to the exact language of the June 28 Principles. The Interior Department was assured that it would have an opportunity to clear this instruction.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 33-5. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Pollack and approved in J. The conversation was held in Jackson’s office. For the seabed principles proposed by the United States at the UN Ad Hoc Committee to Study the Peaceful Uses of the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor Beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction, see UN Document A/AC.135/25 (June 28, 1968).
  2. Executive Branch representatives discussed with Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson differences and concerns about Law of the Sea issues. All agreed on the need for a moratorium on seabed boundary claims. The Interior department reserved its position regarding the U.S. negotiating stance on seabed boundary issues in upcoming negotiations at the UN.