- UN Seabeds Committee Mtg., March 2-28, 1970: INTERNATIONAL REGIME
General Assembly Resolution 2574 (XXIV), adopted in December 1969, requests the Seabeds Committee to submit to the next session of the General Assembly in September 1970 (a) a draft statement of principles to promote the exploration and exploitation of seabed resources beyond the limits of national jurisdiction; (b) recommendations regarding the economic and technical conditions and the rules for the exploitation of the resources of this area in the context of the regime to be set up; and (c) a report on international machinery to promote the exploration and exploitation of seabed resources beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
The General Assembly asked the Committee to expedite the preparation of a comprehensive and balanced set of principles The Government accepts these requests as realistic and desirable, and understands that (a) and (b) will be the primary topics of the discussion March 2-28. We assume (c) awaits the SYG report, and therefore that detailed comment on machinery now would be premature
We also recognize that, it is desirable for the U.S. to be, and appear to be, responsive to the concerns of others as these have emerged, without of course jeopardizing the nation’s substantive interests in the matter.[Page 2]
Within the U.S. Government a concerted effort is being made to obtain an early decision on the U.S. position regarding the location of the seabed boundary. Compelling domestic, as well as international, factors will be taken into account in this decision and the Delegation’s strategy and tactics in the Seabeds Committee must be such as to retain full maneuverability for the successful presentation of a position on the boundary when it becomes available.
We further recognize that there is a close relationship between our positions on the boundary and on the principles governing a regime, in that the details of each will have a bearing on the prospects of international agreement on the other — and on both.
Although the Government is also studying the details of a regime that might be acceptable, this is not and cannot be completed before the end of March.
We believe that the guidance in State 133845 of August 9, 1969 and CA-4439 of August 7, 1969 furnished the Delegation for the August 1969 Seabeds Committee meeting with the refinements set out below, equips the Delegation to move or to tread water at the March session, as necessary.
The Delegation should draw on the President’s Foreign Policy Report, and the Legal Adviser’s speech of February 18, in any private discussions of General Assembly Resolution 2574(A) regarding the desirability of new Law of the Sea Conference.
FYI. Note that the speech does not say whether the Treaty should be prepared in the UN, at a Conference, or both. END FYI.
As appropriate or as necessary the Delegation may express regret that the Secretary-General’s paper on pollution called for by Resolution 2467(B) (XXIII) will not be ready until next Summer. We recognize that this means there will be little discussion of pollution at the March meeting. This is a subject on which we, like others, are anxious for progress.
The Delegation should make clear that the United States places great importance on the need to establish an international regime [Page 3] which will insure and encourage the peaceful, stable, cooperative development of seabed mineral resources. We recognize this means the creation of some international machinery, and we have given some of our ideas on this question at the August session. The Delegation should be attentive to reactions of other countries to these proposals. We recognize that regime issues are complex and will not be solved overnight. The Delegation may indicate that U.S. experts are now working on models for both registering and licensing machinery.
As pointed out at the beginning of this paper, the principal task of the Seabeds Committee is now to develop a set of principles which may be referred to the 25th General Assembly for approval. The Delegation should work toward agreement at the March meeting on a set of principles along the lines indicated below, building on the synthesis achieved at the August 1969 session of the Seabeds Committee.
On the assumption that the discussion of the principles which should be incorporated in the declaration will be based on the synthesis set out in paragraphs 85-97 of the Seabeds Committee Report (Doc. A/7622), the following guidance is provided with reference to the numbered paragraphs of that report (copy attached):
85. Agreed. We continue to accept the concept that there is an area of the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof which is beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. We are not yet, however, as indicated above, prepared to discuss the location of the boundary. We are not prepared to yield to Latin American pressure to eliminate the reference to the establishment of an internationally agreed boundary. FYI. The Delegation should bear in mind that we will eventually wish to introduce our boundary position, when formulated, in the general discussions in the Seabeds Committee. END FYI.
86. This is acceptable as stated.
87. We can accept the first proposition. As for “property rights,” we could accept such a reference in the first part, to read “exclusive sovereign or property rights.” The key clause in the first part that permits this is “except as may be provided in a regime.” As to the second proposition, we can agree that [Page 4] no one may acquire property rights over any part of the area itself; however, we must assure that exploiters, nevertheless, enjoy secure property rights to the resources they exploit, and that, under a regime, they can receive exclusive property rights to resources within a specified area for a specified time.
88. The Delegation is now authorized to accept the “common heritage of mankind” principle. We believe that the phrase can and should be used in the conceptual sense rather than one having or sought to be endowed with the force of law. We assume that indication of our acceptance can be conveyed consistently with the positions we have already taken and with the guidance in this message. The Delegation should assure that the record indicates our interpretation of this principle as follows: It reflects the idea that States may not claim sovereignty over the area, and that the responsibility for dealing with problems affecting the use of this area rests with the international community. Above all, while not a rule of property law in itself, the principle is a solemn admonition to States that peaceful uses of the area may only be sanctioned or prohibited as provided by international law and international agreement.
89. We agree. The Delegation should continue to make clear that until new and more specific rules are agreed, existing principles of international law, including the United Nations Charter, apply.
90. The purpose of the whole exercise is ultimately to provide new rules of international law, by treaty.
91. We agree. The Delegation should repeat the U.S. interpretive statement as appropriate.
92. The Delegation should note that this principle obviously is not restricted by the limits of national jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of the seabed, but should apply to the broadest possible area of the seabeds. A consensus seems to be emerging in the CCD on the geographic scope of the draft Seabeds Arms Control Treaty, and there is no need to get into the problem in the Seabeds Committee.
93. We agree. The words “legal” and “international” are acceptable; the word “agreed” is essential. A phrase such as “including appropriate international machinery” is acceptable. The last paragraph of this Airgram is particularly relevant here.[Page 5]
94. We agree.
95. On dissemination, our position remains as expressed in August by John R. Stevenson in the Legal Subcommittee.
“In considering elements (it) and (iii), it is necessary to consider element (v) at the same time. In some States all oceanographic activities are conducted under a national scientific program, while this is not the case in others. I know that many members of this committee are familiar with the oceanographic activities conducted by private universities and institutions in the United States.
“While, as I shall indicate shortly, we are prepared to support dissemination provisions with respect to national scientific programs, in the case of research by private institutions, we have a long tradition of independence and believe we should do no more than provide that states shall encourage their nationals to follow similar practices.
“Turning then to the substance of elements (ii) and (iii), we would favor principles providing for timely dissemination of plans for and results of national scientific programs concerning the, area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. We would not favor a rigid publication requirement since the burden of publication cannot realistically be imposed in all cases.
“The international scientific community and, I might add, particularly the oceanographic community, has a highly developed system for disseminating information peculiarly suited to particular needs: it includes books, articles in learned journals, circulation of monographs, visits of scientists, and world oceanographic data centers. We would do well to avoid tampering with either the precise method or the precise time for such dissemination, limiting our selves here—as in other cases—to the underlying general statement of principle.”
The Delegation is authorized to accept language that scientific research should not be the basis for claims for rights of exploitation. The Delegation is authorized to accept a reference such as [Page 6] “including developing countries” in the “international cooperation” section, but should avoid specific language on “strengthening their research capabilities.” The Delegation should not agree to a firm obligation regarding prior communication of scientific research programs.
96. We agree.
97. No reference to the rights of coastal states in “this area” can be accepted, particularly with respect to scientific research. However, the Delegation should be careful to avoid any comment which would foreclose an intermediate zone solution to the boundary question; it may simply note that this question can only be resolved in connection with the resolution of the boundary question, and should not be dealt with in a general statement of principles. With respect to liability, the following language is authorized:
“There shall be liability for damages resulting from the exploration and exploitation of this area. Specific internationally agreed rules shall be established in furtherance of this principle.”
Beyond this, the Delegation should reserve our position. FYI. The Delegation is not authorized to state a view one way or the other on state responsibility or absolute or strict liability. END FYI.
The Delegation is also authorized informally to explore with other Delegations technical aspects of a workable regime which may be created for the area of the seabeds beyond national jurisdiction. We will be interested in learning views of other delegations on institutional framework, criteria, rules and procedures of possible forms of machinery described by the Secretary-General in Document A/7622 and on the position put forward by the Delegation at the August 1969 session of the Seabeds Committee. In this connection, members of the Delegation will be prepared to discuss U.S. experience in offshore mineral resource development which may have applicability for a deep seabed regime. We believe that informal discussions will help lay a realistic basis for considering at the August session the Secretary-General’s forthcoming report on machinery in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 2574(C). If the question of scientific research is [Page 7] raised in these private discussions, the Delegation should be noncommittal and state that this matter is being studied by the U.S. Government.
Further instructions will be sent to the Delegation as additional U.S. positions are worked out. We do not wish to run the risk of the General Assembly writing principles in September on its own because the Seabeds Committee failed to produce a draft as instructed by the General Assembly in Resolution 2574. Consequently, the Delegation should make every possible effort to secure agreement on principles, and should not hesitate to recommend language to us which would help accomplish this result, bearing in mind, however, the importance of keeping open all our options on the boundary issue.
The Delegation should not attempt to secure agreement on particular kinds of machinery, except it may continue to oppose an international operating agency. This is not intended to prevent the Delegation from exploring the advantages and disadvantages of differing kinds of machinery. The Delegation is encouraged to make recommendations to Washington based on such explorations as to desirable forms of machinery.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 33-6. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by McIntyre, Simsarian, and Oxman on March 10; cleared with SCI, E, S/FW, PM, L, ACDA, Defense, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Justice, NSF, and NCMRED; and approved by Greene. Repeated to London, Moscow, the Mission at Geneva, and USNATO. Telegram 133845 was sent to USUN and repeated to the Mission at Geneva, USNATO, London, and Moscow. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 33-6)↩
- The Department forwarded instructions for the March 1970 meeting of the UN Seabeds Committee, including amendments to previous U.S. positions.↩