149. Telegram 168999 From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations1 2


  • CBW Tactics in GA


  • (1) Geneva 3517, (2) State 138489, (3) State 144771, (4) USUN 3280
We recognize that there will be strong focus on CBW at current GA. We will be handicapped in dealing with problem by fact that US internal policy review on CBW will be continuing at least until early November as schedule now stands.
Accordingly we will wish to deal with CBW issue at GA in non-substantive terms to extent possible. Even if US policy were clearly established, [Page 2]however, our preference would probably be for General Assembly to refrain from becoming deeply in substance of problem at this stage.
Optimum result from our point of view would be referral of all CBW items to CCD with substantive comments not going much beyond GA Res 2162B (XXI). This is essentially what draft submitted to CCD by Canadians seeks to do. We recognize that Canadian proposal received little support in CCD and that many regarded it as marking no advance over status quo. Submission of Soviet draft convention directly to GA, however, has introduced new element which gives added force to argument that all proposals should be considered further by CCD before any substantive action taken. It may be possible to increase attractiveness of Canadian-[Page 3]type proposal by beefing up content somewhat, as by commending study of all existing draft proposals (rather than UK BW convention alone) as useful efforts toward agreed objective of reducing likelihood that CB weapons would be used. Strong commendation of SYG CBW Report should also be helpful, so long as this focuses on Experts’ Report and avoids explicit endorsement of recommendations of SYG’s covering letter.
We recognize that outcome of US policy review, should it be completed prior to end of GA session, could affect chances of acceptable result in GA, and that there might be moves then available to us which would help curb pressures for damaging substantive resolutions along lines of Swedish draft. It is not practical at this stage, however, to include such factor in designing our tactical approach.
We therefore believe that best approach will be to begin laying groundwork for referral of all CBW items to CCD. Presumably we would wish to reach understanding with Sovs on such outcome. Meanwhile, you should make clear in New York, as we have in Geneva, that Swedish draft is unacceptable from our point of view (drawing on Reftels 2 and 3). We are aware that emphasis on inappropriateness of consideration by GA may be used to support arguments for UNDC, but believe latter problem will have to be dealt with on its own merits.
We realize that reportedly contradictory statements by US sources regarding uses of riot control agents such as tear gas in Vietnam (Reftel 4) make this subject particularly troublesome. Obviously Mission will want to avoid discussion whenever possible. If pressed on US policy re use of tear gas in war, you should confine yourself to reiterating [Page 5]that agents being used in Viet Nam are those that Governments around the world commonly use to control riots. You should avoid debating whether such use is “humanitarian” or not.
We would appreciate comments from New York and Geneva on foregoing and on tactics and timing.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–1969, POL 27–10 UN. Confidential. It was also sent to USMission Geneva. It was repeated to Ottawa, London, Moscow, Stockholm, and USNATO. Drafted on October 3 by Day and Lorenz (IO/UNP); cleared in IO, IO/UNP ACDA, ACDA/GC, L, L/UNA, DOD/ISA (info), and PM; paragraph 6 was cleared in substance in DOD/OGC; and approved by De Palma.
  2. The Department of State issued instructions to the United Nations and the Committee on the Conference for Disarmament delegations on how to handle the UN General Assembly discussions of chemical and biological warfare while awaiting NSC guidance from the NSSM 59 review.