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214 Australian Delegation, United Nations, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram UN692 NEW YORK, 14 November 1946, 1.03 a.m.


Assembly 151.

Your UN[Y]321. [1]

Amendment to Soviet resolution on disarmament and atomic energy.

The following is a summary of views expressed in private discussions.

1. The United Kingdom delegation have indicated general support but have not commented in detail.

2. Canadian delegation have suggested a number of additions to our draft amendment along the following lines- (a) Paragraph 1-for 'reduction' read 'regulation and reduction'.

(b) New paragraph 2 recommending to Security Council negotiation without further delay of special agreements under Article 43.

(c) Paragraph 3 (replacing Soviet paragraph 2) urging expeditious fulfilment of the Atomic Energy Commission of its terms of reference (our Assembly 63 [2] paragraph 5(b)).

(d) Paragraph 4. 'A system for the general regulation and reduction of armaments must be based on an international treaty or convention on the limitation of armament.' This treaty or convention would provide two safeguards for complying States against the hazards of violation and evasion: one, international responsibility with effective guarantees for the loyal execution of the treaty or convention, and two, sanctions against States violating essential provisions of the treaty or convention.

(e) Paragraph 5. 'In order to [provide] complying States with effective guarantees from loyal execution of the treaty or convention, it should provide for the establishment of a permanent international commission of control with the power to carry out investigations on the spot in the event of reasonable suspicion of a breach of the treaty or convention and of subsequent supplementary agreements on the reduction and limitation of armaments, and to appoint for this purpose special Commission of enquiry.' It will be noted that this follows almost word for word Litvinov's proposal to the disarmament conference of 1932. [3]

(f) Paragraph 6. Recommendation to Security Council to formulate plans for regulation of armament under Article 26.

(g) Paragraph 7. Calling Governments to assist the Security Council, Military Staff Committee and Atomic Energy Commission, and continuing substantially as in Soviet paragraph 4.

3. We understand that the Canadians do not propose to take initiative but prefer United States to move amendment which they would then support.

4. United States delegation has not yet crystallised its views but is inclined to prefer the Canadian draft. They favour an amendment designed to keep control of atomic energy distinct from disarmament. They would prefer however, a simple reaffirmation of the terms of reference of the Atomic Energy Commission stressing the control and safeguards aspects rather than endorsement by the Assembly of the United States proposals. This latter view which has been approved by Byrnes is based on the following considerations.

(a) Some members of the Commission, e.g. France, might deny that they 'supported' the United States proposal. The French delegation in particular have shown extreme reluctance to oppose Soviet, especially since recent election.

(b) The attempt to secure endorsement of the United States proposal might be resented by some smaller countries not represented on the Commission.

(c) The United States proposal has been interpreted in such varied ways that a long debate would probably ensue which the Soviet Delegates might use for further attacks on America's good faith.

(d) The USSR and its associates would in any case oppose strongly and the amendment might secure only a bare 2/3rds majority even if a slightly larger majority were secured, it would not greatly strengthen the hands of the United States supporters in the Commission.

(e) The United States would prefer matter to come to a head in the Commission rather than in the Assembly.

5. United States Delegation also attach great importance to the principle that adequate international safeguards should be incorporated in the system for general regulation of Armaments as well as in atomic energy control.

6. In addition the United States delegation have made the following tentative comments on the Canada draft, paragraph by paragraph.

1. Stress on 'regulation' as against 'reduction' welcomed.

2. This pinning of responsibility on USSR to co-operate in the Military Staff Committee is a useful point. Negotiation of Article 43 agreements would assist armament regulation plans. On the other hand reduction in armaments would affect character of the agreements. United States view is that planning for agreements and for regulation of Armaments should proceed concurrently.

3. and 4. These meet the United States requirements discussed in paragraph 4 and 5 above.

5. USSR might find difficulty in repudiating proposal by Litvinov, although it was made a long time ago and it could be argued that circumstances are now different. However, United States regard investigations after a breach of the treaty is suspected as inadequate and would prefer machinery through which United States would be aware of attempts to violate agreement in the formative period.

6. No comment.

7. Agreeable.

7. We feel that although the Canadian additions would make the amendment rather complex, they have the merit of covering the whole field and would give a sound basis on which plans for the regulation of armaments could be formulated. However, in order to achieve objective envisaged in your UNY321 while taking into account United States views stated in paragraph 4 above with which we agree, we suggest that the following be added to paragraph 3 of Canadian draft, 'the Assembly is of the opinion that since the activities in the domain of Atomic energy leading to peaceful and destructive ends are so intimately inter-related as to be almost inseparable, the control of atomic energy to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes, the elimination of atomic weapons from National armaments, and the provision of effective safeguards to protect complying States against the hazards of violations and evasions must be accomplished through a single International instrument or Treaty designed to carry out these related purposes concurrently.' 8. We are preparing composite draft which subject to your approval we would propose to move as an Australian amendment. However, before cabling the text we would be glad of your views on the various points raised in this telegram. Debate on disarmament is unlikely before 20th.

1 Dispatched 1 November. it proposed amending the Soviet proposal on disarmament (conveyed in Document 186) by deleting paragraph 2, renumbering paragraph 3 as paragraph 2 and including a new paragraph 3 in which the General Assembly would express agreement in principle with the proposals submitted to the Atomic Energy Commission by the U.S. Geer and supported by other govts.

2 Document 187.

3 M. M. Litvinov, U.S.S.R. politician and diplomat. For a full account of the World Disarmament Conference, see, for example, Arnold J. Toynbee, Survey of International Affairs 1932, London, 1933, pp.192-300.

[AA:A1838/2, 852/10/4]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History