Historical Documents - Office of the Historian (2024)

IO Files: US/A/M (Chr)/1901

Minutes of the Third Meeting of the United States Delegation to the Sixth Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Hotel Astoria, Paris, November 3, 19512

Paris, November 3, 1951


Present: The Secretary
Ambassador Austin
Mrs. Roosevelt3
Representative Mansfield4
Representative Vorys5
Ambassador Jessup

[Here follow a list of advisers present (36) and the agenda of the meeting.]

The Secretary opened the meeting by outlining the disarmament proposal. Recapitulating on procedure, he said the National Security Council had given long consideration to this matter and that it had been approved by the President. Our views had been given to the United Kingdom and France, neither of which had answered with its final position. Schuman liked the plan and hoped for a cabinet decision by Monday.6 Eden was to come to Paris Sunday with the United Kingdom’s views. Pending final approval the three powers had worked on a joint statement, to be given about noon Wednesday, Washington time, followed by a fireside chat by President Truman that night. The Secretary was to follow up on this proposal with his opening speech in the General Assembly on Thursday.

He recalled that the history of this proposal dated back to the October 24, 1950 speech of President Truman to the General Assembly, when the ideas on it had not taken final shape in the government. The most important point was for the United States to take a vigorous lead, ahead of the USSR. The proposal should be such that, if accepted, we could live in security with the Russians and with the plan. He recalled that in the conventional armaments field we had lacked a plan, whereas in atomic energy we had had a very good one. The present proposal was an attempt to harmonize the two fields, to obtain disclosure, verification, control, and limitation.

[Page 571]

The substance of the proposal was that before the plan would go into effect, there would need to be international inspection and verification procedures, agreed to in both fields, and applicable to all nations of significance in armaments, both major powers and parts of important blocs. Inspection was to be by stages, so that what had been agreed upon for submission to the plan’s processes would be subject to inspection. All parts of the plan, however, would have to be accepted before it could go into effect. There would be no armaments or armed forces allowed to continue which had an aggressive nature. Breaches of this rule would be ascertained by the inspection procedures. The problem of maintaining sufficient defensive forces which would nevertheless lack an offensive character was to be solved first by a limitation on personnel. There was to be either a ceiling or a certain percentage of the population set as the maximum for armed forces. Precise figures, even as examples, had been omitted from the plan in order to avoid freezing any one position.

The second part of the solution lay in limiting the amount of the national product which could go into the armaments. The third factor in the solution would be to obtain agreed national programs which would avoid attempts at circumventing the first two points of this solution. That is to say, each nation would have to agree to use its men and national product allowance only in a way which could be justified as necessary for defense. The foregoing applied principally to the conventional armaments and armed forces field. In the atomic energy field the United Nations plan or an equally workable one would also have to be accepted as part and parcel of the whole disarmament proposal.

When agreement had been reached on the plan in its entirety, disclosure was to begin. The less sensitive areas, such as the number of police, or the number of soldiers, would be the starting point. From there one would progress to more secret matters. Perhaps disclosure in the atomic energy field would be one of the last steps. We had tried to rationalize this matter and to say that we were not holding out anything special for ourselves in case our own atomic energy program had not been entirely completed.

In the proposal and in the tripartite statement it had been made particularly clear that our military defensive efforts would continue. It had been pointed out that this matter could not be discussed separately from various political factors. Thus it would be necessary to clean up the fighting in Korea and Indo-China7 before the plan could go into effect, but this need not stop discussion of our proposal.

In commenting on the Secretary’s presentation, Mrs. Roosevelt assumed that the proposal was the beginning of a discussion having [Page 572] great propaganda value against the USSR, and did not mean that we were going to do anything right now. The Secretary agreed, saying that even with good will it would take a long time to put this plan into effect. Mr. Mansfield said that he was delighted with the proposal, especially since both the House and Senate were extremely interested in this field. Mr. Vorys also liked the proposal as a challenging formula which looked and was real, and on which we need not renege. He posed the question of whether we were to speak on this matter before or after the Russians. Mr. Ross8 said that we had arranged for the Secretary to speak before Vyshinsky. Mr. Sandifer9 reminded the delegation however, that there was no assurance that if the Secretary wanted to speak on Thursday that he would therefore precede Vyshinsky. Ambassador Jessup recalled that normally Vyshinsky had followed Acheson. This time, Eden would follow Vyshinsky in rebuttal, thereby bracketing him and his remarks. Mr. Vorys suggested that the Secretary should speak first even if this would mean that the United States were to stand by itself on the proposal.

Various proposals were made to assure that the Secretary’s speech timed for Thursday would precede Vyshinsky: having the General Committee meet Wednesday afternoon following elections in the morning, having others speak Wednesday afternoon, or calling a Security Council meeting for Wednesday afternoon on Kashmir. The Secretary regarded it as very important that he speak before Vyshinsky.

Ambassador Kirk10 recalled that the World Peace Council was meeting in Vienna at that very moment.11 The Secretary read a news dispatch in which Ilya Ehrenberg12 had called for a five-power pact and outlawry of atomic weapons. Ambassador Kirk pointed out that the disarmament proposal in the Secretary’s speech was a one package item, only for sale as a unit. He attempted to predict the Soviet reaction on the basis of their attitude toward the problem of an inspection of a cease-fire line in Korea, and toward elections in Germany. Inspection was a very thorny problem for the USSR. In regard to the percentage of national product going into the armament field, he pointed out how the Soviets conceal many things by juggling figures. There are equally difficult factors in regard to the true statistics of the Soviet [Page 573] population. The Secretary suggested that the ceiling device would have to be used for the USSR.

Dr. Tobias13 referred to the public relations aspect of this proposal. He wondered whether the US might be yielding somewhat to Soviet leadership by changing its stand. He suggested that we avoid this by an indication that this proposal is the voice of the united mind of the USA. He thought that a voice like Ambassador Austin’s, were he not in his present position, raised in behalf of this proposal, would be a major stroke of public relations, rising above partisan politics. The Secretary said that in the Senate Mr. Flanders and Mr. McMahon are part of a bipartisan group interested in and strongly supporting this proposal.

Mr. Cohen14 felt this proposal to be a tremendous advance, answering a real need. He thought that in speaking of “an agreed national program” it would be better to refer to it as a “national and regional program”, which would maintain the balanced structure upon which there was mutual agreement. He recalled that the problem for us had been the armlessness of Western Europe, vis-à-vis the USSR, so that the Western Europeans had been living almost by leave of the USSR. So too in Asia, small, weak nations lived at the mercy of the big powers there. It may be, he said, that today’s world is such as to make it difficult for the US to live with its own program, unless all parts of the proposal are accepted. He felt that the US should be frank about such a situation. In regard to “disclosures in appropriate stages” it would be a good idea, if possible, to link atomic disclosures with others, to avoid the charge that we do not intend to disclose any of our own vital information.

Mrs. Roosevelt feared that the USSR would so slant matters that it would claim certain of its areas were free countries, by which device full control could be evaded.

Admiral Badger15 noted that a J. C. S. paper16 was in accord with this study. He too favored the new proposal, although he felt somewhat pessimistic as to the expectations of success.

Ambassador Sayre17 again brought up the question of whether the contemplated agreement would include Red China. The Secretary answered that any effective agreement would have to include every power, or there would otherwise be a “wild ace in the pack.” Ambassador [Page 574] Jessup followed this up by pointing out that in the position paper18 it was stated that this was all to be done in the UN and within the framework of the UN.

Ambassador Gross19 wanted to know what the tactical objective of this proposal was intended to be. Was it to be a resolution in Committee 1, under the report of the Committee of Twelve?20 Mr. Meyers said that the Secretary would ask in the general debate for a new item which would be sent to the same committee as the Committee of Twelve Report would go. We would table a resolution, and there could be a debate on the substance of the proposal, but it would be preferable to have the new consolidated commission recommended by the Committee of Twelve consider our proposal as one of its proper duties. The Secretary said that at later meetings the procedural schemes would be taken up. Mr. Meyers added that the precise details of the proposal would be worked out within the new unified or consolidated commission.

[Here follows discussion of another subject.]

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