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Historical documents

214 Hill to Tange

Minute, CANBERRA, 28 June 1949

This Commission has again commenced work on the basis of the Assembly resolution of 19th November, 1948. This resolution asked the Security Council to report to the Assembly not later than the next regular session, on effect given to the recommendation that the Security Council should continue the study of the regulation and reduction of conventional armaments.

2. The delegation of France has submitted a working paper containing proposals for the implementation of the Assembly's resolution. This working paper raises problems which, while not at present of direct concern to Australia, may become so when the Assembly reconvenes for its Fourth Session.

3. The French paper sets out various general considerations on the basis of the resolution adopted by the Assembly and then contains specific proposals and recommendations on a census of conventional armaments and a verification of the information supplied. This has been proposed in accordance with the Assembly's suggestion that the Commission 'in carrying out its plan of work, will devote its first attention to formulating proposals for the receipt, checking, and publication ... of full information to be supplied by Member States with regard to their effectives and their conventional armaments'.

4. French plans for a census appear to cover the entire range of conventional armaments and effectives. The plan for verification provides for the greatest possible freedom of movement and access to information. The Control Agency would be empowered to direct investigations by international verification teams 'which will perform all inspections, spot checks, and physical counts needed for an adequate cross checking of the reported information'.

5. The plan is reported to have received the support of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Cuba, and Norway, and has been opposed by the Soviet Union, the Ukraine, and Egypt.

6. There are certain aspects of the proposal which appear to be unrealistic and fail to take into account all the factors at present operating in the field of reduction and regulation of armaments. It is of course true that the General Assembly directed that separate studies should be made of conventional armaments and atomic weapons. On the other hand the Assembly resolution dealing with conventional armaments did note that 'the aim of the reduction of conventional armaments and armed forces can only be attained in an atmosphere of real and lasting improvement in international relations, which implies in particular the application of control of atomic energy, involving the prohibition of the atomic weapon'. The resolution did go on to not that a renew of confidence would be encouraged if States were placed in possession of precise information as to the level of their respective conventional armaments and armed forces.

7. The French paper rather fails to take into account the Assembly statement on the control of atomic energy. It is fairly clear that the Soviet Union would not be prepared to accept any investigation or any census of their effectives and conventional armaments which would open up all weapons available to them for investigation by an international team, without at the same time having information made available on atomic weapons. The French proposal, in fact, envisages all the information on Russian armaments being made available, while at the same time the United States would not be called upon to make known any information concerning atomic weapons held by that country. In addition, it is clear that the Soviet Union, in accordance with policies adopted on other occasions, would not agree to extensive international investigation by teams which they would claim would open their country to study by committees dominated by the United States.

[8]. Any plan which fails to take into account the obvious stand to be adopted by the Soviet Union is doomed to failure. In view of this the question must be faced either now or at the next Assembly, as to what action, if any, can be taken in terms of the Assembly resolution of last year. It is suggested that the obvious course would be the preparation of a plan which would be agreed to by Eastern European countries, and which would be implemented however, only when agreement has been reached on the measures to be taken for the control of atomic energy, including the prohibition of atomic weapons. Such a policy would, it is suggested, be in keeping with the general tenor of the resolution adopted by the Assembly, and would at least take into account the overall factors operating in the present international situation. Such a policy does, of course, mean that no agreement would be reached in the event of failure of United Nations efforts to control atomic energy and prohibit atomic weapons. However, a plan could be evolved which could be implemented at any time in the event of future agreement on atomic energy.

[9]. It is suggested that this policy should be followed by the Australian delegation to the forthcoming session of the General Assembly.[1]

[1] Tange annotated the minute with the comment: 'Your argument seems right to me. Pls bring forward when preparing Assembly data papers'. The points were used in the brief for the fourth session of the General Assembly and included an additional suggestion that a census and verification of atomic weapons be included in the French plan.

The Commission for Conventional Armaments adopted the French plan on 1 August 1949.

[AA : A1838, 854/12/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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