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4. Address by Secretary of State James F. Byrnes to the General Assembly, December 13, 1946
8 The United States supports wholeheartedly the proposed resolutions. I first wish to congratulate the members of the Committee by reconciling their differences and reporting the resolutions. They have made a splendid contribution to the cause of peace. I have learned too of the splendid assistance rendered the Committee by the accomplished President of the Assembly, and I know you will all join me in expressing appreciation of the efforts of the distinguished representative of Belgium, Mr. Spaak.
Ever since the close of hostilities, it has been the policy of the United States to hasten the return of conditions of peace. We want to enable the fighting men of the United Nations to return to their homes and their families. We want to give the people of all lands the chance to rebuild what the war has destroyed. There need be no concern about the willingness of the American people to do everything within their power to rid themselves and the world of the burden of excessive armaments.
In the recent past, the concern of peace-loving nations has not been that America maintained excessive armaments. The concern has been that America failed to maintain adequate armaments to guard the peace. When Hitler started the world war in September 1939, Germany had been preparing for war for more than five years. But at that time, there were in active service of the United States in the Army, Navy and the Air Force, only 330,000 men. It was our military weakness, not our military strength, that encouraged Axis aggression.
After the first World War, Japan was given a mandate over strategically important islands in the Southwest Pacific which bound her to keep those islands demilitarized. Although the evidence showed that Japan was violating the terms of the mandate, the United States delayed in building bases on islands under her sovereignty in the Pacific. The result was that when the United States was treacherously attacked at Pearl Harbor, she had no adequately fortified base in the Pacific between Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. Japan's covenant not to use the mandated territories as military bases contained no safeguards to insure compliance. Japan's covenant misled the United States, but it did not restrain Japan. That was our mistake, and we do not intend again to make that mistake.
While before the second World War the peace-loving nations were seeking peace through disarmament, aggressor nations were building up their armaments. And all the while aggressor nations were building up armaments, they were claiming that they were being smothered and encircled by other nations. While we scrapped battleships, Japan scrapped blueprints. While we reduced our Army to the size of a large police force, Germany trained its youth for war.
Too late, those who had taken a leading part in the struggle for general disarmament before the second World War discovered that Axis agents were deliberately organizing and supporting disarmament movements in non-Axis countries in order to render those countries powerless to resist their aggression. Too late, those who had taken a leading part in the struggle for general disarmament discovered that it was not safe to rely upon any disarmament which is not collectively enforced and made a part of a system of collective security. It will take time, patience, and good will to achieve really effective disarmament. The difficulties are great and the complexities many. The defense needs of states vary greatly. The elements which make up the military strength of states likewise vary greatly and cannot readily be compared or appraised.
Effective disarmament cannot be secured by any simple mathematical rule. Demobilized divisions can be speedily recalled to the colors. But a scrapped plane or a scrapped battleship can never be recommissioned. Disarmament, to be effective, must look to the future. It is easy for us to see what folly it would have been when gunpowder was discovered, to start disarming by limiting the use of the bow and
We must see to it that disarmament starts with the major weapons of mass destruction. We must see to it that disarmament is general and not unilateral. We must see to it that disarmament rests not upon general promises which are kept by some states and ignored by other states. We must see to it that disarmament is accompanied by effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means under international control which will protect complying states against the hazards of violations and evasions.
We must see to it that these safeguards are so clear and explicit that there will be no question of the right of complying states, veto or no veto, to take immediate action in defense of the rule of law. No disarmament system which leaves law-abiding states weak and helpless in the face of aggression can ever contribute to world peace and security.
But in meeting the problems of disarmament, first things should come first. The first task which must be undertaken is the control of atomic energy to insure that it will be used only for human welfare
and not for deadly warfare. There are other weapons of mass destruction, but unless we can meet the challenge of atomic warfare—the most dreadful weapon ever devised—we can never meet the challenge of these other weapons.
The United States, with Britain and Canada, have demonstrated their awareness of the grave responsibility inherent in their discovery of the means of applying atomic energy. In a world of uncontrolled armaments, atomic energy would be an advantage to the United States for many years to come. But it is not the desire of the United States to be the leader in an armament race. We prefer to prevent, rather than to win, the next war.
That is why President Truman announced as soon as he knew that the atomic bomb would work, that it was our purpose to collaborate with other nations to insure that atomic energy should not become a threat to world peace.
Shortly thereafter, the heads of the three Governments responsible for the discovery of atomic energy, met at Washington and urged that the United Nations set up a commission to recommend proposals for the effective international control of atomic energy and all other weapons adaptable for mass destruction.
One of the primary reasons for my trip to Moscow in December 1945 was to ask the U. S. S. R. to join with Britain and Canada in sponsoring a resolution to this effect before the General Assembly.
As soon as the agreement of the Government of the U. S. S. R. was obtained, France and China were also asked and they agreed to join in sponsoring the resolution. These efforts resulted in the unani. mous passage of the resolution by the General Assembly in January 1946, only six months after the discovery of the atomic bomb.
Long discussion in the United Nations and public debate on the details of United States proposals have perhaps blurred the real significance and magnitude of United States initiative. The resolution was no idle gesture on our part. Having the knowledge of atomic energy and possession of the atomic bomb, we did not seek to hold it and to threaten the world. We did not sit back and play for time. We came forward with concrete proposals designed fairly, effectively and practically to carry out the tasks assigned to that Commission.
Our proposals, when fully operative, would leave with the states responsible for the discovery of atomic energy no rights which would not be shared with other Members of the United Nations. Our proposals outlaw the use of atomic weapons and contemplate the disposal of existing atomic weapons. They set up an international authority with power to prevent the national manufacture and use of atomic weapons for war purposes and to develop atomic energy for human welfare.
Our proposals also provide effective and practical safeguards against violations and evasions. They enable states that keep their pledges to take prompt and collective action against those who violate their pledges.
We do not suggest any diminution of the right of veto in the consideration of the treaty governing this subject. We do say that once the treaty has become effective, then there can be no recourse to a veto to save an offender from punishment.
We are willing to share our knowledge of atomic weapons with the rest of the world on the condition, and only on the condition, that other nations submit, as we are willing to submit, to internationally controlled inspection and safeguards, From the statements made in the committees and in the Assembly we have been encouraged to believe that others are willing likewise to submit to international inspection.
If other nations have neither bombs nor the ability to manufacture them, it should be easy for them to agree to inspection. But the world should understand that without collective safeguards there can be no collective disarmament.
The resolution we proposed here urges the expeditious fulfilment by the Atomic Energy Commission of its terms of reference. Those terms include the control not only of atomic energy but the control of other instruments of mass destruction. With its specific studies and its accumulated experience that Commission is best equipped to formulate plans for dealing with major problems of disarmament.
Let us concentrate upon those major weapons and not dissipate our energies on the less important problems of controlling pistols and hand grenades.
If we are really interested in effective disarmament and not merely in talking about it, we should instruct our representatives on the Atomic Energy Commission to press forward now with its constructive proposals. The Commission has been at work six months. They can file an interim report next week. I do not want the work of that Commission to be side-tracked or sabotaged.
I am glad that the proposed resolution raises in connection with the problem of disarmament the question of the disposal of troops and the justification of their presence on foreign soil. For disarmament necessarily raises the question of the use which may be made of arms and armed forces which are not prohibited. Reducing armaments will not bring peace if the arms and armed forces that remain are used to undermine collective security.
The United States has persistently pressed for the early conclusion of peace treaties with Italy and the ex-satellite states. We want to make possible the complete withdrawal of troops from those states. The United States has also persistently urged the conclusion of a treaty recognizing the independence of Austria and providing for the withdrawal of foreign troops. Austria, in our view, is a liberated and not an ex-enemy country. The United States, United Kingdom, and the U. S. S. R., as signatories of the Moscow Declaration of 1943, are obliged to relieve her of the burden of occupation at the earliest possible moment.
The United States believes that armed occupation should be strictly limited by the requirements of collective security. For that reason we proposed to the Council of Foreign Ministers that we should fix agreed ceilings on the occupation forces in Europe. We could not secure agreement this week, but we shall continue our efforts to reduce the occupation forces in Europe. We are also prepared to fix agreed ceilings for the occupation forces in Japan and Korea.
On VJ-day we had over five million troops overseas. We had to send with them extensive supplies and equipment which could not be disposed of overnight.
But despite the tremendous problem of liquidating our extensive overseas war activities, today we have less than 550,000 troops outside of American territory. Most of these troops are in Germany, Japan and the Japanese Islands, Korea, Austria and Venezia Giulia.
The great majority of the troops we have on the territory of the other states outside these occupation areas are supply or administrative personnel. Let me state specifically just what combat troops we have in these other states.
We have a total of 96,000 military personnel in the Philippines but only about 30,000 are combat forces, air and ground, and of these 17,000 are Philippine Scouts. These troops are in the Philippines primarily to back up our forces in Japan. Substantial reductions are contemplated in the near future.
Of the 19,000 troops we have in China, about 15,000 are combat troops and roughly one half of these are today under orders to return home.
We have about 1,500 troops in Panama, excluding the Canal Zone. One thousand of those, composed of a small air unit and some radar air warning detachments, can be classified as combat forces. We have, of course, our normal protective forces in the Panama Canal Zone proper.
We have no combat units in countries other than those I have just mentioned.
Our military personnel in Iceland number less than 600 men. They include no combat troops. They are being withdrawn rapidly and all will be withdrawn by early April 1947, in accordance with our agreement with the Government of Iceland. The military personnel