Duncan to Chifley, Makin and Evatt

Cablegrams 170, 314 LONDON, 7 December 1945, 2.05 p.m.


Bevin hurriedly summoned a meeting this morning of representatives of the Dominions to advise us that he feels himself compelled to make the following statement in the House this afternoon. [1]


‘A meeting of Foreign Secretaries of Great Britain, Soviet Union and United States has been arranged to take place in Moscow on December 15th.

This meeting has been called in accordance with the decision taken at the Yalta Conference providing for quarterly conferences of the Three Foreign Secretaries.

The meeting will provide an opportunity for the British and American Governments to exchange views with the Soviet Government on subject of control of Atomic energy.

It will also provide opportunity for informal and exploratory discussion of other matters of concurrent interest and concern to the three countries.’


The following is the background. On 24th November Byrnes suggested to Molotov a meeting of the three Foreign Ministers in Moscow. On 26th November Bevin was informed by Winant of this proposal which was based on decisions of the Heads of States that there should be periodical meetings of Foreign Ministers. The proposal was then made that the meeting should take place on 11th December. Bevin after discussing the matter with the Prime Minister communicated with Byrnes questioning the wisdom of holding this meeting and doubting the possibility of its success without adequate preparation. He also pointed out that if matters in Europe were discussed, France would not be there and similarly if matters in the Far East were discussed, China and other Governments would not be there. The matter then became further complicated by Truman’s announcement that further meetings of Heads of States were unnecessary. Byrnes’ proposals vis a vis the President’s statement created a dilemma and Bevin asked for a list of matters proposed for discussion by Foreign Ministers. Byrnes set them out tentatively as follows:-

(1) Proposal for the establishment of commission under the United Nations to consider control of atomic energy in the interests of peace.

(2) The review of discussions of the Council of Foreign Ministers with a view if possible to making provision for resumption of work by deputies.

(3) Terms of reference of the Allied Commission for Japan and the Far Eastern Commission.

(4) The establishment of independent Government for Korea.

(5) Disarmament of Japanese and evacuation from northern China.

(6) Transfer of control of Manchuria to the national Government of China.

(7) Removal of Allied troops from Iran.

(8) Establishment of conditions to permit recognition of Governments of Bulgaria and Roumania.

(9) Such other items as may be added by common consent of the Three Governments.

Bevin thought this rather formidable list for 8 or 9 days conference and told Byrnes so, at the same time expressing some bewilderment in reconciling the President’s statement and Byrnes’ proposal for the meeting and expressing doubt as to whether certain of these matters could be dealt with in the absence of China and France. After waiting five days for reactions, Winant informed him after enquiry that Byrnes still pressed for a meeting to be held in Moscow on 15th December.

The United Kingdom Government after considering the matter felt it would be placed in a difficult position before the world if it did not agree to attend but Bevin stipulated that it should not place them in any position of commitment and that the meeting would have to be of an exploratory character and other countries would have to be consulted. Byrnes accepted this. A telegram has been sent to Canada in view of its part in the discussions in Washington re atomic energy and a proposal has been made that the Canadian Ambassador in Moscow [2] might perhaps represent his Government in discussions of the item (1).

The Americans informed Bevin in the early hours of this morning that they propose to release a statement about the meeting immediately and the United Kingdom Government have therefore decided to make the statement mentioned above about 3.30 this afternoon.

This message was sent immediately upon my return from the Foreign Office.


1 Bevin did not make the statement that day. The meeting was announced on 8 December, simultaneously by the U.K., U.S. and Soviet Govts.

2 L. D. Wilgress.


[AA : A1066, H45/1016/5/2]