133 Cablegram from Mission to the United Nations to Department of External Affairs

New York, 9 May 1968

UN 763. Secret Immediate

Non-Proliferation Treaty

Following emerged from discussions today between Pritchett, Wilson and Cawsey, Ambassador Schippenkoetter [sic]1 and Ramisch2 of German delegation and von Herschenberg3 of South Africa. Ramisch made following points to Wilson.


1. Germany is particularly concerned about the interpretation of 'manufacture' in Articles I and II because the USSR has already made statements as to what Germany should not be allowed to do in the nuclear field. Since the USSR is already training scientists from nonnuclear countries for service as IAEA inspectors, Germany is concerned that the agency might give undue emphasis to USSR views.

2. References in the debate to 'non-proliferation of nuclear weapons technology' have provided opportunities for the undermining of the more precise interpretation agreed between the NATO countries. Accordingly, every opportunity should be taken to establish the most liberal interpretation possible.

3. Japan, Italy and Germany have all registered with the United States their concern that the treaty should not inhibit any activities in the enrichment area. In view of the number of countries interested in retaining full freedom in enrichment activities it is unlikely that any restrictive interpretation could be sustained if the treaty was to attract support.

4. Germany has been cooperating with Holland on centrifuge development. Both countries intend taking the position that the treaty does not impose any legal obligation on them not to transfer information on centrifuge development. They propose to evaluate the transfer of information to other parties on the basis of their own political judgements and economic interests. Ramisch stated that Japan had refused to yield to United States pressures to classify its centrifuge work on the grounds that its constitution did not give it the power to do so.

5. The Germans are concerned that technological developments might pose new problems in the interpretation of what is prohibited by the treaty. Ramisch said that the Japanese have pointed out to the United States their concern that the treaty should not prevent them engaging in controlled fusion development work involving high shock pressures. They had made the point that one projected controlled fusion process could involve pulsing shock pressures equivalent to those associated with the explosion of a multi-kiloton nuclear explosion.

Ores Etc.

6. Ramisch agreed that the treaty leaves open the possibility that safeguards might be required on mining activities. He said that Germany had questioned the wisdom of coupling source and special fissionable materials throughout the treaty because in its opinion different types of safeguards are required for source and special fissionable materials. Source materials should be subject to statistical-type safeguards only (e.g. total production figures) whereas special fissionable materials required the detailed inventory control currently envisaged. The United States had not been responsive to the proposal and the Germans had not pressed it, judging it marginal to their specific interests.

7. Ramisch contradicted an assertion by Ambassador Schippenkoetter that worries on industrial espionage were now a dead issue. He said that German industry considered that industrial espionage remained a major concern in the fuel fabrication and fuel processing areas. He supported this statement by arguments based on the long-term economic significance of marginal adjustments to fuel parameters. He maintained that some United States fuel fabricators and processors shared the German concern.


8. Ramisch expressed the view that in the longer term IAEA safeguards would prove inadequate for the purposes of the treaty. The diversion of 1 percent to 2 percent (i.e. the current uncertainty level of the agency safeguards system) of the predicted 1980 plutonium production would allow the manufacture of several hundred weapons. This made the development of black box inspection methods a matter of urgency. (Ramisch's argument appears to ignore the fact that most of the plutonium would be unsuitable for weapons.)

German Position on Treaty

9. Ramisch said that Germany has not yet decided the position it will take on the treaty. It has made a close study of the capacity of all states to achieve weapons production within the next 12 months and has decided that it is unlikely that any will do so. With non-proliferation an issue of international debate it believes that over the next 12 months to 2 years no country would risk inviting Security Council attention by going 'nuclear'. Under these circumstances it argues that the interests of non-proliferation would be best served by using the next 6 months to hammer out a treaty which better meets the concerns of all likely signatories.

10. Schippenkoetter, whom Scoville when in Canberra, described as a 'Strauss man'4 and determined opponent of the treaty, urged the critical importance of clearly establishing in advance the precise meaning and implication of all indefinite wordings on the treaty, which was a political compromise and necessarily vague.

11. In particular Australia should take every opportunity publicly to state the interpretation it sought for 'manufacture', should insist on knowing before ratification exactly what was to be the safeguards agreement and should resist any suggestion that later IAEA amendments should automatically be incorporated in the safeguards agreement. The IAEA was not a 'police state' and there was no reason why countries had to do what it said.

12. Schippenkoetter said the German view of 'manufacture' would allow any nuclear work short of actual assembly of a weapon or explosive device.

13. Regarding duration, he said concern about this article had been allayed by the new provisions for 5-year reviews, though review conferences should be automatic and should be empowered to more than simply 'review'.

South Africa

14. Von Herschenberg, a senior diplomat with IAEA experience, said the South African delegation was still without instructions. They were concerned about the detailed meaning and interpretation of the treaty and considered the debate so far 'airy-fairy'. However, it was quite uncertain whether the South Africans would interfere in any substantial and detailed way. Their main anxieties related, von Herschenberg said, to the interpretation of 'manufacture'(he had not studied the Netherlands comment) and to the position of mining and commerce in relation to safeguards. They had no intention of accepting the safeguards agreement until they knew what would be in it, but had not taken a position yet on subsequent amendments. Von Herschenberg displayed sensitivity to African attitudes and intimated that these would be important in shaping South Africa's position.

[NAA: A1838, 680/10/2 part 5]