142 Summary Record of Inter-Departmental Working Group Meeting

Canberra, 13 June 1968


Draft Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The Chairman, Mr Blakers, Acting Secretary of the Department of Defence, said that the main reason for calling the meeting was to hear the comments of members of the Australian delegation to the resumed session of the General Assembly about the results of the United Nations debate on the non-proliferation treaty.

2. Mr Blakers invited Mr Pritchett, Department of External Affairs, to speak.

3. Mr Pritchett said that the delegation's report to the Minister for External Affairs would be ready in about a fortnight. In the meantime he could give some preliminary personal impressions, but these were not a complete and considered appraisal of the U.N. debate, nor would other members of the delegation necessarily agree with them.

4. Mr Pritchett said his first and strongest impression was the extent to which consideration of the draft treaty at the U.N. meeting had had quite a different focus from that of the consideration in Australia. Most states dealt with the draft treaty primarily as a stage in the disarmament negotiations and while generally welcoming it as a forward step had given much attention to its inadequacies in respect of such matters as the limitation of 'vertical' proliferation and the banning of underground tests and the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. Members generally saw the draft treaty as a necessary bridge to further progress but emphasised the urgent need for the nuclear powers to press ahead with substantial negotiations under Article VI of the treaty.

5. The Australian delegation had found relatively little interest in or concern about points it wished to have discussed. Where there was interest the main view was that the U.N. meeting was not the place to deal with these points: they were matters either for private consultations or for handling in the IAEA forum.

[matter omitted]

6. [matter omitted] Our views on 'manufacture' and unhampered peaceful research and development were widely shared and our desire to reach understanding about safeguards before ratification was accepted. There was some puzzlement about our strategic anxieties in view of our relationship with America, but our concern about China was generally understood.

[matter omitted]

8. [matter omitted] Mr Pritchett said that two matters which had been of interest to Australia, the duration of the treaty and withdrawal from it, had received hardly any attention either in the debate or among delegations with whom the Australian delegation had consulted. What misgivings there were about the duration of the treaty-and the majority of delegations viewed this from the point of view of disarmament-appeared largely to have been satisfied by the revised provision for five-yearly review conferences, the importance of which was emphasised by countries like Japan.

[matter omitted]

10. Mr Pritchett said that despite the subdued role called for of the Australian delegation it had proved possible to have quite wide-ranging consultations. The American delegation had been very receptive and helpful. The British and Canadian delegations were of poor quality and had been of little use. There had been good contact with the Netherlands, Japan and Germany. He had had opportunity to speak to Roschin [sic],1 the Soviet leader in the ENDC, and had tried to test his reaction to various points in the Australian statement that might possibly have caused difficulty for the Soviet Government. However, Roschin, although expressing his Government's surprise and disappointment at the Australian position, had offered no comment on any particular point in the statement.

[matter omitted]

17. Mr Booker said that one thing that could affect the Australian timetable would be whether the Americans applied pressure on Australia to sign the treaty promptly. He recalled that President Johnson had said in his address to the General Assembly on 12th June that the U.S.A. would urge other nations to complete their ratification speedily, so that the treaty could enter into force at the earliest possible date. If the U.S.A. did ask Australia for a quick signature it might be necessary to seek as a separate step approval from Cabinet to sign the treaty. The External Affairs departmental view would be in favour of acceding to such a request, which would not commit Australia finally to ratification, but which would have the advantage of giving us status in the early stages of the international consultations which would now take place in regard to the implementation of the treaty.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, 680/10/2 part 6]