156 Paper by Department of External Affairs1

Canberra, 26 February 1969


Non-Proliferation Treaty and Disarmament

Two main considerations will determine whether the treaty for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons will be effective:

  1. Nations with a significant nuclear capability or potential and other politically important nations should adhere to the treaty and should honour its terms.
  2. The safeguards envisaged under article III should be such as to provide timely warning of any intention to divert nuclear energy from peaceful purposes to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
  1. There are two other considerations, which may not affect the entry into force of the treaty but which will influence its ability to hold the allegiance of at least some of its parties. These are:
    1. The degree to which the treaty actually fosters the development of peaceful applications of nuclear energy for the benefit of its non-nuclear parties. This would include the availability of a peaceful nuclear explosions service, envisaged under article V. At the least it will be essential that the treaty should not inhibit the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
    2. The progress that the major powers make towards the goal set out in article VI- a cessation of the arms race, nuclear disarmament and a treaty on general and complete disarmament.

[matter omitted]

Australia's Security under the Treaty

  1. The Australian Government has indicated its support for the principle of an effective nonproliferation treaty which would endanger neither Australia's security nor its development. At the same time, in Cabinet decision 165 of 29th April, 1968,2 it has listed its grounds for concern with the treaty, and has conducted an examination of these both within the machinery of government in Canberra and in consultation with other governments. This investigation has increased our knowledge of the treaty; and it has gone a good way towards satisfying the Government's points of concern with the treaty.
  2. Whether the existing treaty would benefit Australia's security would depend on the degree to which it is effective, in terms of the considerations outlined in paragraph 1 above. As already stated, it is too early yet to make firm predictions on this point. The following paragraphs, however, view the treaty in an international political and security context and seek to show how it might affect Australia's security interests.
  3. Under article IV of the ANZUS treaty each party recognises that an armed attack in the Pacific area on any of the parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes. The Americans have assured us, in an aide-memoire of 1st May, 1968,3 that the non-proliferation treaty will in no way affect their continuing security commitments under existing treaties of mutual security. The aide-memoire also says that:
    1. The alliance commitments of ANZUS and SEATO are stronger than any the U.S.A. could give to non-allied countries in conjunction with the non-proliferation treaty.
    2. The Americans do not believe that their allies, particularly one with which they have had such a close political and military relationship as Australia, should have reason to question the extent of the assurances they are able to give non-aligned, non-nuclear countries.
  4. The U.S.A. is a sponsor of the non-proliferation treaty, the acceptance and success of which is a major American foreign policy objective. The Americans (and the Russians) regard the treaty as a factor making for global nuclear stability and have urged repeatedly that it be accorded universal approval. If the treaty were effective it would help to stabilize the world security situation by providing reliable assurances that additional countries were not developing nuclear arsenals of their own.
  5. The treaty is perhaps the most significant result so far of the partial detente between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. This détente has resulted in an improved international climate but it also may be regarded as a deterrent to expansionism by Communist China. An effective treaty would strengthen the partial détente and could lead to increased co-operation among the major powers in opposition to China's nuclear ambitions.

[matter omitted]

  1. As far as the Asian region is concerned, the establishment of a system that provided its member states with reliable assurances that their neighbours were not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons would be a factor making for increased political and economic stability. Australia would benefit from such a situation.
  2. On the other hand, if the countries of the region were to keep their nuclear options and if the big powers were unable adequately to deter China, we could expect that distrust and impulse towards nuclear proliferation would be stimulated in Asia.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, TS919/10/5 part 19]