178 Cablegram from Department of Foreign Affairs to Embassy in Washington

Canberra, 13 October 1971

5107. Confidential Priority

Washington Uranium Enrichment Talks

This message sets out in paragraph four Australia's views which we would like you to convey to American authorities.

  1. Recent cables make it appear that the Americans are taking a firm attitude towards telling countries affected that the talks will be in two groups, namely, a European group and a Pacific Basin group, the latter comprising Japan, Canada and Australia. Japan appears to be the only country favouring the talks being held in two groups. We understand a number of European countries prefer holding the talks in one group.
  2. You will know from our telegram 50381 that the Minister for National Development Mr. Swartz was informed of preliminary Canadian views (yet to be considered by the Canadian Government) that the talks should be in one group or as a second preference that Canada should take part in both the European and the Pacific groups. Australian departments had arrived independently at the same view and this has since been adopted by the government.
  3. Our reasons for favouring general multilateral talks among all interested parties rather than the prospect of being boxed in to a particular Pacific group are as follows:
    1. The U.S. is reported to have the attitude that the separate groupings are for the initial exploratory talks only, and that they might not persist in subsequent talks. The reverse approach seems more logical to us: that is, to have all countries present at the initial talks, and to allow for the possibility of separate groupings in subsequent talks.
    2. The Pacific group has no practical experience in gaseous diffusion technology. Discussions in this group could not be at the same depth as in the European group and we could not hope to gain as much from the discussions as we would in talks in a group containing the United Kingdom and France who have this technology.
    3. Although we have seen disclaimers we are concerned that there may be pressure to retain these groups on a continuing basis. This could result in Japan being the sole consumer of Australian or Canadian enriched uranium. It would be highly desirable to have access also to the European market.
    4. We do not like the prospect of any partnership arrangements being forced or restrictive: we might prefer France or the U.K. as partners in addition to Japan and they or other European countries might well wish to participate both in terms of investment and as a source of supply in any Australian or Canadian enrichment plant.
  4. For your background information only, additional reasons are:
    1. Talks with all countries should reveal whether the U.S. would be prepared to release its technology to the Pacific group countries on the same terms and conditions as might be offered to European countries.
    2. It would be highly desirable to be present at any discussions between the U.S. and those countries involved in the centrifuge process to keep ourselves informed of the attitudes taken by both parties to the likely emergence of the centrifuge process as an alternative to gaseous diffusion.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, 720/4/9 part 4]