19 Cablegram from Department of External Affairs to Mcintyre1

Canberra, 26 June 1956

1361. Secret Priority

Disarmament

  1. The following supplements the Prime Minister's Brief.
  2. On 14th June the Defence Committee2 considered the current Anglo-French, United States and Soviet proposals.3 Following paraphrases key points of the Committee's report:4
    1. principles affecting the defence attitude towards disarmament are:
      1. disarmament depends primarily on establishment of international confidence;
      2. as the nuclear weapons of the West are the main counter to Communist strength in conventional weapons and armed forces, the prohibition of nuclear weapons is unacceptable unless accompanied by simultaneous and major reductions in conventional weapons and forces to agreed levels and carried out to an agreed timetable;
      3. an effective system of international control and verification must precede the adoption of any disarmament system. This consideration and the levels to which forces and conventional weapons could be reduced to eliminate risks would determine the levels acceptable to Australia;
      4. any disarmament formula fixing the size of forces must take account of essential strategic considerations in addition to economic, political and demographic factors. This is particularly important to Australia because of its size, location and limited population, and to the Commonwealth by reason of its geographic distribution and dependence on sea and air communications;
      5. there should be no impairment of the right to individual and collective selfdefence.
    2. In the Anglo-French and United States proposals monitoring of nuclear weapon tests would follow the adoption of an efficient control and inspection system. Under these conditions, as the cooperation of the testing authorities would be assured, there would be no difficulty in ensuring effective monitoring.
    3. It is not practical to discontinue tests until:
      1. mutual confidence between the Great Powers has been firmly established;
      2. effective international control and inspection have been introduced;
      3. substantial reductions in conventional arms and forces have been effected.
    4. The Anglo-French provisions regarding the limitation of nuclear test explosion comply with principle 2(a)(ii) above and if the plan for reductions in forces had progressed so far, an acceptable degree of confidence should have been established. However, the United States approach of not limiting tests until the control and inspection system can account for future production of fissionable material and of monitoring future tests is preferred. With the United States plan there is always the safeguard against aggression until the world is safe from a surprise attack.
    5. Force levels should be subject to Great Power negotiation. Until some progress has been made in reductions, it is impossible to state what the ultimate levels should be. Any reduction in the levels for the Communist Powers proposed by the United States would result in a corresponding reduction for the West. Given the massive population of Asian countries, potentially under Communist control, forces permitted to the United States and United Kingdom should not be so low as to make it clear to non-Communist Asian countries that significant conventional United States or United Kingdom forces could not be made available to meet aggression. These forces must not be reduced below the levels necessary to maintain collective defence against the probable form and scale of attack.
    6. The United States plan for control and inspection is preferable because of its more effective gradual build-up from a demonstration test to an effective control unit and because of its more thorough approach. Inspection should be applicable to all countries.
    7. Under present circumstances, it would be most inadvisable to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons in defence against aggression, especially as this would be contrary to the S.E.A.T.O. strategic concept now being developed.5

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, TS681/10 part 6]