31 Cablegram from Embassy in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Washington, 9 April 1958

465. Secret Priority

Disarmament: Position of China

Your Savingram 69.1

In our discussions with the State Department regarding this problem over recent months we have usually been pressed to say what specific dangers we see arising from the omission of China from a first-stage disarmament agreement. We have attempted to answer informally along the following lines:

  1. If China is allowed to expand her armed forces without restriction she would build up such a predominant strength in Asia that she could over-awe the whole area.
  2. It might be in Soviet interests for China to be excluded from a 'first-stage' plan because it would mean that her military strength could continue to expand and thus add to the total Communist strength, while Western armed forces were being held to a fixed level.
  3. If China launched a limited war she could only be stopped with atomic weapons (even if she did not herself use such weapons). Could we be sure that the West would always have sufficient atomic weapons of the right kind to achieve this, if use of fissionable materials for weapons had been banned? (In reply to this the Americans usually insist that the United States would in any circumstances retain sufficient 'deterrent' power to restrain China-and would be prepared to use it).
  4. Even if China accepted the ban on the production of nuclear weapons there was no assurance that these weapons would not come into her hands or that she would not herself develop the capacity to make them, for example in the course of building up atomic power industry.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, 3107/33/4 part 1]