36 Report on Joint Planning Committee Meeting

Canberra, 22 October 1958

Top Secret

Captain J.M. Ramsay D.S.C.Director of Plans.
Brigadier C.E. LongBrigadier of General Staff (A).
Air Commodore F. Headlam C.B.E.Director General Plans and Policy.
G.E. Blakers Esq.Assistant Secretary (Defence Planning).

Without Agendum Report No. 59/1958: United Nations Discussions on Suspension of Nuclear Weapons Irish Amendments to Draft Resolution

[matter omitted]


  1. General. The US/UK resolution,1 so far as nuclear aspects are concerned, deals with the suspension of nuclear tests. Subject to international agreement this is an aspect which could be effectively policed.
  2. The Irish amendment2 introduces two new aspects applicable to countries not currently possessing a nuclear capability viz. ban on supply to or manufacture of nuclear weapons by these countries.
  3. So far as supply is concerned, this is a matter which could not be effectively policed. In the case of manufacture it is doubtful whether effective policing could be effective.
  4. Any resolution would therefore be entirely dependent on adherence and good faith. It would be completely unrealistic for the West to accept limitations and place reliance on the Communist Bloc to do the same. In any case Communist China would not be bound by any United Nations agreement. Furthermore on the side of the West such an agreement might well cause difficulties with France and cut across the negotiations between the United States and her NATO allies for the supply of nuclear weapons to NATO countries with the warheads remaining under United States control.
  5. Generally wider dissemination of nuclear weapons is obviously undesirable. However the proposed Irish amendments particularly insofar as they relate to the supply of nuclear weapons appear to be incapable of effective implementation.
  6. Implications for Australia. Australia is an isolated country and situations could arise in the future where the availability of some nuclear weapons might be essential to the security of the country. Therefore Australia should not willingly enter into any agreement which would preclude the US or UK making nuclear weapons available to this country in certain circumstances and under certain conditions.
  7. The requirement might well be:
    1. Australia should receive all necessary information on nuclear weapons.
    2. Nuclear weapons should, if and when required, be stored in Australia by the US or UK under their control and available for use by joint agreement.
    3. With the development of future weapons such as A/S and SAGW3 Australia might require nuclear heads for these to be effective.
  8. Paragraph 3 of the suggested Irish amendment uses the words 'shall not supply'. The word supply needs clarification. It is assumed that it is not intended to apply to a nuclear power having forces with a nuclear capability stationed in another country. Such interpretation would of course make NATO, SEATO etc. ineffective.4 The following interpretations of the word 'supply' may therefore be considered:
    1. the disposal, free of any conditions regarding use, to other states,
    2. the positioning of nuclear weapons in other states with the owner retaining control (e.g.) United States proposals for stationing weapons in United Kingdom and Europe.

    The interpretation in (a) above should be acceptable to Australia. The interpretation in (b) above would probably be unacceptable to the UK and the United States, and from the defence point of view would also be unacceptable to Australia as it would prevent us meeting our possible requirements as stated in para 8 above.

  9. The adoption of para 4 of the Irish amendment would mean in effect that, so long as the suspension of nuclear tests remained in force, Australia could not manufacture its own nuclear weapons. This situation would in any case largely apply irrespective of the Irish amendment and simply by virtue of the suspension of the tests. Australia appears to be already committed to support the suspension of tests also there is no intention in the foreseeable future to manufacture nuclear weapons in Australia. There would therefore be no defence objection to support of an appropriately worded resolution against the manufacture of nuclear weapons by a fourth power. This would not preclude consideration of likely Australian action should circumstances change, e.g. should it become apparent that any resolution was not proving effective in preventing the emergence of further nuclear powers.
  10. It is concluded that:
    1. Australia's possible future requirements for nuclear weapons under certain circumstances and conditions should be safeguarded.
    2. The Irish amendment is incapable of effective implementation.
    3. From a Defence point of view the West would stand to gain nothing from para 3 of the Irish amendment and might well be placed at a disadvantage in supporting it.
    4. There would be no defence objection to support of an appropriately worded resolution against the manufacture of nuclear weapons by a fourth power.


  11. It is recommended that the Chiefs of Staff Committee endorse the above views for transmission to the Department of External Affairs.

[NAA: A1838, TS852/10/4/2]