53 Letter from Barwick1 to U Thant2

Canberra, 15 March 1962

Joint Statement

I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 2 January, 1962,3 concerning Resolution 1664 (XVI) adopted by the General Assembly at its 1070th meeting on 4 December, 1961.4 In this letter, you seek the views of the Australian Government as to 'the conditions under which countries not possessing nuclear weapons might be willing to enter into specific undertakings to refrain from manufacturing or otherwise acquiring such weapons and to refuse to receive in the future nuclear weapons on their territories on behalf of other countries'.

[matter omitted]

In formulating this national defence policy, the Australian Government, by reason of Australia's geographical position and political beliefs, must take into account the emergence in the area of East Asia and the Western Pacific of a military power of great dimension and some ambition. This power is convinced of the inevitability of war and consciously working for the elimination of the type of society of which Australia is a part. It already has massive conventional forces, which it has used against the forces of the United Nations, and has nuclear weapons potentialities which may be close to fulfilment. It has indicated that the production of nuclear weapons is indeed its aim. Furthermore, with the prodigious developments of military science and technology during recent years, no power which is concerned with its security can ignore developments in any part of the world, however distant. In determining its defence policy Australia must at all times take into account all relevant factors.

The Australian Government therefore seriously doubts the effectiveness of regional agreements for the limitation of nuclear weapons in any area of the world. It may be that there are groups of countries whose past and present associations, geographical position, and general security situation enable them to envisage associating in regional 'non-nuclear clubs'. For its part, Australia does not see that this can be the case in the region of which it forms a part.

In addition to these considerations, it is Australia's conviction that specific undertakings of the kind envisaged in Resolution 1664 could neither be formulated nor ratified, by countries not possessing nuclear weapons, in isolation from the wider issues of controlled disarmament since, in the strategic calculation of military deterrence, nuclear weapons and conventional forces are inextricably bound together. In any case, such specific undertakings could not at present be contemplated by Australia without the participation of the nuclear powers themselves, without the certainly that all militarily significant States would be covered, and without some assurance that adequate verification procedures could be initiated.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, TS919/10/5 part 1]