70 Brief for United Nations General Assembly Twentieth Session Secret Supplement (Supplement No. 1)

Canberra, August 1965


Item 28-Question of General and Complete Disarmament (Section on Non-Dissemination of Nuclear Weapons)


UNGA Resolution 1664 (XVI)1

UNGA Resolution 1665 (XVI)2

A/5758 Indian Explanatory Memorandum

A/5731 Report of the Conference of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament to the 19th Session (Report to 20th Session not yet prepared)

Disarmament Commission Documents DC 225 (Resolution called on the ENDC to reconvene) and DC/PV75 (Indian statement)

Letter dated 15th March, 1962,3 from Minister of External Affairs to the Secretary-General of the United Nations concerning resolution 1664 (XVI) (Attached at Annex)


The question of non-dissemination of nuclear weapons first arose at the 16th session in 1961, and since that time has become an important issue in disarmament discussions.

Swedish 'Non-nuclear club' proposal

  1. At the 1961 session Sweden advocated an approach under which non-nuclear countries would form a 'non-nuclear club' of members prepared to accede to a nuclear test ban treaty and to undertake not to acquire a nuclear capability. A Swedish resolution (Resolution 1664) requesting the Secretary-General to make an enquiry '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 in their territories on behalf of any other country', was adopted by 58 votes to 10 (including U.K., U.S.A. and most of NATO), with 23 abstentions (including Australia). Of the sixty-one replies subsequently received, 21 indicated unqualified willingness to enter into the specific undertakings, 23 declined, directly or tacitly, to give the undertakings sought, and 17 indicated willingness to enter into the undertakings only subject to certain understandings or conditions. In most cases these conditions related to such matters as the need for an agreement on general disarmament, the necessity for all non-nuclear (and/ or nuclear powers) to enter into the undertaking, and the reservation of a right to change a country's position in certain eventualities.

[matter omitted]

United States Attitude

  1. The United States has taken a lead in advocating measures to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and the conclusion of a non-dissemination agreement is a major objective of United States arms control policy. American policy in this field has however been seriously limited by the American position that the door should not be closed on a NATO nuclear force. During recent months there nevertheless appears to have been a division of opinion in the United States at official level over the comparative merits of the M.L.F.4 and a non-dissemination agreement. (The M.L.F. was the product of the Kennedy period, and President Johnson5 has shown little interest in pushing the idea). The Pentagon has had reservations about the military value of the M.L.F., which was largely political in purpose. It is believed that a U.S. Presidential Committee, headed by a former Deputy Secretary of Defence, Mr. Gilpatric,6 recently recommended that the idea of an M.L.F. be abandoned if it appeared to stand in the way of a treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Senator Robert Kennedy7 in a recent speech in the U.S. Senate called for progress on non-dissemination and the chief U.S. disarmament negotiator, Mr Foster,8 recently wrote in the quarterly Foreign Affairs that a delay, 'perhaps even of months' in agreeing to non-dissemination measures might mean the difference between success and failure.
  1. West German pressure for the conclusion of a NATO nuclear arrangement before any non-proliferation agreement is concluded is, however, being maintained. Italy has also been applying pressure to leave the way open for such arrangements. The American State Department informed us prior to the resumption of the E.N.D.C.9 that, despite the differences in NATO and within the U.S. on this question, the U.S. policy remained that it did not intend to trade the M.L.F. for a non-dissemination treaty, so long as European members of the NATO alliance continued to discuss the establishment of an M.L.F. It is apparent that Washington wishes to avoid offending German susceptibilities before the German elections.

    United Kingdom Attitude

  2. The new British Government10 is showing a particular interest in preventing the further dissemination of nuclear weapons. The British believe that an international agreement on nondissemination would constitute a logical step to follow the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and would be a positive move towards a safer world.
  3. In 1964, there was some disposition on the part of the U.K. and U.S.A. to think in terms of a 'non-acquisition' treaty as a first step towards a wider non-dissemination treaty. (A 'nonacquisition' treaty would be a more simple treaty in which non-nuclear states would agree not to acquire nuclear weapons-see Swedish proposal in paragraph 2 above). However, this idea has now been discarded, in favour of a more elaborate non-dissemination treaty. The British Government have realized that the Russian attitude on the British A.N.F. proposal11 severely limits the possibility of early agreement. They had sought, however, in considering proposals for a draft treaty, to devise a formula with which they could convince the Russians that the A.N.F. would not lead to dissemination of control. In the U.K. view, so long as the existing nuclear powers, and principally the United States, retains a veto over the use of the force (which is an essential feature of the A.N.F.), there would be no dissemination to other non-nuclear members. The Russians, however, have so far been unmoved by this line of argument, which they regard as a cover for possible transfer of control over nuclear warheads to West Germany.

    French Attitude

  4. The French position on non-dissemination is not known in detail, but President de Gaulle is reported to have told Mr Rusk in December, 1964, that while France had no intention of disseminating nuclear weapons, no effective international action could be taken to prevent nuclear proliferation. France continues to take no part in the work of the E.N.D.C., and declined to participate in the drafting of the Western proposals for a non-dissemination agreement.

    West German Attitude

  5. The West Germans said at the NATO Council meeting in Paris in July, 1965, that they would not object to the tabling in the E.N.D.C. of a draft non-dissemination treaty acceptable to the West, to enable discussions to begin. They still however wanted a nuclear sharing agreement (e.g. A.N.F.) before a non-dissemination treaty is concluded. The German Foreign Ministry informed us early in July that their view was the M.L.F./A.N.F. was becoming more rather than less important in view of the widening gap in West Europe's defence, and because of the West German conviction that the United States would not react effectively against all types of Communist attacks on or interference with Western Europe.

    U.S.S.R. Attitude

  6. The Russian position remains one of opposition to any non-dissemination measures unless the Western countries drop all plans for a NATO nuclear force. In maintaining this attitude, the Russians are no doubt hoping to exploit Western differences of opinion, particularly within the U.S.A., on the question.

[matter omitted]

  1. In the Australian speech12 in the General Debate in the Disarmament Commission this year support was expressed for the idea of an integrated approach to non-dissemination and for the need to provide assurances to non-nuclear powers which may be threatened by nuclear dissemination already taking place. The Australian representative's statement agreed that a 'package' of the kind envisaged by India was required, and that the Indian view should be 'heeded and respected', but did not in terms endorse the elements of the Indian package or attempt to present an Australian package. Instead, the Australian representative urged that the members of the United Nations Disarmament Commission and the ENDC (Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee) in particular examine closely and urgently the suggestions of India, Sweden and others. The Australian statement reflected a doubt whether any lasting results on non-proliferation can be achieved until something can be done to assure the position of these countries (India is an obvious example) who feel themselves threatened by the development of nuclear capabilities in their area. In this respect, it should be noted that Australia has never favoured simple 'non-acquisition' resolutions of the type of Resolution 1664 (XVI), described in paragraph 2 above.13
  2. In considering previous draft resolutions on non-dissemination the Australian attitude has been that:
    1. we have been opposed to any extension of nuclear capability beyond the first three powers capable of manufacturing nuclear weapons;
    2. we could correspondingly support the banning of uncontrolled transfer of ownership of nuclear weapons by the present nuclear powers to other countries; but
    3. at the same time, we could not accept any prohibition against arrangements for the stationing of nuclear weapons in other countries with the supplier retaining control, because such a prohibition would cut across the arrangements made by the United States in support of its NATO allies, and we were also concerned to keep open the possibility of nuclear weapons being stationed in Australia under similar arrangements should this ever prove necessary for our defence.

    This remains our view.

  3. The threat of Communist China is a major factor bearing on Australia's current attitude towards non-dissemination. The Australian position has been that any international agreement on non-dissemination should cover all militarily significant states, including, of course, Communist China. With the emergence of Communist China and France as possessors of tried nuclear capability, it seems probable that they will have to be regarded, for the purpose of any non-dissemination treaty, as 'nuclear states'. The present draft treaty before the ENDC indicates this probability with its reference to nuclear states as being states possessing independent power to use nuclear weapons as of a date yet to be fixed. Such a definition also raises the unusual possibility that should Indonesia, or any other country, claim that it has conducted an explosion in its territory, it might claim the event entitles it to assume the rank of a nuclear power.
  4. It thus seems likely that Communist China would, even if a non-dissemination treaty were to be agreed on, which is at present doubtful, still be free to develop its nuclear weapons, while non-nuclear powers would be inhibited from doing so. An Indian draft resolution prepared for submission to the 19th Session sought to cover this point by referring to a third category of 'States embarking on a nuclear programme', who would be asked to undertake to discontinue their programmes. In any case, we cannot realistically expect that China would ever agree to be bound not to develop nuclear weapons.
  5. Australia's position remains that it has no wish to produce or acquire nuclear weapons. However, Australian agreement, without qualification, could not be expected to nondissemination proposals which might be interpreted as limiting the defence options we have kept open since the Prime Minister's statement in 1957. In a situation where a nondissemination agreement left Communist China free to pursue its nuclear ambitions, it would be reasonable for Australia to require the insertion of an escape clause (perhaps along the lines of that included in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty) to cover the position of states who might be threatened by a Communist Chinese nuclear capability.14 (The Western draft treaty15 at present before the ENDC would seem to be acceptable in this respect, as it does include an escape clause similar to that in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.)

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, 919/10/5 part 3]