83 Brief for Australian Delegation to UN General Assembly

Canberra, [September 1966]1

Confidential

Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Report of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament

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Note

Throughout the items of the brief on disarmament, measures to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons will, in general, be referred to as 'non-proliferation' in accordance with the title of this item.

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Background

  1. Discussions on measures to limit the spread of nuclear weapons took place at the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th sessions of the United Nations General Assembly.2 Ireland was particularly active in bringing the question of the spread of nuclear weapons before the General Assembly's notice. There was little reference at the 17th and 18th sessions, and an item inscribed by India for the 19th session was not discussed due to the Article 19 dispute on peace-keeping finances.

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Twentieth Session of the General Assembly

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  1. The Debate revealed little change in the relative United States - U.S.S.R. positions on non-proliferation which were stated at the ENDC at its 1965 Session. The Soviet Union continued to insist that all 'loopholes' must be closed in any treaty i.e., in Russian terms, that no nuclear arrangements of the M.L.F./A.N.F. type3 in Western Europe should be possible.

    The United States maintained its stand that there would not be proliferation by the United States in Western Europe. This was contrary to United States policy and basic atomic energy law.4 The United States representative rebutted the Soviet claim to be the moving force in favour of non-proliferation and described American efforts against proliferation. He explained the new United States proposals for transfer of quantities of U-235 to peaceful purposes, and for the demonstrated destruction of nuclear weapons from the stockpiles of the United States and the U.S.S.R.

  2. Although they recognized the relation between non-proliferation and other measures, all the nuclear power representatives who spoke favoured dealing separately with the question of non-proliferation. A number of other countries, however, laid greater stress on the necessity of non-proliferation being followed by or coupled with other disarmament measures. Many delegations reiterated the view that a non-proliferation treaty was only a part of general, including nuclear, disarmament. There were some references to the concept of guarantees for non-nuclear powers if they renounced a nuclear capability, which included sounds of caution as to the practicability of such arrangements. There was also a realization on the part of some countries that a non-proliferation treaty should not give undue advantage to the nuclear powers to the detriment of non-nuclear powers. A number of countries also advocated inclusion of an undertaking by the nuclear powers not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries.

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ENDC Discussions During 1966

  1. Despite considerable discussion of non-proliferation as a matter of priority in the ENDC in 1966, it appears at the time of writing this brief that no solution will have been reached by the close of the ENDC session on the major points of disagreement between the Soviet bloc and Western countries. While the Soviet Union has been prepared to participate in the ENDC discussions this year (it showed reluctance to do so in 1965) it has shown little readiness to compromise or any real intention to conclude a non-proliferation treaty. Despite criticism of United States policy in Vietnam, the Soviet Union has claimed that this need not prevent agreement on non-proliferation. It has, however, been adamant that the United States draft does not rule out proliferation through NATO security or consultative arrangements. Russian opposition to Multilateral Force or Atlantic Nuclear Force (MLF/ANF) arrangements has been extended to include opposition to NATO consultative arrangements of the kind which have been under discussion during 1965 and 1966 at the suggestion of the United States Secretary of Defence, Mr McNamara. (His suggestion embraces a small committee of NATO Defence Ministers to consult on European nuclear policy and plan measures to forestall nuclear proliferation).

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Non-aligned Views

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  1. It is this growing recognition that the major decisions on these matters lie with the nuclear powers, and the realization that little progress is being made by them to resolve their differences that is causing the non-aligned countries increasing concern. Evidence of this was included in a joint memorandum submitted by the eight non-aligned members of the ENDC on 23rd August which said that the main obstacle to a non-proliferation treaty was the failure of the major powers to reach a compromise. They have also been conscious of the activities of Communist China and France, and the difficulties which their policies pose for any non-proliferation agreements.

    Indian Nuclear Policies

  2. There were signs at the 20th Session of the General Assembly that Pakistan might initiate public criticism of Indian nuclear policy. During the closing stages of the debate on Item 106 on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Pakistan delegate strongly insinuated that India might be embarking on a nuclear weapons programme. He criticized the Canadian role in bilateral safeguards arrangements with India on peaceful nuclear activities. The Pakistani remarks were countered by the Canadian representative and by the Indian delegate, who reaffirmed India's position that it did not intend to embark on this course. This position had been welcomed by a number of delegates in their addresses to the First Committee.
  3. Following the third Chinese nuclear test on May 10th, 1966,5 there was increased public attention in India to defence policies, and part of the aftermath of this has been action by the Pakistan Government to publicize what it claims are Indian intentions to carry out underground nuclear testing ostensibly for peaceful purposes, but in reality for nuclear weapons testing. It has brought its views to the attention of the ENDC and to Member Nations of the United Nations.

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Australian Attitude

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  1. The Australian Government considers that, despite the differences of opinion which exist between European countries on important questions of European security and nuclear strategy and their relation to a non-proliferation treaty, there is a tacit modus vivendi and sense of responsibility in nuclear matters in Europe. In that part of the world of which Australia forms a part, however, the nuclear ambitions of an aggressive Communist China, backed up with large conventional forces, cannot be regarded with complacency. Australia would not regard as adequate any disarmament agreement which did not embrace all militarily significant states, including Communist China. One of the major inhibiting factors therefore, as far as Australia is concerned, in reaching agreement on non-proliferation, is the fact that we cannot realistically expect that China would ever agree to be bound not to develop nuclear weapons. China has consistently rejected the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (See also Brief for item 28).
  2. The Australian Government appreciates the desire of other middle-sized countries for assurances in regard to their own security before agreeing to renounce the production or acquisition of nuclear weapons, and recognizes the difficulties involved in reaching satisfactory agreements, taking into account the legitimate interests of all countries concerned. The Leader of the Australian Delegation6 expressed this view in the First Committee at the 20th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on 25th October, 1965, when he said 'We must aim to ensure that there is no bonus given to countries which choose to embark on nuclear armament and no penalty for those which, by self-denial, cut themselves out of that race'.
  3. The Australian statement reflected doubts as to whether any lasting results on nonproliferation could be achieved until something can be done to assure the position of those countries 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 resolutions under which non-nuclear nations would agree to renounce the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

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