90 Cablegram from Mission to the United Nations to Department of External Affairs

New York, 10 May 1967

UN 444. Confidential Guard

Non-Proliferation

Washington's telegram 1803.1

You may be interested to have some comment, as seen from this post, on the revised United States draft text on non-proliferation:

  1. The object of the new preambular language expressing support for the principle of 'safeguarding effectively the flow of source and special fissionable materials' etc. is not entirely clear. It seems to be a move towards further tightening the safeguards arrangements in the Treaty. It would be of interest to know why this clause was substituted for the corresponding paragraph in text in London's 43902 in which NATO members appeared to have secured United States agreement to a provision encouraging less intrusive inspections. New United States language may be disadvantageous to countries such as Australia which are heavily dependent on export and import trade in nuclear materials and therefore sensitive to position of potential suppliers of potential customers who do not wholly subscribe to safeguards (e.g. the French).
  2. We wonder at the wording of the preambular paragraph on nuclear-free zones, even accepting the need to include some reference in order to conciliate Latins and others. Reference to the right of 'any group of states' to conclude such arrangements is obviously less than the unanimity that would be necessary for a meaningful agreement. The explicit reference to 'total' absence of nuclear weapons seems surprising, given the United States position on overflight of aircraft carrying such weapons.
  3. As you know, Article 2 is not intended to affect NATO arrangements under which the United States retains control of nuclear warheads stationed in Western Europe. Such arrangements are understood not to amount to 'transfer' of nuclear weapons, either 'directly or indirectly'. The Russians presumably recognize that they cannot realistically expect a nonproliferation treaty to outlaw long-standing arrangements of this kind, which are recognized as a factor in the balance of power in Central Europe. We wonder, however, whether the atmosphere which might follow the signature of a non-proliferation treaty might not result in a climate of opinion in which it would be much more difficult for a major nuclear power to contemplate future arrangements of this kind in other areas, e.g. South East Asia including Australia. Such action would raise a new situation and might be attacked by Russians and others as a breach of the spirit, perhaps even the letter, of the treaty. In the euphoria of a post non-proliferation treaty situation, there might be considerable international sympathy for a view which favoured a more sweeping interpretation of the treaty objective of preventing the wider spread of nuclear weapons. The imprecision of some of the language in Article 2 and the failure to define words such as 'transfer' and 'directly or indirectly' could be a disadvantage. While, from our own understanding, it is clear enough that the right of a nuclear power to station nuclear warheads abroad, while still retaining control, is not prejudiced by the strict terms of the Article, we wonder whether this factor will necessarily be decisive. We raise these points as matters for consideration-would it for instance be useful to seek American views on their understanding of the application of the Article in situations outside Europe? Or are there risks to our interests, if any, inherent in any attempt to limit proliferation?
  4. Article 3 has been viewed as a major stumbling block for the Europeans and, in view of reported Soviet rejection of the revised text (New York Times, 3rd May), it may yet undergo further amendment. One comment which occurs to us is whether the cost of administering the very extensive safeguards arrangements contemplated in this Article, which would presumably be a charge on the budget of IAEA to be borne by all members, could ever be of such an order as to 'hamper the economic and technological development of the parties having them' (to use the language of paragraph 5). The cost of administering the safeguards could affect the economics of using nuclear reactors, a result which might bear more heavily on countries developing nuclear power facilities than it would on those with an already established nuclear industry (this would be especially true if any countries were to take the position, which the USSR at one time took, that the cost of safeguards should be a charge bearing on the countries inspected and not the agency). These considerations are not unrelated to the amendments in the revised text which stiffen the inspection requirements of non-nuclear states by comparison with the earliest drafts, at the same time as they eliminate all inspection provisions relating to the peaceful activities of the nuclear weapon powers themselves which found a part in the original United States draft.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, TS681/6 part 6]