Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Clarence A. Wendel of the Office of the Under Secretary of State (Webb)

top secret
Participants: Ambassador Jooste of South Africa
Mr. W. Dirkse-van-Schalkwyk, First Secretary, South African Embassy
The Secretary of State
Mr. Clarence Wendel, U/A

The South African Ambassador stated that he had requested the time with the Secretary to take up, under instructions from his Government, a matter pertaining to atomic energy which would be handled on a secret basis. His representations would be oral and informal and would be similar to representations which had been previously made to the British Government by his Government.

The Secretary was probably aware, the Ambassador said, that South Africa might become one of the foremost, if not the chief, sources of uranium. He mentioned that with the full awareness of the United States and of the United Kingdom, research conducted in South Africa on the extraction of uranium minerals from gold ores had now produced significant and important results. Corollary work augmenting this had also been performed in the United Kingdom and in the United States and was continuing.

His Government, the Ambassador continued, by virtue of these developments and the expected position of South Africa as a producer of uranium, desired to associate itself with the “inner circle” of Western countries in atomic energy. In connection with this representation, there were two particular points which his Government wished to note. The first pertained to security, and he wished to emphasize that the United States and the United Kingdom could be assured that they would have no cause to worry as to the ability and concern of the Union Government in this connection. The second related to the atomic bomb, and his Government wanted to make it explicitly clear that it had no interest in obtaining information regarding the manufacture of atomic weapons.

The Secretary took note of this point and inquired whether this meant that the Union Government was mainly interested in the ore extraction phases. The Ambassador replied in the negative, although he did not expand on what sort of special assistance his Government desired.

The Secretary said that there obviously was not much he could say at this time, but he could assure the Ambassador that these representations [Page 567] would be considered sympathetically. He said that the United States Government had been informed of the previous representations made to the British, and that the Ambassador’s statements therefore came as no great surprise.

There was another point, the Secretary added, which he would like to mention. In view of the great importance attached to developing South Africa’s uranium supply, we were anxious to agree on the contractual terms to do that as speedily as possible. Our people had written several letters to the South African Atomic Energy Board and had waited a considerable period for a reply; was there not something, the Secretary said, that the Ambassador might do to needle a reply shortly? Mr. Schalkwyk replied that it was their understanding that a letter was now on its way concerning this matter, and that some delay had been caused by the recent shift of the Government from Capetown to Pretoria. The Secretary expressed satisfaction with this information.