492. Memorandum of Conversation1

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  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Gates
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Mr. Irwin
    • Mr. White
    • Mr. Farley
  • U. K.
    • Foreign Secretary Lloyd
    • Sir Frederick Hoyer-Millar
    • Sir Patrick Dean
    • Mr. Ormsby-Gore
    • Sir Richard Powell
    • Mr. Con O’Neill


  • Disarmament

Mr. Lloyd referred to the preliminary reactions of Gromyko on August 26 when the UK, US, and French ambassadors in Moscow presented to him a draft communique on establishment of a 10-nation disarmament negotiating group. Mr. Lloyd said that he was concerned that Gromyko had said it would be “a few days” before he submitted written comments. Mr. Lloyd pointed out that it was important to settle this matter well in advance of convening of the General Assembly. He agreed with Hammarskjold’s comment that it would be well to have the UN Disarmament Commission meet about September 8, before the General Assembly meets, so that the discussion would be handled by UN permanent representatives rather than foreign ministers. If Gromyko raises any objections in his written comments, we will, of course, have to consult among the five of us on the Western side. Time is thus very short and everything possible should be done to get an early reply from Gromyko.

The Secretary said that Khrushchev is out of Moscow and it takes a while to get a formal Soviet response in these circumstances. He commented that he attached particular importance to avoiding establishment of a new smaller Disarmament Commission or a negotiating subcommittee. He thought the best course would be continuation of the present 82-nation Disarmament Commission with the reports of the 10-nation group going direct to the large Disarmament Commission rather than to any smaller subcommittee thereof.

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Mr. Lloyd said that he agreed heartily and was relieved that the United States was not advancing the proposal for a 24-nation disarmament commission which had been informally discussed in Washington. However, if the 10-nation group is not formally constituted in advance of the meeting of the present Disarmament Commission, the uncertainties will be taken advantage of and we can anticipate some such move as addition of 2 seats from each of the geographic blocs.

The Secretary and Mr. Lloyd agreed that the US and UK chargés in Moscow would be instructed to inquire as to the Soviet reply on the proposed communique during the first part of the following week.

Mr. Lloyd said that he thought we should resume study of the possibility of a cut-off in production of fissionable materials for weapons purposes. Sir William Penney was going to the United States in the latter part of September and would be prepared to talk with US experts on this problem. Sir Richard Powell remarked that the UK was interested in the inspection problem and the question whether it was technically feasible to monitor an agreement to cease fissionable materials production for other than peaceful purposes. Sir Patrick Dean said that UK studies indicated that the inspection problem would be very difficult and the opportunities for diversion would be considerable.

Mr. Lloyd commented that it had become clear several years ago that policing any agreement for elimination of existing stocks of nuclear weapons was technically impossible. Up to 18 months ago, however, he had thought that it was technically feasible to monitor current production of fissionable materials. Since he did not believe that there was any real chance that the Soviet Union would accept a cut-off in production of fissionable materials for weapons purposes, this appeared to be a good proposal to press for political effect. The Secretary said that, if there were technical uncertainties as to inspection of any such agreement, we would not want to get trapped again by advancing the proposal and have the Soviets agree to enter into negotiations only to find that our scientific base was unfirm. Accordingly he welcomed the suggestion that preliminary technical discussions of the inspection problem be initiated during the forthcoming visit of Sir William Penney, who was very highly regarded in the United States.

Mr. Lloyd asked about the current United States views on the substance of disarmament policy. The Secretary said that the President had just approved a basic review of disarmament policy under the direction of Mr. Charles Coolidge. These studies will be complete about the end of the year at which time we will be in a position to commence consultations. It was this schedule that caused us to urge that the new 10-nation negotiating group not meet until February or March. Mr. Lloyd said that, from the point of view of the cold war, this was very awkward timing. It may be possible to spin out discussions inconclusively in the [Typeset Page 1726] interim but we must anticipate frightful pressures to get substantive discussions under way. The Secretary said that this was not an easy subject and there were complex interrelations between disarmament policy and future military requirements and plans which must be taken into account.

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Mr. Lloyd agreed that our basic security problems must be carefully considered. He urged, however, that we not forget the public opinion battle, particularly in the minds of the uncommitted countries, and that we not be too perfectionist. He remarked that the 1954 Anglo-French plan had been excellent from this point of view—though the Soviet Union pretended to accept the essentials of this plan in 1955, they did not really agree to its crucial features.

Mr. Herter said that, as one example, if we gave up nuclear weapons we would be virtually helpless against the hordes of Asiatic manpower. Mr. Lloyd said that he agreed and for that reason his Government had always insisted that nuclear and conventional forces must be cut back pari passu. He thought that we had not pressed the Soviet Union vigorously enough on the reduction of manpower and conventional armaments such as submarines. Mr. Herter remarked that such considerations were related to the possibility which had been touched on recently of the UK concentrating on its conventional forces and thus better complementing the US military posture.

Mr. Lloyd said that it appeared we would have to continue on the basis of the 1957 agreed Four-Power position in any disarmament discussions in the forthcoming General Assembly. The Secretary said that in any case the disarmament problem in the General Assembly was principally an emotional one.

  1. Source: Disarmament machinery, cut-off of production of fissionable material, disarmament policy. Secret; Limit Distribution. 3 pp. NARA, RG 59, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1449.