92. Memorandum for the File, March 91

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  • William C. Foster, Director


  • Decisions on Key Issues for Forthcoming Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Conference

At a meeting with the President at 12 noon on March 9, 1962, the following decisions were made:

I. Arms Control and Disarmament Measures

1. It has been decided to propose an across-the board cut of 30% in both strategic and conventional weapons in increments of 10% a year over a three-year period. It has been decided not to separate out strategic nuclear delivery vehicles as an initial measure but the President has indicated he will be prepared to hear the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency’s position on this issue again at some future time.

2. With respect to strategic weapons this cut is to be both in numbers and in total destructive capability, of which total full loaded weight is a possible yardstick. There has been a decision that the cuts in strategic delivery vehicles are to be in two categories: intercontinental systems and less than intercontinental systems but the precise definitions have not been agreed upon and are to be urgently studied by ACDA. For the purposes of the early stages of the forthcoming Geneva conference it is sufficient that the U.S. representatives be authorized to make the proposal in terms of 30% in numbers and 30% in destructive capability without being precise on the issues of categories and of measuring nuclear capability.

3. In the case of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles we are to proceed on the basis of a production limitation in the first stage in terms of some percentage (perhaps 10%) of inventories existing at the beginning of the year.

4. With respect to armaments other than strategic delivery vehicles there has been a decision on the categories for reduction and a decision that the reduction within certain of these categories should be by numbers as well as by total weight. Nuclear warheads and weapons of [Typeset Page 275] chemical and biological warfare are not included in this proposal because the problems [Facsimile Page 2] of inspecting stockpiles of such weapons are so great as to place them in another category for the purposes of their reduction and control. However, we would propose that possibilities for reducing and controlling them be studied in an international experts commission as envisaged in the U.S. plan of September 25, 1961. An urgent study is to be made within the U.S. Government of the feasibility of reducing and controlling such weapons.

5. A decision has not yet been made on a possible production limitation in conventional armaments. An urgent study is to be made to determine whether it would be feasible to effect a production limitation comparable to that indicated in 3 above.

6. It has been decided that the U.S. should continue to press the proposal of 2.1 million force levels. The U.S. would be prepared to proceed at least through the first stage in the absence of the Chinese Communists although the possibility of a defeasance procedure (comparable to that in the test ban) should be examined.

7. The U.S. representatives have been authorized to discuss with the U.S.S.R. an inspection system based on sampling techniques perhaps accompanied by progressive zonal techniques.

8. A decision has been made to propose that, contingent on agreement on the cut-off of fissionable material for use in weapons, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. each transfer 50,000 kg of U–235 to peaceful purposes. There is to be an urgent study within the U.S. Government to determine whether we could agree to a proportional transfer, whereby we would transfer 50,000 kg to the Soviet’s 40,000 kgs.

9. It would be expected that with adequate progress in Stage I, the annual reductions to be proposed during the second stage would be the same order of magnitude as the first stage and that it should be possible to impose in addition a more stringent limitation on production of delivery vehicles and other armaments.

II. Nuclear Test Ban Questions

1. The United States will sign the April 18, 1961 nuclear test ban treaty with the three amendments of May and June 1961 and including the proposals of August 1961 if the Soviet Union offers to do so.

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2. The United States will not at this time agree to concluding a separate nuclear test ban treaty on any basis other than that envisaged in the April 18 treaty. If the Soviet Union flatly refuses to negotiate on the basis of a control system along the lines of that defined in the April 18 draft treaty, the United States will consider that the President’s offer of March 2 has been rejected.

3. If the Soviet Union is interested in negotiating an effectively controlled test ban treaty, the U.S. will indicate our willingness to [Typeset Page 276] negotiate a test ban treaty along the lines of the April 18 draft and should suggest that the conference establish a sub-committee of the 18-Nation committee to consist of the US, UK and USSR in order to conduct such negotiations. Alternatively, we would offer to reactivate the test ban conference itself if the Soviet Union shows any interest in this approach.

4. As appropriate, either in the course of serious negotiations with the Soviet Union or in response to situations which might arise in the 18-Nation Conference, the United States representative is authorized to put forward the following proposals and concepts:

A. Inspection for Preparations

The United States would propose an inspection system to monitor preparations. The system would consist of periodic declarations of activities associated with preparations for weapons development tests combined with the right to inspect declared test sites.

B. Shortening the Time Span Between Treaty Signature and Beginning of On-Site Inspections

The United States would propose that on-site inspections begin as soon as a sufficient number of control posts are operating. In order to speed up the construction of control posts the United States would propose an active cooperative effort between the US, UK and USSR in order to get control posts installed in the shortest possible time. It may be possible to begin inspections within a year of ratification. We should state that we will have specific proposals to make in this regard, when the treaty is signed.

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C. The Threshold-Moratorium Question

If there is any serious negotiation on the April 18 draft we will be prepared to eliminate the threshold and make the treaty comprehend all tests from the outset. We would justify this on grounds that arrangements of this kind are no longer acceptable and that we would prefer to ban all tests by treaty obligations, including the right to inspect all unidentified events up to the limit of the quota.

D. Allocating on-site Inspections by Area

It is possible to define an aseismic area which includes the greater part of Soviet territory. In order to alleviate Soviet concern about on-site inspections being used for espionage, the U.S. will offer to limit inspection in the aseismic zone to no more than a specified number. An urgent study is to be made of the precise boundaries of the area, the specific maximum number of inspections for this area, and the relationship of these to the elimination of the threshold. If there is a [Typeset Page 277] 4.75 magnitude threshold, inspections might be decreased to 1 for every 6 unidentified events. But if the threshold is eliminated there will be need for the full 20 inspections, and probably more.

E. Number of control posts

We are presently on record as favoring 19 control posts in the Soviet Union. If serious negotiations were to eventuate, we would be willing to accept 17 posts on Soviet territory. This should not interfere with the additional posts that may be necessary in connection with the elimination of the threshold.

  1. Decisions on key issues for 18-Nation Disarmament Conference. Confidential. 4 pp. Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Kaysen Series, Disarmament, Basic Memoranda, 2/62–4/62.