193. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • US-UK Bilateral Discussions on the Nuclear Test Ban Issue


  • (See attachment)1

The following three ACDA papers were under consideration at the meetings: “Possibilities for a Nuclear Test Detection System which Responds to Basic Ideas of the Eight-Nation Proposal” by Dr. Franklin Long, a draft atmospheric test ban proposal, and a draft comprehensive test ban treaty. (The references in the text are to the fifth revision of this draft.)2

Morning Session, July 5, 1962

Ambassador Dean opened the meeting by calling on Dr. Long to discuss his new paper. Dr. Long explained that he had concentrated on the technical problem of seismic detection by use of national stations. He then described the system proposed in his paper. In estimating the system’s capability, Dr. Long stressed the possibility that a country could “spoof” by a variety of technical means, for example, by delaying on the time scale, in order to conduct clandestine tests. Less attention had been paid to detection of high altitude and outer space tests although some of the core stations could have the necessary technical equipment. However, core stations chosen for their seismicity might not be as useful for outer space detection and it might therefore be necessary to separate the two. He explained that more detailed studies of the system were being made, that the national stations would be effective for detection, but much less so for identification, and that the necessity for on-site inspection would remain.

Amb. Dean pointed out that there was still the problem of the international commission’s right to determine the necessity of on-site inspection if identification were impossible. Dr. Long agreed. This would be an “internationally operated national system.” The advantage [Page 477] would be in having an integrated system under the control of the international commission. The nationals operating the stations would be under firm obligation to the commission to do correct detecting. In answer to a question from Amb. Stelle, he added that distance location would not be very much downgraded and that a ten kilometer radius would still suffice for inspection.

Amb. Dean asked whether the distant stations would be able to confirm an event inside the Soviet Union if that country refused a commission’s request to inspect. Dr. Long answered that “spoofing” had not yet been studied in depth, but that the data from a country which was suspected of spoofing would have to be discounted. Responding to Sir Michael Wright’s query as to whether atmospheric tests in the Soviet Union could be established without the use of special air over-flights, he said that it would not be possible to locate very small tests, but that there existed a finite possibility of identification which might act as a deterrent. There would be a problem of locating the event if the time element were uncertain.

Less consideration had been given to underwater testing, but a nuclear event could be identified by sampling ocean currents for radioactive debris. For weapons effects tests, underwater testing would be very important, especially in regard to submarine warfare. On the whole, the April 18th, 1961 treaty would be downgraded in every mode by this new system.

Sir Michael Wright asked about the importance of the “series” concept in detection. The UK had felt that in calculating the capabilities for the April 18, 1961 treaty, full justice had not been given to the fact that one was really looking for a series and not an isolated test. Dr. Long said that in principle there was no reason why a series could not be separated in space and time and for certain developments, such as the “neutron” bomb, single tests were useful. However, there was a very good case for the importance of a series.

Amb. Dean inquired about the United States Government’s position in regard to the national detection system. Mr. Adrian Fisher replied that there was, to date, no government position on the matter. Underground tests were again considered to be quite important and there was no indication that the government would accept a national detection system as a treaty basis at this time. Dr. Long confirmed that a large majority of the recent Nevada tests would not have been detected if the data from American stations had been discounted. However, as each station sees tuff signals at different magnitudes, there was a pretty good possibility that of 20 stations some would see a test as bigger than 4.5 kiloton and thus detect some of the smaller tests which might be a useful deterrent.

Amb. Dean asked whether this study would be completed by July 16 and how long it would be before a new treaty on this basis could be [Page 478] tabled. Dr. Long said that he would have a better picture of the seismic possibility of this new system by the 16th after a discussion with British scientists in London.3 Amb. Dean pointed out that even if the US and the UK agreed to pursue this system further there was still no evidence that the Soviet Union would agree to on-site inspection. He questioned whether it was worth presenting a new system less effective than that of April 18, 1961 if the Soviet Union would still not accept inspection. Sir Michael Wright stressed that the 8-nation memorandum fell into three parts: (1) an internationally coordinated detection system based on national control posts; (2) an international scientific commission and (3) verification. The US and UK had interpreted the third point as providing for obligatory on-site inspection and seven of the eight neutrals had stated their agreement with this interpretation. He felt that a major round would be lost if a new proposal based on the 8-nation memorandum were not presented. The system described by Dr. Long for detecting underground tests would probably necessitate more on-site inspection. Tactically it would be better to meet the neutrals on the detection and commission points, while taking a harder line on on-site inspection. A second point, however, was to determine how much value our governments attached to underground testing. If they did not find it very important it was not worth foundering the project on it. Dr. Long stated that the AEC would not agree to leaving the underground tests uninspected.

The meeting proceeded to a discussion of the ACDA draft atmospheric treaty. Amb. Dean pointed out that the draft was not yet cleared and not ready to be tabled at the conference. Furthermore, he wondered whether it would be wise to offer an atmospheric treaty if we still wanted a comprehensive treaty as there might be pressure from the neutrals and the USSR to omit on-site inspection from all types of treaties.

Afternoon Session, July 5, 1962

The discussion of the atmospheric draft treaty resumed in the afternoon.

Sir Michael Wright recalled that our offer of an uncontrolled ban on September 3, 1961 was on the record and he asked whether the renewed offer would include aircraft sampling. Mr. Fisher explained that the inspection provisions in the draft were almost nonexistent. Inspection [Page 479] was purely invitational although each country was committed to maintaining qualified observers who represented a type of ad hoc commission. There was no provision for over-flights. The country charging a violation would be responsible for the observation costs. He added that it would be necessary to consider the observation of peaceful explosions to insure that they were not weapon tests. Sir Michael Wright asked whether this would not give away the principle of on-site inspection in terms of underground tests and disarmament. Amb. Dean agreed that to some extent the draft did expose us to the invitational principle advanced by the USSR on underground tests and that it also omitted the commission principle. Amb. Stelle pointed out that it reopened the possibility of pressure for a moratorium on underground tests. Mr. Fisher replied that the principle of inspection could be stated in such a way that one would request as much international inspection as was needed. Answering a question of Sir Michael Wright’s he added that the application of this draft to underwater and outer space tests had not even been tentatively decided.

Sir Michael Wright had serious reservations about Article VII on Withdrawal and Denunciation which sanctioned withdrawal for reasons of national security. This was not very different from the Soviet November 28, 1961 proposal to which we had objected because of its provision for withdrawal on the basis of national rather than international determination. He suggested that the wording of Article 22 in the April 18, 1961 treaty might be better. He hoped that it would be possible to have a statement less blunt on the question of national security. Amb. Stelle remarked that the duration article in the 1961 treaty was fairly satisfactory in regard to violations of the treaty, but not in regard to non-party violations. It would perhaps be possible to use the non-party formula in this draft treaty and the 1961 formula for non-fulfillment. Mr. Goodby and Mr. Spiers pointed out that the International Conference procedure had been included to make it as difficult as possible to withdraw. This was especially important when there were no control conditions.

Sir Michael Wright asked whether the International Court of Justice would be called upon to determine questions of fact or of law. Mr. Fisher observed that it was not very important as it was unlikely that many legal matters would arise and the Court was not an especially good body for establishing fact. Article IV was not intended as a substitute for Article VII. Proceeding to Article VI, he explained that the US experience during the moratorium had shown the difficulties of maintaining a readiness to test unless the right to do so was spelled out. It was simply a recognition of the fact that it was impossible to prevent preparation for testing, but the matter had not yet been decided. Amb. Dean pointed out that nothing in the treaty prevented a country from being ready to test. Sir Michael Wright, [Page 480] Amb. Stelle, and Mr. Fisher agreed that the article did look a little strange.

Turning to a discussion of a draft comprehensive test ban treaty, which he felt the neutrals would certainly favor, Sir Michael Wright remarked that paragraph 1 of Article 9 seemed a step back from the Geneva system by making “a” seismic event eligible for inspection. This would seem to make it possible to request inspection of an earthquake simply because it was in a sensitive area which we wanted to inspect. He suggested substituting “a seismic event suspected of being a nuclear explosion.”

In regard to the reverse quota system, Sir Michael Wright asked whether it would not be preferable to allow the Commission to request inspection of all unidentified events. Mr. Goodby remarked that the quota protected both sides. The commission could determine the necessity of an inspection if the objective criteria were spelled out in detail. However, we would want to use all possible information and we might have more available than the commission did. The reverse quota giving the Soviet Union the possibility of conducting 15 free tests within a three-year period would meet the Soviet charge of espionage and at the same time might protect us from inspection of some very sensitive areas. Moreover, a refusal of inspection on the Soviet side would in itself be a very informative fact.

Amb. Dean had serious reservations about the reverse quota which could in effect be a license to test. Amb. Stelle did not think that the reverse quota would remove the Soviet fear of espionage. He thought it better to maintain the classic position that everything would be done to remove the possibility of espionage rather than to spell out this possibility in a treaty.

On the matter of tactics for the Geneva conference, Amb. Dean predicted that the Soviet Delegation would come with a treaty text based on 100% national systems with invitational inspection. Sir Michael Wright hoped that an allied document would be available which would not have to have every paragraph filled in but could be very general. He preferred a comprehensive draft treaty to an atmospheric treaty. Mr. Spiers said that the draft comprehensive treaty would not be ready by July 16 although we would be in a better position to estimate if and when it would be ready after the scientific talks in London. Amb. Stelle expressed reluctance to proceed with the atmospheric treaty if the possibility of a comprehensive treaty had not been ruled out. The inspection principle had now gathered some support and the introduction of an atmospheric treaty now might politically preclude the possibility of [Page 481] agreement on a comprehensive treaty for several years. Amb. Dean also felt that it would be better to risk waiting for a comprehensive treaty.

(End of Meeting—July 5)

Morning Session—July 6, 1962

The meeting resumed with a detailed discussion of the two draft treaties.

Sir Michael Wright stated that although we had to accept the fact that no comprehensive treaty text based on the 8-power memorandum could be tabled on July 16, he had recommended to London that no atmospheric or underwater test ban treaty be tabled until we were forced to give up on a comprehensive treaty. He urged that such a draft treaty be ready as soon as possible. Amb. Dean agreed that our optimum goal would be to have the “Long version of the 8-power proposal” and a draft treaty ready in a few weeks. If this were impossible we should then decide on an alternative in order to avoid a detailed disarmament discussion in the General Assembly and a possible General Assembly decision that the 18-nation conference was not productive.

Sir Michael Wright stated that London accepted in general both US draft treaties, but had some specific questions and suggestions. In the comprehensive draft treaty in Article I, paragraph 1, he proposed changing the last sentence to “place subject to its jurisdiction or by any person subject to its control.” He asked whether in Article III the Commission’s duties of collecting data and reporting on all seismic events could be more clearly stated and questioned whether the quota should be exercised unilaterally rather than by the Commission. London thought that the neutrals would object and that it would be better if the decision rested with the Commission. Amb. Dean recalled our earlier thinking that if we thought an event had occurred in the USSR we would not want to argue over this with the Commission. Amb. Stelle remarked that in our past attempts to establish objective criteria with the USSR we had been forced to fall back on location criteria. Mr. Spiers pointed out that the exercise of the quota by either side had been originally a USSR proposal and if the Soviet Union ever accepted the quota again it would probably be on this basis.

Sir Michael Wright remarked that the quota system could perhaps operate on a national basis but if the treaty were to include unlimited inspection, the decision should be left to the Commission. Moreover, even if the treaty included unlimited inspection on the basis of a Commission decision, the reverse quota system could still apply. He further commented on the provision in Article III for periodic visits by the Commission to all elements of the system. He recognized the necessity of this paragraph but suspected that the USSR would object to an inspection of its detection posts. Mr. Goodby said that it had been hoped that the [Page 482] Soviet Union would allow the Commission to construct new posts on its territory.

Sir Michael Wright asked whether it would be desirable in Article IV to spell out that the members of the Commission should be scientists. Amb. Stelle cautioned that non-scientists should not be excluded from the Commission’s work which was, after all, of a political nature.

Sir Michael Wright suggested that the word “possible” be inserted before the words “nuclear explosions” in paragraph 1 of Article VII. He also stated that in Article VIII, paragraph 5, “back-scatter radar” was not negotiable. He repeated his previous remark that in Article IX the non-qualified “a seismic event” would cause complications. He asked about the 10 kilometer radius in Article IX, paragraph 4, and with regard to paragraphs 7 and 8, of the same Article, wondered whether special aircraft sampling flights for detection of atmospheric tests would be included. He remarked that under the Geneva system, the host country had been responsible for the transportation and necessary equipment mentioned in paragraph 8.

Amb. Stelle stated that 10 kilometers was a compromise between the 8 and 12 mentioned in the Geneva system.

Mr. Goodby explained that over-ocean flights rather than flights over territories had been contemplated. Sir Michael Wright stressed that Article XIV worried the UK the most. In this treaty as opposed to the atmospheric treaty, there was a Commission and there existed thus a stronger argument for giving the responsibility of finding a breach to the Commission rather than allowing withdrawal on the basis of national determination. Mr. Baker proposed that if withdrawal were permitted as a result of identification of an explosion anywhere by the Commission, both the problems of a treaty violation and of testing by a non-party to the treaty, could be met.

Sir Michael Wright stated that he now had an official reaction from London on the atmospheric treaty. A comprehensive test ban treaty was considered to be preferable, but if we were able to offer only an atmospheric treaty, it should be a simple one. As the Soviet Union would probably reject it, it would be as effective as possible for world public opinion. For the sake of simplicity, London had queried the value of Articles IV and V and had been unenthusiastic about Article VI which seemed to throw doubt on the sincerity of the treaty. There had also been objection to the Withdrawal Article (VII) and a suggestion had been made to take the relevant Article of the April 18, 1961 treaty plus a provision for withdrawal if testing, other than underground, were conducted by another party. He added that he had meanwhile sent to London the rationale for Article IV, namely, to make frivolous denunciation more difficult.

[Page 483]

Amb. Dean pointed out that the structure of Article VII depended on whether its purpose was to make it difficult for the other party to contract out of the treaty.

Mr. Spiers said that it had been felt that there were only two possible reasons for denouncing the treaty and the necessity of calling a conference would make it difficult to withdraw. Sir Michael Wright said that the article should provide the right of withdrawal if another country conducted a nuclear explosion. In an atmospheric treaty this could take place after a finding by observers. Who should make the finding in a comprehensive treaty was still a debatable point. He would ask the Foreign Office to propose some alternatives. Mr. Wilkinson questioned a possible inconsistency between paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article VII, since paragraph 2 seemed to annul the value of paragraph 1 by providing an alternative exit from the treaty without a conference. Mr. Goodby remarked that if a party to the treaty resumed testing there would be little need for a conference.

On the subject of tactics for the resumed session of the 18-NDC, Amb. Dean predicted that the Soviet delegation would have a draft treaty, that if we did not also table a draft treaty, the eight neutrals probably would. Hopefully, we would have a treaty to present and it would then be better to undergo an uncomfortable first two weeks. If we could not table a comprehensive treaty, he asked whether we should table an atmospheric treaty before the General Assembly convened. We could not maintain the position of the April 18, 1961 treaty indefinitely. If the scientific problems of the new comprehensive draft could be solved, we might have something more workable and more realistic despite the downgrading of the identification process. Sir Michael Wright pointed out that the new system would enable detection and identification to start within 6 months whereas the Geneva system could not have been put into operation for 4 years.

Amb. Stelle suggested another alternative. The real decision was whether we could proceed on the basis of national detection systems, which would give us a new basis for agreement. It might be simpler to present a skeleton working paper at Geneva on what we were prepared to accept without entering into details. If we were starting on a new basis we would probably want to abandon the historical wording of the April 18th treaty.

Mr. Beam commented that whereas we could commit ourselves by tabling a treaty, the presentation of a working paper would have more leeway for discussion. Mr. Neidle4 remarked that this procedure had been used in the early stages of the Antarctic Treaty. Amb. Dean stressed [Page 484] that the actual drafting of the treaty probably presented the least problem. The important thing was to have the fundamentals cleared. Mr. Spiers said that it would be possible to prepare such a working paper a little more quickly than a draft treaty but that its primary advantage would be as a better negotiating technique allowing greater flexibility.

Sir Michael Wright recalled that the US disarmament treaty had been called an outline and that it might have been better to put forth a fuller paper. The small print in the test ban treaty was also very important. It would be better to think this over. He reported that London was very much in favor of Padilla Nervo’s proposal for a time lapse between the signing and coming into force of a treaty.5 He then asked about the possibility of tabling the two alternative treaties simultaneously. Mr. Beam felt that we would gain greater moral credit if we started with the comprehensive treaty. We would then have the atmospheric treaty as a fall-back.

Amb. Dean commented that it was hard to put verification meas-ures into the atmospheric treaty. If both were advanced simultaneously the Soviet Union would always play one off against the other and thus preclude the possibility of agreement on inspection. It would be better to fall back on the atmospheric treaty.

Recapitulating his preferences, Sir Michael Wright listed first, a full treaty text on a comprehensive test ban; secondly, a full treaty text on an atmospheric test ban as a fall-back position; and thirdly, a skeleton working paper.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 700.5611/7-662. Confidential. Drafted by Marie deGunzburg (ACDA/IR). The meetings were held at the British Embassy.
  2. The list of 17 participants at the July 5 meeting and 13 participants at the July 6 meeting is not printed.
  3. A copy of the fifth revision of the comprehensive test ban treaty, dated June 18, is in the Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA/D Files: FRC 77 A 23, Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee. The other two ACDA papers have not been found.
  4. A summary of the record of these Washington meetings, transmitted in Todis 417 to Geneva, July 6, reads in part: “US and UK scientists (including Long of ACDA) would meet in London next week and discuss technical aspects new US ideas and that outcome this discussion would be relevant re further tactical planning.” (Department of State, Central Files, 700.5611/7-662) In his journal, Seaborg briefly refers to a meeting of the President’s Science Advisory Committee on July 16 at which Wiesner described the previous week’s meetings with the British on “test detection, permissive links, and general disarmament.” (Seaborg, Journal, vol. 4, pp. 41-42)
  5. Alan F. Neidle (ACDA/GC)
  6. Reference presumably is to the proposals of Luis Padilla Nervo, Mexican Representative to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee, for an end date for atmospheric testing. On June 14, for example, he said that the agreed date might be January 1963. See Documents on Disarmament, 1962, vol. I, pp. 479-484.