212. Telegram From the Department of State to the Delegation to the Disarmament Committee 0

Todis 474. Eyes only Ambassador Dean and Fisher. Following message despatched by President to Prime Minister today.

“Dear Prime Minister:

I got your answer just in time for it to be helpful in our concluding conversations with Arthur Dean.1

I recognize your own feeling that we could get along with a simple abolition of nuclear tests. I wish I could agree with you, and I am grateful in the circumstances for your understanding of our views.

[Page 536]

We are now sending Arthur Dean back with the general position which I announced in my press conference.2 Our people here have talked with Lord Hood to give him full details of this position.3 In essence, our view is that we will be glad to go into serious negotiations on other matters if only the Soviet Union will go back to its earlier position that a limited number of on-site inspections is acceptable. We could not get five votes for any other position in the Senate.

We have concluded that we should not table a comprehensive treaty, even with blank numbers, for the moment. Our technical analyses on the problem of control posts are most incomplete and we think it will be helpful to let this question work itself out in the technical channels for a while. In these discussions we shall be using for purposes of illustration a system with a total number of control posts ranging between 70 and 80. This larger number includes many stations for detection in other than seismic media, and its seismic stations are similar in number to the figures in my last message.

We have had much discussion here on the question of the degree to which we can accept the neutral proposal for fully national detection stations. It has become very plain that we shall have a first-class political row here if we move to full acceptance of this position at this moment. While the technical data are promising, they are certainly not definitive. The furthest we can go for the present is to indicate our willingness to discuss national control posts with a resident international representative.

I hear from Geneva that your negotiators are disappointed at this position,4 and I hope very much that both publicly and privately you may be able to join with us in avoiding a public disagreement on this issue now. I am convinced that it is foolish for us to have a division on side issues at a time when there is no flexibility at all in the Soviet position on a fundamental point. If we can ever get a reasonable response from the Soviet Government, I can make great progress here at home on this matter—but a purely hypothetical debate between the U.S. and the UK, prior to any indications of a possible accord with the Soviet Union, would only bring division and weakness in our effort for a treaty. In short, I am suggesting [Page 537] that we both reserve our positions on this point until we know whether we can move forward with the Russians.

Meanwhile, there is some sign of new life in the area of the atmospheric test ban, and this is certainly a reasonable second best. The timing and tactics of discussion of the two kinds of treaties are going to be quite complex. I am therefore asking Arthur Dean to keep very closely in touch with us and we, for our part, will try to keep in the closest communication with you. Our different angles of vision must not prevent us from working closely together for the best possible common results.

As for Christmas Island, I am glad of your friendly first reaction, and I am asking our technical people to begin to work on the question, keeping in touch with yours.

With warm regards,

Sincerely, John F. Kennedy

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, K-M, 1961-1962. Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Beam and approved by Brubeck (S/S) and Bromley Smith (White House). Repeated to London eyes only for the Ambassador.
  2. See Documents 206 and 208.
  3. For text of President Kennedy’s remarks on the Geneva negotiations on a nuclear test ban and disarmament at his press conference on August 2, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 591 and 595-597.
  4. See footnote 1, Document 210. Secretary Rusk informed Lord Hood at a meeting on August 3 at 6 p.m. that “the President was sending a message to the Prime Minister on this subject, and that we thought it very important that we not make this a matter of issue between ourselves, but rather probe the Russians and see how far we could bring them in our direction.” (Memorandum of conversation by Tyler, August 3; Department of State, Central Files, 396.12-GE/8-362)
  5. See Document 210.