306. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • President-Prime Minister Test Ban Conversations, June 30, 1963

The President and the Prime Minister with their advisers discussed test ban matters during a meeting at Birch Grove from 11:45 a.m. until 1:15 p.m., Sunday, June 30, 1963. Present at the discussions assisting the President were Secretary Rusk, Ambassador Bruce, and Messrs. Tyler, McNaughton, and Long. Assisting the Prime Minister, in addition to his personal secretary, were Lord Home (in and out), Minister Thorneycroft,1 Ambassador Ormsby Gore, Lord Hailsham, and Messrs. Caccia, Zuckerman and Wilson.

The Prime Minister asked “the scientists” to provide the answers to the three questions put to them the night before. I read to them the questions and in each case the answers which had been prepared by the team of Zuckerman-Wilson-Long-McNaughton.2 There was discussion after each answer. (The questions and answers appear elsewhere in the form of the informal talking paper used by the group.)

The President then read from the JCS June 18 “Comments on the Proposed Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.”3 He read extensively from Parts II, III and IV of the JCS statement. In some cases he asked me for fuller explanation of the Chiefs’ meaning, and in all cases there was discussion of the points made by the Chiefs. The President stated that it will be important for us to “get back home and talk this over.”

It was stated that it would be advisable for Mr. Harriman to spend perhaps two days in London before going on to Moscow. It was understood that the US-UK liaison at the working level was going on already.

Lord Home suggested that, in the Moscow negotiations, we should not permit the debate to focus on number of inspections. Rather, he preferred to have the emphasis put on kinds of inspection.

There was some discussion of what inducements the Soviets might have to agree to a test ban. In response to a question from Lord Hailsham, I said that the interest on the part of the Soviets might flow (1) from a different [Page 758] strategic outlook (one in which superiority in very large weapons appeared sufficient), and (2) from a desire to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons capabilities. The Prime Minister added two reasons: (3) That the Soviets may wish to save the resources now being diverted to the arms race, and (4) that they may be interested in taking a step toward disarmament. He doubted very much that the Soviets would enter a treaty intending to cheat; he believed that the question in their minds would be “Do we want this deal or don’t we?” The questions would be how much each side had to give to reach agreement.

The President raised the question of a partial test ban—one which had no meaningful on-site inspections but which allowed a given number (possibly 7 to 10) of underground tests each year. He doubted that the Soviets would be interested in such a proposal. Secretary Rusk emphasized the importance for pressing for a comprehensive ban for quite some time before falling back to a partial ban. The President observed that such a partial ban would meet some of the Soviet needs while at the same time making a ban more consistent with US military and political requirements.

The problem of China was raised. It was observed that it might be hard to get a treaty ratified by the Senate if the Chinese tested prior to that time and, in any event, that the Senate ratification might provide that the treaty terminate if the Chinese conducted a test. There were some references to methods which might be used to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons capabilities.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Kaysen Series, Test Ban Inspections. Secret. Drafted by John McNaughton, General Counsel of the Department of Defense, on July 1. Copies were sent to William R. Tyler and Franklin Long.
  2. Peter Thorneycroft, Minister of Defense.
  3. Document 305.
  4. Not found, but presumably an earlier draft of the paper cited in footnote 12, Document 294.