362. Memorandum for the Record0


  • Meeting with JCS on Test Ban

At their request, the Secretary met with the JCS at 11:00 a.m. on August 13 to follow up on the Secretary’s letter of August 2 in reply to General Taylor’s letter of July 271 on certain questions of the JCS with respect to the test ban treaty. All members of the JCS, including General Shoup, were present as well as General Ingelido, secretary to the JCS. In addition to Secretary Rusk, Under Secretary Ball, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Harriman, Deputy Under Secretary Johnson, and William Foster, Director of ACDA, were present.

In reply to a question on the subject, the Secretary categorically stated that Article I of the treaty in no way inhibited our ability to use nuclear weapons in either general or limited hostilities and pointed out that this had been made categorically clear in the President’s speech,2 the Secretary’s speech at the time of signing the treaty,3 the President’s message transmitting the treaty to the Senate,4 and the Secretary’s testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee.5 It was not a “ban the bomb” treaty. Mr. Harriman stated that, when he had raised the subject with Gromyko, the latter had appeared to be baffled as to our reason for raising the question.6

In reply to questions with respect to Plowshare, the Secretary stated that we were entitled under the treaty to go ahead with underground experimentation for Plowshare and that Plowshare operations would not be prohibited if the dispersal of fission products downwind did not contravene the terms of the treaty. He understood that one of the objectives of the AEC with respect to Plowshare was to minimize and direct [Page 878] fission products from Plowshare explosions downward into the earth. He thought, for example, that under the treaty we and Panama could probably agree to the use of nuclear explosions to dig a new canal as long as the fission products did not extend beyond Panama. However, Orion would clearly be prohibited.

In response to questions from General LeMay as to whether the explosion of a device placed “one foot underground” would constitute an atmospheric explosion prohibited under the treaty or would be classed as an underground explosion, particularly if it was a “clean” weapon without fission products, the Secretary said that the answer was not foreclosed but he felt it would not be wise to attempt to codify all the many possible contingencies and he would prefer to leave this question open as he had attempted to do in his testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee. However, it was quite clear that one could not put a little dirt over a weapon and call it an underground test as a pretext for what was in fact an atmospheric test. One foot was probably too shallow, but he was not willing at this time to attempt to define what would be “deep enough”.

In response to a question by General Taylor on the definition of “extraordinary events”, the Secretary stated that the resumption of testing by the Soviet Union would clearly be such an event. A single explosion of a nuclear device by the Chinese Communists would not necessarily be such an event but he did not feel there would be “much life left in the treaty” if the Chinese Communists undertook extensive testing. On the other hand, a massive conventional aggression such as a Chinese Communist attack on Korea might well be considered such an event if we so desired. The Secretary pointed out that, against Soviet opposition, we had held firm for a very flexible withdrawal provision such as the present clause, and he felt that it was imperative that we maintain a high state of readiness for resuming testing in the atmosphere in the event the treaty was abrogated. The Secretary did not feel that the Soviets would automatically abrogate the treaty in the event of a French atmospheric test and, in any event, he understood that it would probably be a year or two before the French would engage in such tests. However, it would of course be up to the Soviet Union what it did in the face of French testing.

Mr. Ball pointed out that, under the treaty, the test was not only whether it was an “extraordinary event” but also whether it jeopardized national security.

Mr. Harriman pointed out that the Soviets regard the French problem as being different from that of Communist China and that the Soviets are very anxious to bring maximum pressure on Communist China.

The Secretary emphasized that he had tried to warn people not to read too much into the treaty and that, while the differences between the [Page 879] Chinese Communists and the Soviets now appear to be very deep, such totalitarian regimes are capable of reversing course overnight, and again emphasized the importance of our maintaining a high state of readiness to resume tests if the necessity should arise.

In reply to a question from General LeMay on what the Secretary saw as the political advantages of the treaty, the Secretary stated that it could contribute to what appears to be a split between the Soviets and the Chinese Communists and that it may lead to further favorable developments in our relations with the Soviets. Khrushchev was in trouble at home over the allocation of Soviet resources as between military and civilian needs and may be attempting to hold back the pace of nuclear developments which are making heavy resource demands on the Soviet economy. However, the worst thing possible would be to regard this treaty as ending the cold war and becoming euphoric about it. At best, it is only a step. It remains to be seen whether there can be other steps. The Secretary remarked parenthetically that Khrushchev had told him he was planning to reduce the Soviet military budget but of course it is very difficult to know whether he in fact does so.

The Secretary said that it was likely the question would be raised as to whether the JCS were consulted with respect to the treaty and noted that he had been asked why a representative of the JCS was not present at the Moscow negotiations. In this connection the Secretary noted that the substance of the Moscow negotiations was very tightly controlled from Washington and that the job in Moscow was largely one of negotiating the draft. Thus, the substantive decisions were being made in Washington. In this connection, General Taylor noted that he had been given access to the communications from our negotiating delegation in Moscow, had briefed the other members of the JCS on them, and there had been opportunity to enter objections if anyone desired. The Secretary noted that we had tabled essential elements of this treaty a year ago in Geneva, that it would be understandable if during the interim the Joint Staff had not focused on the subject in the belief that nothing was really going to come of the proposal, and also during the past year attention had been focused on the inspection provisions of a comprehensive treaty as well as on the problems of a super-bomb. He suggested that it would be well for ACDA and the JCS to arrange a review of the proposals that are now on the table at Geneva. Mr. Foster said he would arrange this and noted that Khrushchev had expressed interest in the control of military budgets and a proposal for a study of this under appropriate conditions was ready to be tabled at Geneva.

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General Taylor made available to the Secretary the agreed JCS views on the treaty7 and stated that in general they have no problem except with the statement, as contained in the President’s message of transmittal to the Senate, to the effect that the United States will be better off security-wise under this treaty than under a condition of unlimited testing.8 He said that, speaking in a strict military sense, they have some trouble with this, while recognizing that in a wider political sense it may be correct.

After a quick perusal, the Secretary indicated satisfaction with the JCS statement of their views and said he felt that their concerns had been covered in the positions being taken by the Administration.9

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18-4. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by U. Alexis Johnson on August 15.
  2. Rusk’s August 2 letter has not been found. Taylor’s July 27 letter is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, ACDA, Disarmament, Test Ban, Congressional Relations I, 5/63-7/63. See the Supplement.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 353.
  4. Text transmitted in Secto 39 from Moscow, August 7. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18-4)
  5. Dated August 8; printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 622-624.
  6. Given on August 12; printed in Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, pp. 10-25.
  7. See paragraph 3, Document 353.
  8. The unclassified version of this statement forms part of Taylor’s testimony given to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 15; see ibid., pp. 272-276. A classified version dated August 12 is enclosure A to JCS 1731/711-30, JMF 3050 (26 July 63) Sec 3. A copy is in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Test Ban 15, Post Trip.
  9. An analysis of this aspect of the President’s message is in an August 13 memorandum from Major Smith to General Taylor. (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, WYS Chron File)
  10. Other information given to the Joint Chiefs of Staff by the administration includes the enclosures to two letters from Wiesner to Taylor dated August 6 and 8. (Both in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, ACDA, Disarmament, Test Ban and the U.S. Military) With a letter to Senator Pastore dated August 14, Bundy enclosed a memorandum setting forth the White House view on “the relation of the anti-ballistic-missile problem to the limited test ban treaty.” (Ibid., Test Ban, Congressional)