Learn about the beta
Office of the Historian

36. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara0


  • A Strategic Analysis of the Impact of the Acquisition by Communist China of a Nuclear Capability (U)


The Joint Chiefs of Staff have had prepared a strategic analysis of the impact of the acquisition by Communist China of a nuclear capability. A copy of this analysis is attached.1
The Joint Chiefs of Staff conclude that:
The attainment of a nuclear capability by Communist China will have a marked impact on the security posture of the United States and the Free World, particularly in Asia.
The United States should use the time that is still available to counter this impact through coordinated political, psychological, economic, and military actions.
The military impact of this capability will continue to be reflected in appropriate strategic plans. Because of the scope and importance of the problem, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that:
This analysis be referred to the Department of State for consideration of the nonmilitary points in the required actions.
A combined State-Defense-Central Intelligence Agency-United States Information Agency Plan be developed to insure that appropriate, timely and coordinated national action is taken with respect to this problem.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
L. L. Lemnitzer
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 65 A 3464, 471.61 China Reds. Secret. A note on the source text indicates it was seen by McNamara.
  2. The analysis, attached as an appendix to the memorandum, is not printed. It estimated that Communist China might test a nuclear device between 1962 and 1964 and, in another 2 years, might have a small stockpile of weapons with aircraft that could reach targets in Asia. It predicted that China would move as rapidly as possible to develop ballistic missiles, but uncertainty about the likelihood of Soviet assistance for such an enterprise caused uncertainty in the estimate of the length of time required. It estimated that without Soviet assistance, China could produce a missile with a range of 200-500 miles by 1968-1970 but could not produce an ICBM until well after 1970. See the Supplement.