232. Letter From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to Secretary of Defense Clifford 1
Dear Mr. Secretary:
Before you go to The Hague for the Nuclear Planning Group meeting on April 18-19, I believe you should be familiar with the US interpretations of Articles I and II of the Non-Proliferation Treaty regarding alliance arrangements for nuclear defense. The FRG has requested in particular that we make it clear that the realization of the NPT will not affect the work of the NPG.
The language of Articles I and II of the NPT was chosen in order to protect alliance consultations on nuclear defense as well as on nuclear defense deployment arrangements. These are not explicitly sanctioned by Articles I and II, since the USSR was not prepared to provide such an endorsement of NATO arrangements.
In Secretary Rusk’s October 10, 1966 talk with Foreign Minister Gromyko,2 it was clearly understood that Articles I and II of the NPT deal only with what is prohibited and not what is permitted. Article I of the NPT prohibits the transfer of ownership or control of nuclear weapons (understood to mean warheads and bombs and not delivery vehicles). It does not mention alliance consultations or deployment arrangements not involving a transfer of nuclear weapons. We worked out interpretations on these and other aspects of Articles I and II with our allies (and in particular the FRG) which were presented to the Soviets on April 28, 1967 in the form of answers to questions posed by our allies (Tab A).
The FRG agreed with us that it would not be desirable to request comments from the USSR on these interpretations, since the USSR could not be expected to be bound by unilateral interpretations or a treaty made by others. However, the Soviets were informed that if they took an official position in opposition to these interpretations, a very serious problem would arise. The Soviets also were told that we expected that during ratification hearings the US Senators would ask similar questions [Page 574] as allied governments, and we expected to make the same responses on our understanding of Articles I and II.
We have not heard from the Soviets any indication that they will contradict the US interpretations when they are made public in the process of consideration of the treaty either by the US or by our allies. This does not mean that they will necessarily agree with them.
We do not believe it would be in our interest or that of our allies to have a public discussion of the US interpretations prior to the time when the NPT is submitted to the Senate for advice and consent.
On March 13 the FRG Embassy here requested that a statement be made by you at The Hague NPG meeting and also at the NATO Defense Ministers Meeting in May to the effect that the NPT will not hinder the work of the NPG or further nuclear defense arrangements within the alliance compatible with Articles I and II of the NPT. (Memcon and FRG working paper attached as Tab B.)
We think it would be useful for you to make such a statement on both occasions suggested by the FRG and see no objection to using substantially the language proposed by the Germans.
We have slightly rephrased the FRG language (Tab C). I suggest that you include such a statement in your presentations both to the April 18-19 NPG Meeting and at the NATO Defense Ministers Meeting in May.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18-6. Secret. Drafted by Shaw and Leon Sloss (G/PM). The source text was sent under cover of an April 15 memorandum from Foster to Katzenbach, in which Foster recommended that Katzenbach send the letter to Clifford “informing him of the background of the U.S. interpretations of Article I and III before he (Clifford) goes to the NPG meeting at The Hague, April 18-19.” Foster also proposed to Katzenbach that he suggest that Clifford make a statement “setting forth our opinion that the NPT will not affect the activities of the NPG. The FRG has requested that such a statement be made. Messrs. Bohlen and Leddy concur.”↩
- On October 10, 1966, Rusk met with Gromyko at a working dinner at the Department of State to discuss the status of the Non-Proliferation Treaty; see Document 158.↩
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18-6. Secret.↩