241. Report of Meeting1


At the meeting of the Deputies to the Committee of Principals on May 27, 1968, the Deputies discussed the ACDA proposal as amended and the key issues identified by the Committee of Principals at its meeting on May 14, 1968.2 This report represents the extent of agreement reached by the Deputies with the exception of the representative of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who does not concur in any portion thereof. The views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are attached hereto as Tab A.3

In order to avoid legal complications and to clarify the fact that the proposal would not limit the deployment of submarines, we recommend that the proposal be amended to read as follows:

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“Each State Party to this Treaty undertakes not to [station],4 emplace, or fix5 nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction on, within, beneath, or to the seabed beyond 12 nautical miles from its coast and up to the coast of any other state. For the purposes of this Treaty only, the term ‘coast’ is defined as the [baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.] low water line along the coast.”

At the meeting of the Principals, the Secretary of State indicated that a U.S. position concerning arms control on the seabed is required in advance of the resumption of the U.N. Ad Hoc Committee on June 17, 1968 in order to be able to respond to views expressed by other governments. The U.S. needs a position in order to deal effectively with the proposals of other nations which could adversely affect U.S. security interests. A “demilitarization” proposal is clearly unacceptable. The “peaceful purposes only” approach would require carefully considered qualifications to be compatible with certain defensive military purposes. Adoption of a basic position on denuclearization would enable the U.S. to take a positive approach to arms control in a new environment, and at the same time fend off other less acceptable proposals.

The Principals instructed the Deputies to analyze certain particular issues to serve as a basis for a recommendation by the Principals to the President. The following paragraphs present the views of the Deputies on the four major issues.

There is general agreement on the intended interpretation of what would be prohibited or permitted under the ACDA seabed proposal as amended. This interpretation is based on the illustrative listing in Tab B attached hereto.6
The Legal Adviser of the Department of State advises that the ACDA proposal, as amended, when coupled with explanatory comments as to our position, will not adversely prejudice future U.S. legal positions concerning the law of the sea.7
Although we see no military advantage to the ACDA proposal, it is our belief that this measure is in the overall net U.S. interest.8 There are no planned systems in current DOD plans which are prohibited. The option to employ mobile sea-based systems (submarines) is preserved, and such systems can probably redress foreseeable asymmetries; permanently [Page 607] fixed sea-based systems are probably not necessary for this purpose. We recognize that future technological breakthroughs might jeopardize some of our existing weapons systems; however, we believe that the economic savings and political benefits from proscribing the emplacement of nuclear weapons in this new environment may outweigh these rather remote and unforeseen contingencies.
U.S. capabilities to verify unilaterally compliance with the Treaty would vary in different circumstances. We could not count on detecting and identifying a seabed system in the Ramp;D phase, but there is a good chance that we would detect the fact of development of most such systems before they become operational. The detection and identification of an encapsulated weapon system would be less likely than in the case of other new systems. Deployment of nuclear weapons in fixed installations which require substantial construction under the open ocean would almost certainly be detected. Our capabilities to detect the deployment of a few “bottom crawlers” or other similar systems which rested on the bottom, or of individually encapsulated weapons would be minimal. The fact of deployment of a large number of such weapons would probably be detected. Once we had learned that such weapons had been deployed, and the approximate location of such deployment, our capability to verify the deployment and the nature of the weapon9 would be good.10

We believe it highly unlikely that the Soviet Union would deploy large numbers of unprotected systems, such as individually encapsulated nuclear missiles, on the seabed due to the problems of command and control and the risk of one or more being discovered and acquired by the U.S.11

The verification capability indicated above appears to be adequate to protect U.S. security interests when considered in conjunction with the current and projected strategic balance, the limited relative advantage to the Soviet Union of clandestine deployments of this kind on the seabed, and the political penalties attached to the detection of such deployments.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Clifford Papers, Arms Control on the Seabed (1), Box 20. Top Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. A handwritten notation on the source text reads: “latest draft.” There are many brief handwritten inserts throughout the text in addition to those cited below.
  2. See Document 238.
  3. See Document 236.
  4. All brackets are in the source text.
  5. The Department of Defense prefers to use, “implant nuclear weapons or other weapons...” [Footnote in the source text.]
  6. This attachment, entitled “Weapons Systems Prohibited or Permitted under ACDA Seabed Proposal,” is not printed.
  7. See footnote 6, Document 238. A handwritten notation next to this paragraph reads: “DOD questions this.”
  8. A handwritten notation next to this paragraph reads: “uneasy that State believes we have been mousetrapped [sic].”
  9. A handwritten notation inserted after this word reads: “by obtaining at least one sample.”
  10. A handwritten notation at the end of this sentence reads: “in the probable time scale implied.”
  11. A handwritten notation next to this paragraph reads: “other than Sovs?”