19. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Denmark1

162867. Subject: Greenland-Nuclear Overflights and Storage.

Ambassador Ronne, accompanied by Counselor Per Fergo, met with Assistant Secretary Leddy on May 10 to consider US response to Danish note of February 26.
Leddy referred to Ronne’s April 1 comments on text proposed that date2 (as pouched March 20 under cover McKillop/Blankinship letter); recalled that Ronne had said first paragraph presented no problems for Danes but had suggested omission of second paragraph on basis that situation it addresses did not need spelling out in advance.
Leddy gave Ronne draft text consisting of first paragraph only of April 1 text. He said that if Danish Fonoff approves text, USG prepared to incorporate same in formal exchange of notes in near future.
Leddy said that at time of exchange of notes he would reiterate possible requirement for US overflights under circumstances of a grave and sudden threat that does not allow time to obtain agreement of Danish Government. Leddy said that the USG will retain record of this statement.
Ronne asked if he would be obliged to report Leddy’s oral statement to his Government. Leddy replied that was Ronne’s decision. Ronne said that oral statement appeared to make the proposed agreement less than binding. Leddy pointed out that the written agreement would be governing instrument; that, as in case of any US agreement, we would abide by it to full extent of our ability to do so; but that circumstances beyond our control could make overflights without consultation necessary. He pointed out that we are not asking Danes to give written permission for such overflights, but that we must make clear the possible need for same in event of a grave and sudden threat that would not allow time for consultations.
Ronne asked why new draft was classified secret rather than confidential, as in the case of Danish February 26 note and US reply to that note. It was pointed out that Danish note had been request to initiate discussions on supplementing 1951 agreement in regard to nuclear overflights and storage in Greenland and that US in reply had agreed to enter into such discussions. Text under consideration was different matter since it embodied a specific limitation on deployment and movement of US nuclear weapons; hence must be secret.
In reply to Ambassador’s question on public statement, Leddy said that we should first give Danish Government chance to consider text. He stressed that in any case, we cannot confirm or deny any statement concerning deployment or movement of nuclear weapons.
Ronne said pressure from press remained heavy and that Danish Government must be able to issue statement referring to negotiations and US agreement to exclude nuclear weapons from Greenland.
In reply Leddy said again that we will not join Danes in such a statement; nor could we confirm any statement on the negotiations. He said that Danish Government can say that there were no nuclear [Page 31] weapons in or over Greenland and that there would not be any without the Danish Government’s approval. The Danish Government, he said, is free to give its people full assurances on any aspect of this question. We cannot, however, fracture our global policy on the US nuclear deterrent by publicly confirming such a statement. He added that no such USG participation should be required to validate statement by Danish Government to its own people.
At this point Ronne offered text, apparently for public statement, but which Leddy did not accept. Leddy noted it would amount to formal amendment to 1951 Agreement placing absolute ban on nuclear weapons in Greenland thus making it too inflexible. He pointed out that US proposal gave Danes the requested assurances on nuclear weapons but allowed both parties to act quickly if circumstances required nuclear overflights.
Ronne persisted in reiterating need for Danish public reference to negotiations, adding that if we cannot reach agreement here, it would be necessary to consult in Copenhagen under Article XIII (3) of the 1951 Agreement. In reply to repeated statements on need for public statement, Leddy again said that Danish Government free to say publicly that it is fully satisfied with current arrangements re Greenland nuclear matters. He pointed out that Danes do not, in practice, publish all of their international agreements and that no other nuclear power has given the sort of public assurances that Ronne was asking for. He again urged Danish Government to consider alternatives to their proposed method of assuring their public.
On leaving, Ronne said that US draft note appears acceptable but that need remained for public statement.
  1. Source: Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 15-4 GREENLAND-US. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Klebenov on May 11, cleared by McKillop, and approved by Leddy.
  2. See Document 15.