613. Memorandum Prepared in the Department of State1


1. Support of Friendly Countries for US–UK Approaches to the South African Government on Apartheid and the South West Africa Case

Among the sixteen other nations with diplomatic representation in Pretoria, those most likely to lend useful support to US–UK approaches to the South African Government on South West Africa and related aspects of apartheid are Canada, the Netherlands, Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Australia, Sweden, Israel, Brazil and possibly Belgium. As indicated in the status report of July 31, 1965, the Department plans to approach such governments in Washington and in their respective capitals in a systematic series of briefings and efforts to enlist support following the next round of US–UK talks with the South African Foreign Minister. It is anticipated that this should take place soon after the Foreign Minister’s return from the United Nations in October. Ultimately we would probably canvas all sixteen other nations with diplomatic representation in Pretoria except for Rhodesia and Portugal.

U.S. policy objectives would indeed be furthered if support could be enlisted for US–UK approaches from a number of these friendly countries. [Page 1042] Some may wish to defer their separate representations to the South African Government until after the ICJ decision on South West Africa. However, it would be our aim to seek maximum action as the date for the decision approaches, while welcoming additional overtures soon after the Court decision is announced.

2. Political advantage in transferring space-tracking facilities from South Africa, before events force us to do so

Important continuing U.S. military and scientific space requirements make it disadvantageous to withdraw U.S. space-tracking facilities from South Africa prior to July 1, 1996, when alternative facilities will be available and could be used with relatively minor impact on planned programs. The completion of these alternative facilities will substantially lessen military and scientific considerations from our planning. (We may, however, still have to take into account the six months’ termination notice provided for in the DOD agreement; there is no such grace period in the NASA agreement.) Once the alternative facilities are ready, therefore, the decision as to their immediate use or their reservation for use only if we were forced to evacuate can be taken on largely political grounds.

United States-South Africa relations have become considerably strained as a result of the Independence incident, South African criticism of United States diplomatic receptions, South African efforts to remove certain U.S. diplomatic personnel, and public efforts by Verwoerd to apply racial restrictions to our space-tracking stations. The possibility therefore exists that the South African Government will unilaterally decide to terminate its space-tracking agreements with the United States. At present, South African action of this kind appears slight in view of Prime Minister Verwoerd’s failure to follow up with any official request or action after his speech of June 25, 1965, in which he publicly aired the view that American personnel in such facilities are subject to racial restrictions, or after the United States publicly denied and rejected this view. The Prime Minister’s more recent public statements have indicated a desire on the part of the South African Government to back away from the issue.

For the moment, therefore, the initiative on vacating present facilities in South Africa remains ours. To take that initiative could be politically advantageous in that such an act of dissociation would be approved by the Afro-Asian states. To take it with respect to the military tracking station alone would be fully consistent with our posture of caution in military relations with the South African Government.

In addition to their concentrated efforts to persuade the United States and others to institute economic and military sanctions against South Africa, the Afro-Asians have sought the termination of all agreements with South Africa, specifically citing our space facilities, which [Page 1043] might in some way encourage South Africa’s pursuit of its present racial policies. The transfer of American facilities out of South Africa would not diminish pressures for military and economic sanctions. However, since any overt dissociation with South Africa would be welcomed by the Afro-Asians and others, would remove one element of criticism of our South Africa policy, and would strengthen our hand in counseling moderation pending an ICJ decision, there would be some political advantage in moving the stations as soon as alternative facilities are available.

It would seem of greater political advantage, however, to reserve such a step for use as one small way to bring psychological leverage on South Africa in connection with the ICJ proceedings on South West Africa.

The expected time of the decision (April-June 1966) is sufficiently close to the completion of alternative facilities to enable us to keep open the option of withdrawal from the tracking stations at our initiative in connection with the South West Africa issue. Such withdrawal would have more effectiveness if it were directly linked vis-a-vis both South Africa and the Afro-Asian states to the clearly delineated objective of producing South African compliance with the ICJ decision or were taken to show disapproval of a negative South African reaction to it. In the event of such a negative South African reaction, the tracking stations would probably become an unnecessary liability which could be jettisoned.

In the absence of new factors, we believe we should reserve decision on the question of withdrawal until July 1, 1966. In the meantime, the preparation of alternative facilities should proceed as rapidly as possible so that the option belongs to the United States.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSAMs, NSAM 295, U.S. Policy Toward South Africa. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. An October 15 covering memorandum from Read to Bundy reads: “In response to Mr. Komer’s memorandum of September 2, 1965, we have prepared the attached supplementary comment concerning the Department’s status report of July 31, 1965, on National Security Action Memorandum No. 295 of April 24, 1964.” See Document 610 for Komer’s questions concerning the report.