384. Memorandum From Spurgeon Keeny of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Celestial Bodies Treaty

Chuck and I thought that you might like to see the attached draft negotiating instructions for Ambassador Goldberg on the Celestial Bodies Treaty while the document is still in an early stage and can be easily modified. Also attached for your information are the draft U.S. and Soviet texts for the Treaty.2

Although the substance of this Treaty is somewhat remote to our current problems, it has special significance in that it may well be the only agreement the President can hope to get with the Soviets in the near future. However, we are concerned that, even though the U.S. and Soviet positions do not appear to be very far apart, the question could easily get tied up in the prolonged negotiations over the details of the wording.

I found the attached instructions much too concerned with the question of pride of authorship. If the President wants a quick agreement, we cannot insist that every word have a U.S. stamp on it, particularly when there is no substantive objection to some of the Soviet language. In any event, the impact will come from the fact of agreement and very few people will read the text carefully enough to have any idea as to the nationality of the drafters. I have discussed this point with Len Meeker and he has agreed to soften the language in the instructions.

I also think we have unnecessarily introduced the inspection issue in a meaningless manner by insisting in Article VI that we have a Treaty right to access to all installations and vehicles on celestial bodies. At the same time, the U.S. delegation is empowered to agree to inclusion in the Treaty of the substance of the “no bombs in orbit” U.N. Resolution without provision for inspection. Since some people consider “bombs in orbit” [Page 838] a real threat, I would not advise opening up this can of worms before the Senate by focusing attention on it through its specific exclusion from the inspection provisions of the Treaty. If we simply ignore the inspection issue in the Treaty, we can easily take the position that we will unilaterally take whatever actions we choose both in space and on celestial bodies to verify the peaceful nature of foreign activities. Len Meeker has agreed to explore this problem further with State and DOD with the thought of dropping the Article entirely. I have also asked him to make sure that the negotiations both here and in Geneva are properly coordinated with ACDA which has not really been involved in the problem to date.

The State Department is talking about negotiating all summer on this with the thought that the Soviets want to refer it to the General Assembly this fall. If the President would like to see a quick agreement on this subject, we would recommend that, in addition to the formal instructions to the delegation, the President make this wish clear to Rusk and Goldberg prior to Goldberg’s departure for the negotiations so that he will be in a position to move for a quick deal if this is possible.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Celestial Bodies Treaty. Confidential. A copy was sent to Charles Johnson. For text of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, signed January 27, 1967 and entered into force for the United States on October 10, 1967, see 18 UST 2410. Documentation relating to the negotiation of the treaty is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XI.
  2. None of the attachments was found attached.