106. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Smith) to Secretary of State Rogers 1 2


  • Assessment of Spring Session and Plans for Summer Session of ENDC


The Spring Session of the Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee (ENDC) recessed on May 23. The summer session will begin on July 3 and should last two months. Two new members will participate at the outset (Japan and Mongolia) and it is hoped that agreement can be reached on the rest of the enlargement in time for other members to participate during the summer session.

I propose to head our delegation for the first few meetings of the summer session.

We believe that most delegations considered that the spring session was constructive and laid the basis for more concrete achievement during the summer session, notably an agreement on a seabeds arms control treaty. In this way we had a measure of success in implementing the instructions contained in the President’s March 15, 1969 letter addressed to me, particularly in the expression of US interest in utilizing the ENDC as an instrument for moving from confrontation to negotiation.

There was general recognition in Geneva that major achievements in the field of nuclear arms control, such as agreement on a comprehensive test ban or a cut-off agreement, depend on progress on SALT. There also was understanding that pending such progress, the ENDC should concentrate on whatever practical measures offer the best hope of early agreement. Other members of the Committee [Page 2] also are anxious to develop a good record before the UN General Assembly next autumn, where absence of concrete achievement will make the Committee vulnerable to criticisms, particularly from non-members and from the large regional caucuses.

Spring Session of ENDC

At the previous session of the ENDC in the summer of 1968 and at the Non-Nuclear Conference of 1968, the view was widespread that, having opened the NPT for signature, the nuclear super-powers were in no hurry to negotiate arms control constraints affecting themselves. Difficult maneuvering by the US was required at the Non-Nuclear Conference, and later at the 23rd UN General Assembly, to head-off proposals which not only would have been damaging to the NPT, but which would have established cumbersome and duplicative international machinery to deal with the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, as well as put us under greater pressure to discuss such subjects as the non-use of nuclear weapons.

At the spring 1969 session a prime concern of the US delegation was to reestablish the authority of the ENDC as the most suitable and effective international negotiating body for arms control measures. Bilateral US-Soviet contacts cannot fully satisfy international opinion, and failure of the ENDC to reassert its role could result in another non-nuclear conference or the reactivation of the UN Disarmament Commission, both highly undesirable. The latter is a committee of the whole of the UN and would be subject to the same troublesome voting patterns and extraneous interests which affect arms control matters in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly.

Efforts to strengthen the ENDC were pursued along two planes: first, to give priority to an arms control measure on which agreement seemed possible at a fairly early date; and second, to expand the membership of the Committee to make it more representative, geographically and politically.

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The Seabeds Negotiations

A resolution of the 23rd General Assembly called on the ENDC to give priority to negotiating a Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB), but there was general recognition at the ENDC that progress in bilateral US-Soviet talks on strategic weapons was, for practical purposes, a pre-requisite for a CTB. Most delegations agreed that a measure to prevent an arms race on the seabed stood the best chance of early agreement. Moreover, such an agreement was recognized as having intrinsic merit.

The Soviets, despite their own priorities for various arms control measures for propaganda purposes, also seemed to recognize that a seabeds agreement provided the best target for the Committee’s efforts. The Soviets gained an advantage through their early tabling of a draft treaty. Although we enjoyed the support of our allies in pointing up the shortcomings of the Soviet proposal for complete demilitarization of the seabed, this proposal was supported by many non-aligned delegations. The ability to table a US counter-draft, limiting the ban to fixed weapons of mass destruction, served to redress this initial Soviet advantage. During the recess other governments can compare the Soviet and US drafts, and we hope that a finished treaty will emerge from the summer session, based on our approach. It has been made clear that the US simply could not accept the Soviet approach of complete demilitarization.

During the spring session our delegation debated in some depth the issues involved in a CTB and a cut-off, and sought to demonstrate that the US is not to blame for lack of progress. Informal, off-the-record debates were held on CTB, Chemical and Bacteriological Warfare (CBW), seabeds, and procedural questions. These informal debates increased the tempo of work and developed an atmosphere of greater participation on the part of other delegations without stimulating unrealistic hopes.

At the end of the session several important delegation heads as well as the representative of the UN Secretary General, Dr. Protich, expressed their satisfaction over [Page 4] how the spring session had developed. They noted that the ENDC’s deliberations are among the most orderly of any major recurring conference. Dr. Protich, in particular, considered that the ENDC had pulled itself out of the doldrums into which it had fallen during the protracted NPT negotiations.

The Enlargement Issue

There was general acceptance by other members of the Committee that Japan and at least a few more governments should be added.

Delay in working out Co-Chairmen agreement was caused on our side by protracted NAG consideration of the Netherlands candidacy. The Soviets responded to our February 25 proposal on March 20. It was then not until April 24 that we were prepared to make a counter-proposal, putting aside the question of German representation and making the Netherlands the NATO candidate. We had no Soviet response and on May 15 we provisionally offered to drop Pakistan. The Soviets never directly responded to this offer but on May 21 offered to add Japan and Mongolia immediately, and to negotiate the rest of the enlargement later. We did not go back to NAC for a further round of consultations, as this would have excluded the possibility of getting Japan on the Committee immediately. The Soviets preferred an immediate Co-Chairmen decision, but it was our judgment that at least an informal discussion by the ENDC should occur before invitations were extended to Japan and Mongolia, i.e., before adjournment of the ENDC on the 23rd. This US judgment we believe was vindicated by the fact that although there was grumbling, there was no serious objection in the ENDC to the position presented by the Co-Chairmen. We are pressing the Soviet Embassy here on further enlargement.

Summer Session

In spite of my SALT responsibilities, I believe I should head the US delegation to the summer session for the first several meetings. It has been reported that [Page 5] Foreign Minister Aichi will lead the Japanese Delegation at the outset. But, apart from this consideration, it will be important to demonstrate our continuing interest in the Committee. For the remainder of the session I propose to leave James Leonard, Assistant Director of ACM for international relations, in charge, although I may, depending on SALT developments, wish to return to the ENDC for several meetings later in the summer.

The name ENDC is no longer relevant since there will be 20 members, instead of 18 (including the French empty chair) at the beginning of the session, and probably as many as 25 or 26 later on. I believe the name Geneva Disarmament Committee would be most appropriate and should be proposed at the beginning of the summer session.

Greater attention is likely to focus on the subject of Chemical and Bacteriological Warfare (CBW) during the summer session. This topic is being pressed by the UK. A report being prepared by a panel of international experts on behalf of the UN Secretary General and in response to a General Assembly resolution last winter will be completed around the time the Geneva Committee reconvenes. This report will deal with the characteristics and effects of CBW and no doubt will raise the question of whether the 1925 Geneva Protocol is adequate or needs up-dating. It will also draw attention to the fact that the US has not ratified the 1925 Protocol, although we maintain that we adhere to its principles and purposes.

Gerard Smith
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 319, Subject Files, Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Conference (ENDC). Confidential. The memorandum bears Smith’s typed signature.
  2. Smith assessed the spring session of the ENDC and discussed plans for the summer session. The spring session made headway toward a suitable seabed arms control agreement. Smith requested to lead the summer delegation as well as he predicted an emphasis on biological and chemical warfare.