ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
WASHINGTON D.C. 20301
MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION
SUBJECT: Secretary Schlesinger’s Meeting with Deputy Prime Minister
TIME AND DATE: 1130-1315, 9 January 1974
PLACE: Secretary Schlesinger’s Office - Pentagon
- Australian Side
- Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence - Lance Barnard
- Ambassador to the US - Sir James Plimsoll
- Secretary of Defence - Sir Arthur Tange
- First Assistant Secretary of Defence, Planning Div. - William B. Pritchett
- Minister’s Special Advisor - Mr. A. G. McGuarr
- US Side
- Secretary of Defense - James R. Schlesinger
- Deputy Secretary of Defense - William P. Clements, Jr.
- Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff - Admiral Thomas H. Moorer
- Ambassador to Australia - Marshall Green
- Acting Assistant SecDef (ISA) - VAdmiral Ray Peet
- Principal Deputy ASD (I&L) - Hugh Witt
- Deputy Assistant Secretary of State/EAPA - Richard Sneider
- Deputy ASD (ISA) - Dennis J. Doolin
- Military Assistant to SecDef - MGeneral John A. Wickham
US FACILITIES IN AUSTRALIA
(S) Minister Barnard said that he appreciated the opportunity to meet the Secretary and discuss some of our problems. He had decided that he should come to Washington to discuss US [Page 2] facilities in Australia. There is no question, the Minister said, of Australia’s reliance on ANZUS, and the cooperation Australia has provided in the past will continue in the future. The Minister said he was speaking for the Government of Australia (GOA). As Prime Minister Whitlam has said, the alliance with the US is of very great importance, and the GOA has no intention of breaking agreements or exposing any secrets. The Minister said Australia wants to accept a greater responsibility for her own defense and not rely totally on an ally in this regard. The Minister commented favorably on the US-Soviet detente, the Vietnam cease-fire, and our improved relations with the People’s Republic of China. Australia supports these developments, as they contribute to world peace.
(S) With regard to US facilities in Australia, the GOA has some internal problems, especially if the purpose of the facilities must remain secret. Mr. Barnard said that he and Prime Minister Whitlam agree that secrecy is necessary and so do the overwhelming majority of the Australian people. However, the GOA needs some assistance with regard to Northwest Cape in order to assist it in answering some remaining internal opposition. The Minister then recounted the arrangement concerning the US Naval facility at Northwest Cape, pointing out that GOA policy clearly states that a facility in Australia that derogates Australia’s sovereignty is not tolerable. The Minister said that the GOA recognizes the importance of the US facilities in Australia to both countries, and noted that the proposed joint statement on Northwest Cape will enable us to get away from the situation whereby people in Australia can criticize the US installations. Secretary Schlesinger said that there is a parallel sentiment on the part of a small number of people in the US regarding the United Nations — that we should withdraw and have the United Nations Headquarters removed from New York — but we keep this sentiment down. The Secretary said that he understood our two navies were working together to meet Australia’s requirements and that there is no reason why consultative arrangements cannot be worked out, although the privacy of communications must be maintained. Mr. Barnard said that the GOA agrees, provided there are adequate consultations. The Secretary and Admiral Moorer said they considered this to be a reasonable set of requests and that the consultative arrangements can be worked out. Mr. Barnard said that Australia recognizes and appreciates how much the US relies on these installations, and he assured the Secretary that the privacy of communications will be guaranteed.[Page 3]
(S) Minister Barnard said another matter that had embarrassed the GOA was when the US facilities in Australia were put on alert without the host government being informed. He said the GOA must be informed in the future. Secretary Schlesinger said this was a perfectly reasonable request and that it had merely been an oversight in October. Admiral Moorer told the Minister that there are five degrees of alert and that he did not consider placing US forces under DefCon 3 as going on alert, inasmuch as US forces in Southeast Asia have been on DefCon 3 since 1965. Admiral Moorer said that we will see to it that it doesn’t happen again. Minister Barnard expressed his gratitude for the US assurances on this point. The Minister continued, “I don’t want any possible debate in Australia about these bases. They make a significant contribution to US and Australian security and to world peace. I want to get them accepted by the public and not a subject of debate. Mr. Whitlam and I are prepared to accept responsibility for these bases.” The Minister also expressed his hope that there will be no restriction on fraternization between our servicemen at Northwest Cape, adding that he considers Woomera to be a model in this regard. Secretary Schlesinger, Mr. Clements, and Admiral Moorer assured the Minister there would be no problem in this regard.
(U) Minister Barnard then asked the Secretary to endorse the joint statement on Northwest Cape. The Secretary read the draft and said he had no problem with it, and he agreed to the exchange of notes.
(S) Secretary Schlesinger told the Minister that he had some general questions and some specific questions and that he would like to begin with the general ones. He said that, if we look at the last 28 years, it can be said that Australia’s most important national interest is to retain the support of the US. During the 1960’s, there was concern with regard to the situation to the north of Australia and also with regard to Communist China’s strategic weapons systems. There seems to be less concern in Australia now, even though the strategic threat is greater today. Strategic development continues, and the US provides the nuclear umbrella to counter that threat. Looking at another set of possibilities that does not involve nuclear weapons, Japan may rearm, or we may want her to rearm, because of the vulnerability of her sea lines of communication. In any event, Japan may change. We also have a more stable SEA than we had two years ago. In short, it has been a period in which there have been major changes and there are more to come. How does the GOA see the changes in the external environment [Page 4] Australia faces and what policy moves would the GOA take to meet these changes? Minister Barnard replied that Australia recognizes the need for her alliance with the US, especially ANZUS. Australia has to assume a greater share of the responsibility in this alliance, and, in this connection, Australia’s armed forces at present are the greatest that country has ever had in peacetime. Australia has a special interest in SEA, and a very good relationship with Indonesia. Australia is providing economic and military assistance to Indonesia and Australia has a special responsibility to help Djakarta with its internal problems. Australia has maintained relations with Malaysia and Singapore; there have been some changes in Australian forces based there, but the GOA continues to support the Five-Power Defense Arrangement with economic and military aid and will continue to keep two Mirage squadrons in Malaysia and some non-combat forces in Singapore. The Mirages will remain in Malaysia until at least 1975, or longer if required, until the Malaysians acquire the air capability on their own. The GOA also supports a zone of peace and neutrality in the area, hopefully larger than ASEAN and including Indochina. Canberra’s current strategic assessment is that there is no significant threat facing Australia over the next 10 years, and that period of time will be used to strengthen Australia’s military capabilities for the main purpose of defending continental Australia. However, this is not an isolationist policy and Australia will keep her agreements. Australia would not want Japan to rearm at this time. The Secretary asked whether this last remark applied to ASW forces as well as nuclear capabilities. The Minister replied that it applied across the board as Australia does not want Japan “to get too near.” The Secretary asked how the Minister saw the situation in SEA. Mr. Barnard said there seems to be a degree of stability that Australia would not have anticipated, but that it will be some time before area stability is realized. Secretary Schlesinger said some in the area see the following possibility: a Communist take-over in Cambodia, renewed hostilities in Vietnam, a Sino-Thai detente, increased guerrilla activity in Malaysia and increasing pressure on Singapore. If such a gloomy prognostication came to pass, what would be the GOA attitude and actions? Sir Arthur Tange said that his analysts will reassess the aforementioned strategic estimate every 12 months, but that the scenario that the Secretary described seemed unlikely in large measure because of actions taken in the area by the US. Secretary Schlesinger replied that the scenario cannot be dismissed out-of-hand. Two factors should be considered. First, the Chinese Communist elite is old — Mao is 80, Chou is 75. Second, the Sino-Soviet split has been to the advantage of the Free World. However, there is a degree of political instability in the PRC that could cause [Page 5] a change in Peking’s present policy and lead to a Sino-Soviet rapprochement. This would dramatically alter the position of Japan and could cause a renewed Moscow-Peking-Pyongyang-Hanoi axis. Planning must be done to deal with what might happen. Although it is probable there will be some changes in the PRC’s stance, a return to a pre-1960 Sino-Soviet alliance is highly unlikely. The change will be volatile. There will also be changes in Europe, but not of comparable potential volatility. The Japanese situation is an especially interesting one, as the blow of the potential embargo of petroleum products is a shock that goes to the heart of Japan’s post-war approach and one that far exceeds the so-called Nixon shocks. One should recall the Japanese reaction to our August 1941 embargo. Japan will now seek new internal and external accommodations. Minister Barnard noted that Japan’s problems impact on her neighbors. The Secretary said that the financial and economic implications of increased oil prices are hard to calculate but Japan will be adversely affected. We are moving into a period of instability, and in this period the economic situation will impact on all political problems. Mr. Clements said that Japan will make a more aggressive bilateral approach and attack the problems from an economic base. The Secretary said that, if Japan seeks greater cooperation/collaboration with the Middle East — in effect a quasi-Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere — this should be of great interest to Australia. There are no single, separate, strategic theaters; the world is one strategic theater. Thus, if the Russians took over the Middle East oil, our way of life would be drastically altered. Admiral Moorer noted that Japan must make basic accommodations to see that an oil crisis does not happen again. Sir Arthur asked if one of the consequences would be that Japan will expand and strengthen her Navy. The Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Admiral Moorer all agreed that this is quite possible.
NUCLEAR POWERED WARSHIP (NPW) VISITS
(S) Secretary Schlesinger said the final topic that he wished to discuss was nuclear powered warship (NPW) visits to Australia. The US has had over 1100 years’ operation of these reactors and no problems. Moreover, the need for such reactors is increasing. There is a note of obscurantism in not recognizing that NPW’s are safe. It is recognized that this obscurantism developed under the previous Liberal government. Thus, it would be a propitious time for the Labour government to, reverse the previous flimsy and technically wrong position. Mr. Barnard replied that the UK had also raised this question with him. There are a number of problems the GOA has to consider. For one thing, there are State authorities and State powers that [Page 6] the GOA cannot interfere with. Another problem is the case before the International Court of Justice concerning the French atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific. That is why the GOA has delayed a decision, as to permit NPW visits at the present time may prejudice Australia’s case. Also, a determination has to be made as to what Australian ports could be visited by NPW’s. (There followed a general discussion of nuclear powered vessels and the fact that nuclear propulsion looks more attractive as oil prices climb.) Sir Arthur said that the fundamental problem is that Australia has not classified her berths, whereas the US has. The GOA must survey anchorages and berths throughout the country, for it is recognized that Australia is far behind the US in this regard. Minister Barnard said he sees the need to resolve this problem. He desires to see a decision made as soon as possible, but again stated the perceived problems referred to above. He promised to review the situation as soon as opportune, together with other departments in Australia who must be involved in the decision. Admiral Moorer said that nuclear power is not a nuclear weapon, and that the atomic bomb should be decoupled from nuclear power in the Australian mind. The Secretary said that it is just not a rational policy to deny a significant part of the US Navy — all US submarines, some aircraft carriers, and some escort vessels — from access to Australian ports when these forces are there in a common defense effort. The US Government faces public criticism for allowing these inhibiting factors to continue, and Australia must move as expeditiously as possible to resolve this problem. The Minister acknowledged that this problem has to be resolved. He again expressed his government’s appreciation for the significant contributions of the US to Australia’s security, and said that the US-Australia alliance will remain no matter what party is in power in Australia. He concluded by stating that Cockburn Sound, when completed in 1978, will unquestionably be made available to US Navy vessels.
(U) The meeting concluded at 1315 with an exchange of gifts.
Prepared by: Dennis J.
Date: January 10, 1974
Approved by: Adm. Ray Peet
DepAsstSec (ISA) [signed]
Date: 23 Jan 1974
RC (ISA) -2 cys
- Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–78–0011, Australia, 091.112, 1974. Secret. Prepared by Doolin and approved by Peet. The conversation took place in Schlesinger’s office. A memorandum of conversation from Schlesinger’s meeting with Marshall Green, which lasted from 9:55 until 11:05 and included discussion of Japan and U.S. facilities in Australia, is ibid.↩
- Schlesinger and Barnard discussed U.S. facilities in Australia, U.S.-Australian relations, and visits by nuclear powered warships.↩