42. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

192990. Subject: Reply to Soviet Demarche on South African Nuclear Program.

1. The Deputy Secretary called in the Soviet Charge, Vasev, August 15 and gave him as a non-paper the text of the President’s reply to Brezhnev’s message on South African nuclear programs delivered by Vasev on August 6.2 In receiving the reply Vasev commented that it appeared to be very constructive and in the same spirit the Soviet side approached this problem. Text follows for your information.

2. Begin text. I wish to thank you, Mr. President, for bringing to my attention information you have that the Republic of South Africa is completing work on a nuclear explosive device and is preparing to test such a device. I am replying in like spirit, out of the deep concern I share with you to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.

We are addressing this matter on a serious and urgent basis since we view such a development in the Republic of South Africa or elsewhere with the utmost gravity. The United States has long been concerned over South Africa’s operation of a pilot enrichment facility which is not under the safeguards system of the IAEA, and over the repeated refusal of the South Africans, despite our urgings, to join the NPT.

Upon receipt of your information about the existence of a test site in the Kalahari Desert, I directed my experts to investigate the situation, utilizing our national technical and other means. I am also instructing my representative in Pretoria to emphasize to the Government of South Africa in the clearest terms that the testing of a nuclear device would have the gravest consequences. I am pursuing this with the Government of South Africa.

It is my hope and my intention to work closely with you and other concerned countries in the immediate period ahead, so that by our respective efforts we can successfully resolve this serious situation. End text.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D840076–0457. Secret; Cherokee; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Mark Garrison (EUR/SOV); cleared by Tarnoff; approved by Christopher.
  2. See Document 41.