301. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • South African Nuclear Threat

The South African reply to our initial demarche,2 was a mixture of outrage, denial, a demand to know on what evidence we base our allegations. A small door was left open in the form of Botha’s promise to speak to Vorster.

At a meeting of the Special Action Group on South Africa this afternoon, the following immediate strategy was decided upon:

—Our primary aim must be to get as much information about what the South Africans are really doing, as soon as possible, and before the Lagos Conference where this will be a key issue.3

—This should take the form of a demand for an on-site inspection of the Kalahari site.4 The inspection would be carried out unilaterally by the U.S., if necessary, but preferably with the French. We will not however wait for the French. It was judged useless to try to get IAEA [Page 922] participation. ERDA is putting together a two-man team of experts who will be ready to leave tomorrow.

—Cables are to be sent to the British, French, and West Germans informing them of our current actions and of the possibility that we may want to call an emergency meeting of the London Suppliers Group 5 (to apply nuclear sanctions).

—An effort will be made to engage the Soviets in the context of the Suppliers Group; the exact form of the demarche is not yet clear, but it will most likely be a Vance-Dobrynin meeting tomorrow.

—Ambassador Lewis’ appointment to inform and warn the Israelis was cancelled by Vance because of the settlements issue. Lewis should be told to go ahead as soon as possible. We will have a much worse problem if any Israeli activities are revealed at the test site.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Funk, Subject File, Box 115, South Africa: Nuclear Issues: 5–8/77. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. The SAG meeting on Africa was held August 23. Carter wrote at the top of the memorandum: “Zbig—what we want is: no test—If they have to lie about what their plans were, let them do so—Let them save face. J.C.”
  2. See Document 294.
  3. Carter wrote in the left-hand margin next to this point: “no—Assure no test.”
  4. Carter wrote “no” in the left-hand margin next to this sentence.
  5. The Nuclear Suppliers Group is a multinational organization concerned with nuclear weapons proliferation. It is often referred to as the London Suppliers Group after a series of meetings held in London from 1975 to 1978 resulted in agreements on the export of non-weapons specific nuclear technology.