144. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

334. Subj: Comprehensive Test Ban: Allied Views in UN Context. Ref: State 24133.2

1. Begin summary: At the UN, our allies have long supported CTB objective and share the general view that its attainment is the single most important UNGA disarmament goal. Majority of them voted for 1976 resolution “condemning” all nuclear tests.3 Regardless of their own security concerns, allied attitudes at the UN also reflect deep and growing concern that failure to attain CTB will undermine and may finally defeat efforts to prevent further nuclear proliferation. Major nonaligned States insist there is direct link between CTB and progress in non-proliferation, and our allies accept this asserted linkage—regardless of its objective validity—as important political reality. Many allies believe US and USSR should move initially to limited-participation CTB rather than seek all-nuclear-weapon state agreement as demanded by Soviets. While allied views on proper forum for negotiating CTB are somewhat flexible, they generally favor CCD and envisage CTB as multilateral agreement in tradition of Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) and NPT. End summary.

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2. Allied views on the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) issue as expressed at the UNGA largely coincide in broad principle, though there are significant differences in emphasis on subsidiary questions, such as verification and PNES. All our allies support the objective of a CTB, and most share the prevailing UN view that the prompt achievement of a CTB is the highest priority disarmament issue in the UN context. Support for intensified efforts to reach agreement on a CTB was voiced in the 1976 UNGA at the Foreign-Minister level by several of our allies (including Japan, Netherlands, Australia, and Denmark) and virtually all our allies reiterated their commitment to the objective in the first committee disarmament debate.

3. A significant indication of the strength of this commitment on the part of several of our allies is their willingness to vote for, and even cosponsor, the annual CTB resolutions even though they contain language “condemning” all nuclear weapon tests—i.e., language generally reserved for such issues as apartheid and South Africa. The majority of our allies voted for the 1976 resolution, despite this extreme language; they were Australia, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, and Turkey. New Zealand, in fact, played a leading role in drafting the resolution, on which the US, UK, France, FRG, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Greece abstained.

4. For most of our allies (other than France and to a lesser extent FRG and Italy), positions taken at the UNGA on the CTB issue are not primarily based on specific perceptions of national security interests. Support for the CTB idea or CTB resolutions does not necessarily reflect a specific judgment that a CTB would enhance a country’s own security or a judgment that there are no military or security risks in a CTB. Rather, the key to allied CTB attitudes at the UN is their growing concern that failure to achieve a CTB and more broadly to make progress toward nuclear disarmament is seriously undermining, and may eventually defeat, efforts to prevent the horizontal spread of nuclear weapons.

5. This asserted linkage between progress in nuclear disarmament and progress in non-proliferation has long been a major tenet of leading nonaligned and neutral activists, including Mexico, Yugoslavia, Sweden, and Nigeria. We, and some of our allies have rejected the implication that non-proliferation efforts should, in effect, be held hostage to progress in nuclear disarmament, insisting that horizontal proliferation poses clear and grave threat to all countries, regardless of the state of negotiations on “vertical proliferation.” But, however valid or realistic this argument may be objectively, it is politically unacceptable to most countries. Its unacceptability has been reflected in the slackening of support, particularly among the nonaligned, for concrete [Page 316] measures to strengthen the non-proliferation regime as well as in the growing concern of our allies over the lack of progress toward a CTB and measures of nuclear disarmament.

6. Thus, whether they like the idea of a linkage or not, many of our allies now openly acknowledge it as a political reality. A Japanese statement at the 1976 UNGA is characteristic of many of our allies’ views: “The prevention of horizontal proliferation presupposes progress in the prevention of vertical proliferation. If there is no progress in preventing vertical proliferation, or it becomes clear that none is in prospect, the justification for seeking the prevention of horizontal proliferation will be greatly reduced.”

7. The consequences of this view are evident in the Swedish non-proliferation resolution adopted by the 1976 UNGA. The resolution places at the top of the list of measures needed to strengthen the non-proliferation regime “determined efforts” by the Nuclear-Weapon States (NWS) to (A) halt the arms race, (B) make progress toward nuclear disarmament, and (C) solve the difficulties impeding a CTB. Notably, the resolution did not call for adherence to the NPT as a means of strengthening the non-proliferation regime. Against this background, some of our allies, and many nonaligned, have noted a growing disparity between US emphasis on such areas as strengthening safeguards and stiffening export controls and the predominant UN stress on nuclear disarmament and security assurances.

8. In our view, this is the most important characteristic of the CTB issue in the UN context, the factor uniting most of our allies in support of CTB resolutions that we do not accept. (Many of our allies, of course, also support a CTB on its [garble].) The UNGA also provides an opportunity for annual statements of view on subsidiary issues such as verification and PNES. Views on these questions differ in substance as well as emphasis, and cannot be accurately reflected in a brief summary. We would thus leave it to others to describe individual allied positions in these questions. However, two other issues with a specific UN angle should be mentioned—the issues of participation and negotiating forum.

9. The question of participation has always been latent in CTB debated—i.e., must all NWS participate in a CTB from the outset, or can (or should) a CTB begin with the US and USSR? The question was brought to the fore in 1975 when the Soviets submitted their draft CTB treaty requiring the participation of all NWS, a position they have continued to maintain publicly since then. Many of our allies have been the most vocal critics of this position. Australia, Canada, the FRG, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and New Zealand are among those that have insisted on the possibility of a limited-participation CTB, at least as a [Page 317] first step. Some have asserted more than the possibility, stressing the special responsibility of the US and USSR to take the lead.

10. The issue of the proper forum for CTB negotiations was also raised by the 1975 Soviet proposal, which envisaged a new negotiating body composed of all NWS and 25–30 NNWS. (The inclusion of the NNWS was at Mexican insistence, evidence of the political unacceptability at the UN of a restructured NWS negotiation.) Several of our allies have strongly defended the role of the CCD in CTB negotiations, pointing out that CTB has been the “highest priority” issue in the CCD for years. While the forum question is perhaps of secondary importance, and to some extent a corollary of the participation issue, the implications of choosing any forum (whether the CCD, a separate committee, or bi- or trilateral meeting) will necessarily have to be weighted. If a CTB is to be, as our allies and most nonaligned expect, a multilateral instrument in the pattern of the LTBT and the NPT, or to have broad international support, it will be important to ensure broadly-based participation throughout the negotiating process. Participation will be particularly important in connection with development of solutions to the verification and PNE problems.

11. There has been relatively little specific reaction so far in New York to President Carter’s statement,4 which has been somewhat overshadowed by other recent events, but it is certain to promote wide interest and raise expectations that the long-standing stalemate may be broken in the relatively near future. Expectations had already been raised to some extent last fall, when the Soviets announced a new position on CTB verification envisaging a “voluntary framework” for on-site inspection. At the same time, however, there is certain to be a degree of skepticism on the part of many unless and until there are specific signs of possible negotiations, new proposals, or changes of position. Indications that new developments may be at hand are likely to have a favorable impact on UN (and CCD) disarmament activities in the coming months, but we can also expect to be brought to account in the absence of real movement.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770041–0791. Confidential. Sent for information to Bonn, London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, USNATO, and the Mission in Geneva.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 143.
  3. See Document 140.
  4. Ibid.