157. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • UK
  • Foreign Secretary Owen
  • Deputy Under Secretary Hibbert
  • Mr. Ferguson, Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary
  • France
  • Foreign Minister De Guiringaud
  • Political Director DeLaboulaye
  • Mr. Andreani, Director for European Affairs, Foreign Ministry
  • FRG
  • Foreign Minister Gencher
  • State Secretary Van Well
  • Mr. Terfloth, Foreign Ministry Press Spokesman
  • Mr. Weber, Foreign Ministry Interpreter
  • US
  • Secretary of State Vance
  • Assistant to the President Brzezinski
  • Assistant Secretary Hartman
  • Mr. Hunter, NSC Staff
  • Mr. Dobbins (Notetaker)

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to a comprehensive test ban.]

[Page 366]

Comprehensive Test Ban

DeGuiringaud said that this was a subject of extreme sensitivity to France. While he understood the American reasons for proceeding, among which was an effort to embarrass the Soviets, he wished to reiterate what he had told Vance 2 and his President had told President Carter,3 which was that France could not envisage any adherence to such a ban at this stage.

Owen said his government saw the problems involved but would be willing to see a ban of U.S. and Soviet tests and would like to be associated with the discussion. At the same time, he said, his government recognized the French position and that of China.

Vance said that one of the most difficult issues in negotiating a comprehensive test ban with the Soviets would be the issue of peaceful nuclear explosions. The U.S. had indicated to the Soviets that it believed that a fundamental aspect of such a treaty would be a ban on such explosions. There was not any way to prevent the use of such explosions to develop military technology.

DeGuiringaud wondered whether the U.S. believed that nuclear explosions could serve any legitimate non-military purpose. Vance replied that the U.S. had given this considerable thought and study. Extensive experiments had been conducted in the 1960s, under Project Plowshare,4 on both the technology and economics of peaceful nuclear explosions. The results of these studies were quite negative on both counts. He did not think that the Soviets had looked at these problems. The U.S. was quite willing to share its data.

Owen suggested that perhaps states such as France and China should be asked to accept a ban on peaceful nuclear explosions without, initially, at least, necessarily associating themselves with a [Page 367]comprehensive test ban. This might help get the Soviets to accept a ban on peaceful nuclear explosions.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to a comprehensive test ban.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, NODIS Memcons, 1977. Secret. The meeting occurred at 10 Downing Street. The memorandum of conversation is scheduled to be printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXVII, Western Europe.
  2. Not found.
  3. Earlier that morning, Carter and Giscard had met at the French Ambassador’s residence in London. Regarding a CTB, Carter explained that “we have called for a joint test ban with the Soviet Union, without France or China for a period of 2–3 years. During that time, we would like others to join. We have a few tests we would like to do. The Russians do, too. We won’t permit a stop to military testing, and let PNE’s go on, since there really is no difference from this point of view. We will move as far as the Soviets in reducing nuclear weapons, ending tests, and limiting new systems. There has been great Soviet progress on design and development of new weapons. He hoped we could get them to reverse this process, and a test ban is part of it.” According to the record of the conversation, Giscard replied that “some subjects should be saved for the Four [UK, U.S., French, and German talks].” (Memorandum of Conversation, May 9; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Meetings File, Box 75, Subject: Box 1 (II)) The Carter-Giscard conversation is scheduled to be printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXVII, Western Europe.
  4. Established in 1957 by scientists at the Atomic Energy Commission and the University of California’s Radiation Laboratory, Project Plowshare explored the technical feasibility of using peaceful nuclear explosions for industrial purposes.