159. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

137685. Exdis USSALT Two also for Mission, USIAEA. Subject: USUK Bilateral Discussions on Comprehensive Test Ban. Ref: London 9656 (Notal).2

1. Summary. US and UK

On June 3 in preparation for forthcoming USUSSR and USUSSRUK discussions on a comprehensive test ban. Initial round will be between US and USSR beginning June 13, 1977. UK desires to be involved at earliest date possible and will join with US and USSR after initial round. It was agreed to continue USUK bilaterals; next set is tentatively scheduled for last week in June. The channel for all exchanges preparatory to this meeting was agreed to be Edmonds for the UK side and Davies for the US side. Press statement for release during or after conclusion of USUSSR discussions was worked out on ad referendum basis. UK Del expressed general agreement with tentative US position. End summary.

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2. UK Delegation, consisting of John Edmonds, FCO; Victor Macklen and Michael Harte, MOD; and Anthony Reeve and Drake Seager, UK Embassy, met on June 3, 1977 with a US Delegation chaired by ACDA Assistant Director Thomas D. Davies. The meeting covered a number of issues concerning the forthcoming discussions with the USSR of a comprehensive test ban.

3. Edmonds stated UK objectives for the meeting as:

(A) To implement full support of President Carter’s objective of achieving a comprehensive test ban;

(B) To agree on an appropriate time for the UK to join the USUSSR discussions beginning on June 13;

(C) To get a fuller understanding of the substance and tactics of the US position for the bilaterals beginning on June 13;

(D) To ensure that the UK views are made known for those bilaterals; and

(E) To seek agreement on a Western approach to negotiating a CTB.

4. Edmonds summarized UK CTB position as follows:

(A) The UK has consistently supported an adequately verified comprehensive cessation of nuclear explosions, including nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes;

(B) The UK wishes to be fully associated with the negotiation of such a ban, and therefore wishes to be brought into the discussions at the earliest possible stage;

(C) A moratorium on testing is acceptable if it is in binding form and of fixed duration, and is intended to lead to a CTB treaty;

(D) The timing of the beginning of a cessation of explosions is important for the UK;

(E) Any security difficulties for the West need to be minimized; and

(F) The UK reserves the right to express itself on any issue that is discussed bilaterally between the US and the USSR.

5. Davies said the US position had not yet been established, but is likely to include the following points:

(A) A comprehensive cessation of nuclear explosions would be embodied in a multilateral treaty, but would not require adherence of the PRC or France for entry into force;

(B) The treaty would prohibit nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes as well as “weapons” tests;

(C) In addition to a “supreme interests” withdrawal clause there would be, in connection with a Review Conference, a provision enabling parties to withdraw after about five years;

(D) The US is considering verification by national technical means, including for this purpose the UK seismic assets; by international exchange of seismic data; by use of secure seismic instrumentation within the USSR and US; and by some form of on-site inspection; and

(E) After agreement is reached among the US, UK and USSR on key elements of a CTB treaty, these would be referred to the CCD for [Page 370]elaboration in treaty form. Trilateral consideration of a number of issues would continue among the US, UK and USSR at the same time that multilateral work was proceeding.

6. The US side made clear that the US position was still preliminary, in particular with respect to what elements of verification would be included in the negotiating position and what would be required in the final analysis, and with respect to form and timing of a cessation of testing.

7. Edmonds agreed that adherence of the PRC and France for entry into force of a comprehensive ban was not necessary, and that the UK envisions a multilateral treaty open to all nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states. While such a treaty was being negotiated, a halt to testing could be arranged by the US, UK and USSR with an open invitation to France and the PRC to join. He thought the PRC was a problem for the USSR to handle, and that although the UK position on adherence was in fact the same with respect to the PRC and France, the UK did not consider the situation the same; i.e., it intended to establish some channel of communications with the French on this subject. Davies agreed on contacts with the French and added that such communications should be low key, with no pressuring involved.

8. The US side asked what the UK had in mind regarding a binding agreement for test cessation before the entry into force of a treaty involving the non-nuclear weapon states. Edmonds said the UK envisions an interim treaty. The US side said it has in mind a more informal arrangement (i.e., parallel announcements of intent), bearing in mind that a formal agreement of the type described by the UK would, by law, require the approval of Congress. It was left that these two possibilities could be the subject of later discussions. The UK side was asked whether there were any reasons that testing could not be halted immediately. Macklen responded that, from the MOD point of view, they would like to complete one more warhead test, which has now been moved up six months to March of 1978. They are confident that they can meet this test date. However, the UK side realized that a political decision could be taken to end testing sooner, and it is prepared to examine any date for a test cessation at the time the question arises.

9. On nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes, Edmonds said the UK has no flexibility at all, the only question being the tactical one of how and when this is made clear to the USSR. The US side said it sees the prospect of a prohibition of nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes, as well as weapon tests, as a major opportunity to influence and constrain NPT holdout states. Edmonds agreed.

10. It was agreed in principle to have bilateral discussions before each round of trilateral discussions, and to be flexible with regard to subject matter (of both a technical and a “technical-political” nature) for [Page 371]these meetings. Tentative agreement was reached to have the next USUK bilateral in Washington the last week in June, with the agenda open. The channel for all exchanges preparatory to the meeting was agreed to be Edmonds for the UK side and Davies for the US side. The UK will join the USUSSR discussions at the beginning of the second round.

11. The two sides agreed that the bilateral and trilateral talks would proceed on a confidential basis, with no external observers present, and that the Delegations should be kept small. It was also agreed that there would be a series of meetings, with breaks in between whose length would be established on an ad hoc basis. With regard to venue for the trilaterals, there was discussion of Washington, London or neutral cities such as Geneva or Vienna (see para 14 below). Chairmanship would be on a rotating basis. Each party would keep its own records.

12. Edmonds said that the Prime Minister would like to announce the entry of the UK into the discussions when this takes place. For briefing NATO, Edmonds said their present thinking is to tell NATO shortly before the Prime Minister makes his public statement, with Paris and Bonn perhaps receiving earlier notification. Davies suggested that, in general, NATO be provided joint briefings by the US and the UK as the discussions proceed.

13. Edmonds was given a list of the Soviet Delegation coming to Washington for the USUSSR bilaterals and the UK Embassy has been given a list of the US Delegation.

14. US and UK sides have subsequently agreed ad referendum to following text of announcement to be issued during or after conclusion of USUSSR discussions. Final UK response is expected shortly, and USSR is being consulted. Begin text: following exploratory consultations, the US, the UK, and the USSR have agreed to enter into discussions with a view to the negotiation of a comprehensive test ban treaty. The first round of these tripartite discussions will take place in Geneva beginning July 13, 1977. End text.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770212–0710. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information to Moscow, USNATO, Bonn, Paris, the Liaison Office in Peking, the Mission in Geneva, USUN, and Vienna. Drafted by Pierre Corden (ACDA/MA); cleared by Homer Phelps (PM.DCA), Duff (ERDA), Robert Squire (OSD), Frank Murphy (JCS), John Marcum (NSC), and Lewis MacFarlane (S/S); and approved by Thomas Davies (ACDA/MA). In a June 1 memorandum, Brzezinski informed Carter that British Prime Minister Callaghan had thanked the President for allowing his government to participate in the CTB negotiations. At the bottom of the memorandum, Carter wrote “I see no reason for delaying Britain’s immediate involvement. Get US & UK together before meeting with Soviets. J.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 6, Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB): 3–12/77)
  2. In telegram 9656 from London, June 13, the Embassy requested a full account of the CTB talks between the United States and the United Kingdom which had been held in Washington on June 3. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770210–0725)