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

245697. CTB Delegation for Okun. Subject: CTB: Approach to UK on NSS Question.

1. On behalf of the Secretary PM Director Bartholomew called in UK Embassy Counselor Weston (in absence of DCM Robinson) September 17 to make démarche along following lines:

—The US government continues to place great importance on the progress of the CTB negotiations.

—The negotiations are stalled on the NSS issue because of the Soviet rejection of the present UK position.2 The Soviets consider the ball to be in the Western court on this question. They may believe they have the UK and US on the defensive and that they can make it appear that the two Western parties are responsible for the stalemate and have lost interest in the talks.

—We therefore need a combined US/UK strategy which will: (A) solidify our joint approach on this issue; (B) put some pressure on the Soviets and test their willingness to negotiate seriously; and (C) move the negotiations off dead center and ensure that the talks do not unravel over this issue.

—We recommend, therefore, that your government consider the following strategy for this round:

—Both the US and UK would work together to counter Soviet claims that the UK would have the same number of stations as the US and USSR.

—We would propose instead that the UK make a credible step in the direction of the Soviet position, a step which would include the acceptance of NSS in dependent territories. We note that this was discussed by the President and the Prime Minister at their Tokyo meeting3 and that the Prime Minister said HMG would be taking this matter under serious consideration.

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—The US would give its strong support to a meaningful new UK position. We would make it clear to the Soviets that we do not believe the UK could go any further. We would push them hard to accept this offer and press them on this both in Geneva and at a senior level in Washington and Moscow. We would suggest that the UK also take such action.

—At the same time, we would urge the Soviets—while this issue is being considered in Moscow—to move on to serious negotiation of other issues of concern to the UK and US.

—To make the maximum impact upon the Soviets, such a move should optimally be made by US (UK and US) at the start of this coming round, and, in any event, as early in the round as possible. We would appreciate it, however, if London would allow time to consult with US, as it is indispensible that we fully coordinate the approach that we will each take in presenting our new position.

2. Bartholomew noted that full substance of démarche had been approved by the Secretary and by senior levels of other concerned agencies. Weston asked if we could elaborate upon the meaning of a “credible” step. Bartholomew said that this has not been defined by USG. Speaking on strictly personal basis, he pointed out that even if the UK does not judge that such a move would have a good chance of Soviet acceptance, such a move is still worthy of consideration. It will place UK and US in better position on NSS issue and will put the Soviets to the test.

3. Weston asked if we had any time frame in mind. Bartholomew replied that the key factor on timing now is that its very much in mutual UK and US interest to have made substantial progress in CTB by the time of the NPT review conference. Further, we continue to have an intrinsic interest in moving CTB ahead on its own merits. Its in our mutual interest to overcome the impression of a stalled negotiation and the potential for unraveling.

4. Weston said US views would be taken into account and that UK decision could be expected September 19.4 US approach was therefore [Page 590] timely. Weston said he could not speculate on the outcome of UK Ministers’ meeting which would make decision.

5. Weston also noted that US approach did not mention the possibility of UK staying out of the SVA, and he asked for explanation. Bartholomew, speaking personally, acknowledged that this was not included in US approach, and pointed out that even if UK does decide that this would be the best course of action, it still might be better for tactical reasons at least to try first the strategy recommended in this US approach. He noted that a British decision to withdraw from the SVA would not solve the issue automatically, as US and UK would have to press Soviets to accept this solution. He pointed out that we would, of course, be happy to hear out the British if they have other views on this question.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790427–0917. Secret; Exdis; Immediate. Sent for information Priority to the Mission in Geneva and Moscow. Drafted by Steven Steiner (PM/DCA); Neil Michaud (EUR/NE), Arnold Raphel, Avis Bohlen (EUR/SOV), and Robert Steven (S/S); and approved by Bartholomew (PM).
  2. On September 27, Carrington told Vance that his government had “perhaps embarrassed the US with their position on a verification presence.” Vance replied that the United States did “not believe that one seismic station is an adequate answer.” (Telegram 254134 to the Mission in Geneva, September 27; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790441–1007)
  3. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter met with Thatcher in Tokyo on June 27 from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials) No other record of this meeting has been found.
  4. Telegram 15850 from the Mission in Geneva, September 26, reported that in his opening statement, British Ambassador John Edmonds said that after “a much more thorough review,” the new UK Government could “confirm” that it “wishes to work for the early achievement” of “a good comprehensive test ban treaty.” However, Edmonds said that despite the Soviet proposal that each of the three nations should build 10 national seismic stations to verify a CTB, after “careful and intensive consideration,” the UK Government had concluded that “there is no justification for locating national seismic stations in United Kingdom dependent territories. They have therefore decided that one national seismic station in the United Kingdom, at Eskdalemuir in Scotland, is the appropriate British contribution to an effective and realistic system of verification by these stations.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790441–1086) In his opening plenary statement, York said that the U.S. Government “strongly supports both the British desire for a test ban and the offer to accept one national seismic station in the United Kingdom,” which it believed was “appropriate.” York’s plenary statement is in telegram 15848 from Geneva, September 27. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790441–1051)