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326. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • FRANCE

    • Francois de Laboulaye Political Director
  • UNITED KINGDOM

    • Sir Michael Palliser Permanent Under Secretary
    • Sir John Hunt Cabinet Secretary
    • Reginald Hibbert Deputy Under Secretary
  • FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY

    • Gunter van Well Political Director
  • UNITED STATES

    • Ambassador Henry Owen President’s Representative
    • Arthur A. Hartman Assistant Secretary
    • David Aaron, Deputy Assistant to the President
    • Robert Hunter, Senior Member National Security Council
    • Roger Waldman, Assistant to Ambassador Owen
    • James F. Dobbins, Jr. EUR/WE (Notetaker)

Owen opened the meeting by noting that its purpose was to review the handling of non-economic issues which President Carter wished to raise at the summit.2 President Carter wished to raise these issues for two reasons: first, because he thought they were important and deserved discussion; and second, because he was of the general view that Japan should be involved more extensively in consultations with the United States and Europe on non-economic issues.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to non-proliferation.]

Turning to proliferation, Owen said that there had been bilateral contacts between the US and all the participants in the summit of the seven (Italy was to be contacted in the near future) on the US proposal for a fuel cycle evaluation program. In his own discussion with Japanese officials, Owen said, he had found them extremely interested. The subject of proliferation was on everyone’s minds and would certainly be discussed at the summit. Certainly President Carter would do so. Owen suggested that there were two aspects of non-proliferation—restraints and how to meet legitimate needs. The question of restraints was being dealt with in the London suppliers group. It did not appear [Page 810]that there was much the summit could add. The more interesting question was the second—that of meeting legitimate atomic energy needs. In this area it seemed to him that there were three principles which might be discussed and perhaps agreed upon at the summit. These were:

—that these needs were real and should be met;

—that it was in the general interest that these needs be met with the minimum risk of providing countries the means to convert civilian to military nuclear programs;

—in some cases a multilateral or international role in meeting these needs might be desirable.

If summit discussion could focus on these principles, continued Owens, and if agreement could be reached to launch a study to give effect to them, this would represent an important outcome.

Owen noted that the issue of energy was already on the summit agenda and suggested that as nuclear energy and thus non-proliferation were inextricably connected to this topic, perhaps they should be discussed under the energy item.

De Laboulaye acknowledged that it might be impossible to avoid a discussion of nuclear energy under the energy item. It was probably better, however, not to go into detail, given the limited time available at the summit. He suggested, therefore, that discussion be limited to the first two of the three principles Ambassador Owen had outlined. He felt that there was insufficient preparation for discussion to proceed to the third point—that of international intervention. In the absence of agreement, discussion at the summit on this point could be counterproductive.

Owen wondered whether there might not be agreement on the first of these two points, and on the initiation of a study. De Laboulaye replied that this was perhaps possible, but would seem to him to be the maximum his government could accept.

Van Well agreed that proliferation should be discussed under energy. He felt, however, that the third of Owen’s proposed principles should be discussed among the four before participation was enlarged.

At this point there was some discussion about whether the four-power summit should come before or after the seven power meeting.3 It was agreed that the desirability of discussion of non-proliferation among the four should not override other considerations which tended to favor scheduling the four-power meeting following the seven nation summit.

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Palliser said that everyone was agreed on the importance of non-proliferation efforts. Discussion at the summit should not leave the impression that there was disagreement on this fundamental point. He agreed that the subject should be discussed under the energy item. He felt that the principles which Ambassador Owen had outlined were at a pretty high level of generality. The question was whether summit agreement to initiate a study would be viewed by press and the public simply as a way of postponing discussion.

Ambassador Owen noted that a great deal would depend on the outcome of bilateral consultations which the United States was undertaking with each of the summit participants. If there was agreement, the summit could reflect it. If there were not, one would have a different situation. In this case, perhaps, the summit should confine itself to endorsing the principles he had outlined—either two or all three of them. These principles might be rather general but that was, after all, in the best tradition of summitry.

Hibbert noted that it was important that non-participating states not feel that those at the summit were ganging up on them. Owen replied that his first principle was included for that purpose. Reflecting on the problem of non-proliferation in general, Owen recalled that Europe had confronted a somewhat similar difficulty thirty years ago and had resolved it by creating the European Coal and Steel Community. Perhaps on non-proliferation a similar international approach is needed to overcome national suspicion and rivalries.

Owen noted that bilateral consultations on the proposal for a fuel cycle evaluation program would have progressed by the next summit preparatory meeting. He felt there was agreement that proliferation should be discussed at the summit under energy, and that at least the first two of his three principles were generally acceptable. Whether the third principle could be agreed upon and a study initiated at the summit was still open for discussion. This was generally agreed to be a fair summation of where matters stood.

Van Well reiterated that there should also be discussion of proliferation among the four. This would offer a better form to review certain political ramifications of the issue. Owen inquired what questions the four would address. Van Well envisaged discussion in the four focusing on the political constraints which each of the participants felt in this area. Hartman agreed that a frank discussion of this sort among the four leaders would be very useful. No one felt that such a discussion would require detailed preparation. Owen noted that President Carter might well treat the political aspects of non-proliferation among the seven. Van Vell said that this was perfectly acceptable but that other leaders might prefer to reply in the four.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to non-proliferation.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 76, United Kingdom: 1–3/77. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Old Executive Office Building.
  2. Reference is to the G–7 Summit scheduled for May in London.
  3. Reference is to the meeting among the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany scheduled for May in London.