378. Letter From Secretary of State Vance to French Foreign Minister François-Poncet1

Dear Jean:

Ambassador Gerard Smith has reported to me on the useful discussions he recently held in Paris on finding common approaches to a post-INFCE regime for international nuclear commerce.2 He advised me that you are planning to consider this subject at an inter-Ministerial meeting to be held on December 10. In that connection, I urge you to give special consideration to the goal of achieving comprehensive, full-scope international safeguards coverage in non-nuclear-weapon states. We believe the urgency of achieving this goal has greatly increased, and hope that France may now find it possible to adopt, in parallel with other major supplier states, a policy of making new commitments for cooperation with non-nuclear-weapon states in the civil uses of nuclear energy only with those that accept a binding obligation to place all present and future nuclear facilities under international safeguards.

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In looking at the countries of special proliferation concern—including India, Pakistan, Israel and South Africa—we find it striking that each of them has endeavored to produce weapons-usable material in unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. Thus they can proceed down the path of nuclear explosive development, pointing out that they are violating no international undertakings, while at the same time enjoying the benefits of international cooperation with their nuclear power program. We believe it is time to try to plug this loophole by facing them with a choice.

We do not believe this would involve any serious sacrifice of market opportunities, since the number of potential customers who have not already agreed to accept full-scope safeguards has become very small, and some of these are now moving toward such acceptance. Moreover, a common policy requiring full-scope safeguards would avoid the unfortunate type of situation we have been witnessing in the competition for Argentine sales,3 where perceived differences in safeguards requirements appear to have influenced the award of the contracts.

If you are prepared to move with us in this direction, we see more advantage to having the supplier states who are members of the NPT announce at the NPT Review Conference their adoption of full-scope safeguards as a condition of future supply commitments. I believe this would significantly strengthen support for the Treaty by defusing the arguments of the developing world that NPT Parties derive no real benefits and are, in fact, penalized with regard to conditions of nuclear supply compared to non-NPT Parties. While we realize France is, of course, not a party to the NPT, your support for this new policy would be extremely important in bringing the NPT supplier states along, and we hope you could take whatever parallel action seemed suitable to make clear your approach at that time.

We understand the possible reluctance of a supplier state to require its customers to have safeguards on materials that are not traceable to its own exports. But we are convinced that this requirement is necessary not only to prevent additional states from nuclear explosive development but also to achieve effective safeguards on one’s own exports. Examples of why we believe this is so are set forth in the enclosure.4

As you know, President Carter attaches considerable importance to this goal, and I would appreciate your calling this letter to the atten[Page 962]tion of President Giscard d’Estaing prior to the inter-Ministerial meeting.


Cy 5
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues, Oplinger/Bloomfield File, Box 47, Proliferation: INFCE (Post): 9/79–1/80. Confidential.
  2. See Document 377.
  3. See Document 420.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Vance signed the letter “Cy.”