432. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • International Political Issues: Panama Canal Treaties, Non-Proliferation, Middle East, Africa, Belize, Nicaragua, and Conventional Arms Restraint

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Terence A. Todman, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs
  • W. Anthony Lake, Director, Policy Planning Staff
  • Robert A. Pastor, NSC Staff Member
  • Ambassador Viron P. Vaky
  • Guy F. Erb, NSC Staff Member
  • Venezuela
  • Carlos Andres Perez, President
  • Simon Bottaro Consalvi, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Manuel Perez Guerrero, Minister of State for International Economic Affairs
  • Valentin Acosta Hernandez, Minister of Energy and Mines
  • Carmelo Lesseur Lauria, Minister, Secretariat of the Presidency
  • Hector Hurtado, Minister of State, President of the Investment Fund
  • Ambassador Ignacio Iribarren
  • Dr. Reinaldo Figuerido, Director of Foreign Trade Institute

After exchanging cordialities, President Perez asked about President Carter’s preference with regard to an agenda. President Carter said that he would like to discuss international political issues today and economic issues tomorrow.2

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

[Page 1083]

President Carter said that Argentina had promised to ratify the Tlatelolco Treaty soon. Although they have said this before, they had sent a message this month indicating they are getting ready to do so.3

The U.S. Congress had passed a law on nuclear energy, which clearly spells out the U.S. position in providing nuclear fuel with certain safeguards.4 President Carter said his visit to Brazil would be used to explain our position fully; he was afraid that Brazil may not have completely understood it. We believed it was relatively easy to cooperate in ways which will provide nuclear power and at the same time eliminate the danger of weapon production.

Perez said that during his conversations with Geisel (November 1977) he expressed solidarity with U.S. policy. Geisel was upset, and took the position that one could not keep Brazil from doing the things that the U.S. has already done. Perez told him that whatever the U.S. has already done, the world cannot afford unrestrained proliferation. It was because of aspirations in this area, Perez said, that he had proposed a multinational Latin American reprocessing center, under the auspices of OLADE or SELA, as a way of overcoming jealousies and satisfying needs. Brazil, of course, was also worried about Argentina. Geisel said that first he wanted to talk to President Carter, then he would talk to the GOV about the multinational center proposal.

President Carter said that we have tried the reprocessing route and have found it unsatisfactory. The International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Study which will be completed soon will probably recommend regional centers under international safeguards, precisely to overcome national sensitivities. He said he expected that the study would find that reprocessing is simply not a necessary part of a nuclear energy system. He expressed the view that both Germany and France realize the problems and would probably not offer the same kind of arrangements now that they did then.

President Carter said that common expressions of concern would be useful in drawing the distinction between legitimate desires for peaceful use of nuclear energy and arms production. He also noted that Brazil has thorium, and this is a promising source of fuel which would avoid the plutonium problem. Geisel is discussing the use of thorium, and this may be an avenue out of the present problem. Perhaps, the [Page 1084]President said, the U.S. pushed too far too fast with Brazil, but we will discuss these matters.

Perez asked whether the U.S. would be helpful to Argentina in the area of thorium technology if they expressed interest, and the President answered affirmatively.

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

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 56, Country Chron, Venezuela: 1–4/78. Confidential. The meeting took place at Miraflores Palace.
  2. On March 29, Carter and Perez discussed North-South Issues, Energy, the Caribbean, and the Law of the Sea. (Memorandum of Conversation, March 29, 1978; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Subject File, Box 63, President’s Trip to Brazil and Venezuela (3/78))
  3. Ambassador Aja Espil informed Nye on March 22 that Argentina “has every intention of ratifying the Treaty of Tlatelolco, as President Videla committed his country to do in conversations with President Carter and Secretary Vance. The Ambassador said this welcome development would take place soon, noting that the United States should have no doubt about Argentina’s intentions.” (Telegram 76482 to Buenos Aires, March 24; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780130–0734)
  4. Carter signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act on March 10. See Document 366.