439. Telegram From the Embassy in Argentina to the Department of State1

4680. USIAEA. Subject US/Argentine Nuclear Cooperation. Ref: A Buenos Aires 4284,2 B State 140112,3 C State 78782,4 D State 73111.5

1. Summary: The GOA having announced ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco6 is taking steps toward discussion with IAEA for international safeguards. They expect the US to recognize this with some positive moves toward expanded cooperation such as discussions on transfers of heavy water productions technology. They still contend this was the agreement reached in the Joint Communiqué of last November7 and claim that reprocessing discussions were out of the context of the Joint Communiqué, and in any event, according to GOA they are not reprocessing. The GOA does not feel Tlatelolco is important from a non proliferation standpoint but will follow this requirement to satisfy US requests. They again specify that the NPT is discriminatory [Page 1097] and they will not sign. The GOA is highly interested in expanded nuclear cooperation with the US and is looking forward to talks in this direction. End summary.

2. The following is an unofficial and free translation of a Diplomatic Note received by the Embassy in answer to our Diplomatic Note No 75 dated 3/28/78 (Reftel C), concerning US understanding of the Joint Communiqué issued during the visit of Secretary Vance to Argentina in November, 1977, and delineating the three stages of cooperation discussed.

3. “—The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of the Argentine Republic presents its compliments to the Embassy of the United States of America and has the honor to refer to the Embassy Verbal Note No 75, dated March 28, 1978.

—The Government of the US expresses in Note 75 its position with respect to some of the questions discussed during the conversations held by officers of both countries on bilateral nuclear cooperation, on occasion of the visit to Buenos Aires of Mr Cyrus Vance, Nov 18–22, 1977. It also establishes its interpretation of the text of the Joint Communiqué in connection with those questions.

—In referring to the activities to be undertaken by both governments, the Note states in the three stages indicated that: ‘these actions would occur separately; they would not be linked, nor would subsequent stages of expanded cooperation be specifically linked to these actions.’ These are high principles but to our understanding, do not include the idea of mutual relations, ie “do ut des” (give and take). It seems natural to interpret that, in general, a cooperation plan contemplates in some way an approximate equivalence in the actions that both countries undertake.

—Hence, it is our interpretation that the conversations held at that time led to the expressed intention on the side of the US to transfer heavy water technology to our country, and to our country’s intention to ratify the Treaty of Tlatelolco and enter into a regime of full-scope safeguards like those of the IAEA.

—We understand that this technology transfer—even though it may not really contribute to nuclear proliferation—may be of a sensitive nature and dissemination would be considered as an exception to the US policy. Argentina in turn expected the US to understand that the ratification of Tlatelolco contained difficulties, since it implicated overcoming internal opposition from different sectors. Also, it is to be noted that such ratification corresponds in a larger measure—if not exclusively to the interpretation of the US, and not that of Argentina, with respect to the effects of non-proliferation of Tlatelolco and that it would satisfy a point of US policy.

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—Argentina takes note, then, of what the Government of the US expresses in the Note which is now being answered, but would like at least to point out that its own understanding of the questions mentioned in the Note pertaining to the meaning of the Joint Communiqué, differs in some aspects with those of the Government of the US.

—It may be remembered also that some opinions stated during the conversation (in November), which my government feels are of great importance, were expressed by the GOA in opposition to the unilateral and anticipated postponement of possible chemical reprocessing activities, which in any event, are not being carried out in Argentina.

—Notwithstanding the above mentioned, the Argentine Government is convinced that both countries are greatly interested in pursuing the high objective of nuclear non proliferation, and also that the US Government has a sincere interest in promoting and extending nuclear cooperation for peaceful ends with Argentina. Under such circumstances, the Argentine Government is certain that the different opinions on the interpretation of the Joint Communiqué and other questions mentioned in Note 75 can be reconciled by means of the contacts which may be established, and which the Argentine Government looks forward to with its best disposition.

—The Ministry of Foreign Relations and Worship renews to the Embassy of the United States of America the expressions of its highest consideration.” Signed: Alberto Aden, Minister, International Organizations Dept.

4. Comments: On June 13, SciCouns met with Minister Aden, MFA, who prepared the Note, (Aden handles UN and international organizations and has responsibility for nuclear affairs in that division) to discuss the contents of the Note and other issues related to the Treaty of Tlatelolco and full scope safeguards. Minister Aden indicated that Argentina has announced the ratification of Tlatelolco and will enter into discussion in the near future with IAEA to develop and agreement for full scope safeguards. He said the treaty is now with the CAL and the Presidency for final approvals.

5. However, Aden stated emphatically that the GOA had overcome tremendous internal pressure against the ratification of Tlatelolco and feels now the ball is in the US court, so to speak, to live up to their part of the “bargain” as agreed in the Joint Communiqué. Aden mentioned also that Argentina would not sign the NPT because of its discriminatory aspects as outlined by Foreign Minister Montes at the SSOD. He feels the US should understand how deeply the signing of the Tlatelolco Treaty had separated internal GOA politics, and how much pressure was on the President not to ratify the Treaty. The President, however, in order to live up to his US commitment, made the decision to ratify. Aden stated that Argentina never attached much [Page 1099] importance to the Tlatelolco Treaty as a device to prevent non-proliferation since they (Argentina) never had the intentions to proliferate. However, primarily because the US felt this was an important move followed by international safeguards as discussed during the Vance visit last November, the GOA decided to ratify the Treaty accompanied by international safeguards and was under the impression the US would follow up with discussions on the transfer of heavy water technology. This exchange, according to Aden, was the crux of the whole matter and apparently where both countries are now of different opinions relative to the outcome of the November discussions. The SciCouns reviewed again the US understanding of the discussions as stated in our note, and indicated that it is our clear understanding that paragraph 7 of the Communiqué referred to expanded US/Argentine nuclear cooperation under the first two stages and that the phrase “relevant technology” did not include transfer of heavy water production technology except under conditions described in the third stage. The third stage included the requirement for a deferral of reprocessing activities and the negotiation of a full scope safeguard agreement if this was not accomplished under stages one or two. These would be the conditions for further discussions on the transfer of heavy water technology. As stated in the Note, this US position had been expressed on several occasions to Castro Madero and other GOA officials by Amb Smith, Prof Nye, and Embassy officers.

6. Aden indicated deferral of reprocessing was not a part of the Joint Communiqué but of separate discussions during the visit. He claimed this was not connected to receiving heavy water technology from the US; and in any event, Argentina was not involved in chemical reprocessing and does not have the need nor the technology. However, Aden said this would remain a technical question that could be discussed further with the US.

7. Finally, Aden stated Argentina was highly interested in moving ahead with important discussions with the US on future nuclear cooperation and objectives of non-proliferation. He feels if both governments work together on a sincere basis for peaceful purposes of atomic energy, these differences related to the Joint Communiqué and stages of cooperation can be resolved.

8. The reporting officer indicated he was actively working with CNEA officials and lawyers on the review of the US Non-Proliferation Act and that they had requested discussions with the US side on the renegotiation of a nuclear cooperation agreement (Reftel A) which would be necessary before some of the expanded cooperation referred to in the Note could take place.

9. In a final question on the PNE Section of Tlatelolco, Aden mentioned this would be decided by Cal and the presidency but he felt this was not of great importance to Argentina.

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10. As stated in previous messages and inclusive in the above Note and conversation, the GOA has indicated their decisions to include full scope safeguards with the ratification of Tlatelolco. However, they (GOA) fully expect that the US should understand how difficult this decision was because of internal pressure against it and feel they have lived up to their commitment in the Joint Communiqué of last November. The GOA now expects the US to enter into expanded talks on nuclear cooperation, including the provision of heavy water production technology. Regarding the provision requesting the deferral of reprocessing, they claim it was not a part of the Joint Communiqué and, in any event, would not be an issue since (CNEA) is not reprocessing.

11. It seems we have now come to the point where further joint talks are necessary. If Argentina takes the action to fulfill stage two by moving toward a safeguards agreements with IAEA, we should move ahead with discussions on the renegotiation of our nuclear cooperation in the fields indicated. The issue of reprocessing and heavy water technology can be covered in these discussions. The Embassy could begin by discussing the model nuclear cooperation agreement with the GOA which we have not yet received authority to do.8

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780253–0160. Confidential. Sent for information to Brasilia, Mexico City, and Vienna.
  2. Telegram 4284 from Buenos Aires, June 5, reported that “With the ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Argentina feels it has lived up to the US recommendation made during the visit of Secretary Vance last November concerning the first stage for nuclear cooperation; the GOA is expecting an active US response.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780234–1016)
  3. Telegram 140112 to Buenos Aires, June 2, informed the Embassy that “Argentine Foreign Minister Montes confirmed publicly that Argentina will ratify the Treaty of Tlatelolco. There was no indication, however, as to when this long awaited step might take place or whether Argentina will waive the condition necessary for the treaty to enter into force.” The Department also requested “the Embassy’s thoughts on when actual ratification might be expected and what, if any, additional steps we might take to encourage prompt Argentine action.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780232–0070)
  4. Telegram 78782 to Buenos Aires, March 28, contained a note concerning U.S. understanding of the Joint Communiqué on nuclear cooperation issued during Vance’s November 1977 visit to Argentina. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780133–0917)
  5. Telegram 73111 to Buenos Aires, March 27, informed the Embassy that Castro Madero had asked Smith to “provide him a written statement of the conditions under which we would supply heavy water to Argentina.” Accordingly, the Department instructed the Embassy to deliver a note to the Argentine Government which explained that the United States would supply heavy water to Argentina contingent upon Argentina’s adoption of full-scope safeguards with the IAEA and ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780133–0917)
  6. At the May 27 UN Special Session on Disarmament meeting, the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vice Admiral Oscar Montes, announced that his country would ratify the Treaty. (Telegram 4184 from Buenos Aires, May 31; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780229–0156)
  7. See footnote 2, Document 426.
  8. On June 30, the Ambassador to Argentina, Raul Castro, reported that the Argentine Government believed that “the Brazilians are dictating nuclear policy to the US,” because not only had its nuclear deal with the Federal Republic of Germany gone forward, but it had not been forced to adhere to the Treaty of Tlatelolco, establish full-scope safeguards, or sign the NPT. Meanwhile, Argentina believed that it was “being diplomatically isolated and discriminated against from the standpoint of transfer of nuclear technology for not signing the NPT.” (Telegram 5034 from Buenos Aires, June 30; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780271–1134)