445. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany1

295257. Subject: Supply of Heavy Water to Argentina. Ref: (A) Bonn 21089,2 (B) State 285333.3

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1. Assistant Secretary Vest took advantage of November 20 visit (on unrelated subject) by Ambassador Von Staden to present latter with following aide mémoire expressing U.S. concerns over non-proliferation aspects of subject transaction:

Begin text: The Department of State wishes to bring to the attention of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany an issue involving Argentina which is of grave concern to the United States.

The United States is deeply concerned over the prospect of nuclear weapons proliferation in the Western Hemisphere and has indicated to Argentina its expectation that that country will complete ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco and accept an international safeguards obligation covering all of its nuclear activities and precluding any nuclear explosive use.

In addition, both Brazil and Argentina have been urged to defer their plans for the development of nuclear reprocessing facilities. The United States believes that the Argentine reprocessing program is spurred primarily by a desire to maintain its lead over Brazil and that this competition could lead to a reprocessing race in Latin America which would threaten hemispheric stability.

In discussions with Argentina over the last year, the United States has taken the firm position that it would be prepared to supply heavy water production technology, which Argentina is seeking, only if Argentina deferred its reprocessing plans in addition to the steps indicated above.

The United States is concerned, however, that Argentina will attempt to obtain this sensitive technology from other suppliers without deferring reprocessing.

Representatives of the United States have called the attention of officials of the Government of the Federal Republic and other potential suppliers of heavy water production technology to this matter and to the belief that this technology should not be supplied to Argentina unless it agreed to defer its reprocessing plans. The Embassy of the United States in Bonn has been informed that the Government of the Federal Republic shares these concerns and intends to take a similar position, if the Federal Republic is approached concerning the supply of heavy water production technology.

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The Department of State appreciates this attitude and wishes to ensure that senior members of the Government of the Federal Republic are aware of the strong interest of the United States in this issue.

The Department of State believes that it is important that the Governments of the United States and the Federal Republic consult closely on this issue and, in particular, before any binding commitments are entered into for the supply of this technology to Argentina.

The Department of State appreciates the Embassy’s consideration in advising the Government of the Federal Republic of United States’ concern in this matter and looks forward to continued cooperation on the non-proliferation issue. End text.

2. Von Staden promised that expression of U.S. concerns would reach highest levels of his government adding that he was sure that Rouget (Ref A) had already seen to it.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D780480–1105. Secret; Exdis. Sent for information to Brasilia, Buenos Aires, and Ottawa. Drafted by John Bligh (EUR/CE); cleared by Susan Klingaman (EUR/CE), Richard Barkley (EUR/CE), James Thyden (S/S–O), and Vest; and approved by William Woesner (EUR/CE).
  2. Telegram 21089 from Bonn, November 15, reported that the West German Foreign Ministry said that its government “has difficulties with supplying heavy water technology to Argentina and has told the Argentines so. Basic FRG policy is to refuse to provide sensitive technology to a nation which is attempting or intending to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies for the full fuel cycle.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D780471–0410)
  3. Telegram 285333 to Bonn, November 9, informed the Embassy that in recent discussions with Argentina on nuclear cooperation, the United States “reiterated that (1) it expected Argentina to complete its ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco; (2) agreement to NPT-type full-scope safeguards would greatly facilitate expanded cooperation with the US (e.g., assistance with Argentine export of research reactors); and, (3) heavy water technology supply would be contingent upon indefinite deferral of its reprocessing plans. In this context, Dr. Jorge Coll, Secretary-General of CNEA, stated that deferral of reprocessing was linked to Brazil’s program because of Argentina’s concern about regional stability, and that US policy on the non-supply of heavy water production technology was driving Argentina toward doing business with the FRG.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D780464–0048)