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

9680. New Delhi for Ambassador Smith. Subject: (S) US/Argentine Nuclear Consultations. Ref: (A) State 3009372 (B) State 3006633 (C) Buenos Aires 95574 (D) Buenos Aires 9590.5

1. (S—Entire text).

2. The Embassy strongly feels that a continuing nuclear relationship with Argentina is essential toward attaining US long-range goals for non-proliferation. By continuing active cooperation with Argentina, we will remain on the inside of nuclear policy-making and maintain direct knowledge of and some degree of influence over Argentine nuclear policy and programs. Without this continuing direct contact and cooperation, the US will be forced to depend on other countries in the future to assure Argentina’s adherence to safeguards and other non-proliferation issues. We do not feel the US can depend fully, for ex[Page 1131]ample, on Germany and/or Switzerland as agents through whom to carry out US nuclear policy, the US message for non-proliferation must be conveyed by the US itself where possible.

3. As mentioned in Reftel (C), we do not feel that Argentina should be written off from the standpoint of a US nuclear relationship or a continued US influence. The USA has many friends within top CNEA management and other GOA circles concerned with nuclear policy that respect US overall non-proliferation policies and US technologies. However, they are discouraged by what they feel is a US campaign to deny technology necessary to Argentina to develop its nuclear industry on an independent basis and become a nuclear supplier in South America.

4. As suggested in Reftel (A), embassy officers reiterated to GOA nuclear officials, including Jorge Coll and Abel Gonzalez, just last week that US nuclear policy has remained the same and our continuing consultations with other suppliers is based on our belief that worldwide application of international safeguards over all peaceful nuclear programs is a legitimate concern of the US as well as of all other countries. In addition, as mentioned in Reftel (C), we have reiterated the importance the US attaches to Argentina fulfilling its commitment to ratify Tlatelolco and to continue its negotiation with the IAEA for a FSS agreement and furthermore have emphasized that these actions would certainly enhance possibilities of expanded US/Argentine cooperation.

5. SciCouns is scheduled to meet again this week with CNEA safeguards committee to review US/Argentine relationship and discussions on latest Argentine policy on the ratification of Tlatelolco. In fact, we feel, as stated previously, the most effective and long-lasting way of obtaining a FSS agreement for Argentina is through ratification of Tlatelolco and an arrangement with Brazil to wave it into effect and follow up with a FSS agreement based on the Treaty.

6. A high-level visit to Argentina would give the impression of US interest and desire for continued cooperation and could be approached on a step-by-step basis beginning with an official note outlining US conditions for release of (1) three kilograms of depleted uranium for uranium plate fuel testing, and (2) ten kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium for fuel plate fabrication, and (3) for provision of 20 percent enriched uranium for the RP–0 in Peru and RA–6 in Bariloche. The HEU for the RA–3 request could be handled separately since we understand now this fuel may not be needed until the end of 1980. The next step could be a high level visit to Argentina by Asst. Secy. Pickering and/or Amb. Smith. The specific objectives and benefits of such a visit are the following:

—Maintenance of an ongoing dialogue at a high level.

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—Open and candid discussion of US/Argentine nuclear relationships and non-proliferation policy.

—Discussion of US/Argentine cooperation in lieu fuels for Argentine reactors.

—Discussion of expanded US cooperation and sales that could be facilitated by Argentine ratification of Tlatelolco and followed by a FSS agreement with the IAEA based on the Treaty. This arrangement could be discussed in context of Argentine/Brazilian cooperation and possibilities of waving Tlatelolco into force.

—Expanded cooperation could center around US assistance in development of Argentine research reactor program and certain fuel cycle technology and helping Argentina become a reliable nuclear supplier in Latin America. This assistance would include a US commitment for continued supply of 20 percent enriched uranium and cooperation with Argentina in nuclear assistance to third countries.

—Discussions on possibilities for an amended cooperation agreement that could include the above items and others such as (1) organized exchange of experts, (2) exchange of radiation safety information on a regular basis, and (3) credits for sales of US equipment and supplies.

7. We would not expect any miracles to emerge out of a visit of this sort; but CNEA leaders, particularly Castro Madero, Jorge Coll, Martinez Fabini, and Antonio Carrea would be highly receptive to talks on these subjects. As we have mentioned in the past, the Argentines at this point are primarily interested in a sympathetic US view of their nuclear programs and policies and would appreciate frank discussions on the whole range of issues. In the final analysis, the benefits would be continued cooperation, the opportunity for US direct influence in the Argentine nuclear policy, and perhaps persuasion toward a permanent international safeguard regime.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D790546–0913. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information to Bern, Bonn, Brasilia, New Delhi, and Ottawa.
  2. In telegram 300937 to Bern, November 20, the Department of State informed the Embassy that “It has been decided that we will not issue a public statement at this time concerning Swiss safeguard requirements for the sale of heavy water production technology to Argentina. Instead, we will continue our diplomatic efforts.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D790533–0780)
  3. In telegram 300663 to Buenos Aires, November 19, the Department instructed the Embassy to remind Argentine officials that “(A) Argentina is, of course, aware of US views regarding full-scope safeguards and ratification of Tlatelolco and nuclear cooperation with Argentina; (B) Argentina is also aware US has consulted with other potential suppliers about nuclear cooperation with Argentina and Argentine nuclear programs; and allegation that US has falsified or distorted any information on Argentine program is completely unfounded, and we have not distributed any fake photographs” of alleged Argentine nuclear reprocessing plants. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P840163–1510)
  4. Telegram 9557 from Buenos Aires, November 21, reported that while the Embassy had reiterated the points made in telegram 300633, Argentine officials worried “that the US has, in their opinion, imposed US national policies on Germany and Switzerland by pressuring them to demand an NPT-type FSS agreement before supplying nuclear technology or equipment, which goes beyond NSG guidelines. There seems to be a general feeling in Argentina that the US has a campaign against Argentina to deny nuclear technology, which has created a mutual distrust between the two countries and seems to be the core of the problem.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D790536–0785)
  5. Telegram 9590 from Buenos Aires, November 23, reported that “Embassy was pleased Department has decided not to issue a public statement at this time concerning Swiss safeguard requirements for HWT. This would have completely ruptured US/Argentine nuclear relations and would probably have a strong negative political impact as well.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D790540–0565)