477. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Preparation of Final Documents for the UN Special Session on Disarmament


  • United States:
  • Mr. Lawrence Weiler, ACDA, Coordinator for the UN Special Session on Disarmament
  • Mr. John Hirsch, US Mission to the UN
  • Mr. Michael Congdon, ACDA/MA/IR
  • Yugoslavia:
  • Mr. Dzevad Mujezinovic, Deputy Permanent Representative of Yugoslavia to the UN
  • Mr. M. Mihajlovic, Yugoslavia Foreign Ministry
  • Mr. Miljenko Vukovic, Counselor, Mission of Yugoslavia to UN


  • See attached sheet2
[Page 1177]

Weiler stated at the outset of the discussion that the United States wished to be as helpful as it could over the next several months to ensure that the Special Session is a success. He observed that the easy part of the preparatory process and procedural matters is now over and that we now face the much more difficult problem of preparing the final outcome. He said he believed all countries needed to do a lot of think-ing, not only about the prospective documents, but also what we all want to see the SSOD produce in terms of new ideas and initiatives. Weiler said he assumed that our two countries were in agreement in wanting the SSOD to be productive, to cause things to be different, to create an improved climate for arms control and disarmament discussions, and to give an impetus to disarmament efforts. Further, he believed one goal should be to ensure that no one group of countries stands aside in the process. It was his personal opinion that the session ought to stimulate public support for disarmament efforts and progress. This, he admitted, would have more effect on some governments than others; it was certainly true in the case of the United States. If the result of the conference were to be contentiousness, it would produce an adverse reaction in the US, while improving public support would be a major accomplishment toward our arms control and disarmament objectives.

He said that he wished to highlight a few points in the non-aligned draft Declaration on Disarmament;3 not exhaustively, but as indicative of the careful language necessary in drafting a document of this type in order to achieve the greatest possible support:

—The final documents, in order to gain wide support, should refer to some progress in disarmament efforts, albeit not enough, for, indeed, some progress had been made.

—They should also acknowledge the fact that there is not just one arms race, but many, all over the world.

—The program of action should avoid rigid time schedules which give an air of artificiality to what is produced.

—The documents should reflect an emphasis on the nuclear side of the disarmament question, but not to the exclusion of conventional weapons (not necessarily limited to conventional arms transfers) and the need for reducing conventional weapons and force levels. For understandable reasons, attention to problems of conventional arms has almost fallen away and been forgotten, while force levels produce concerns that, whether perceived or real, affect other political perceptions.

—The problem of non-proliferation should be reflected in these documents. If the SSOD does not contribute to efforts to strengthen [Page 1178]nonproliferation, and if it, instead, weakens these efforts, thoughts about general disarmament become academic. Whatever opinion one has of the NPT, he said, one central objective of the treaty was to buy time to get on with other arms control activities. For, whenever there is proliferation, it makes it more difficult to move forward on arms control and disarmament. This is in addition to the dangers to international security produced by proliferation. Thus, the documents must reflect that there cannot be increased prospects for arms control if there is further nuclear proliferation.

—The documents should make another point about the importance of merely halting or freezing arms competition, for this is the prerequisite to reversing arms build-ups and to disarming, which may in many cases be easier than reaching agreement on where to stop. He said there is a certain tendency to depreciate any step that does not involve reductions, which is not reflective of realities.

—It is also necessary that the documents avoid code words such as “dissolution of military blocs.”

—We should also seek precision of language in these papers if they are to gain widespread support, noting that the nonaligned paper, if taken literally, called for immediate nuclear disarmament.

—Halting “nuclear weapons testing,” was a phrasing that, of course, was not acceptable to the US.

—It is hard to tie savings from disarmament automatically and mechanically to development assistance. The documents should point out that the savers too will benefit from the redirected resources which would emerge from disarmament programs since this is a major incentive for disarmament efforts.

—The SSOD, and therefore also the documents, should stimulate public involvement—more openness, more information. There is much concern world wide about the unknown in national security postures, and we are concerned that this is a stimulus to arms racing.

—It is important that new ideas be reflected in the SSOD and, if possible, also in the documents. While it is too early to promise any specific new ideas out of the US, we believe the menu must be enriched by all participants.

—Decisions on machinery for disarmament should follow decisions on the Program of Action. We believe it is essential not to turn a negotiating body into a voting body (such as the UNGA). This would change the nature of the forum and it would no longer be a real negotiating body.

Weiler reiterated that he was only speaking personally, and that he was not trying to give an exhaustive summary of comments on the Nonaligned paper, but only trying to highlight for the Yugoslav dele[Page 1179]gation the trend in our thinking and the general nature of our assessment of the document, and only in a very preliminary way.

The Yugoslav delegation thanked Mr. Weiler for his comments and said they were extremely valuable as an indication of US interest and of US thinking on the SSOD. Mujezinovic said he would not take the time to answer the individual points made by Mr. Weiler at this time, but rather, he said, would address the question of how we might proceed in the drafting exercise. The Yugoslav Government, he noted, had sought and continued to seek more governmental points of view as to the eventual shape of the final documents. Ideally they would like to see the US views set forth, but still, based in part on the existence of several drafts of the declaration, they felt in a rather good position from which to proceed. The Soviet/Eastern European papers (USUN 27114 and UN Documents A/AC.187/81 and 82), the Romanian papers (UN Documents A/AC.187/77, 78, and 79), the paper submitted informally by several Western delegations (USUN 2942),5 Australian and Norwegian drafts, and Japanese and UK comments on earlier papers all reflected various governmental positions. He said his delegation would continue to seek grounds for a final document, but cautioned that they, as was the case with most of the nonaligned, did not have the great expertise in disarmament matters possessed by the larger powers. He said the nonaligned would now have to produce a new draft, of the type produced by others, and try also to arrange the text according to what would appear to be an acceptable format.

Turning to some comments in general on the thrust of Mr. Weiler’s presentation, Mujezinovic said his government wished the special session to “dramatize” the lack of progress in disarmament over the past three decades, and to generate both a common policy toward stimulating negotiations, and also political will to enter serious negotiations. They sincerely hoped to produce an outcome which would be acceptable by consensus, but he was doubtful whether this would be possible, particularly on some contentious issues such as the need for continuing alliance systems and the question of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. He recalled Mr. Weiler’s emphasis on non-proliferation and said that, in the view of his government, what was needed was a “new system” to prevent nuclear proliferation, and he saw the SSOD as a necessary first step in this field. His government felt it was ironic that the very states which were committed to nonproliferation were accused in fact and by implication of endangering the nonproliferation regime. Most nonaligned agreed that nuclear weapons and proliferation were [Page 1180]dangerous. What they did not understand was why the nuclear armed states should accuse them of endangering the regime. His own country was a member of the NPT. “We are the sole countries obeying nuclear non-proliferation (sic.),” he said, “and perhaps to our economic detriment.” He said there was a great resentment at what he called the “slap in the face” received by the non-aligned at the NPT review conference,6 where the nuclear powers, the real proliferators, in response to calls for further action on their Article VI obligations,7 treated the non-nuclear weapon states as if they were seeking to undermine the treaty.

Changes in emphasis and an understanding of the legitimate rights of the non-nuclear states to pursue economic development, he said, are necessary on the part of the nuclear weapons states, and nuclear nonproliferation cannot be pursued through suppliers’ cartels such as the London Group.

In more general terms he referred to the need for more responsive disarmament mechanisms, mechanisms flexible enough to embrace the opinion of the large number of non-militarily powerful states who have a vital interest in bringing about a safer world. There should be a change in perception of the interests of these states in disarmament. In this regard, he said, Mr. Weiler’s emphasis on conventional arms put the cart before the horse. We must begin to eliminate the most dangerous weapons first, he said, and in the context of progress on this front, it might then be possible to move to progress on conventional arms. Conventional arms restraint and reduction haven’t gotten off the ground because the most responsible states have not yet started the process. Once they do other states will join in.

In conclusion, each side expressed appreciation for the views of the other, and they agreed to remain in close touch, particularly at the time of the UN General Assembly debate on disarmament and during the subsequent preparatory committee meetings.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770145–0605. Confidential. Drafted by Michael Congdon (ACDA/MA/IR). The meeting took place in the Indonesian Lounge of the United Nations General Assembly Building.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Not found.
  4. Telegram 2711 from USUN, August 24, is in National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770306–0503.
  5. Not found.
  6. The NPT Review Conference took place May 5–30, 1975.
  7. Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty declared that signatories must pursue “negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament” and make progress towards a treaty “on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” (Documents on Disarmament, 1968, pp. 461–465)