498. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1

SUBJECT

  • SSOD and Negative Security Assurances

On behalf of the US delegation to the UN Special Session on Disarmament, Averell Harriman and Andy Young have expressed serious concern to Cy Vance that the guidance under which they are now operating is in several respects not sufficiently forthcoming to ensure a positive outcome of the Special Session.2 Their concerns focus on: [Page 1229](1) negative security assurances; and (2) the cutoff of the production of fissionable materials for weapons purposes. Andy and three other members of the delegation will meet with you on this subject on Monday3 at 1:00–1:30.

Attached at Tab I is a memorandum from Cy Vance, recommending that, in light of the delegation’s comments, you reconsider your earlier decision on negative security assurances. Harold Brown and I join in this recommendation.

Although the language of the proposed negative security assurance that we worked out last month would have been cumbersome for a major public address, its practical significance will be understood and welcomed now by other states at SSOD. The Vice President told the Special Session that “we are here to listen to the voices of other nations, as well as to raise our own on behalf of arms control and disarmament.” US flexibility on this issue could be offered gracefully as the fruit of thoughtful listening and could enhance our leverage on other issues, especially non-proliferation.

The proposed language of the assurance has been approved by all the concerned US Government agencies, except for the JCS. The Chiefs’ principal concern is that this is a “slippery slope” and that there will be further erosion in this position. The last eight words of the proposed negative security assurance could give rise to varying interpretations.

The proposed assurance is consonant with the independent initiatives on this subject by the UK, Japan, and other countries, and has been cleared with both the Koreans and the Germans. The language reads as follows:

“The United States will not use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT or any comparable internationally binding commitment not to acquire nuclear explosive devices, except in the case of an attack on the United States, its territories or armed forces, or its allies by such a state allied to a nuclear weapon state, or associated with a nuclear weapon state in carrying out or sustaining the attack.”

In light of these considerations, do you wish to authorize our delegation to state agreement with the language of the proposed negative security assurances?

Yes ______4
No ______

Depending on your decision, we will supply appropriate talking points for your meeting with the delegation on Monday.

[Page 1230]

When Harriman and Young drafted their cable to Vance on behalf of the delegation, they were not aware of your recent action clarifying your earlier decision on cutoff. As Secretary Vance points out, that clarification should be sufficient to reassure the delegation that they will have sufficient flexibility on this issue at the Special Session.

Tab 1

Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter 5

SUBJECT

  • Special Session on Disarmament

Ambassadors Young and Harriman have reported to me that the success of our efforts to ensure a positive UN Special Session on Disarmament, as well as to protect our non-proliferation interests, may hinge on our response to the desire of non-nuclear weapons states for firm negative security assurances and a commitment in principle to explore more steps to achieve nuclear disarmament. Both of these demands reflect general commitments we made under the Non-Proliferation Treaty in return for the promise of other states not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons. I support the suggestion of Ambassadors Young and Harriman that you review our position on these two issues.

All of the other nuclear weapon states have stated their readiness to offer additional assurances to non-nuclear weapon states or have already done so, and the non-nuclear weapon states have strongly urged that we do so. We risk being isolated on this issue, even from some close allies. Prime Minister Callaghan told the Session that the UK wants to agree with other nuclear weapon states to give such assurances. I urge you to reconsider your decision on this matter.

Ambassadors Young and Harriman and I suggest that the United States be prepared to state agreement with the language of our proposed negative security assurance that had received general interagency (JCS however remained hesitant) and Allied approval last month. It would clearly strengthen the delegation’s hand on a major SSOD issue. How it is implemented will be important, particularly with the Federal Republic of Germany and Republic of Korea. I believe it [Page 1231]would be best that the United Kingdom continue to take the lead in suggesting this specific language.

The negative security formulation we had been considering is:

“The United States will not use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT or any comparable internationally binding commitment not to acquire nuclear explosive devices, except in the case of an attack on the United States, its territories or armed forces, or its allies by such a state allied to a nuclear weapon state, or associated with a nuclear weapon state in carrying out or sustaining the attack.”

Second, Ambassadors Young and Harriman have provided suggested language for a US statement of policy concerning the conditions under which we might eventually explore the possibility of a cutoff of the production of fissionable material. They did this before your recent decision providing guidance on how to handle cutoff at the SSOD. Their language goes too far in implying that we could move automatically after SALT II and CTB “to explore the possibilities for negotiations” of additional measures, including a cutoff. But I believe your guidance solves the problem.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 118, Special Session on Disarmament: 6–7/78. Secret. Carter wrote a “C” in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of the memorandum indicating that he saw the document.
  2. In telegram 2311 from USUN, June 7, Harriman and Young reported that “the Non-Aligned countries view our lack of positive response at the Special Session to their request for (A) firm negative security assurances and (B) a commitment in principle to explore more steps toward nuclear disarmament as being a failure of the US to take an affirmative position as required by our obligations under the NPT.” This failure, they argued, “precludes us from advancing important objectives in non-proliferation, and seriously risks our being isolated from almost all our friends.” (Ibid.)
  3. June 12.
  4. Carter checked the “Yes” option and wrote “J” in the right-hand margin.
  5. Secret.