100 Cablegram from Waller1 to Department of External Affairs

Washington, 29 November 1967

4895. Top Secret

Non-Proliferation-Security Assurances

Your cable 4126.2

I had a general discussion today with Farley3 (Deputy Assistant Secretary, Politico-Military Affairs, State Department) about the proposed Security Council resolution etc. on security assurances in the event of a Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).4

  1. I raised the hypothetical possibility of conventional attack on Australia by a non-nuclear power that had signed the NPT and that did not receive assistance in the attack from a nuclear power. Farley initially discounted these possibilities but appeared to concede later that it had at least been possible for a pre-September 65 Indonesia to attack Papua/New Guinea. He maintained that:
    1. A potential conventional weapon aggressor already knew that the US would even now be extremely reluctant to use nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict,
    2. Even with a Security Council resolution of the kind envisaged, a conventional weapon aggressor could not be sure that, in extremis, the US might not still use nuclear weapons in the situations we had projected,
    3. The conventional weaponry of the US was already extremely strong, vis-à-vis nonnuclear conventional weapon states, and that
    4. The phrase 'not engaged in armed attack assisted by a nuclear weapon state' in operative section (d) of the draft Security Council resolution was itself open to interpretation by the US.
  2. Farley went on to suggest that 'assistance' in the sense of operative paragraph (d) of the draft Security Council resolution did not necessarily exclude the prior or previous supply of weapons and advisors by a nuclear state. I said that operative section (d) appeared directly to link the assistance of the nuclear-weapon state to the armed attack. Farley said that a wider interpretation was not excluded. I said that, in that sense, practically every potential nonnuclear aggressor could be considered as having received some assistance from a nuclearweapon state, and thus this part of the resolution, if I interpreted it in Farley's sense, might be considered as having little meaning.
  3. Farley repeated that wider interpretations could be given. He said (with what authority, I do not know) that an East German attack on Berlin or a conventional North Vietnamese attack across the frontier on South Vietnam would be considered as occurring with the assistance of a nuclear-weapon state.
  4. Farley also argued that it was surely preferable to have the present Pacific region, with the Security Council resolution on security assurances, than to have no non-proliferation treaty and a situation where Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan and India were developing nuclear weapons. He said that, if the US used conventional weapons on a massive scale to stop aggression on the peninsulas of Asia (Korea and Vietnam), there should be no doubt at all that it would do so in the case of Australia. He pointed out in conclusion that, if supreme national interests were endangered, a signatory could always withdraw from the treaty.
  5. In the light of this admittedly preliminary discussion, I am forced to conclude that there may be some reduction in the value of the American nuclear deterrent as a factor in our security.

[NAA: A1838, TS919/10/5 part 1]