122 Minute from Pritchett to Plimsoll

Canberra, 22 April 1968

Top Secret

Non-Proliferation Treaty

Herewith a copy of the paper1 agreed over the weekend between Cawsey2 of Supply, Thomas of the AAEC and me. I had opportunity before discussion yesterday with these two to go through the draft with Mr Booker.

2. This morning we shall go through the paper with Blakers of Defence and Wilson (AAEC) and this afternoon in the full inter-departmental group.

3. There has been considerable movement in the AAEC's position. It is not clear to me to what extent this is due to the Americans' persuasiveness, the pressure of our own questioning or a change in 'riding instructions'. It will be difficult for Professor Baxter to press many of the AAEC's points in the Defence Committee discussions on Wednesday in the face of this paper. However, the AAEC's position is still not to support even signature of the Treaty until a very late stage and it could be that this is the advice Professor Baxter is putting forward independently at ministerial level.

4. The proposed instructions to the delegation do not at this stage adequately cover the Australian position. First, we have been so distracted by all the AAEC's arguments and anxieties that we have not had opportunity really to get down to an examination of all political aspects. This will now largely have to be handled as the debate in the General Assembly develops.

5. Secondly, I suggest it will be important at some stage, presumably towards the end of the UN debate, for the Australian Government to communicate with the United States Government about the Australian position. Our communication should deal principally with three points:

  1. the fact that the Treaty has caused us much concern in various respects, especially in regard to the surrender of our option ultimately to strengthen our national defence by the acquisition of nuclear weapons and in regard to possible interference under the Treaty with our peaceful research and development;
  2. the need to secure from the United States, in writing - as the Americans have offered - certain understandings and assurances about the interpretation and future operation of the Treaty;
  3. A weakness of the Treaty, and one that could attract criticism in Australia, is that it seeks to prevent countries acquiring nuclear weapons to deal with a conventional threat. This situation is not provided for in the proposed Security Council resolution by the sponsoring Powers. This could lead to pressure on Article X3 of the Treaty, regulating the right of withdrawal from the Treaty and its duration. It would be desirable for the Australian Government to state clearly to the United States Government that its support for the Non-Proliferation Treaty was within the framework of the ANZUS Treaty.

6. I expect that a paper agreed within the Working Group today will be available to members of the Defence Committee first thing tomorrow morning.

[NAA: A1838, 680/10/2 part 4]