127 Cablegram from Shaw to Department of External Affairs

New York, 2 May 1968

UN 714. Secret Immediate

Non-Proliferation Treaty

Our telegram 708.1

2. I thanked Ambassador Fisher for agreeing to see us at short notice. I said that while the Australian Government supported in principle the need for an effective non-proliferation treaty there were a number of implications in the present draft which were matters of high concern for Australia. The Australian Government had set aside the question of whether Australia should or should not sign the treaty or should or should not vote for any particular resolution. We did not wish to appear to be playing a leading part in opposing sections of this draft treaty nor to be laying down conditions for its acceptance. At this stage we were seeking explanations, clarifications and assurances on particular points.

[matter omitted]

5. [matter omitted] There were two main areas of concern to ourselves, namely the definition of 'manufacture' and 'safeguards'.

6. I said that the interpretation to be given to the word 'manufacture' in relation to nuclear weapons and explosive devices prohibited by Articles I and II2 of the treaty was of paramount importance to Australia. Australia had a fundamental national interest in preserving the maximum scope for nuclear research, development, production and use for peaceful purposes as well as for non-explosive military purposes. I said that the Australian Government had an interest in obtaining clarification but not necessarily establishing by public assurances what the basic philosophy of the treaty was concerning the extent to which it was envisaged that parties to the treaty might legitimately advance their capability to produce nuclear weapons.

7. Quoting from the agreed position reached with the American team in Canberra,3 I said that they had indicated that prohibited manufacture would not include any research, development, production or use for which there was a conceivable peaceful use notwithstanding that such activities at the same time advanced the state's capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons. In particular, I noted that the Americans had accepted that work on the enrichment of fissionable materials would be permitted whether the enriched materials were used or stockpiled for future use.

8. Regarding work directed solely to the improvement of nuclear weapons capability short of actual assembly, I said that we understood the United States view to be that the philosophy of the treaty was simply to stop the production of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear states, not to stop them improving their capacity to do so if they wished to go outside the treaty. The treaty prohibited the manufacture of nuclear explosives but permitted all else. We understood the American view to be that it was not however possible to anticipate all cases in advance and that IAEA would decide what was allowed and what was not.

9. On safeguards, I drew attention to questions which had been raised as to whether the provisions of the non-proliferation treaty were consistent with the IAEA Statute and with the safeguard system and whether the coming into force of the treaty would require the renegotiation of either or both the IAEA instruments.

[matter omitted]

11. I said that it might however be necessary to adapt the safeguard system to the requirements of the treaty and that any changes would be likely to affect Australian interests. It was therefore important that as far as possible we should know in advance precisely what these changes might be. It was our view that IAEA safeguards applied under the treaty should be as uniform as possible in relation to all parties. We felt it was logical that a model safeguards agreement should be drawn up and approved in the IAEA before negotiations are undertaken by the IAEA with individual parties to conclude the safeguards agreement provided for under Article III.

12. The American position in Canberra4 was that subsequent amendments to the IAEA Statute and/or safeguard system arising from expected technological developments would be mandatory on parties to the treaty. They had said the parties' interests would be protected by the difficulty of securing amendments that conflicted with the interests of the majority.

13. In relation to the American team's view on this point I said that the Australian Government did not accept that subsequent amendments to the safeguards agreement would be mandatory to parties of the treaty and I observed that this point could be critical to Australia's consideration of signing.

14. I said that in addition to the general points of principle which I had just made there were a number of matters that Australia would wish to see dealt with in the safeguards agreement to be included with the IAEA. We were interested in knowing whether the United States would be prepared to use the United Nations debate as a means of establishing criteria to govern any IAEA standard safeguards agreement.

15. I said that the detailed points Australia had in mind were:

  1. It wished to retain the right to reject individual IAEA inspectors.
  2. We would want to exclude from safeguards ores, minerals, mines, treatment plants and refining plants.
  3. We would want to retain freedom to reject future extensions of definitions under Article XX of the IAEA Statute.

[matter omitted]

20. Concerning our points on manufacture, Fisher acknowledged that they were not all covered under the proposed interpretative statements mentioned above. He referred in particular to the enrichment position. It was his personal reaction that the points which we had raised on Articles 1 and 2 should be taken care of. The United States had made a statement on the 11th March in response to pressures in Geneva that Articles 1 and 2 did not prohibit military nonexplosive nuclear activities. In particular the treaty did not inhibit the military use of nuclear reactors, for example, in submarines. He said that he would look into the question of what could be said further on the question of manufacture by way of public statements or possibly statements in plenary. He saw value in our discussing the sort of statements which we might make on this aspect.

[matter omitted]

22. Speaking generally about a uniform safeguards agreement, Fisher acknowledged that if the IAEA suddenly agreed that inspections should apply to mines, this would of course be possible under the IAEA Statute. He saw however some difficulties with our proposal that a model safeguards agreement should be prepared at this stage. He said that the IAEA had not yet worked out safeguards arrangements applying to what might be described as the latter end of the fuel cycle, e.g. fuel fabrication plants and chemical reprocessing plants. On isotope separation consideration was only at the administrative stage and the IAEA Secretariat was expected to put some recommendations in this field to the June meeting of the Board of Governors.

23. Fisher repeated this general view that the IAEA would not have ambitions to extend safeguards to mine inspections, but would continue to be preoccupied with its troubles at the other end of the fuel cycle.

[matter omitted]

35. On the suggested draft agreement Fisher said that there was one point which concerned the United States and that was that Euratom must be kept in being. It was important to West Germany and to NATO generally. He said that the strength of the NATO alliance made negotiations with the USSR possible.

[matter omitted]

36. I asked Fisher whether it was not self-evident that the IAEA ought to devise a model agreement as something which countries would be aware of before they undertook to become parties to the treaty. Would the United States see any difficulty in our making a public statement along these lines?

37. Fisher replied that he was not sure that a model agreement would be able to apply to Euratom. The United States did not want to embarrass Euratom, not because they thought less of non-Euratom countries, but because Euratom was basically central to the NATO structure.

[matter omitted]

45. [matter omitted] He acknowledged the difficulty of knowing what to do where IAEA safeguards were impractical, as they were in the case of submarines.

46. The discussions closed with the Americans undertaking to contact us again when they have prepared answers to our questions.

[NAA: A1838, 680/10/2 part 5]