149 Report of the Australian Delegation to the Resumed Meeting of the Twenty-Second Session of the United Nations General Assembly 24 April - 12 June 1968

[Canberra, 14 August 1968]


Item: 'Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Report of the Conference by the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament.'

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34. [matter omitted] Commenting on these views,1 the Australian Delegation, in its statement on 17 May,2 urged the Committee to 'face the fact that a non-proliferation treaty is the only agreement that is in immediate prospect and that it is not practical politics at this time to seek to couple other, more far-reaching measures to it'. The Delegation reminded the Committee that 'Communist China (would) stand outside the Treaty and (could not be expected to) accept any additional measures that the Committee might agree to urge upon the nuclear-weapon states sponsoring the Treaty'. The Delegation warned that Australia 'would be bound to oppose any moves which it considers could increasingly expose it and its neighbours in Asia and the Pacific to the unrestrained nuclear capacity of Communist China'.

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The Australian Position

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52. The Delegation was required, neither 'in debate in the Assembly (nor) in discussion with other delegations, (to) appear to be opposed to a Treaty or to be playing a leading part in opposing sections of (the draft) Treaty, but, at the same time, (to) be careful not to allow any suggestion which would lead to the impression that Australia (was) prepared uncritically to accept the Treaty as it stands'. The Delegation was further required to raise certain matters in discussions with other delegations, 'not to suggest that the Australian Government (was) laying down conditions, but on the basis of seeking explanations, clarifications and assurances'.3

53. Acting on these instructions, the Delegation had a series of private discussions with a wide range of delegations, including those of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Argentina, the German Federal Republic, Spain, Mexico, Canada and Sweden. Fruitful discussions were held with some of these delegations, but with a number of the delegations with whom contact was made it was not possible to secure any worthwhile response on matters of primary concern to us. Many delegations were not interested in these matters, or had already established their positions regarding them in diplomatic exchanges or in consultations with the ENDC, or considered that they should be dealt with in the IAEA forum.

54. As far as the Delegation could assess, it was successful in avoiding any impression that Australia was either a leading opponent of the draft Treaty or, on the other hand, that it was prepared uncritically to accept the draft Treaty as it stood. No delegation publicly challenged our position, the only direct public reference being by the United Kingdom, which merely commented that there should be a reasonable solution to South Africa's and our problems regarding safeguards.

55. The debate showed that most points of concern to Australia were familiar to and acknowledged by the states significant in the nuclear field and their statements indicated that we can expect substantial support on various fundamental points. In particular, our attitudes on the interpretation of 'manufacture' in Articles I and II of the Treaty and on the need for unhampered peaceful research and development were widely shared and many delegations made helpful statements in these respects, notably the Netherlands and Japanese.

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63. The Delegation was required to ensure that the American interpretation of 'manufacture' in Articles I and II of the draft Treaty, as recorded in paragraph 16 of the Defence Committee's report of 26 April, was 'clearly understood in the United Nations and (was) supported by the Soviet and Britain and (was) not opposed or seriously questioned, by any significant power'.4

64. The Delegation acted in two ways regarding the interpretation of 'manufacture'. First, it sought assurances from the United States delegation regarding the interpretation of 'manufacture' that would meet the requirements stated in paragraphs 15 and 16 of the Defence Committee's Report. The Delegation considers that the statement given by the United States in its Aide Memoire of 13 May5 substantially meets these requirements. The Aide Memoire states, moreover, that 'the United States fully understands the concern expressed by the Government of Australia that it not be put in a disadvantageous position vis-a-vis other nonnuclear-weapon states in Asia, and wishes to assure the Government of Australia that it will do everything it can to ensure that the Non-Proliferation Treaty will have no such consequences'.

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Deposit of Excess Material

88. Paragraph 5 (IV) of the Cabinet decision6 stated that the outcome of the Delegation's efforts in regard to paragraph 46 of the Defence Committee's Report 'could be critical to Australia's eventual decision on signing.'

89. Paragraph 46 of the Defence Committee's Report required the Delegation to confirm the statement by the US team in the Canberra talks in April, that under the Treaty parties would be permitted to stockpile enriched uranium (of any enrichment) to any extent desired, and that there was no reason within the context of the Treaty to implement Article XII A.5 of the IAEA Statute. At the same time the Delegation was to 'resist any suggestions that Article XII A.5 should be implemented as a consequence of the application of the treaty', and in particular the Delegation was to 'oppose any suggestion to establish IAEA depositaries that would involve export of the materials.' The Cabinet decision further stated that 'it was not necessarily accepted ... that transfer of excess materials to IAEA, even though not exported from Australia, would be approved'.

90. In its cable UN 762 of 8 May,7 the Delegation reported that the foregoing instructions offered it 'considerable difficulty' and submitted as to whether, in the light of these comments, it was to pursue the matter any further and, if so, how it was to handle it. (See relevant extract in Annex J).8 No reply was received to this telegram.

91. In view of the Delegation's difficulties it did not canvass this matter with any delegations other than those of the United States and Britain. The Australian statement in the First Committee made no reference to it. No other delegation referred to the matter in the course of the debate or in any of the many informal discussions with the Delegation during the proceedings.

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A 'Model' Safeguards Agreement & Amendments to IAEA Statute

94. The Delegation was required (Defence Committee Report paragraphs 56–59) to resist any suggestions during the United Nations debate for re-negotiation of the IAEA Statute and to 'press the view (and seek support for its adoption in the debate) that a model safeguards agreement be drawn up and approved in the IAEA before negotiations are undertaken with individual parties for the safeguards agreements under Article III of the Treaty'. Cabinet 'specifically resisted the proposition that later amendments to the IAEA Statute and/or safeguards system would be mandatory on parties to the Treaty and observed that this point would enter critically into Australia's consideration of signing' (paragraph 5 (IV) H of the Cabinet instruction).9

95. In its discussions with various delegations, particularly the United States, British, Netherlands and Belgian, the Delegation met resistance to the proposal for a model safeguards agreement. However, the Delegation found general support for the proposition that intending parties to the Treaty negotiate with the IAEA regarding the safeguards agreement under Article III before proceeding to ratification. In the light of its consultations the Delegation reported (cable UN 762 of 8 May)10 that it considered 'there should be no difficulty in Australia satisfying itself about the terms of the safeguards agreement under Article III before ratification'. The Delegation therefore recommended that the requirement for a model agreement not be pressed and that Australia rest its position in the debate on a statement that we would not wish to proceed to ratification of the Treaty until we were satisfied as to the nature of the safeguards agreement under Article III.

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Proposed Security Council Resolution

110. Cabinet placed emphasis on protection for Australia under the ANZUS Treaty as being the point of importance under this heading and a statement about its reliance on 'mutual security arrangements' was included in the Australian statement. The proposed Security Council Resolution was also described as 'a notable political act and a not insignificant contribution to the security of nations'.

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125. The central emphasis on the disarmament aspect revealed that most states' attitudes to the Treaty are to a very important extend governed by their requirements to have nuclear armaments limited and reduced, regarding which the Australian Delegation uttered a warning in respect of China. Given progress in this direction, the Delegation assesses that sufficient states will sign and ratify the Treaty to bring it into operation without significant delay. Many states will, however, seek to use the Treaty Review Conferences as a means of control over the operation of the Treaty.

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[NAA: A1838, TS680/10/2 part 7]