157 Brief for Gorton by Prime Minister's Department

Canberra, 18 April 1969


Non-Proliferation Treaty

The treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (copy attached as annex I)1 opened for signature on 1st July, 1968. At the time of writing (18th April 1969), 88 governments had signed it and 10 had deposited their instruments of ratification (lists of signatories and ratifications are attached as annexes II and III).2

[matter omitted]

(a) The Present International Position

  1. Aside from the depositary governments (Britain, the USA and the USSR) and the communist countries, the signatories to date of political or industrial significance are Canada, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Republic of China, Mexico, the UAR and Yugoslavia.
  2. Thus of the so-called near-nuclear countries, Canada, Italy and Sweden have so far signed but Japan, India, West Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Israel and Switzerland have not. France and Communist China have not signed, nor have Indonesia and Pakistan. From the Asian and Pacific region, the signatories are Afghanistan, the Republic of China, Ceylon, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldive Islands, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Vietnam.
  3. The only nuclear power to have ratified so far is Britain. Canada is the only 'near-nuclear' power to have ratified. (The treaty requires 43 ratifications, including those of Britain, the USA and the USSR, to bring it into effect.)

(b) Australia's Position

  1. Following is a summary of the present position regarding the principal points of concern expressed by Cabinet in Decision 165:3

(A) Efficacy of the Treaty
The treaty is almost certain to attract enough ratifications to bring it into force at a fairly early date. Cabinet, however, considered it of critical importance to Australia's position that India, Pakistan, Japan and Indonesia should ultimately join. Of these, Japan will sign fairly soon; India will not sign for the present; and the intentions of Pakistan and Indonesia cannot at present be forecast.

(B) Impact on Australia's Commercial Interests
Cabinet noted that Australia, as a party to the treaty, must be concerned that markets should not be denied and that, in this connection, Japan should ratify the treaty. It is believed that Japan will eventually adhere to the treaty. Australia's adherence to the treaty could facilitate the export of nuclear materials; and such exports could also still be made to non-signatory countries, subject to IAEA safeguards.

A United States aide-memoire of 13th May, 19684 […] set out the American replies to Australian enquiries seeking an interpretation of the term 'manufacture', as used in articles I and II of the treaty. The subsequent transmission of this document to Britain, the Euratom countries, Canada, Japan and South Africa has added to its interpretative force. The interpretation has since been read into the record of the US Senate hearings on the treaty. Other significant countries, such as Japan and the Netherlands, have stated an interpretation whereby the treaty must not impede the fullest possible development by non-nuclear countries of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy.

(D) Safeguards

  1. Cabinet attached importance to Australia's right to reject particular IAEA inspectors. IAEA documents give a country a right to reject individual inspectors but repeated rejection may be reported to the Board of Governors. The US Senate record quotes Mr Rusk as saying that the USA could reject a Russian inspector under IAEA practice.
  2. The problem of industrial espionage was of some concern to Cabinet. At the UN debate on the treaty, of the countries likely to have similar interests to Australia, Japan and Canada appeared to the delegation not to consider the risk significant; South Africa made special reference to their fears in the debate; and a West German observer felt it was of major concern in fuel fabrication and processing. The United States and British delegations regarded the risk as insignificant or exaggerated. (However, these two nations are in a special position in that they have reserved the right to withhold from safeguards any activity affecting their security.)
  3. Cabinet wished to ensure that the mining and refining of uranium (and thorium, from beach sands materials) would not be subject to safeguards, should Australia become a party to the treaty. Other delegations at the UN, specifically major uranium producers such as Canada and South Africa, took the same view as Australia. In its aide-memoire of 13th May, 1968 […], the US stated that safeguards would be applied in accordance with the statute and safeguards system of the IAEA; and that the definitions of 'source material' in the statute 'specifically exclude mines or oreprocessing plants from the definition of principal nuclear facilities'. The US Senate record states that 'IAEA practice does not involve the application of safeguards to uranium mines and ore-processing plants ... The non-proliferation treaty requires no change in this practice.' However, the question as to the point of application of safeguards is still under discussion in the IAEA.
  4. The definitions of the terms 'special fissionable material' and 'source material' in article XX of the IAEA statute provide for the addition of such material 'as the Board of Governors shall from time to time determine'. Cabinet indicated that Australia would not necessarily accept future extensions of the scope of the IAEA safeguards system. The procedure for dealing with extensions to the definitions will presumably be fixed at the time of preparing the safeguards agreements to be concluded with IAEA under the treaty. The IAEA has already begun to consider this question […].
  5. The US aide-memoire of 13th May, 1968, recalled the provision in article XII A(5) of the IAEA statute empowering the agency to accept on deposit nuclear material excess to a country's current needs. The aide-memoire pointed out that this provision had never been implemented and that under the treaty national stockpiling of fissionable material was not prohibited, as long as safeguards were applied to it. The US considers that the stockpiling provision of the IAEA statute does not appear relevant to an NPT safeguards agreement.

[matter omitted]

(F) Peaceful Nuclear Explosions
Cabinet wished to ensure that nuclear explosives for peaceful purposes:

  1. were not withheld for political or economic reasons;
  2. could be supplied on a bilateral basis;
  3. were under international surveillance which would be limited to safety aspects and to ensuring that the explosions would not further weapon developments.

[matter omitted]

(G) Withdrawal
The Australian statement in the United Nations General Assembly5 stressed the need for the withdrawal provision. American officials informed us that the interpretation of this clause was left to parties to the treaty, and this view was reaffirmed publicly in the Senate hearings.

(H) Proposed Security Council Resolution
The Australian statement in the United Nations General Assembly debate stressed the importance of the reaffirmation of the right to individual and collective self-defence. It said that Australia relied upon mutual security arrangements as the firm basis of its security. During the Senate hearing, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Wheeler, said that the JCS believed that any international agreement on the control of nuclear weapons must not operate to the disadvantage of the US and its allies. Further it must not disrupt any existing defence alliances in which the US was pledged to help in protecting the political independence and territorial integrity of other countries.

[matter omitted]

(c) Remaining problems

  1. It is considered that three main grounds of concern remain for Australia in regard to the treaty:
    1. The degree of support that it attracts from the important countries in the Asian region and the so-called 'near-nuclear' countries.
    2. The precise nature of the safeguards agreements to be negotiated between nonnuclear parties to the treaty and the IAEA.
    3. The precise nature of the machinery for the implementation of article V, dealing with peaceful nuclear explosions.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, TS919/10/5 part 20]