199 Letter from McKeow to Renouf

Washington, 26 July 1974


Non Proliferation Treaty

On 24 July we discussed with Bengelsdorf1 (Bureau of International Scientific and Technological Affairs, State Department, and formerly the USAEC) some aspects of Australian concern about challenges to the Non Proliferation regime and your interest in stimulating action in support of the Treaty. Drawing on your telegram CH 806642 we suggested that the movement towards ratification in significant threshold countries, such as Japan, had been significantly slowed. A number of recent events, beginning with the Indian nuclear test but including continued underground and atmospheric nuclear testing in recent weeks by each of the five established nuclear powers and the sale of nuclear materials and technology to Egypt and Israel had led to questions about the degree of interest of the major powers in preserving the NPT regime.

  1. The Atomic Energy Attaché, Dr D.G. Walker, who was present during the informal discussion, noted that the United States had set a precedent by supplying nuclear materials to countries who had evinced no intention of ratifying the Non Proliferation Treaty. In addition, those countries had been given priority in the supply of enriched uranium notwithstanding that prior contracts from EURATOM and Japan remained unsigned. We said that it could also be argued that the modest nature of the Arms Control agreements concluded at the Moscow Summit3 had provided further ammunition for opponents of the NPT in threshold countries.
  2. Bengelsdorf defended the United States sales to Egypt and Israel along familiar lines and pointed to the safeguards requirements and the provisions concerning re-processing outside of the countries concerned which made the contracts more stringent than in other cases. Even were the United States to bring strong influence to bear it was doubtful that Israel would ever do more than Egypt had done by possibly agreeing to sign but not ratify the Treaty. Moreover the United States had no monopoly of this technology and the fact had to be faced that if the United States had not supplied these countries other suppliers may well have done so. However, Bengelsdorf was receptive to the argument that the sale of United States material in these circumstances had removed the incentive that other threshold powers might have felt to sign the Treaty in order to ensure future supplies of enriched materials of United States origin. He commented that the USAEC and the State Department had not expected the strong adverse reaction which the sales had aroused both in Congress and abroad. Legislation which had recently been introduced in Congress to require the Administration to submit future bilateral atomic energy agreements to Congress for an affirmative decision by the Congress was an indication of the strong Congressional sentiment on this point.
  3. Bengelsdorf said that his personal view was that, during the Secretary of State's4 absence from Washington and total preoccupation with other issues, no one had pulled the strands together and considered all the implications of the sale to Egypt and Israel. He added that there was now considerable pressure on the Secretary of State to address himself to these issues. He thought that we could expect in due course to see some United States reaction in support of the Non Proliferation Treaty. Bengelsdorf recalled that, as a Harvard academic, Dr. Kissinger had downgraded the Non Proliferation Treaty and he had argued that it discriminated against non nuclear weapon countries. On the other hand, as Secretary of State, Kissinger had shown no disposition to accept the inevitability of nuclear proliferation and as a practical matter could be expected to bend his efforts to prevent the emergence of additional nuclear powers. Bengelsdorf thought that we would soon see the Administration giving increased attention to this problem.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, 919/10/5 part 38]