22 Cablegram from Department of External Affairs to Mission to the United Nations, New York

Canberra, 14 January 1957

25. Secret Guard

Disarmament

Main difference between United Kingdom and United States arises [from] United Kingdom desire for further opportunity to test and build up stocks of nuclear weapons before United Nations restrictions prevent it doing so.

  1. Australia has supported principles for disarmament as conceived by United States and has preferred them to United Kingdom approach. We have given weight to United States fear that little time may be left before a fourth power is in position to manufacture and test nuclear weapons. It would naturally concern Australia very greatly if Japan for example were in this position.
  2. However (and foregoing is subject to this) we want United Kingdom to have every reasonable opportunity to test and accumulate stocks of nuclear weapons before controls come into effect, as this would help to preserve United Kingdom's position as a great power, being one of only three nations with nuclear weapons.1 We do not know how much longer time United Kingdom estimates it will need, and we would welcome any indication of this United Kingdom can give us.2 In any case it seems unlikely that rapid progress would be made in United Nations because
    1. U.S.S.R. has given no indication it will accept effective international inspection system within its borders, which is essential to any system of control and
    2. even if all powers were in agreement it would take some time to work out system of control and let it enter into force.
  3. Foregoing seems to be in line with your own thinking in your telegram No. 43.3 Best tactics in General Assembly seems to be to avoid any firm expression of opinion on these points by Assembly tying United Kingdom hands prematurely and to take next steps in Disarmament Commission and Sub-Committee.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, 80/5/2 part 1]