25 Cablegram from Casey to Menzies

Canberra, 25 June 1957

1612. Secret Immediate

Disarmament

  1. We are not in a position to give any detailed points following up notes on disarmament in your brief because we do not have text of latest United States paper. We understand (London's 1455)2 that it is generally similar to the working paper3 which Stassen gave Zorin, but do not know details. Following general considerations might be of assistance to you.
  2. American-Soviet discussions.4 Clearly the disarmament talks have assumed an importance which they have not had for years. Foreign Office thinks that Russians are showing desire to negotiate and that talks are approaching crucial stage. We are glad to see that United Kingdom, which has left the running to the United States in the last 3 months, is now taking a more active part. Question of United States - Soviet talks is now raising difficulties for the rest of us. Until recently I thought that the other western members of sub-committee were following a sensible course in not objecting to the private meetings between Stassen and Zorin in the general interest of reaching some agreement with the Soviet. It is now an open secret that Stassen's enthusiasm and lack of caution ran away with him.5 Position seems to be have been redressed but somewhat by insistence of other N.A.T.O. countries that they should be consulted in advance on any matters affecting particularly their strategic position. However, I think that at this stage, without wishing to appear as a Cassandra, and without wishing to prejudice prospects of agreement, that you might take appropriate opportunities to impress on the Americans the need for extreme caution. It may seem strange for us to be urging caution on the Americans in their dealings with the Soviet Union, but we cannot overlook possibility that present apparent thawing of Soviet position is a tactical move both as part of their general strategy and to compensate for reverses in Eastern Europe. After all, the Soviet is still being evasive on crucial question of methods of control.

    China

  3. China has been omitted from the initial first phase reductions proposed in Stassen's working paper. This is not altogether a surprise. China was omitted from the initial preliminary measures proposed in the American paper of May last year.6 Omission from Stassen's paper is more serious because other major powers would actually carry out first phase reductions while China does nothing. The United Kingdom, which seems prepared to acquiesce in the omission, has asked for our comments. The Defence Department view, in consultation with the Chiefs of Staff, is that while it would be preferable from the Australian point of view for China to be included from the outset in any disarmament agreement, their proposed exclusion from the initial partial agreement contemplated could be accepted if this is considered to be necessary in order to advance negotiations, provided the nuclear deterrent is maintained, and China is brought within the scope of the disarmament scheme at the earliest possible date. The Defence view takes into account the statement in Commonwealth Relations Office telegram No. 5587 that there would be no reduction in the West's nuclear deterrent, on which the strategic concepts for the S.E.A.T.O. area already rely. Defence has however pointed out that the uncontrolled development of Chinese conventional military strength would undoubtedly exercise an adverse influence on Asian nations in the cold war. In the External Affairs view this is a most serious aspect especially if we assume the possibility of a situation in which the Americans hesitate to use nuclear weapons in Asia. We must be told therefore by the Americans at what stage they intend China to be brought into the disarmament agreement. I think it is perhaps unfortunate that Stassen is talking in terms of second and third phase reductions in levels of armed forces. In the interest of securing Soviet agreement he seems to have run ahead of himself at this point. We can appreciate the reasons why America needs to exclude China at this stage, but these could not be considered by us or other countries in the area as being adequate reasons for exclusions of China beyond the preliminary stage.
  4. Nuclear Controls. I was surprised at idea of 10-month moratorium on nuclear tests in Stassen paper. United Kingdom have already pointed out that if once they agree publicly to stop tests they might find it very hard to start again. American position has been that question of tests must be related to question of cessation of production of fissionable materials for any military purposes. Stassen's paper formally follows this line but instead of previous insistence that tests should be limited and eventually stopped only after installation of inspection system, Stassen now suggests that they should stop while inspection system is being installed. Soviet has of course jumped on the idea and suggested that moratorium be two or three years instead of the suggested ten months. This is causing considerable concern to United Kingdom especially as Soviet has thrown in idea of ground control posts, thereby making it harder for West to say no.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1209, 1957/4928]