75 Note by Department of External Affairs

Canberra, [12 September]1 1965

Confidential

Documents

UNGA Resolution 1910 (XVIII), 1963.2

A/5731: Report of the Conference of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (1964).

Australian Delegate's Statement, U.N. Disarmament Commission, 20th May, 1965.3

Urgent Need for Suspension of Nuclear and Thermonuclear Tests: Report of the Conference on the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament

A. Comprehensive Test Ban

Background:

Following a year in which little attention was given in disarmament negotiations to the extension of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty this has recently become the object of some discussion. In 1964 the question was discussed only perfunctorily in the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC);4 and there appeared to be a general realization, even among the non-aligned countries, that little could be achieved until the major powers were ready for serious negotiations. At the 1965 Disarmament Commission Session in New York the question was raised by many delegations. While the second Chinese test5 actually occurred during the session, there was no resolution condemnatory of Peking, nor was there, on the whole, as much vocal opposition to the Chinese (and French) tests and might have been expected. However, a resolution adopted by the Commission, calling the ENDC to resume its discussions, urged the Committee, as a matter of priority, to consider the extension of the Treaty to cover underground tests. There was a widespread attitude that for any nuclear test ban to be effective, France and Communist China should be associated with it.

[matter omitted]

Australian Attitude:

  1. Australia has consistently supported the goal of a comprehensive test ban treaty and we continue to hope that such an agreement will eventually be possible. We see the negative Soviet attitude towards verification as being the principal barrier to agreement. We welcome efforts, whether by exchange of information or by working-group discussion in the ENDC, to resolve these difficulties.
  2. Australia has consistently advocated an international agreement on the suspension of nuclear weapons tests, and was one of the first countries to announce that it would become a party to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which was signed in Moscow in August 1963. Australia has urged all States to accept the obligations laid down by the Treaty and has expressed its disapproval of tests of any type proscribed by the Treaty. Prior to the signature of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Australian policy was, to some extent, inhibited by the fact that it was difficult consistently to object to testing when the three major nuclear powers themselves reserved the right to test. As these three powers have now at least partially surrendered their right we consider that others, and notably Communist China and France, should follow suit.
  3. Australia is opposed to continued nuclear testing by any country in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water because:
    1. The Test Ban Treaty will only be effective if all States accept its obligations. Continued testing or statements of intention to test could result in its breakdown (e.g. by resort to the withdrawal clause).
    2. The failure of some militarily significant countries to accept the Treaty increases the difficulties of achieving further agreements in the disarmament field.

[matter omitted]

B. French Nuclear Testing6

Background:

[matter omitted]

  1. During his visit to Paris in April 1963, Sir Garfield Barwick informed the French Foreign Minister7 of the Australian Government's deep regret at the French decision to carry out nuclear tests in the Pacific.8 M. Couve de Murville said that, at the appropriate time, the French Government would discuss with the Australian Government the question of safeguards against possible fallout hazards to the Australian population.

[matter omitted]

  1. Some technical exchanges concerning safeguards have already taken place with the French. Following a French request for fallout data on previous tests monitored in Australia, the French Embassy in Canberra was asked to facilitate a request which the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology was making to the French meteorological authorities for weather data in the test area. (We understand that the French have established a number of weather stations in the test area to supplement previously existing meteorological data.)

[matter omitted]

Chinese Nuclear Testing

Background:

  1. Communist China, like France, is not a party to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Communist China has so far conducted two nuclear explosions, the first on 16 October, 1964 and the second on 14 May, 1965. While the first explosion was not in itself an achievement of great scientific significance, it was an initial step, which has since been followed by a significantly larger explosion. Both explosions used Uranium 235, whose use implies greater technological expertise than the use of plutonium.

[matter omitted]

  1. The Australian delegate's speech to the Disarmament Commission, in May, 1965, while stating Australia's position on French nuclear testing, made it clear that Australia is far more concerned with the implication of China's aggressive attitude in developing nuclear weapons.

[matter omitted]

Australian Attitude:

  1. Australia views the Chinese testing with much more concern than it does the French testing, and any statement (which should, if possible, be cleared with Canberra in advance) should direct principal emphasis to the former question. (See Australian delegate's speech to the Disarmament Commission in May this year.)
  2. In dealing with this matter in discussion with other delegations, two principal points need to be kept in mind. First, we are gravely concerned about China's continued testing, and about her determination to become a nuclear power. China with her large conventional forces and nuclear aspirations can be presented as a country with aggressive intentions, against which other countries should make common cause. The military consequences of the tests should not however be exaggerated; there is a wide gap between primitive nuclear explosions and an effective nuclear capability consisting of stocks of weapons and an adequate delivery system.
  3. The Chinese nuclear explosions have increased the demands that China be accorded a higher status in world discussions on disarmament, and they have also increased pressure for China's admission to the United Nations. It should be pointed out that there is no reason to believe China would accept restraints on her nuclear policy merely because of membership of the United Nations, or of an invitation to participate in disarmament discussions. (There are precedents for negotiating with the Chinese Communists outside the UN-e.g. the Geneva Conference on Laos.9 Recognition (by the US and others) is not a prerequisite for Chinese participation in multilateral international negotiations.)

    D. Possible Indonesian Nuclear Testing

    Background:

  4. Despite Indonesia's adherence to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, recent Indonesian statements have shown some similarity to Chinese statements. President Sukarno has announced that Indonesia will shortly produce an atom bomb, not for aggression but to maintain Indonesia's territorial integrity from outside interference.10 Dr. Subandrio has also said (4th August, 1965) that Indonesia has no objections to all nations and countries in the world having atomic and nuclear bombs, as this would guarantee that these weapons would not be used to threaten another nation or country. These bombs do not, he has said, constitute a threat to those countries which possess them, but to those which do not.

    Australian Attitude:

  5. It is not considered possible that Indonesia has the capacity to produce atomic bombs on its own. So far as it is known, Indonesia has no uranium mining programme, no power reactor programme, no facilities for producing nuclear fuel in quantities, and no means of fabricating nuclear weapons. Its present nuclear reactors are small scale research reactors, not capable of being used in the near future for weapons purposes. Moreover, Indonesia would severely strain its economy if it embarked on its own a nuclear weapons programme, which would involve an immense diversion of resources, at the expense of other fields and of living standards.
  6. The Australian assessment therefore is that Indonesia cannot conduct an explosion without substantial assistance which we must presume would be Chinese. If such an explosion as the Indonesians have foreshadowed occurs in the near future, it will undoubtedly have resulted from outside assistance.
  7. Indonesia would, by having a bomb exploded on her territory, break the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty unless (which is unlikely) the explosion is wholly carried out underground. In view of the need to avoid any further proliferation of nuclear weapons (particularly in the area of our immediate interests where it would only exacerbate the already widespread feeling of insecurity), and in view of the likely danger of radio-active contamination, we should view any such event with grave concern.

[NAA: A1838, 680/10/2 part 1]