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

Canberra, 28 November 1967

1223/4126. Top Secret Immediate

Reference to our telegram 1222/4125.1

Nuclear Weapon

It appears that the implication of Fisher's2 statement at the United States Mission on 24th November is that the United States Government is now prepared to accept the proposition that nuclear weapons should not be used in the defence of a country subject to attack by conventional weapons, provided that the aggressor has signed the non-proliferation treaty and is not assisted by a nuclear weapon state. If this is an accurate interpretation of present United States policy, it clearly has important implications for Australian defence.

  1. Although it is unlikely that such a situation would emerge in Latin America, it can by no means be ruled out in the Far East. Our defence strategy rests on the broad assumption that American assistance would be forthcoming under the ANZUS Treaty if we were subjected to aggression of any kind. Could the new American policy be seen as undermining our ability to rely on this?
  2. Taking Japan as an example, it may seem at the present time highly unlikely that Japan will resume aggressive policies. It might nevertheless be unwise to rule out such a possibility. Japan will presumably sign the non-proliferation treaty but clearly has the industrial base to enable it quickly to rebuild its conventional forces if it decided to do so.
  3. These matters and wider aspects of the non-proliferation treaty are being put to study here but meanwhile we would appreciate any further information you are able to obtain on current American thinking.

[NAA: A1838, TS919/10/5 part 1]