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Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961–1963
Volume XXII, Northeast Asia, Document 180


180. Editorial Note

Tripartite negotiations among the United States, United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union were held in Moscow, July 15-25, 1963, leading to the initialing on July 25 of a treaty banning nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs W. Averell Harriman represented the United States in the talks. The subject of Chinese nuclear weapons development arose on several occasions, especially in a July 15 conversation among Harriman, British representative Lord Hailsham, and Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers Nikita S. Khrushchev and a July 26 conversation between Harriman and Khrushchev.

A July 15 message from Kennedy to Harriman, sent in telegram 191 to Moscow of that date, reads in part as follows:

“I remain convinced that Chinese problem is more serious than Khrushchev comments in first meeting suggest, and believe you should press question in private meeting with him. I agree that large stockpiles are characteristic of US and USSR only, but consider that relatively small forces in hands of people like ChiComs could be very dangerous to us all. Further believe even limited test ban can and should be means to limit diffusion.

“You should try to elicit Khrushchev's view of means of limiting or preventing Chinese nuclear development and his willingness either to take Soviet action or to accept US action aimed in this direction.” (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18-4)

Telegram 191 is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume VII, along with further documentation on the background of the test ban treaty and records of Harriman's discussions in Moscow.

A memorandum from John J. de Martino of the Department of State Executive Secretariat to Executive Secretary Benjamin H. Read, dated October 2, 1964, reads as follows:

“A search of our records of the Test Ban Treaty negotiations in Moscow fails to reveal any Harriman proposal for a joint US-USSR effort to slow down Red China's nuclear weapons development. On the other hand the question of Chinese nuclear capacities came up in various Harriman/Khrushchev conversations. Harriman probed USSR knowledge of Chinese capacities and its attitude toward them. He expressed our concern regarding this matter and said he hoped that the problem would be solved by eventual Chinese adherence to the Treaty or by disarmament. Khrushchev was obviously unwilling to talk at much length on the question and he tried to give the impression of not being greatly concerned.

“One of the reasons that the Chinese issue was raised with Khrushchev was Harriman's theory that Khrushchev's interest in a test ban treaty flowed from his desire to isolate Red China in the international communist movement. Aside from this Harriman was also under instructions to express the President's great concern over Chinese development of nuclear weapons.” (Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Kennedy-Johnson Administrations, Trips and Missions, Test Ban Treaty, Background)