News

Release of Foreign Relations of the United States,
1964-1968, Volume XI, Arms Control and Disarmament.

U.S. Department of State Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release: April 9, 1997

Successful negotiations concluding with the signing of the Outer
Space Treaty (1967) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
(1968) as well as the significant progress made by the Lyndon B.
Johnson administration on other arms limitation negotiations that
produced additional international agreements in subsequent years
are the major themes of Foreign Relations of the United
States, 1964-1968, Volume XI, Arms Control and
Disarmament, released today. 

Concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons heightened
considerably following the explosion by the People's Republic of
China of a nuclear device in October 1964. This increased the
preoccupation of U.S. arms control officials with concluding a
nuclear non-proliferation treaty. They succeeded in persuading
the Western nations to accept a U.S. draft non-proliferation
treaty as the basis for negotiation, but discussion of the proposal
to include Germany in a multilateral force, a proposal that was
anathema to the Soviet Union, inhibited progress toward an
agreement. When the Soviet Union accepted the U.S. position
that it could not legally relinquish control over its nuclear
weapons, and that consultation within NATO on nuclear matters
did not constitute nuclear proliferation, the way was opened for
conclusion of a nuclear non-proliferation accord. After protracted
negotiations the United States, the Soviet Union, the United
Kingdom, and many other nations signed the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty on July 1, 1968, which has proved to
be one of the most important arms control and non-proliferation
treaties of the postwar period. 

Early in President Johnson's administration, the United States and
the Soviet Union separately outlined the essential elements of a
treaty banning the placing of weapons of mass destruction in
orbit, and the few potentially contentious issues were resolved by
talks at the United Nations. President Johnson called the resulting
treaty "the most important arms control development since the
limited test ban treaty of 1963." Opened for signature in January
1967, the Outer Space Treaty was quickly signed by the United
States and over 60 other countries. 

An important internal debate was carried on within the Johnson
administration over development of an anti-ballistic missile
(ABM) system. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
maintained that a full-scale anti-missile defense would cost far
more than it was worth and that the best way to counterbalance a
Soviet defensive system was to build more and better offensive
missiles. Arms control experts in the administration, believing an
ABM system would damage negotiations on the nonproliferation
treaty, argued even more vigorously against deployment. The
Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, did not want to stake the nation's
security on this reasoning. The debate escalated, but a
compromise calling for a "thin-line" ABM system was soon
reached. 

The Johnson administration reached agreement with the Soviet
Union to begin negotiations on the control of offensive and
defensive strategic missiles. President Johnson and Soviet leaders
were prepared to announce that they would hold a summit to
discuss missiles, but the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw
Pact forces in August 1968 forced a cancellation of the summit as
well as the opening of the missile talks. 

Other arms control issues pursued during the Johnson presidency
were the U.S. decision to sign Protocol II of the Latin American
Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty, in which the nuclear-weapon states
promised among other things not to use or threaten to use nuclear
weapons against the contracting parties, the administration's
initiatives for a multilateral treaty prohibiting the positioning of
weapons of mass destruction in the seabed, and cutoffs in the
production of fissionable material for nuclear weapons under
international safeguards. Less progress in negotiations was made,
however, on a comprehensive nuclear test ban, the mutual
destruction of obsolescent bombers, parallel reductions in military
budgets, and a verified freeze on strategic delivery vehicles. 

In addition to documents obtained from files of several U.S.
government agencies and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential
Library, the volume includes extracts from transcripts of
President Johnson's telephone conversations on arms control
matters. 

The Office of the Historian has prepared a summary of the
volume. For further information, contact David S. Patterson,
General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202)
663-1127 (fax: (202) 663-1289; e-mail:
[email protected]). Copies of Volume XI can be
purchased from the Government Printing Office. 

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