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Joint Statement With the United Kingdom on Nuclear Testing.

April 10, 1962

DISCUSSIONS among ourselves and the Soviet Union about a treaty to ban nuclear tests have been going on in Geneva for nearly a month. The Soviet representatives have rejected international inspection or verification inside the Soviet Union to determine the nature of unexplained seismic events which might be nuclear tests.

This is a point of cardinal importance to the United States and the United Kingdom. From the very beginning of the negotiations on a nuclear Test Ban Treaty, they have made it clear that an essential element of such a treaty is an objective international system for assuring that a ban on nuclear tests is being observed by all parties. The need for such a system was clearly recognized in the report of the scientific experts which was the foundation of the Geneva negotiations. For nearly three years this need was accepted by the Soviet delegation at Geneva. There was disagreement about details, but the principle of objective international verification was accepted. It was embodied in the Treaty tabled by the United States and the United Kingdom on April 18, 1961, which provides for such a system. Since the current disarmament meetings began in Geneva, the United States and the United Kingdom have made further efforts to meet Soviet objections to the April 18 treaty. These efforts have met with no success as is clearly shown by the recent statements of the foreign Minister of the Soviet Union and of their representative in Geneva, Mr. Zorin, who have repeatedly rejected the very concept of international verification. There has been no progress on this point in Geneva; the Soviet Union has refused to change its position.

The ground given seems to be that existing national detection systems can give adequate protection against clandestine tests. In the present state of scientific instrumentation, there are a great many cases in which we cannot distinguish between natural and artificial seismic disturbances--as opposed to recording the fact of a disturbance and locating its probable epicenter. A treaty therefore cannot be made effective unless adequate verification is included in it. For otherwise there would be no alternative, if an instrument reported an unexplained seismic occurrence on either side, between accepting the possibility of an evasion of the Treaty or its immediate denunciation. The opportunity for adequate verification is of the very essence of mutual confidence.

This principle has so far been rejected by the foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, and there is no indication that he has not spoken with the full approval of his Government. We continue to hope that the Soviet Government may reconsider the position and express their readiness to accept the principle of international verification. If they will do this, there is still time to reach agreement. But if there is no change in the present Soviet position, the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom must conclude that their efforts to obtain a workable treaty to ban nuclear tests are not now successful, and the test series scheduled for the latter part of this month will have to go forward.

John F. Kennedy, Joint Statement With the United Kingdom on Nuclear Testing. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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