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Letter to Chairman Khrushchev on the Eve of the Reopening of the Geneva Disarmament Conference.

January 20, 1964

[ Released January 20, 1964. Dated January 18, 1964 ]

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I welcome the stated objective of your December 31 letter and agree with much of its contents. It is my hope that we can build on these areas of agreement instead of merely emphasizing our well-known disagreements. This Nation is committed to the peaceful unification of Germany in accordance with the will of the people. This Nation, which has fundamental commitments to the Republic of China, has for many years sought the renunciation of force in the Taiwan Strait. This Nation's forces and bases abroad are for collective defense, and in accordance with treaties and agreements with the countries concerned.

Let us emphasize, instead, our agreement on the importance your letter places on preserving and strengthening peace--and on the need to accompany efforts for disarmament with new efforts to remove the causes of friction and to improve the world's machinery for peacefully settling disputes. In this spirit, let us both present new proposals to the Geneva Disarmament Conference-in pursuit of the objectives we have previously identified:

--to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons;

--to end the production of fissionable material for weapons;

--to transfer large amounts of fissionable materials to peaceful purposes;

--to ban all nuclear weapons tests;

--to place limitations on nuclear weapons systems;

--to reduce the risk of war by accident or design;

--to move toward general disarmament.

I am sure you will agree that our task is to work hard and persistently on these and other specific problems and proposals--as you and President Kennedy did on the Test Ban Treaty--instead of confining ourselves to vague declarations of principle that oppose some wars but not all.

Your letter singles out the problem of territorial disputes and concludes that "the use of force for the solution of territorial disputes is not in the interest of any people or any country." I agree; moreover, the United States proposes guidelines to implement this principle which are even broader and stronger than your own.

First, all governments or regimes shall abstain from the direct or indirect threat or use of force to change

--international boundaries;

--other territorial or administrative demarcation or dividing lines established or confirmed by international agreement or practice;

--the dispositions of truce or military armistice agreements; or

--arrangements or procedures concerning access to, passage across or the administration of those areas where international agreement or practice has established or confirmed such arrangements or procedures.

Nor shall any government or regime use or threaten force to enlarge the territory under its control or administration by overthrowing or displacing established authorities.

Second, these limitations shall apply regardless of the direct or indirect form which such threat or use of force might take, whether in the form of aggression, subversion, or clandestine supply of arms; regardless of what justification or purpose is advanced; and regardless of any question of recognition, diplomatic relations, or differences of political systems.

Third, the parties to any serious dispute, in adhering to these principles, shall seek a solution by peaceful means--resorting to negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, action by a regional or appropriate United Nations agency or other peaceful means of their own choice.

Fourth, these obligations, if they are to continue, would have to be quite generally observed. Any departure would require reappraisal; and the inherent right of self-defense which is recognized in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter would, in any event, remain fully operative.

You will note the basic similarities in our position. Agreement should not be impossible on this or other propositions--and I share your hope that such agreement will stimulate disarmament and peaceful relations.

The prevention of wars over territorial and other disputes requires not only general principles but also the "growth and improvement" to which you refer regarding the machinery and methods for peaceful settlement. The United States believe that the peacekeeping processes of the United Nations-and specifically its Security Council--should be more fully used and strengthened and that the special responsibilities and contributions of the larger countries--particularly the permanent members of the Security Council-deserve greater attention in solving its financial problems.

In consultation with our allies, we shall offer specific proposals along these lines in the weeks ahead. Both the Geneva Disarmament Conference and the United Nations are appropriate places for such discussions.

Mr. Chairman, let me assure you that practical progress toward peace is my most fervent desire. This requires, not only agreements in principle but also concrete actions in accord with those principles. I believe this exchange of letters offers real hope for that kind of progress--and that hope is shared by all peace-loving men in every land.



[His Excellency Nikita S. Khrushchev, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Moscow]

Note: Chairman Khrushchev's letter of December 31 is printed in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 50, p. 158).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to Chairman Khrushchev on the Eve of the Reopening of the Geneva Disarmament Conference. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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