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Radio and Television Remarks on the Reopening of the Geneva Disarmament Conference

January 21, 1964

This morning in Geneva, Switzerland, the 18-nation Committee on Disarmament resumed its work. There is only one item on the agenda today of that conference. It is the leading item on the agenda of all mankind, and that one item is peace.

In my message to Geneva today, I expressed pride in the gains that we have made and I prayed that the tide was turned, that further and more far-reaching agreements lie ahead of us and that future generations will mark 1964 as the year that the world turned, for all time, away from the horrors of war and constructed new bulwarks of peace.

Agreement on the control and the reduction and the ultimate abolition of weapons and war is not impossible as it seemed for so many years. We now have a limited nuclear test ban treaty. We now have an emergency communications link, a "hot line" between Washington and Moscow. We now have an agreement in the United Nations to keep bombs out of outer space.

These are all small steps, but they go in the right direction, the direction of security and sanity and peace. Now we must go further. lust as we are determined to do whatever must be done to defend our freedom and to deter aggression, so must we be equally determined to reduce the risks of another worldwide war, a war in which the first hour might be measured in terms of how many hundreds of millions are killed.

If we have the genius to create these terrible weapons of destruction, then, certainly, we have the genius to create the means of their destruction. There will be risks, there will be doubts and delays and frustrations and disappointments, but the pursuit of peace must continue. Today we return to the conference table at Geneva with a new momentum and a new hope based on continuing discussions with our allies and effective safeguards, the United States asking the world to take further steps towards peace, enforceable steps which can endanger no one's safety and will enlarge everyone's security.

First, we are proposing new agreements to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to nations not now possessing them. Today's uncertain and unsatisfactory balance of terror will be all terror and no balance if dozens of nations, large and small, have their own nuclear trigger.

Second, we are proposing that both sides accept observation posts on their own territories as a safeguard against miscalculation and misunderstanding and the fear of surprise attack.

And, third, we are proposing that both sides stop all production of the fissionable material that is used in nuclear weapons. This country and the Soviet Union already have produced enough explosive force to equal 10 tons of TNT for every man, woman, and child on the face of this earth. We have already announced that we are cutting back our production in the United States. We in the United States are willing to shut down more plants if and when the Soviet Union does the same, plant by plant, with inspection on both sides.

And, fourth, as stated in my letter to Chairman Khrushchev yesterday, we are proposing practical measures to ban the threat or the use of force, direct or indirect force, to change boundaries, demarcation lines, the control of territory, or access to it. In short, we are going beyond Mr. Khrushchev's New Year's declaration against the use of force in territorial disputes and we are asking him to join us in applying that principle on a much broader basis.

And, fifth, finally, we are proposing that a way be found to stop the ominous increase in strategic nuclear forces. To this end, let both sides explore freezing the numbers and freezing the kinds of strategic nuclear vehicles, whether planes or missiles, whether they are offensive weapons or defensive weapons.

Each one of these five proposals is important to peace. No one of them is impossible of agreement. The best way to begin disarming is to begin. And we shall hear any plan, go any place, make any plea, and play any part that offers a realistic prospect for peace.

Disarmament is not merely the Government's business. It is your business. It is everyone's business. It is the concern, or should be, of every parent and teacher, every public servant, and every private citizen.

So I ask your support for these measures. I ask your prayers for peace. This world has had its fill of war. We want a just and lasting peace and with your help and with God's help we shall achieve it.

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. from the Cabinet Room at the White House.

An earlier White House release, dated January 16, stated that the President had met with William C. Foster on the eve of his departure for Geneva to head the U.S. delegation to the disarmament conference. The release added that the President had emphasized his determination that the United States would take every opportunity to seek out possible new areas for agreement.

For the President's letter to Chairman Khrushchev, see Item 122.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Radio and Television Remarks on the Reopening of the Geneva Disarmament Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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