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Digital Archive International History Declassified

March 22, 1957

MEMORANDUM FROM THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT TO THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT ON THE ARMS REDUCTION ISSUE

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation, Carnegie Corporation

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    A memorandum from the Soviet government to the Chinese updating them on the arms reduction talks, a key component of which was a prohibition of the testing of atomic and hydrogen weapons. The Soviet proposal also called for reductions in conventional weapons and the prohibition of installing nuclear weapons outside their territorial borders.
    "Memorandum from the Soviet Government to the Chinese Government on the Arms Reduction Issue," March 22, 1957, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, PRC FMA 109-00786-09, 59-63. Translated by Neil Silver. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114338
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Memorandum on the Arms Reduction Issue

Based on the resolution of the Eleventh Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly, a subcommittee of the United Nations Arms Reduction Committee convened in London on March 18. Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister [Valerian] Zorin has been designated as the Soviet representative to the subcommittee.

The Soviet delegation will strive in the meetings of the subcommittee to create an atmosphere conducive to carrying on serious discussion of important arms reduction issues embodied in the proposals of countries participating in the subcommittee and, moreover, will ensure that Western countries will not have the possibility of introducing mutual recriminations into discussions in the subcommittee or discussing those issues of no particular importance in resolving arms reduction issues.

The Soviet delegation will strive to discuss in the subcommittee the Soviet proposal of November 17, 1956 regarding the arms reduction issue and the United Nations General Assembly draft resolution which we proposed on January 14,1957 regarding the issue of prohibiting the testing of atomic weapons and hydrogen weapons. The Soviet delegation has circulated a new proposal for the consideration of the subcommittee regarding the reduction of armed forces strength and armaments and the prohibition of atomic weapons and hydrogen weapons. These proposals are a comprehensive arms reduction plan envisioning a two-stage implementation, including the measures below: 

The Soviet proposal stipulates the implementation of large reductions in the armed forces strength and armaments of each country. In the first period (1957-1958), it would reduce United States, Soviet and Chinese armed forces strength to 2,500,000 men, and British and French armed forces strength to 750,000 men. In the next period (1959), the armed forces strength of these countries should be reduced to between 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 men and 650,000 men [respectively]. We propose that, by the end of the second period, the armed forces strength of other nations would be reduced to the level of 150,000 to 200,000 men.

On atomic weapons and hydrogen weapons, we propose that each country undertake several commitments at the beginning of the arms reduction plan: [they must] end the use of atomic weapons and hydrogen weapons, including rocket armaments containing atomic and hydrogen warheads, and, moreover, they must not station atomic forces or store any kind of atomic weapons or hydrogen weapons outside their national borders.

In the second period, the Soviet proposal stipulates measures to implement the total prohibition of atomic weapons and hydrogen weapons: [they must] halt the production of these kinds of weapons, and, moreover, exclude these kinds of weapons from their armaments, and destroy presently stockpiled atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs along with other types of these weapons.

The Soviet government has taken note of the U.S. proposal regarding rocket weapons made at the most recent United Nations General Assembly session. The U.S. proposal separates the issue of rocket weapons from the general issue of prohibiting atomic weapons and hydrogen weapons, and, moreover, merely touches on one aspect of rocket weapons, namely the issue of inter-continental missiles. Our proposal and the U.S. proposal are different. It [i.e., the Soviet proposal] closely links examination of the issue of rocket weapons to the overall issue of the prohibition of atomic weapons and hydrogen weapons (including the prohibition of various kinds of rockets that are suited to the use of atomic weapons and hydrogen weapons, and the prohibition of atomic guns).

Besides the measures outlined above, the Soviet proposal also stipulates measures to abolish military bases established on other countries’ territories.

In accordance with the measures described above, we also stipulate a reduction in military expenditures.

In addition, the Soviet proposal stipulates that measures should be undertaken to reduce American, British, French and Soviet armed forces stationed in Germany and, moreover, to reduce the armed forces of the three Western countries stationed on the territory of countries participating in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as well as the armed forces of the Soviet Union stationed on the territory of countries participating in the Warsaw Treaty Organization. This was also proposed in the Soviet government statement of November 17, 1956.

In order to implement the supervision of the conditions under which these countries carry out their various obligations in accord with the arms reduction agreement, we have also proposed the establishment of effective international supervision which possesses necessary rights and functions. The Soviet proposal includes the provisions contained in the November 11 statement concerning aerial photography of exercises in Europe. These provisions stipulate the scope of photography as 800 kilometers in depth beyond the eastern boundary of encampment of the armed forces of the North Atlantic [Treaty] Organization and the western boundary of encampment of the armed forces of countries participating in the Warsaw Treaty. The Soviet delegation will be instructed to oppose turning discussion in the subcommittee to the issue of supervision, something the Western countries have all along desired.

Our proposal stipulates that obligations to be undertaken by China under the arms reduction treaty must be studied with the participation of the People’s Republic of China.

Whether or not agreement can be reached on the complete arms reduction issue, we propose in Europe to establish an area of restricted and inspected armaments including the territory of both parts of Germany and the territory of various neighboring countries, [thereby] achieving an important step in the resolution of the arms reduction issue.

Concerning the countries in this agreement, we must stipulate [the following]:

1. Fix the upper limit of U.S., Soviet, British and French armed forces stationed on the territories of other countries in this region.

2. Not permit the stationing of atomic forces or any types of atomic weapons or hydrogen weapons on the above-stated region.

3. Countries located in this region are obligated to abandon the use of armed force in their mutual relations and, furthermore, to use peaceful means to resolve all disputed issues.

4. In order to implement the obligations to limit armaments on the territories in this region, establish a unified inspection mechanism with respect to the armed forces and armaments of countries participating in the agreement.

5. [There is] a hope that before reaching agreement on the issue of the above-stated region, the four great powers with armed forces stationed in Germany will swiftly carry out measures to reduce their armed forces stationed in Germany, with the size of the reductions to be determined individually by the above-mentioned countries.

One cannot be satisfied with the present members of the subcommittee, since, among the five members of the subcommittee, four are participants in the aggressive North Atlantic [Treaty] Organization. The Soviet delegation, focusing on this point, will strive to expand the members of the subcommittee and of the United Nations Arms Reduction Committee, and this [question] has already been raised in the Soviet proposal at the Eleventh Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly.