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Digital Archive International History Declassified

November 03, 1964

RECORD OF ZHOU ENLAI’S DISCUSSION WITH BRITISH MINISTER PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE DOUGLAS JAY

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

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    Having successfully executed a nuclear test explosion, Zhou Enlai describes the Chinese government’s motivation for pursuing atomic weapons capabilities. Zhou argues that the Three-Nation Treaty (Limited Test Ban Treaty) is insufficient, that the United States remains committed to nuclear proliferation despite the agreement, and that China seeks to end the monopoly that other nuclear powers have thus far exploited. Zhou also calls for the organization of a global, truly equal summit at which to discuss the issue of nuclear weapons testing and proliferation.
    "Record of Zhou Enlai’s Discussion with British Minister President of the Board of Trade Douglas Jay," November 03, 1964, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Dang de wenxian (Party Historical Documents), no. 3 (1994): 16-17. Translated by Neil Silver. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114358
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You have conveyed His Excellency the Prime Minister’s wish to hear the views of the Chinese government. I want to candidly tell Your Excellency so your new government may understand the views and attitudes of the Chinese government with regard to the prohibition of nuclear weapons and the issue of disarmament. Of course, should Your Excellency wish to raise some ideas for discussion, I am also willing to do that. First, on the issue of the prohibition of nuclear weapons, the Chinese government view has already been stated completely and clearly in the Chinese government’s October 16 statement and in the letter addressed the next day to the heads of government of all the nations of the world. Our objective in carrying out nuclear testing is to bring about the total prohibition and complete elimination of nuclear weapons and to break the nuclear monopoly of the big nuclear powers. Our proposal in calling for a summit meeting of heads of world governments is designed to satisfy the desire of the peoples of the world for the prohibition of nuclear weapons and the achievement of world peace. With respect to [the fact that] the government statement regarding our atomic bomb explosion and the Chinese government’s letter addressed to the heads of world governments were [issued] on virtually the same day as our first successful nuclear test, this shows that our purpose is to break the nuclear monopoly and eliminate nuclear weapons, and, for this very reason, we have stated that China at no time and under no circumstance will be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Why not only this time, but also last year, did we propose to convene a summit meeting of world heads of government to discuss the total prohibition and complete elimination of nuclear weapons? First, we believe that since world opinion holds the destructive power of nuclear weapons to be quite large and threatening to the safety of the world’s people, we should allow all countries to participate and should not distinguish between large and small countries. Small and large countries both have the right to express their views. Second, to break the nuclear monopoly, we should allow countries that do not have nuclear weapons an opportunity to express their views. Third, only by restraining nuclear weapons countries, and guaranteeing the non-use of nuclear weapons, can we achieve our goal of the total prohibition and complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Only by having non-nuclear countries join in a summit meeting of the world heads of government can we spur countries possessing large quantities of nuclear weapons to accept their responsibility and guarantee not to use nuclear weapons.

Of course, some will say why can’t the world heads of government discuss this in the United Nations, rather than by convening a separate meeting? As Your Excellency understands, not only has the People’s Republic of China been deprived of its legal rights in the United Nations, but even if the legal rights of the People’s Republic of China were restored in the United Nations, there are still some other countries that for the time being cannot be admitted by the United Nations. The prohibition of nuclear weapons is an issue affecting the interests of all the peoples of the world; we should give all countries in the world the right to participate in a meeting and discuss this issue; and we should convene a meeting outside the United Nations. Your Excellency says it would be very difficult to convene a meeting with so many countries participating, and perhaps [it would be better to] first convene a limited meeting, a meeting with a small number of countries participating, and hold consultations in a meeting like the Geneva Conference? Your Excellency is much more knowledgeable than I am about the experience of the Geneva Disarmament Conference. A small number of countries have convened for many years, each time without result. The Disarmament Conference has passed the ball to the United Nations General Assembly and the General Assembly has handed it back to the Disarmament Conference, with the agenda going back and forth. This shows that issues affecting the interests of all the world’s peoples should be discussed with all the world’s countries participating in and spurring the determination of policy, first of all the non-use of nuclear weapons. Another kind of Geneva Conference, such as those that discussed the Indochina or the Laotian issues, only discussed partial and local issues and only with the participation of concerned countries. It is easy to reach agreement in these kinds of meetings with the great effort of participating countries. These kinds of meetings are also convened outside the United Nations.

Another of Your Excellency’s arguments is that without the end to war, whether world war, local wars, or wars such as the United States calls a special kind of war, it is very difficult to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons. If this is the view of Your Excellency’s government, I believe this kind of thinking is very dangerous, since this is the same as the thinking of the United States. After both the signing in draft and the official signing of the Three-Nation Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in Moscow, American leaders and officials repeatedly stated that the signing of the Three-Nation Treaty would not diminish the threat of nuclear war, and would not prohibit the production, storage, proliferation and underground testing of nuclear weapons. In this way, of what use is the Three-Nation Treaty? U.S. Secretary of State [Dean] Rusk announced publicly after going to Moscow to sign that the multilateral nuclear force would continue to be implemented. We believe that the foundation of the Three-Nation Treaty is faulty. The issue involves all the peoples of the world and can only be decided after allowing all the peoples of the world to participate in the discussion. The signing of the Three-Nation Treaty puts a fait accompli before everyone, forcing them to sign. In international politics, this is unequal. It is power politics, not international equality.

Not only will the Three-Nation Treaty not achieve its publicized effect, but it will be just the opposite of what is wished. As I just said, this is proved by the lengthy and tedious statements made by U.S. officials after signing the Three-Nation Treaty. Regarding the issue of environmental pollution, the United States has carried out almost four hundred atmospheric nuclear tests. It should bear great responsibility for polluting the world’s atmosphere. Only when the time came that the United States did not need atmospheric nuclear testing, did it then work out an agreement. Only after it had enough atmospheric nuclear testing, did it then turn to underground testing. It goes without saying that the draft of the Three-Nation Treaty basically was proposed several years ago by the United States, and then passed almost without any changes. China now has tested once and people are screaming. What a joke! If China had not tested, no one would be talking about the prohibition of nuclear testing, but as soon as we tested, people want China to participate in disarmament conferences saying that China has joined the nuclear club. Of course, the United States says that China is not qualified to participate. The United States needs underground nuclear tests and it carries out underground nuclear testing to the maximum extent possible, especially to improve strategic nuclear weapons. Its goal is very clear. The Three-Nation Treaty is aimed at binding the hands and feet of the socialist countries, and binding the hands and feet of the independent countries, while allowing the United States to test and proliferate. The multilateral nuclear force is precisely nuclear proliferation. Underground testing is the kind of testing it requires. If it should ever need atmospheric testing, it will be able to resume [atmospheric testing].

CHINESE (TRANSCRIPTION) HTML

周恩来同英国贸易大臣贾埃的谈话记录

1964113

你转达了首相阁下希望听取中国政府意见的愿望,我愿意直率地告诉阁下,使你们的新政府知道中国政府关于禁止核武器和裁军问题的意见和态度。当然,如果阁下愿意提出意见交换,我也愿意。首先,关于禁止核武器的问题,中国政府的意见已经在中国政府十月十六日发表的声明和第二天写给世界各国政府首脑的信中说得很全面、很清楚了。我们进行核试验的目的,是为了实现全面禁止和彻底销毁核武器,是为了打破核大国的核垄断。我们提出召开世界各国政府首脑会议的建议,是满足全世界人民要求禁止核武器、实现世界和平的愿望的。关于我们爆炸原子弹的政府声明和中国政府致世界各国政府首脑的信同我们第一次核试验成功几乎是同一天。这说明我们的目的是打破核垄断,消灭核武器,也正因为如此,我们声明中国在任何时候、任何情况下,都不会首先使用核武器。

为什么我们不仅是这一次,而且去年就主张召开世界各国政府首脑会议,讨论全面禁止和彻底销毁核武器?第一,我们认为,既然全世界舆论认为核武器破坏力相当大,威胁着世界人民的安全,应该让所有的国家参加,而且应该不分大国、小国。大国、小国都有权发表意见。第二,为打破核垄断,应该让未掌握核武器的国家有机会发表意见。第三,正是要使拥有核武器的国家受到限制,保证不使用核武器,然后才能达到全面禁止和彻底销毁核武器的目的。只有无核武器国家参加世界各国政府首脑会议才能促使拥有大量核武器的国家承担义务,保证不使用核武器。

当然,有人会说,为什么世界各国政府首脑不可以在联合国讨论,而要另外召开会议?阁下懂得,不仅仅是中华人民共和国在联合国的合法权利被剥夺了,而且即使中华人民共和国在联合国的合法权利恢复了,也还有一些国家一时不能被联合国接纳。禁止核武器是同全世界人民利益攸关的问题,应该使全世界各国都有权参加会议讨论这个问题,应该在联合国以外开会。阁下说,这么多国家参加的会议是很难召集的,是不是先召开有限制的会议,少数国家参加的会议,像日内瓦会议一样的会议先进行协商呢?关于日内瓦裁军会议的经验,阁下比我更为熟悉。少数几个国家开了多少年,每次都没有结果。裁军会议交给联合国大会,大会又交给裁军会议,在程序上不断轮番重复。这说明关系到全世界人民利益的问题应该由全世界所有国家参加讨论,促使确定一个方向,首先是不使用核武器。另外一种日内瓦会议,像讨论有关印度支那问题或老挝问题那样,只讨论局部问题,只由有关国家参加。这种会议如经过参加国的努力,是容易达成协议的。这种会议也是在联合国以外召开的。

阁下的另一个论点是如果战争不停止,不论是世界战争、局部战争或者是美国说的特种战争,就很难禁止使用核武器。如果阁下的政府的想法是这样的,我觉得这种想法很危险,因为这同美国的想法一样。三国部分禁止核试验条约在莫斯科不论是草签还是正式签署以后,美国首脑和官员一再声明三国条约的签订不会减少核战争的危险,也不会禁止核武器的生产、储存、扩散和地下试验。如此,三国条约有什么用处呢?美国国务卿腊斯克去莫斯科签字后就公开宣称多边核力量还要继续搞下去。我们认为,三国条约的基础是错误的。问题关系到全世界人民,应该让全世界人民参加讨论才能解决。三国条约的签订是把既成事实摆在人家面前,强迫人家签字。在国际关系上是不平等的,这是强权政治,不是国际平等。

三国条约不但没有达到它所宣传的效果,而且适得其反。正如我刚才说过的,三国条约签字之后,美国官员发表的连篇累牍的讲话就是证明。至于说到空气污染的问题,美国进行了将近四百次大气层核试验,它对污染世界的空气应负很大责任。只有当美国不需要大气层核试验时,它才搞协议。它是在大气层试验够了以后才转入地下试验的。更不要说,三国条约协议的草案根本是美国几年前提出的,几乎没有改动就通过了。中国现在才试了一次,就有人叫起来。真好笑!如果中国没有试验,也没有人来谈禁止核试验,但我们一试验,就有人要中国参加裁军会议,说中国参加了核俱乐部。当然,美国说中国不够资格参加。美国需要地下核试验,它尽量进行地下核试验,特别是改进战术核武器。它的目的很清楚。三国条约就是要束缚社会主义国家的手足,束缚民族独立国家的手足,而允许美国试验和扩散。多边核力量就是核扩散。地下试验是它需要的试验方式。一旦它需要大气层试验,它就可以恢复。