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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Kennedy Administration > Volume XXV
Foreign Relations, Organization of Foreign Policy; Information Policy; United Nations; Scientific Matters
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 414 through 432


Peaceful Uses of Outer Space


414. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, February 2, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Subjects Series, United Nations, General, 1/61-7/61, Box 210. Confidential.

United Nations Outer Space Activities

One matter on which I believe we might proceed promptly to probe Soviet willingness to set up reasonable arrangements for cooperation is the organization of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and initiation by the Committee of the planning of a U.N. scientific conference on the exploration and use of outer space, patterned on the Atoms-for-Peace conferences which have been successfully held in the past.

The General Assembly resolution which established the Committee and called for the conference was adopted in December 1959. A copy is enclosed./2/ The vote was unanimous since the resolution combined the U.S.-proposed Committee, which had an agreed membership, and the Soviet-proposed conference. In addition to planning the conference, the Committee is charged with studying scientific and technical cooperation and legal problems. The Committee does not have responsibilities in the disarmament field.

/2/Not printed. Resolution 1472 (XIV) was adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly on December 12, 1959.

The Committee has not met because the Soviet Union has sought East-West parity in Committee and Conference offices and has held out for voting arrangements which would make possible Soviet obstruction of the Committee's work. Before the pre-Christmas recess of the General Assembly, agreement had been reached to postpone some of these issues, and only the voting issue was delaying the convening of the Committee. Early discussions by Ambassador Stevenson and Soviet Ambassador Zorin might result in further progress.

Pressing ahead with this matter is desirable. It is useful for the U.S. to continue to take the lead in space cooperation and to support implementation of the resolution which the General Assembly adopted. The Committee would be the logical place to discuss the types of cooperative outer space proposals included in your State of the Union Message, and we are now working out positions and detailed proposals. While troublesome issues can of course be introduced by others in either the technical or legal aspects of the Committee's work, such issues can in any event be raised in the U.N. if there is a determination to do so, and the Committee might provide a more favorable forum than the General Assembly itself in which to rule such issues out of order or deal with them on their merits.

The proposed conference has been considered in the interest of the U.S. especially if we are successful in arranging for a broad agenda of scientific and technical reports. A broad agenda would give the best opportunity for the U.S. to make a favorable showing in the inevitable competition with the Soviet Union since it would permit fuller appreciation of the variety of programs the U.S. has under way and of our freedom to discuss both our technology and the scientific results achieved. The conference is not intended to take up legal and political issues. Scientific and technical preparations for U.S. participation in the conference have been initiated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in cooperation with the Department of Defense and other agencies active in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space. However, since about eight months would be required to complete preparations, it will be necessary to proceed promptly with conference planning and arrangements to meet the General Assembly's desire that the Conference be held before the end of 1961.

In view of the nature of the work of the U.N. Committee and of the proposed conference, we can proceed with these activities without prejudice to future reviews of our outer space programs, objectives, and policies. This conclusion has the concurrence of the Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and your Special Assistant for Science and Technology.

If you approve, I will instruct Ambassador Stevenson to proceed immediately with discussions with Ambassador Zorin and others in New York in an attempt to get the U.N. Committee organized and conference planning under way.

Dean Rusk/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.


415. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, February 28, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Space Activities, General, 1/61-3/61, Box 307. Confidential.

UN Outer Space Activities

We have been very slow in responding to your memorandum to the President dated February 2, 1961, which he handed to me for consideration, in the light of his State of the Union Message and its proposal of joint US-Soviet cooperation in space activities.

Since your memorandum was prepared, events in the United Nations, and in particular the Soviet Union's attitude toward that organization, have raised a question over here as to whether we really want to take active steps in that particular forum on this particular issue, with the Soviet Union, at this time. My own feeling is that the President would be reluctant to see us move in this direction now.

In our planning meeting with George McGhee, it was agreed that Jerry Wiesner should be asked to take the lead in planning on the general problem of relations with the Soviet Union in this and other scientific fields, and I believe he is at work on this business now, in cooperation with Whitman and others in the Department of State. Unless you press again, therefore, I think we might wait until we hear from this group.

Obviously, if you people feel that this matter is more urgent and that we have not understood it correctly, the matter can be put to the President again.

McGeorge Bundy/2/

/2/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


416. Letter From the President's Special Assistant for Science and Technology (Wiesner) to the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Cleveland)/1/

Washington, August 30, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Cleveland Papers, Outer Space, 18th GA Initiative, Box 20. Confidential.

Dear Harlan:

I am enclosing a summary of the meeting held in this office on Monday to review planning for the UN Assembly./2/ This memorandum was prepared by Dr. Robert F. Bacher in his capacity as Chairman of the ad hoc group and represents conclusions drawn from the day-long review, primarily relating to outer space, which you attended.

/2/Not printed. The discussion centered around a position paper prepared in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs entitled "An Initiative on Outer Space at the 16th Session of the General Assembly." See Document 417.

These conclusions suggest that at least two significant policy changes are called for in current planned positions, and they are indicated as comments to a marked-up copy of the Draft Resolution on Outer Space./3/ The first change would eliminate the attempt to stigmatize carriers of weapons of mass destruction, and thereby develop a legal distinction on orbiting satellites that would be patently favorable to the U. S.; in its comments, the group indicated that such an attempt would be ineffectual and inappropriate in its present context.

/3/The draft resolution was Tab A of the position paper, Document 417.

A second suggested change involves the procedure for developing a competent UN body to effectuate international cooperation in space: the group would have the Secretary General's Science Advisory Committee conduct the essential preliminary planning and aid in the process of securing Assembly support.

Behind the group's dissatisfaction with the reference in the Draft Resolution to weapons of mass destruction was a strong feeling that there is no evidence of adequate political-military planning to prepare for the availability of the U. S. satellite reconnaissance systems, Midas and Samos. Accordingly, the group recommends that "the Department of State and other interested agencies should prepare a thorough analysis of situations in which the Midas-Samos issue is likely to arise and a study of the gains and losses of alternative U.S. responses." I have raised this proposal in conversation with Arthur Schlesinger.

The comment on other subjects for initiative is limited, although some judgments are made. Most members of the group thought that a more detailed position on meteorology would have been helpful for an adequate review, especially in the case of the proposed Meteorological Commission. If you think it would be helpful, this Office would be prepared to convene an ad hoc working panel within the next few days to consider the nature and functions of a competent UN body.

Perhaps two additional nuances to the current plans are worth consideration. There is a possibility, which we are exploring, that a useful role through the UN could be worked out for U.S. navigational satellites for ships. The Navy is responsible for our program and will be sounded out by this Office.

In addition, it is possible that the marked-up Draft Resolution or another without reference to the weapons question could be acceptable to the Russians. Would there be any value to introducing it with them, as a joint resolution, if they could be brought along?




417. Position Paper Prepared in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs/1/

Washington, undated.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Subjects Series, United Nations, General, 9/61, Box 310. Confidential. Drafted by Richard N. Gardner, Oliver S. Crosby, Elmore Jackson (all of IO), and Herbert L. Reis (L).


The attached plan for United Nations Consideration of Outer Space matters outlines a number of initiatives which the United States has the opportunity to take in this field at the Sixteenth Session of the General Assembly. These would represent an important step in implementation of the position the President has taken with respect to international cooperation in outer space and in connection with meteorological and communications satellite systems.

In his January 30th message, the President stated "this Administration intends to explore promptly all possible areas of cooperation with the Soviet Union and other nations 'to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors'"./2/ He then extended an invitation to all nations to join with the United States in developing a weather prediction program and a new communications satellite program. Later, in his statement on communications satellite policy, he again invited "all nations to participate in a communications satellite system, in the interest of world peace and closer brotherhood among peoples throughout the world."/3/

/2/See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 26.

/3/See ibid., p. 530.

The attached plan, in brief, calls for the United States to: a) outline to the General Assembly our efforts in the development of communications and meteorological satellites and our plans for international cooperation in their use, and b) present a set of proposals relating to the establishment of a regime of peace and law in Outer Space.

United States proposals relating to peace and law in outer space will serve to strengthen the role of the United Nations in this new field and will represent an effort to curb extension of the harmful consequences of the cold war to the dimension of space. These proposals, together with United States initiatives with regard to cooperative sharing in the field of communications and weather satellites, will contrast strongly with the approach the Soviets have adopted in outer space thus far and will help build legitimacy for outer space activities which the United States wishes to undertake. It is important, for example, to set the stage now for general acceptance of the world-wide communications system which the United States will want to establish by the middle of the present decade and to elicit essential foreign cooperation in regard to allocation of frequencies, establishment of ground terminals, financial support, rate-making, etc.

By taking the initiative in the sharing of its achievements in these areas, the United States can demonstrate that it has the vision and generosity to match its technical accomplishments.

The principal cautionary consideration in developing such an initiatives plan is that the United States should not overcommit itself. In this interest various modifications have been made to an earlier draft of the proposal in an effort to bring it in line with present and estimated future capabilities in these fields.




During the 16th session of the General Assembly the United States would set forth its view of the importance of the role of the United Nations in outer space, would outline United States plans and efforts regarding projects of direct interest to all nations, and would present a set of proposals relating to outer space.

A. Advocacy of a Regime of Peace and Law in Outer Space.

The United States would make clear that we seek a regime of peace and law in outer space and the development of practices, principles and agreements on which such a regime can rest. In this connection, the United States would make the following points:

1) Outer space begins at least as close to the surface of the earth as the region in which satellites may be maintained in orbit.

2) International law, and, in particular, the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations Charter, have application to outer space and celestial bodies.

3) Outer space and celestial bodies are available for exploration and use by all States, in conformity with the principles of international law, and are not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty or otherwise.

4) The benefits of the peaceful exploration and use of outer space should accrue to all mankind. To this end, international cooperation in Outer Space should be maximized.

5) As a first step to keep the arms race from extending to outer space, States examining the question of disarmament should include in their discussions the desirability of the early establishment of effective measures to ensure that weapons of mass destruction are not stationed in outer space or on celestial bodies.

6) The United Nations has an important role to play in facilitating and regulating outer space activities.

7) States launching objects into orbit or sustained space flight should transmit to the Secretary-General, as early as practicable, information concerning such launchings together with data relevant for the purpose of identification of such objects.

8) There should be established within the United Nations Secretariat a small expert group which would:

a) Register all objects launched into orbit or sustained space transit, together with a record of information relating to such objects and facilitating their identification;

b) Communicate, upon request, available information concerning launchings, together with data relevant for identification, to Members of the United Nations and of the Specialized Agencies;

c) Serve as a clearing house of the exchange of scientific, technical and other information relating to outer space activities;

d) Assist in formulating proposals for the promotion of international cooperation in outer space activities;

e) Advise the Secretary-General in matters pertaining to outer space activities;

f) Perform such other functions of a technical nature as may be relevant to the international use of outer space;

g) To these ends, maintain contact with Members of the United Nations and of the Specialized Agencies and with governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned with outer space.

The attached draft resolution (Tab A)/4/ embodying the points outlined above would be submitted for General Assembly consideration.

/4/Not printed.

B. Fostering of Other International Cooperation in Outer Space.

Reemphasizing our view that the exploration and use of space are ultimately a venture on behalf of the human race as a whole, the United States should inform the General Assembly that we are devoting special attention to space activities which are fully expected to become, over a period of years, of widespread practical benefit. We would point out that both in the case of meteorological and communications applications of satellites, we will need not only to perfect the complex ground and space-borne instruments; we will also need to develop workable international cooperative arrangements.

1) In the field of communications, it should be stated that:

a) The United States views the communications satellite as a tool for improving communications and thereby mutual understanding throughout the world. We wish to see our research efforts lead to the establishment of a system which will over a period of years achieve global coverage and maximum linking of the countries of the world. We wish to see United Nations Members not only use the system, but also participate in its ownership and operation if they so desire. We are seeking practical ways to do this. We have already begun to enlist the aid of other countries in the experiments we are now planning, and we shall extend our efforts to include additional countries as this becomes practical.

b) Bearing in mind the importance of preventing space activities from widening the gap between the technologically advanced nations and other nations, we hope that the communications satellite can help meet the needs of developing as well as developed areas. To this end, the United States stands ready to support the technical assistance program of the International Telecommunication Union and to take other appropriate measures to give technical and financial assistance to less developed countries for the development of their domestic communications facilities so that they can take advantage of the world-wide system of space communications.

c) We believe that the United Nations will itself play a constructive role. As the problems of using this new tool are identified, the United Nations should deal effectively with them. A pressing problem which can be met by an existing specialized agency (the International Telecommunication Union) is the allocation of radio frequencies. We believe the ITU conference now tentatively scheduled for 1963 should in fact be called and that sufficient progress will have been made by that time to provide the basis for action which will accommodate the interests of all nations in ensuring the optimum use of the limited radio frequencies.

d) In our view special arrangements should be made to service the communications needs of the United Nations through this new system. This might be done in many ways. Communications satellites could provide rapid, reliable communications for United Nations emergency operations such as that in the Congo. They could provide for direct television contact between the United Nations Secretary General and foreign government leaders; conferences between heads of government might be conducted through this medium if the necessity arose. To generate world-wide understanding of vital issues before the United Nations, provision should be made for television and radio relay of United Nations Security Council and General Assembly sessions and information programs of the United Nations Department of Public Affairs. The United States hopes that by the Fall of 1962 one of our experimental satellites will be capable, for brief periods, of transmitting across the Atlantic live television reports of debates in the General Assembly.

2) In the field of meteorology, The United States would state that:

a) Scientific and technological developments in the atmospheric sciences have been extraordinarily rapid in recent years, due in large part to applications of electronic computers, instrumented balloons, rockets, satellites, and several indirect methods for probing the atmosphere. Furthermore, advances in physical theory and computer techniques make it now possible to study the atmosphere in unprecedented scope and detail. This progress opens the way for improvement of the scientific basis of weather forecasting and for examination of the possibilities of large scale weather modification. These prospects hold great promise for both developed and underdeveloped countries. By making natural phenomena more predictable, they would foster progress in industry, agriculture, and health, and open the way to a rising standard of living around the world.

Much of the progress already achieved has resulted from international scientific cooperation, and further progress depends in large measure on the services of the World Meteorological Organization. This Specialized Agency of the United Nations has defined for itself a valuable role which should be maintained and strengthened.

b) To make best use of existing resources and new opportunities for progress, the United States advocates that consideration be given by the United Nations, through UNESCO and WMO as appropriate, to the establishment of an International Atmospheric Science Program (IASP) and an International Meteorological Service Program (IMSP), coordinated to achieve the following purposes on a systematic world-wide basis:

1) To obtain, through IASP, global coverage in atmospheric data gathering and improved understanding of higher altitude conditions through the coordinated international use of rocket firings, indirect probes, and meteorological satellites in a World Weather Watch (WWW). By extending the coverage of existing data-gathering networks, the WWW would encourage a firmer scientific basis for weather forecasting, greater knowledge of basic physical forces affecting climate, and the possibility of investigations of large-scale climate modification.

2) To assist member nations, or groups of nations, to make effective use of currently existing meteorological techniques and data by establishing, under IMSP, Regional Weather Analysis Centers. Such Regional Centers could be established in underdeveloped areas through intergovernmental agreement, in part fostered by WMO's technical assistance and communication programs.

c) To facilitate these international programs, the U.S. is prepared to make available the new opportunities for significant improvement in data gathering and transmission techniques achieved by its meteorological and communications satellites. The U.S. is conducting research on methods which would permit direct read-out of satellite cloud photography in any part of the world. If this is successful, the way will be opened for a marked increase in the timely availability of useful data. The U.S. is further planning an international workshop in which technical experts from 104 weather services will be able to develop skills for analyzing cloud cover photographs and other meteorological satellite observations. In addition, the U.S. envisions that the facilities of its communications satellite program, currently in the process of development, could be made available to improve the timely interchange of meteorological data on a regular basis.

d) To achieve these ends, the United States recommends that the General Assembly

1) Invite the International Council of Scientific Unions to constitute an appropriate body for continuing high level scientific advice and innovation in the field of Atmospheric Sciences in the form of a Special Committee on the Atmospheric Sciences.

2) Invite UNESCO to constitute an Atmospheric Sciences Commission (ASC) to focus the resources of governments on the IASP and IMSP and to achieve their implementation.

3) Commend the WMO for its effective service activities in communication and technical assistance and encourage the continued expansion of these functions to facilitate the objectives of the IMSP.

3) In the field of navigation, the U.S. would state that it is currently developing a navigational satellite system that will provide precise and frequent positional information at any point on the earth's surface. This system, which utilizes four transit satellites in polar orbits at 600 nautical miles altitude, has been successfully tested and is planned to become fully operational in 1962 or 1963. The U.S. will make available the specifications for the shipborne navigational equipment which will enable ships of all nations to share in this advance in navigational science. The U.S. is currently exploring ways in which the services of the appropriate Specialized Agencies of the United Nations might be utilized in extending the benefits of this system to all members of the United Nations.

Activities of the Outer Space Committee.

The United States should refer to the foregoing and to the rapidly accelerating pace of outer space activities. We should note that two years have elapsed since a committee representing the General Assembly reviewed outer space matters. We are keenly disappointed that the Committee established by the General Assembly at its 14th Session has never met to undertake the work assigned it. We attach great importance to the United Nations role in outer space matters and to the constructive work which the Outer Space Committee should perform. In this regard the United States therefore strongly urges the activation of the Outer Space Committee, recommends that since its current members have not yet been able to exercise their functions as such their terms should be extended for the years 1962-1963, and calls upon all members of this committee to participate in its work in a spirit of international cooperation.


418. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, May 25, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM No. 156, Negotiations on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Box 336. Top Secret.

16 May Letter to the President from the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board

The points raised by Dr. Killian in his 16 May letter to the President/2/ are well taken and I can assure you that the Department shares the concern expressed by Dr. Killian's Board and is fully conscious of the impact our outer space negotiations in the UN and elsewhere can have on the national security. All the position papers prepared to date for UN, Disarmament or other negotiations have been designed to protect our current reconnaissance satellite capabilities.

/2/Not found.

With regard to point (a) in Dr. Killian's letter, the Department believes that a thorough re-examination of US policy for the political handling of our reconnaissance satellite program is necessary and suggests that the President direct the issuance of a National Security Action Memorandum calling upon the Departments of State and Defense, ACDA, CIA and NASA to develop urgently recommendations on this subject for approval by the President. The Department of State would be ready to accept the chairmanship of the drafting group. (It would be desirable to discuss with Jim Webb the way in which NASA could best participate.)/3/

/3/See Document 420.

The other problems noted by Dr. Killian have already been dealt with or are in the process of settlement. Specifically, the position papers for the UN outer space meetings that open in Geneva on May 28 have been fully coordinated with the Department of Defense, NASA, ACDA, and where appropriate, with CIA. In the case of the particularly sensitive issue of a possible Soviet initiative for a joint declaration banning the use of outer space for reconnaissance, the position paper was also reviewed by the Special Group. I am not aware of any difference of views among the agencies concerned.

In this connection, all the agencies are aware of the importance of consultation and coordination on outer space problems. The Special Group, USIB and its subcommittees, and the individual agency liaison channels provide a sensitive mechanism for thorough and responsible review of position papers touching on reconnaissance satellite problems, and I am confident that, while improvements can and will be made, it is basically adequate for the job. In the special case of ACDA, which is not a member of the Special Group or of USIB, Bill Foster and I have taken steps to establish an effective liaison channel for all matters pertaining not only to satellite reconnaissance but to intelligence of all kinds. I believe such liaison already exists between ACDA and CIA and the Department of Defense.

On the question of briefing key US representatives involved in discussions on the uses of outer space at the UN or elsewhere on US satellite programs, the Department has already indoctrinated most of these officials. Ambassador Stevenson, Ambassador Francis Plimpton, senior US delegate, and Leonard Meeker, US representative to the Legal Subcommittee have been cleared and briefed in connection with the forthcoming meetings in Geneva.

Since the negotiating forums and issues in the outer space field are growing in number and complexity, the Department foresees a need to brief more policy-making officers on the facts of our satellite reconnaissance programs than can reasonably be accommodated under the strict rules governing authorization for clearances. These officers would seldom have any requirement for access to operational details of these programs or to their intelligence product and thus could not qualify on a need-to-know basis for any of the existing clearances. I believe that a new clearance should be created for these cases which would provide maximum protection for the source but permit certain policy-making officials to know something of the US satellite program. I have submitted to the Special Group proposals for the establishment of such a clearance.

I enclose a draft for a reply by the President to Dr. Killian in the sense of this memorandum./4/ The members of the Special Group have concurred in this draft.

/4/See Document 419.

U. Alexis Johnson


419. Letter From President Kennedy to the Chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (Killian)/1/

Washington, May 26, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM No. 156, Negotiations on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Box 336. Top Secret. A copy of the letter was sent to General Taylor. A typed note at the end of the letter reads: "Signed ltr picked up by Mr. Coyne's office 5/28/62 w/cc and orig of incoming ltr 5/16/62 fm FIAB to President."

Dear Dr. Killian:

Thank you for your letter of May 16th./2/ I welcome your thoughtful suggestions on the difficult policy and security problems we face in fulfilling the various international commitments we have assumed or are negotiating in the field of outer space. I have issued a National Security Action Memorandum calling on the appropriate Departments to re-examine our position on this matter and give me recommendations for a national policy which gives full consideration to the needs of our reconnaissance satellite programs./3/

/2/Not found. See Document 418.

/3/Document 420.

The other points you have raised have been examined and I am satisfied that they have been dealt with satisfactorily. Specifically, the Department of State has assured me that the key negotiating officials at the UN and elsewhere have been fully cleared and briefed on our satellite reconnaissance program. Steps have also been taken to establish a special clearance for use in the future for those officials who cannot meet the strict need-to-know criteria for any of the existing clearances but who require some general orientations as to our program.

The position papers for the forthcoming Geneva meetings on outer space have been fully coordinated and cleared by the appropriate agencies. They have been carefully designed to protect our national security interests both for the present and future. I am confident they fully serve this purpose.

I am looking forward to our meeting on June 26th and the opportunity it offers to discuss these matters further.


John Kennedy/4/

/4/Printed from a copy that indicates Kennedy signed the original.


420. National Security Action Memorandum No. 156/1/

Washington, May 26, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM No. 192 Re: "A Separate Arms Control Measure for Outer Space," Box 339. Top Secret. A copy was sent to Arthur M. Schlesinger.

The Secretary of State
The Secretary of Defense
The Director of Central Intelligence
The Director, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

1. We are now engaged in several international negotiations on disarmament and peaceful uses of outer space. These negotiations are likely to continue for a long time, and may well grow in scope. They raise the problem of what constitutes legitimate use of outer space, and in particular the question of satellite reconnaissance.

2. In view of the great national security importance of our satellite reconnaissance programs, I think it desirable that we carefully review these negotiations with a view to formulating a position which avoids the dangers of restricting ourselves, compromising highly classified programs, or providing assistance of significant military value to the Soviet Union and which at the same time permits us to continue to work for disarmament and international cooperation in space. Accordingly, I request that the Department of State organize a committee for this purpose, with representatives of all addressees with sufficient standing to permit them to be fully cognizant of all our programs in this area./2/

/2/On May 29 Lieutenant General Marshall S. Carter, Acting Director of the CIA, informed Secretary Rusk that either the Director or the Deputy Director for Research would represent the Agency in committee meetings. On May 31 Deputy Secretary of Defense Gilpatric informed Alexis Johnson that Paul Nitze would be the Defense Department's representative. On May 29 Johnson informed the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the CIA, the Administrator of NASA, and the Director of ACDA that the committee would hold its first, organizational meeting in his office on June 1. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM No. 156) For the committee's report, see Document 421.

I wish to receive your report and recommendations by 1 July.

John F. Kennedy


421. Report by the Committee on Satellite Reconnaissance Policy/1/

Washington, undated.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM No. 156. Top Secret. The report was forwarded under cover of a July 2 memorandum from Secretary Rusk to President Kennedy. Rusk observed that the committee had not reached an agreement on Recommendations 18 and 19, and recommended that the President's principal advisers on national security and arms control meet for further discussion of these points.



This report and its recommendations do not include examination of possible private disclosure of US reconnaissance satellite capabilities to the Soviet leadership.

The Problem

To develop a policy with respect to United States reconnaissance programs which will:

A. Maintain our freedom of action unilaterally to conduct reconnaissance satellite operations.

B. Prevent foreign political and physical interference with the conduct of these operations.

C. Prevent accidental or forced disclosure of details of the operations or end products of the US satellite reconnaissance program.

D. Avoid situations, statements or actions which, in the context of our satellite reconnaissance program, could later be exploited as evidence either of alleged US aggressiveness or duplicity.

E. Facilitate the resolution of any conflicts which might arise between the essential technical and security requirements of the US satellite reconnaissance program and the international commitments and foreign policy objectives of the United States in a manner which is in the over-all best interests of the national security of the United States.


1. The reconnaissance satellite program is extremely important to Free World security, and will continue to be necessary to provide crucial information about Soviet activities, capabilities, and targets.

2. Complex international attitudes toward this program pose significant problems for the US. In the first place, other governments and peoples are in varying degrees of ignorance about whether the US has a reconnaissance satellite program, about the capabilities of such satellites, about the implications of such a program, about its relation to various space and disarmament negotiations, and about the propriety and justification for peacetime reconnaissance activities. There are, of course, differences both of knowledge and attitude on the part of various allied, neutral and Communist states. Regardless of what the US does, or does not, say about this program, it is clearly military and it is related to the "Cold War." There are confused views on pairing the distinction between "peaceful," "military," "non-prohibited" and "legal" on the one hand, and "aggressive," "civilian," "prohibited" and "illegal," on the other. For example, the connotations of the UN General Assembly Resolution 1721 (XVI) on "International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space," as distinguished from its actual operative provisions, may seem to many to militate against any "military" use of space.

3. There is, strictly speaking, no settled regime of law governing activities in outer space. There have been no authoritative statements by authoritative bodies. This is a developing field and the legitimacy of the use of observation satellites in outer space, like other space activities, must, consequently, be argued largely on the basis of analogies from other areas of international law and of emerging practice.

Arguments have been advanced, on the premise that a reconnaissance satellite program is a "military" (as opposed to "peaceful") program, that the use of such satellites in outer space is an aggressive act and thus a violation of international law. The confusions over legality, propriety and peacefulness earlier noted can be exploited for use against space reconnaissance. Thus it could be argued, with considerable appeal, that the military uses of outer space, such as satellite reconnaissance, should be proscribed as non-peaceful.

On the other hand, strong arguments are available to support the conclusion that the gathering of information by means of reconnaissance satellites is permissible:

(a) There is no reasonable basis for considering unarmed satellites as constituting either a threat or the use of force (proscribed by Article 2(4) of the UN Charter), and there is nothing in the Charter which could be construed as prohibiting the essentially non-aggressive activities of an observation satellite.

(b) It is well established that areas subject to the jurisdiction of a state may be freely observed from points outside that jurisdiction, e.g., from a ship on the high seas. Observation from outer space, which is not subject to territorial claims, also cannot be considered to constitute a violation of international law.

(c) In terms of practice to date, there have been no objections to visual and photographic observation during manned space flights; nor to Tiros photographic satellites. Although there is a difference in the degree of performance, this practice helps us to sustain the argument that photographic satellites of any kind are permissible.

On balance, the arguments in favor of the legitimacy of satellite reconnaissance are sounder from a technical legal standpoint.

4. The US is not at present legally bound to observe any commitments regarding the use of outer space. However, as a matter of national policy, the US does consider itself bound to comply with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1721 (XVI), which the US drafted and sponsored and which was unanimously adopted by the UNGA on December 20, 1961. That Resolution "commends to States for their guidance in the exploration and use of outer space" two principles:

(a) International law, including the Charter of the United Nations, applies to outer space and celestial bodies;

(b) Outer space and celestial bodies are free for exploration and the use by all States in conformity with international law, and are not subject to national appropriation.

Pursuant to UNGA Resolution 1721, the United States now registers all satellite launchings with the UN. There is no internationally agreed formula governing the data provided for registration with the United Nations.

5. At the recent meetings of the UN Outer Space Committee's Legal Subcommittee in Geneva,/2/ the US proposed:

/2/The classified report of the U.S. Delegation to the Legal Subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is ibid., SCI Files: Lot 65 D 473, September 1962-December 1963.

(a) A draft General Assembly resolution regarding assistance to and return of space vehicles and their occupants, and

(b) A draft resolution requesting the Secretary General of the United Nations to constitute a panel of experts to draft an international agreement dealing with liability of launching states and international organizations for injury, loss or damage caused by space vehicles.

Those proposals were carefully framed so as not to affect the US reconnaissance satellite program. It should be noted, however, that the issue of banning reconnaissance satellites was specifically raised by the Soviets in a Draft Declaration of Principles. The question of exempting reconnaissance satellites from any agreement to return space vehicles inadvertently landing on the territory of other states was also raised not only by the Bloc, but by some other countries as well. The Legal Subcommittee was unable to reach agreement on any substantive issues. The US Delegation in the Outer Space Technical Subcommittee, which met concurrently, proposed that reports on general national plans for international space activities be submitted to the Outer Space Committee and agreement was reached on this point. It was made clear by the United States (and by the Soviet Union) that such information will be submitted on a purely voluntary basis and at the discretion of the reporting state.

6. The US proposed Treaty Outline on General and Complete Disarmament of April 18, 1962,/3/ includes as a measure in Stage One provision for prohibition of "the placing into orbit of weapons capable of producing mass destruction." For verification of this measure, inspection of vehicles and advance notification of all launchings of space vehicles or missiles, would be provided. In addition, the International Disarmament Organization would establish any arrangements necessary for detecting unreported launchings. Finally, the production, stockpiling and testing of boosters for space vehicles would be subject to agreed limitations. The US is also committed to consideration of a possible separate disarmament agreement limited to banning weapons of mass destruction from outer space along the general lines of the provisions contained in the April 18 Treaty Outline.

/3/For text of the U.S. treaty outline submitted to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee on April 18 (UN doc. ENDC/30), see Documents on Disarmament, 1962, pp. 351-382. U.S. Representative Dean's statement before the Committee when he presented the outline is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1156-1165.

7. It is clear that in negotiations involving outer space and disarmament certain issues have been or will be raised that have serious implications for the US reconnaissance satellite program and on which the US position must be carefully formulated and vigorously defended. Our negotiating posture is weakened, however, by current practices with respect to security that prevent us from making a convincing explanation of our position to allies and friendly neutrals. We are increasingly in danger of being isolated in negotiations on seemingly minor issues, whose implications are better understood by our enemies than by our friends.

A careful review of official statements on US plans for a reconnaissance satellite program, of present free world attitudes toward the concept of satellite reconnaissance, and of the probable extent of Soviet knowledge of our program, indicates that the US might privately seek support from allies and certain neutrals by impressing upon them the importance of the program to the free world, the requirements it imposes on US negotiating positions on outer space and disarmament matters, and US determination to protect and pursue the program.

8. Public official statements, budgetary funding of the reconnaissance satellite program, and limited publicity about launching of developmental vehicles associated with the program, have committed the US to some degree of public acknowledgment of this program, and in addition there has been an undesirable amount of press commentary and speculation on US reconnaissance activities. Intent to develop a reconnaissance capability is on record. No official statement has indicated what results might have been achieved or information obtained from satellite reconnaissance.

9. The existence of a US requirement for effective intelligence on the Sino-Soviet bloc is generally clear to the leaders of the principal countries of the free world, as well as the official, military and some other groups in those countries. Available evidence indicates that these elements generally support US efforts to develop reconnaissance satellite systems. In some cases, US activities in connection with satellites (not specifically reconnaissance satellites) have elicited concern. In Japan, for example, there has been reluctance to cooperate with NASA on the establishment of US tracking facilities because of suspicion that military activities might be or become involved. In Zanzibar and Nigeria also some groups have argued that the presence of US tracking stations is inconsistent with a neutralist posture since the stations may involve US activities of a military nature. These scattered evidences of concern suggest that a concerted Sino-Soviet bloc campaign attributing sinister and threatening motives to US military (including reconnaissance) satellite programs might elicit a favorable and sympathetic reaction not only from anti-US elements, but also from some others concerned over heightening of international tension. US private diplomatic efforts to gain support for the concept of the right of space reconnaissance would probably counteract the Soviet campaign to some degree, though it is unlikely that the US could at this time gain widespread support for a positive affirmation in the UN or other international forum of the right to conduct space reconnaissance.

10. It is particularly important that the US avoid public statements about our satellite operations that would pose a direct political challenge to the Soviet Union on the sensitive issue of reconnaissance. The Soviets would feel compelled for reasons of prestige to react very strongly by any of a variety of political means to such statements. Similarly, if the Soviets were able to obtain any convincing evidence of the US activity they might, even if not compelled to do so, use the opportunity to launch a major political offensive against the US in an effort to end the reconnaissance program.

11. There can be little doubt that the USSR is aware that the US is engaged in a reconnaissance satellite program, though they are probably in some doubt as to its precise effectiveness. Even in this respect, by extrapolating from known U-2 photographic equipment, they can probably make a reasonable estimate of the resolution of cameras that such a satellite could have. There is reason to believe that the Soviets are developing an anti-satellite weapons system and they may have some capability for anti-satellite operations by 1963. While the US probably cannot keep the Soviets from attempting physical anti-satellite measures if they decide to do so, our objective should be to create conditions in which the Soviets will not attempt this or would pay a political price for doing so by creating a climate of acceptance of the principle of freedom of space and the unacceptability of forcible interference with the exercise of that freedom. US handling of its public relations on reconnaissance operations, and on US development of anti-satellite capabilities, will have an important bearing on this question. Moreover, there are a series of technical measures which the US can use to counter hostile active countermeasures. On balance, it seems probable that from a technical point of view it should be possible by concerted efforts to maintain an effective reconnaissance program despite hostile countermeasures.

Recommended Policy

1. The United States should maintain the legal position that the principles of international law and the UN Charter apply to activities in outer space and, specifically, that outer space is free, as are the high seas.

2. The US should therefore continue to avoid any position implying that reconnaissance activities in outer space are not legitimate. Similarly, we should avoid any position declaring or implying that such activities are not "peaceful uses."

3. The US should, to the extent feasible, seek to avoid public use of the term "reconnaissance" satellites, and where appropriate use instead such broader and more neutral terms as "observation" or "photographic" satellites (See Tab A)./4/

/4/The tabs were not found.

4. Further studies should be made on an urgent basis to determine whether there are releaseable data, such as mapping information, or procedures such as occasionally calling Tiros and Nimbus vehicles "photographic" satellites, which would help create wider public acceptance of space observation and photography.

5. NASA should study urgently the possibilities of accelerating bilateral international cooperation to develop non-military space activities involving space observation, perhaps including photography.

6. It is recognized that the US cannot entirely avoid or disclaim interest in reconnaissance, so that where feasible the US should also seek to gain acceptance of the principle of the legitimacy of space reconnaissance.

7. When confronted by specific Soviet pressure to outlaw reconnaissance activities in space, the US should continue to take a public stand for the legitimacy of the principle of reconnaissance from outer space, the precise form and extent of which would depend upon the circumstances of the confrontation.

8. [6 lines of source text not declassified]

9. The present practice of not identifying individual military space launchings by mission or purpose is sound. We believe, however, that there should also be a more open (but not more detailed) public reference to the general over-all military program. An appropriate nickname for public identification should be given to the over-all military program, with its objectives intentionally stated in broad and general terms (See Tab B, which is illustrative). All military launchings would be described in terms of the general objectives of the over-all military program. No specific mission would be ascribed to any particular launch.

10. The US should not, at this time, publicly disclose the status, extent, effectiveness or operational characteristics of its reconnaissance program.

11. Strict control over public statements and backgrounding concerning reconnaissance satellites should be exercised to ensure consistency with the policy guide-lines suggested in these recommendations.

12. No public attention should be directed toward development of anti-satellite capabilities, and any publicized demonstration of developmental work and any actual test of such a capability should require White House approval, with full account given to the adverse effects for our reconnaissance satellite program. We should avoid any indication that physical countermeasures to reconnaissance vehicles would be justified, and as appropriate the US should make a positive effort to propagate the idea that interference with or attacks on any space vehicle of another country in peacetime are inadmissible and illegal.

13. The US should discreetly disclose to certain allies and neutrals selected information with regard to the US space reconnaissance program, making each disclosure orally and at a time and in a manner that will preserve the essential security of our program while impressing upon them its importance for the security of the Free World. Disclosures should be made in a manner that will preclude acquisition by the Communist Bloc of usable evidence of an official US acknowledgment that we are conducting a satellite reconnaissance program. Proposals for such disclosures should include clearance by the National Reconnaissance Office.

14. The US should in private disclosures emphasize the fact of our determination and ability to pursue such programs because of their great importance to our common security, despite any efforts to dissuade us.

15. The US should note in connection with private disclosures that, except in some cases for specifically defined disarmament agreements, the US cannot agree to (a) declarations of the precise purpose of all satellites, (b) declarations of the equipment of all satellites, (c) general requirements for advance notification of all satellite launchings and the tracks of satellites, (d) pre-launch inspection of the satellites, or (e) a specific definition of peaceful uses of space which does not embrace unlimited observation.

16. The possible roles of space reconnaissance in disarmament inspection arrangements or in creating military stability should be further studied.

17. The US should stand by the disarmament proposal for a provision in Stage One of a Treaty on General and Complete Disarmament banning weapons of mass destruction from being carried in satellites, and providing for advance notification and inspection of all missile and space launchings to insure that ban. The US should continue to exclude any ban on reconnaissance satellites.

18. The US should not make or endorse in the disarmament negotiations any proposal for advance notifications of missile and space launchings as one of a separate group of measures to "reduce the risks of war."

The ACDA does not concur in this recommendation. All members of the Committee recognize that there are arguments pro and con on this proposition, but the other members believe the advantages of such a proposal as an arms control measure are not great enough to outweigh the disadvantage to the reconnaissance satellite program from assistance to passive (and potentially to active) countermeasures which would be provided by advance notification. The ACDA member believes that the value of the whole group of measures to reduce risks of war should be considered, since omission of missile and space launchings would appear to represent an undue and even a suspicious concern by the US. In his view, this consideration outweighs possible ill consequences for the reconnaissance program.

19. It is recommended that a decision be made now as to whether to propose a separate arms control agreement banning weapons of mass destruction from being carried in satellites, with appropriate verification controls. The US has proposed discussion of such an agreement along the general lines of the provisions contained in the April 18 Treaty Outline. The members of this Committee are not agreed on the net advisability of making such a proposal, which of course depends on political considerations apart from its effect on the reconnaissance satellite program. (See Tab C for a summary of the considerations pro and con.) They are agreed that no such proposal should be tabled until the question has been reviewed with you./5/

/5/Following NSC discussion of this report on July 10, President Kennedy issued NSC Action No. 2454, which accepted the Committee's recommendations and referred the question of a separate arms control accord back to the Committee for further study. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-NSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council) For further information, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. VII, Document 226.

The foregoing Report has, in compliance with National Security Action Memorandum No. 156 of May 26, 1962, been prepared and is concurred in by:

Paul H. Nitze
Representative of the Department of the Defense

Joseph Charyk
National Reconnaissance Office

Herbert Scoville, Jr.
Representative of the Director of Central Intelligence

Robert C. Seamans, Jr.
Representative of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Adrian S. Fisher
Representative of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

Carl Kaysen and Jerome Wiesner also were
consulted in the work of the Committee

U. Alexis Johnson/6/
Representative of the Department of State

/6/Printed from a copy that indicates Johnson signed the original; all the other signatures are typed.


422. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Foster) to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, July 6, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM No. 156, Negotiations on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Box 336. Top Secret.

Arms Control Aspects of Proposed Satellite Reconnaissance Policy

Recommendations 18 and 19 of the "Report on Political and Informational Aspects of Satellite Reconnaissance Policy" call attention to two issues on which the agencies concerned have been unable to reach agreement./2/ The views of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency are summarized below.

/2/See Document 421 and footnote 1 thereto.

Advance Notification of Launchings

The Geneva Conference has agreed to discuss separate measures to reduce the risk of war through accident, miscalculation or failure of communication. The purpose of such measures would be to provide reassurance among states and to hold to the minimum the hazards that might arise from misinterpretation of abrupt acts of a military but non-belligerent character. Measures designed for this purpose might involve arrangements for advance notification of certain types of military movements and maneuvers, including advance notification of missile launchings, a measure already suggested by the Swedish Delegation, and possibly advance notification of space vehicle launchings as well.

Recommendation 18 of the Satellite Reconnaissance Report would preclude the United States from making or endorsing proposals for advance notification of missile and space vehicle launchings. In the case of space vehicle launchings, the recommendation is based on the contention that advance notification would facilitate passive and active countermeasures against reconnaissance satellites. Advance notification of missile launchings is presumably ruled out because space vehicle launchings might become a collateral issue.

ACDA does not wish to underestimate the countermeasures problem, but we have difficulty in assigning it over-riding significance. Past and continuing publicity respecting reconnaissance satellites is sufficient to have aroused Soviet interest in the possibility of countermeasures. If passive countermeasures are practical, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Soviet Union may undertake them whether or not advance notification is provided. In so far as active countermeasures are concerned, it is not evident that advance notification need be so precise as to result in the pin-pointing of targets in outer space. To the extent that such notification might serve to place a Soviet anti-satellite system on the alert, such maneuvers as plausible changes in launching schedules might be employed by the United States with a view to effecting some attrition of the Soviet system through profitless alerts. If the Soviet Union should succeed in taking advantage of an agreed measure to reduce the risk of war in order to destroy or neutralize a peaceful United States satellite, a variety of responses would be available, including a strengthened basis for United States political opposition to such acts.

We may not, in fact, be able to reach agreement with the Soviet Union on any type of advance notification. However, an affirmative United States position would be consistent with our view that the objects we place in orbit represent legitimate uses of outer space. By carrying our concern regarding our space vehicles to the point where we are unwilling to discuss advance notification of missile launchings, we may encourage the conclusion that we are attempting to shield activities which we ourselves regard as suspect. It is difficult to see how such an approach could contribute to the political and legal defense of satellite reconnaissance.

Furthermore, a separate measure for advance notifications of missile and space launchings, if agreed to by the United States and the Soviet Union, would constitute an important step in the arms control field. First, it would give greater assurance that a surprise missile attack could not take place in a way that would catch the U.S. off guard. Secondly, by having advance notifications of such launchings, each party to the agreement would have a good record of the other party's planned programs in the space and missile fields, including both test programs and possible programs for the further deployment of missiles. Third, advance notifications of missile and space launchings would decrease tension that is bound to come as the United States and the Soviet Union, and possibly other countries as well, increase the number of missiles at their disposal. The more information that can be obtained about the intentions of potentially hostile parties, as the United States and the Soviet Union increase their dependence on missiles for military purposes, the less likely it will be that one or the other party will miscalculate and possibly start or escalate a war with missiles.

There are issues of greater consequence than measures "to reduce the risk of war." However, other things being equal, it would seem desirable that the United States seek limited gains in the arms control field as well as major ones. ACDA is not convinced that the arguments supporting Recommendation 18 outweigh these against it, and recommends that it be disapproved.

Prohibition of Bombs in Orbit

The Canadian Foreign Minister has pressed at Geneva for consideration of a separate measure to prohibit the placing in orbit of weapons of mass destruction (it is perhaps worth noting that the United States is currently pressing for a tracking station in Canada to support military space programs). The United States has expressed willingness to discuss the possibility of such a separate measure, provided that it take the form of an agreement which would be subject to inspection. To date, the Soviet Union has opposed consideration of the matter except in connection with general and complete disarmament. Recommendation 19 of the Satellite Reconnaissance Report raises a question as to whether we should continue to pursue our present course.

ACDA believes that if an agreement could be reached to prohibit the placing in orbit of weapons of mass destruction, such an agreement would be in the interest of the national security. To prevent extension of the arms race to outer space should be an important objective of arms control, and hence national security policy. This conclusion appears valid even if such an agreement were fully effective only against very large and hence very high yield weapons such as those tested by the Soviet Union in its last test series. The fact that the Soviet Union would gain increased knowledge of our satellite reconnaissance capabilities does not seem a compelling argument against our acceptance of inspection procedures, particularly in view of the present Soviet ability to estimate these capabilities with a substantial degree of accuracy, a fact that is noted in the Satellite Reconnaissance Report.

The basic objection to the present United States position of willingness to consider a separate outer space agreement appears to rest primarily on the argument that discussion of a separate agreement might involve the United States, to its tactical disadvantage, in a public airing of the satellite reconnaissance issue.

The Soviet Union has, of course, already raised this issue not only in its propaganda output but also in private conversations with the United States and in discussions in the context of the United Nations Outer Space Committee. Ambassador Stevenson is concerned that the issue may be raised in the General Assembly. There is good reason for such concern since the public record affords ample "evidence" to support a strong political attack. Under these circumstances, the question may be where, not whether, the United States may have to debate the matter.

We may not be able to prevent the Soviet Union from speaking out in the forum of its choice, but if we continue to maintain that limitations on military uses of outer space are arms control matters and that Geneva is the proper place to discuss them, we will have a reasonable tactical basis for declining to join issue in the Outer Space Committee or the General Assembly. We will also have reasonable procedural grounds for ignoring, if not defeating, condemnatory principles of space law or hortatory resolutions which might embarrass the satellite reconnaissance program.

In view of the foregoing considerations, ACDA strongly urges that approval be given to an effort on the part of the United States to seek a separate agreement to prohibit the placing in orbit of weapons of mass destruction.

William C. Foster


423. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, July 23, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM No. 156, Negotiations on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Box 336. Top Secret.

Recommended U.S. Position on a Separate Ban on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Outer Space

The President reviewed your memorandum of July 12th and asked me to report to you that he was not prepared to accept paragraphs 2, 3 and 6 of the recommended position insofar as they imply a total rejection of any possible declaratory ban on weapons of mass destruction in outer space./2/ His present belief is that at a certain stage such a declaratory ban might be in our interest if nothing better can be achieved. He would like an examination of the possibilities of nationally operated systems for the detection and identification of any such weapons. Moreover, he questions whether our position on insistence on inspection must be maintained on all subjects, regardless of our own possible interest in declaratory agreements in special cases.

/2/This July 12 memorandum transmitted the recommendations of the Committee on Satellite Reconnaissance Policy, Document 421. The three paragraphs recommended that the United States oppose a declaratory ban on weapons of mass destruction in outer space, while stressing the need for adequate means of verification. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM No. 156, Negotiations on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Box 336)

The President hopes that the matter will be reviewed in the light of these comments and that a further recommendation can be presented to him soon.

McGeorge Bundy/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


424. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for Science and Technology (Wiesner) to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, August 9, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Staff Memoranda, Jerome B. Wiesner, Box 67C. Secret.

At your request, I have examined the problem of a declaratory ban on weapons of mass destruction in outer space. It is my general conclusion that such a declaratory ban would not involve any real risks to this country from a military security point of view. However, this conclusion is based on relatively sophisticated considerations and the proposal would certainly prove to be very controversial domestically.

There is no question that it would be technically feasible to design a variety of weapons systems employing nuclear weapons in space. These weapons systems could be designed either for target bombardment with accuracies approaching those obtaining with ballistic missiles or for the detonation of extremely high yield warheads-possibly as large as 1000 Megatons-directly in orbit. The latter possibility has been widely discussed as a possible terror weapon since a single such device detonated at altitudes of a few hundred miles would on a clear day probably cause lethal burns and produce fires over areas extending to several tens of thousands of square miles. Despite the very impressive effects associated with such weapons systems, it can be shown on the basis of rather general considerations that these same effects can be achieved much more effectively and economically by earth-based weapons systems. When practical considerations such as payload, component reliability, command and control, vulnerability, and cost are taken into account, space-based weapon delivery systems as presently visualized compare poorly with comparable earth-based weapon delivery systems.

I believe the following general comments summarize the various factors that are unfavorable to the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in space:

1. Payload: A given rocket can deliver a substantially larger payload to a target as a ballistic missile than it can place into orbit. For example, a 2 stage rocket can deliver almost twice the payload to 6,000 miles as a ballistic missile as it can place in a low orbit (100 to 200 miles). Weapons systems in higher orbits involve progressively greater payload penalties; and, as an extreme case, a weapon system based on the moon would permit payloads of only a few percent of comparable 6,000 mile ballistic missile systems for comparable expenditure of energy.

2. Reliability: Component reliability is a major problem in the design of nuclear weapons delivery systems and a mean life to failure in these complex systems is often disturbingly short. However, in the case of earth-based systems, there can be a continuous checkout and periodic repairs or replacement. In the case of a space based weapon failure of even a minor component could make the system inoperable and possibly also unsafe. Any effort to increase reliability of a space system by redundancy in components would further penalize the payload of the space system as compared with a comparable earth-based system.

3. Command and Control: The maintenance of command and control of a satellite weapons system would be much more difficult than in the case of an earth-based system. This is true not only because of poor component reliability in the satellite, but also because of the possibility that the enemy might jam communication circuits or even take control of the system by breaking the control code.

4. Vulnerability: In general, a satellite in orbit would appear to be a very insecure place to store nuclear weapons for any appreciable length of time since the satellites would be vulnerable to enemy action and peacetime attrition. Unless a special countermeasure were taken, a normal satellite would be extremely vulnerable to ground fire from a Nike Zeus type AICBM system or modified ballistic missiles such as Minuteman since the satellite could be tracked over a period of time and its orbit calculated with extreme accuracy. While the vulnerability of a satellite could be reduced somewhat by a variety of sophisticated countermeasures, it would appear to be extremely difficult and expensive to achieve a high level of confidence that such a weapons system would be immune to enemy action since the defender would have an extended period of time to identify the hostile satellite Specifically, it does not appear to be feasible to make a large satellite weapon carrier simultaneously invisible to both radar and optical observation. Although the vulnerability of the satellite could certainly be reduced by introducing controlled or random steering in the satellite, this would further reduce the effective payload of the weapon carrier. The most significant reduction in vulnerability would probably result from the use of decoys. However, given the possibility of extended observations, techniques could probably be developed to sort out light decoys in space. In addition to the satellite vehicle itself, the communication and tracking equipment with its large radars necessary for the operation and control of a satellite weapon system would be extremely vulnerable to enemy attack.

5. Cost: For all the above reasons, the cost of a satellite based weapon system would be much greater than that of a comparable earth-based system. For example, considering some of the obvious problems, the Rand Corporation has estimated that a bombardment satellite system would be at least 5 times as expensive as earth-based system with comparable effectiveness.

I believe that the arguments in support of space based weapons systems appear to be essentially limited to the following areas:

1. Psychological: It is argued that the general fear induced by the knowledge that nuclear weapons were actually orbiting overhead would be so great as to destroy the will of the people to resist the demands of an aggressor. I find it difficult to evaluate this psychological problem since the actual danger of large scale nuclear attack exists and is much greater from the more effective earth-based weapons system from satellites. The existence of a space based weapons system would add to the international technical-military prestige of its possessor.

2. Dispersal: Stationing of weapons of mass destruction in orbit, particularly as part of a deterrent system, would have the advantage of removing military targets from a country and thereby avoiding the destruction associated with a counter force attack. It might also make the deterrent more effective by complicating and diversifying the requirements for a counter force attack. However, all of the earlier technical considerations, especially vulnerability in peacetime and component reliability, argue against the use of space for long lived systems which would be needed to establish a recognized deterrent capability.

3. Surprise: It is argued that a satellite based weapons system could attack without warning. While it is true that satellites in low orbit over the U.S. could be detonated simultaneously or could descend from orbit and attack targets with warning as short as those associated with submarine attack, the fact that large numbers of satellites were programmed to arrive over the U.S. simultaneously could be detected quite early and would provide days of strategic warning of a possible attack. An attack by bombardment satellites, which were not programmed to arrive over the U.S. simultaneously, could probably be detected so as to provide warning comparable to that of an ICBM attack. Such an attack would consist of a small first strike with relatively short warning followed by successive detonations for perhaps an hour due to variable times of descent. In any event, a rapid build-up of satellites would certainly be known to the other side and would remove the surprise element from the first strike attack.

On the basis of these considerations, I have concluded that, while technically feasible, a satellite weapons system would constitute a very ineffective approach to the development of a first-strike capability and would also represent a poor approach to long lived, confident weapon system for deterrent strategy. I believe that most military planners who have critically considered this problem would not take exception to this conclusion. It is significant to note that the Air Force at the present time is not calling for any specific space based weapons systems but rather desire a program to develop a capability to place payloads in space in the event some undetermined requirement arises. Nevertheless, despite the strong technical arguments against satellite weapon systems, the Soviet Union may still decide to deploy such a system because of its psychological effect or as a means of achieving what the Soviets might consider to be a more effective deterrent in view of their relatively inferior strategic position.

The verification of a declaratory ban would, of course, be depend-ent upon our unilateral monitoring and intelligence capabilities. We have an excellent unilateral capability to monitor space launches and to track satellites. We do not however, at present, have a unilateral capability to determine whether a given satellite contains a nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, the launching of a large number of satellites for which no scientific research or other explanation was available coupled with efforts to reduce vulnerability, (such as maneuverability or decoys) would create a strong suspicion that a military satellite system which might be associated with weapon delivery was being deployed. In the period after 1965, it would also be possible to develop unmanned satellite inspection systems that might be capable of determining whether unidentified satellites contained nuclear weapons.

A simple declaratory ban of weapons for destruction in space has several attractive features. It might be easily agreed upon with the USSR since it does not involve inspection; it would deal with a type of armament which neither side has deployed; and it might result in the saving of vast sums of money which both sides may be compelled to spend on these developments in the absence of an agreement for reasons of fear or military prestige. Such a proposal would, however, also involve international and domestic and political problems, which must be given careful consideration. It would be argued that, as a first step to arms control, it would tend to set a precedent against inspection, especially as it would be noted that a ban on weapons of mass destruction in space could be easily and reliably monitored by a mutual agreement to require inspection of the payloads of all declared space launches. The question as to whether all launches had, in fact, been declared could be monitored by either an international radar system or by our existing "national" radar monitoring system. It is difficult to imagine any separate arms control agreement that could be monitored more effectively than this and at less cost than this if national radar monitoring systems were utilized.

A much more serious practical problem however, would be the question of domestic acceptance. Given the popular enthusiasm and confusion about space and the powerful lobby interest in this field, it is hard to imagine that there would be easy acceptance of the rather sophisticated arguments as to why such a ban would not involve a significant military risk to this country. If public and Congressional acceptance requires a major campaign to minimize the military significance of space, it would substantially reduce the rationale of undertaking a major campaign to advance such a proposal as a separable disarmament measure.

In summary, I believe that a declaratory ban of weapons of mass destruction would not involve any real military danger to the U.S. At the same time and for the same reason, it would not be a major step toward the control of armaments. Nevertheless, it could serve as a tactic to initiate some activity in the field of disarmament and could prevent a very expensive new dimension to the arms race with its unpredictable psychological reaction which might affect the overall level of military activities of both sides. As a disarmament measure I would be in favor of a declaratory ban; however, I recognize that such a proposal would involve significant domestic political problems. The question of whether the advantages of such a proposal as a disarmament measure outweigh these domestic disadvantages should be thoroughly explored.



425. National Security Action Memorandum No. 183/1/

Washington, August 27, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM No. 183, Space Program for the United States, Box 338. Top Secret. An August 28 memorandum by Charles E. Johnson of the NSC Staff indicates that NSAM No. 183 was distributed as an unnumbered memorandum before its inclusion in the NSAM series.

Secretary of State
Secretary of Defense
Director of Central Intelligence
Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
Director, Office of Science and Technology

Space Program of the United States

The President desires that the space program of the United States be forcefully explained and defended at the forthcoming sessions of the UN Outer Space Committee and the General Assembly. The Department of State is requested to consult with the Department of Defense, CIA, NASA, AEC, ACDA and the Office of the Science Adviser to develop positions which meet the following objectives:

1. To show that the distinction between peaceful and aggressive uses of outer space is not the same as the distinction between military and civilian uses, and that U.S. aims to keep space free from aggressive use and offers cooperation in its peaceful exploitation for scientific and technological purposes.

2. To build and sustain support for the legality and propriety of the use of space for reconnaissance. This position should proceed from the approved recommendations of the report submitted on this subject on June 30, 1962./2/

/2/Document 421.

3. To make it plain that neither U.S. nuclear tests nor other U.S. experiments in space were undertaken without a proper sense of scientific responsibility, and that, in the case of the nuclear tests, these were a response to previous Soviet tests.

4. To demonstrate the precautionary character of the U.S. military program in space.

5. To show that U.S. policies for communication satellites are fully consistent with cooperative international arrangements.

McGeorge Bundy/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that indicates Bundy signed the original.


426. Report of the U.S. Delegation to the Second Session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space/1/

Washington, June 24, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Space Activities, General, 1/63-5/63, Box 307. No classification marking. The session was held in Geneva May 14-29. Homer E. Newell led the U.S. Delegation.

[Here follow sections 1-8.]

9. Conclusions.

(1) The work of the Second Session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee consisted largely of a review and continuation of the work begun at its first session a year ago. In one sense it might be said that the Subcommittee was still feeling its way toward practical means of fulfilling its generally understood role as a catalyst in the process of cooperation among nations in the peaceful exploration of outer space. Reflected in the final report of the Subcommittee was a more refined appreciation of areas where its recommendations can most property and effectively be addressed and a better understanding of its limitations, both with regard to scientific competence and quasi-political judgments. At the same time, however, a general characteristic of this session was the lack of any real demonstrated interest in most of the proceedings on the part of the noncommitted and smaller countries. The single exception to this was their great interest in the subject of training and assistance in space fields.

(2) Of the six Middle Eastern and African countries which are members of the Subcommittee, only Iran and the United Arab Republic were represented at this Session. Representatives of Sweden and Brazil were present only during the last few days of the Session and took no part in the work of the Subcommittee.

(3) The United States Delegation played a major role in consideration of the problem of making available to Member States information about outer space activities which would help them keep informed about such activities in other countries, assist them in evaluating their own plans for activity in space work, and indicate to them sources of further information and facilities for assistance. In its Report, the Subcommittee adopted most of the proposals suggested by the United States. The Delegation was unsuccessful, however, in its efforts to have the Subcommittee reinforce its earlier recommendation that the United Nations Secretariat compile information received by it on a voluntary basis by Member States in concise tabular form so that such information would be most useful to those requiring it. It seemed clear that the Soviet Delegation wished to avoid any action which would serve to highlight Soviet failure to provide any information at all concerning its national space program. Similarly, in formulating the Subcommittee's recommendation that a survey be prepared of national and cooperative international space activities, the Soviet Delegation insisted that this matter be considered once again in the parent Committee prior to the actual preparation of such a survey.

(4) The Subcommittee's recommendations on education and training fell far short of a reflection of the interest and enthusiasm exhibited by the developing countries which participated in the session. Soviet refusal to accept any recommendation which would in any way imply a commitment on the part of the Soviet Union to assist others in the field of space activities was so insistent that several other Delegates in drafting session became visibly upset. This was in marked contrast to the attitude of the United States Delegation, which, although not represented in the drafting session, submitted two informational working papers setting forth the various possibilities for education and training supported by NASA, and those activities supported by the United States Weather Bureau in the field of satellite meteorology. The substantive recommendation finally adopted is a useful first step in identifying for those Member States desiring help in education and training the existing facilities for such assistance in other countries.

(5) While the United States Delegation did not encourage substantive consideration of the problem of potentially harmful interference with space activities and pointed out that effective consideration of this problem lay with the Legal Subcommittee, I believe the discussions on this matter and the recommendations adopted by the Subcommittee reflect a step forward in the Subcommittee's definition of its role. For the first time in the history of the Committee and the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, it was recognized implicitly and unanimously that the question of ending nuclear weapons tests lay beyond the competence of the Subcommittee and that the only proper action was to point out the potential hazards of nuclear testing to other space experiments. Similarly, there was a general understanding that the Subcommittee was not qualified to pass quantitative judgment on national space activities which could interfere with other peaceful uses of outer space. Specific mention was drawn to the existence of the independent scientifically qualified body established by COSPAR which is available for quantitative analysis of the potential effects of planned space experiments when such assistance is needed.

(6) As described earlier in this report, the Soviet Delegate sought energetically to evoke a statement by the Subcommittee to the effect that lack of progress in formalizing general principles governing the conduct of man's activity in outer space seriously prejudiced the work of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee in its efforts to encourage international cooperation in this field. With the exception of the other Bloc Delegations there was no support for this point of view. Indeed, most of the Delegations which spoke in the general debate rejected the Soviet contention that the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee was hamstrung in its work because of lack of formal agreement in the Legal Subcommittee. At the close of the general debate, the United States spoke again in defense of this latter point of view, rehearsing the large measure of understanding reached during the meetings of the Legal Subcommittee even though no formal agreements had been registered, and suggesting that the Subcommittee proceed with its own work without becoming preoccupied with matters which had been directed by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to another Subcommittee. The Soviet Delegation received no effective support for inclusion of its proposals on this matter in the final report of the Subcommittee, although the Soviet Delegate did make a final statement for the record decrying the failure of the Subcommittee to address itself to this matter.

(7) I recommend that full United States support be given to adoption by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space of the various recommendations and proposals forwarded to it by the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. I further recommend that the United States continue its participation in the work of the Subcommittee, seeking to encourage those impulses toward international cooperation in the peaceful exploration of outer space which motivate the basic United Nations interest in this field.

[Here follows a list of Annexes: Annex I, Report of the Subcommittee; Annex II, Summary Records; Annex III, Working Papers; Annex IV, Major U.S. Statements; and Annex V, U.S. Informational Working Papers on Education and Training. None of the Annexes is printed.]


427. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Cleveland) and the Deputy Legal Adviser (Meeker) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, July 19, 1963.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960-63, SP 6 UN. Confidential. Drafted by Meeker and concurred in by Robert F. Packard (SCI), Raymond L. Garthoff (G/PM), and John C. Guthrie (EUR). An attached note by Rusk reads: "If this has not been cleared with NASA & Space Council, it should be." Another attachment noted that Welsh of the Space Council approved the paper on July 22, and noted the approval of the Defense Department and NASA representatives.

Further Approach to Soviets on Outer Space Legal Questions


The United States Delegation to the UN Legal Subcommittee on Outer Space recommended in its report that a further approach be made to the Soviets on questions of outer space law prior to the September 1963 session of the parent UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space./2/ A draft paper on questions of space law was attached to the Delegation's Report, and was circulated within the Department of State and to Defense and NASA for clearance./3/ There has been general agreement on this paper and on the desirability of handing it to the Soviets some time before September. Decision was reserved as to timing.

/2/The report of the U.S. Delegation is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Space Activities, General, 1/63-5/63, Box 307.

/3/The text of this undated draft paper was very similar to the text attached as Tab A to this memorandum; see footnote 5 below.

We think it is now timely to go forward with the approach. Developments in Moscow in connection with the test ban talks and the Sino-Soviet breach suggest improved prospects for our being able to reach some agreements with the Soviets on matters of outer space law. This is an area where the U.S. has long felt that cooperation with the Soviet Union is of mutual interest and is possible.

These developments may not, of course, portend any change in Soviet policy on reaching a space law agreement. Recently, the Soviets replied to Ambassador Stevenson's letter of June 6, to the United Nations Secretary-General, in which we called attention to Soviet failure to register six space launchings./4/ The reply, while hostile in tone, is milder than earlier Soviet propaganda on some points. So far, the Soviets have chosen not to circulate it as an official UN document, leaving the reply as a USSR Mission press release.

/4/For text of Stevenson's letter, see Department of State Bulletin, July 15, 1963, pp. 104-105. The Soviet reply has not been found.

In sum, we think the prospects of a shift in Soviet attitude worth exploring.

There is sentiment among UN Members favoring a further effort by the United States and USSR to arrive at some agreements in the field of outer space law. It would be to our advantage to make an approach before the September session of the UN Outer Space Committee, and to do so far enough in advance of that session so that we will be in a position to refer publicly to our approach if this should become desirable.

USUN reports from New York that Austrian Ambassador Matsch (Chairman of the Outer Space Committee) has this week commenced talks with the Soviets on outer space. Ambassador Fedorenko is reported to have said the USSR was "eager for consultations with the U. S. on legal matters". If we do not respond directly, there is a risk that Matsch will take the initiative in proposing some compromises which would not be in our interest.

At the end of June we gave the United Kingdom a copy of the attached paper (Tab A)/5/ for their comments, and we plan to inform the other friendly members of the Outer Space Committee of our approach to the Soviets.

/5/Not printed. Elements of this paper were included in Resolution 1962 (XVIII), "Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space," which was adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly on December 13. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 1087-1089.


That you approve a further approach to the Soviets in New York on outer space law questions, along the lines of the paper attached at Tab A./6/

/6/Secretary Rusk approved the recommendation.


428. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Embassy in Yugoslavia/1/

New York, September 9, 1963, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960-63, SP 6 UN. Confidential. Repeated to the Department of State as telegram 743. The text printed here is the Department's copy.

2. Belgrade for Daddario. Outer Space.

US delegation to outer space committee met privately with Soviet today at Soviet request./2/ Soviets read from lengthy paper indicating possibilities of compromise and areas where they continue to insist on their position.

/2/The U.S. position paper is ibid., SCI Files: Lot 65 D 473, SP 6, June-Dec. 1963.

Soviets said they could accept US views to effect that: Fact that programs of scientific cooperation are not dependent upon agreement on legal issues; jurisdiction over space vehicles in flight should belong to state of registry; state in which space vehicle accidentally lands should have right to seek identifying data from launching state; international organizations may share with their member states responsibility for their space activities.

Soviets continue to stress necessity of prohibition on space observation activities and on war propaganda.

Not possible to evaluate yet whether achievement of consensus is possible. Tone of Soviet presentation was moderate. Seems clear Soviets did wish to begin negotiations prior to opening outer space committee, and that negotiations will require considerable amount of time. At this point, US delegation believes it not likely that committee report will be able indicate areas of progress beyond Lachs consensus statement made on May 3 at conclusion legal subcommittee session (see paragraph 10 and 11 of legal subcommittee report)./3/

/3/UN doc. A/AC.105/12, pp. 3-4.

Please treat above as confidential./4/

/4/Printed from an unsigned copy.


429. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State/1/

New York, September 10, 1963, 9 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960-63, SP 6 UN. Confidential.

755. Outer space--consultations with Soviets. USUN's 744./2/

/2/Telegram 744 from USUN described at greater length the Soviet paper outlined in Document 428. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960-63, SP 6 UN)

1. We believe Soviet paper received yesterday is moderate, businesslike document which provides basis for useful consultations in coming weeks. Fact that response to our July 26 paper delayed until morning of Outer Space Comite meeting indicates Soviets probably do not anticipate concrete agreement on legal principles during course of meeting, but would envisage progress, if any, to be recorded later, possibly during GA debate. See separate report of conversation with Morozov. Due delay in translations, caused by debate, have been unable compare language with Fedorenko statement in Comite.

2. We do not feel that Space Comite meeting should be suspended or delayed on account of bilateral consultations with Soviets. To do so would place other members Comite in awkward, secondary role, and, as practical matter, would be difficult to convene Comite and produce its report to GA later than this week. Consultations with Soviets may require months before results are known. Accordingly, we are maintaining line that Comite seek finish work this week. Matsch and friendly members are in agreement.

3. Believe legal portion of Comite report should be limited to recording results of Legal Subcomite meeting as indicated in para 11 of Legal Subcomite report and taking account consultation by modifying last para along fol lines:

"With a view to the desirability of reaching full agreement on the issues on the agenda of the Committee, the delegations taking part in its work recommend that the consultations and exchanges of views between members which have been undertaken should continue. It is hoped that these will result in a wider consensus before the GA takes up the Outer Space item during its 18th session."

4. If Dept agrees, we will respond to Soviet paper early 12 Sept as follows:

A. Present Soviets with our translation their paper and ask if translation is accurate; and

B. Seek clarification of Soviet paper with following questions:

(1) With ref 3(A), does revision of preamble Soviet text include dropping para 1, as well as revision para 5?

(2) 3(D), what does joint responsibility of international orgs and "states participating" mean? How is responsibility divided? Are all member states participating or have Soviets some other idea? What orgs have Soviets in mind?

(3) 3(E), When do Soviets envisage Legal Subcomite would determine composition study groups? When would study groups meet?

(4) Do Soviets envisage in their para 4 that state itself would determine potential danger its experiments before seeking consent other states? If not, how is potential danger to be determined?

(5) With regard to compromise formula for unresolved problems, such as, for example, banning use of satellites for purposes of war propaganda, etc., and activity in outer space of private companies, what language have Soviets in mind?

(6) Do Soviets believe that declaration must represent agreement on all outstanding issues, e.g., war propaganda, or might it be limited to areas on which agreement has already been reached, as outlined Fedorenko's address?

5. Although we might not pose all of above questions in next bilateral meeting, believe it would be useful to signal to USSR by 12 Sept. that we consider their response businesslike and will give it serious study in coming weeks. At same meeting we would also plan discuss with them above ideas for formulating legal portion of Comite report to GA.

6. Unless we hear to contrary we plan give text of Soviet note to UK, Canadian and Australian Dels late 11 Sept with request that it be maintained strictly confidential as has been case with our 26 July note to Soviets./3/

/3/This note was transmitted to USUN in telegram 197, July 23. (Ibid.)



430. Memorandum From the Deputy Legal Adviser of the Department of State (Meeker) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, October 8, 1963.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960-63, SP 5 UN. Confidential.

Status of Discussions with Soviets on Outer Space Legal Questions

In the last two weeks, we have had five meetings with the Soviet Delegation in New York to discuss outer space legal questions, on which previously no progress had been made in the United Nations because of Soviet intransigence./2/ The meetings have been held to pursue further (1) a set of suggestions advanced by the United States in a memorandum handed to Ambassador Fedorenko on July 26, 1963, and (2) an aide-memoire received from the Soviets on September 9.

/2/The U.S. position paper for negotiations with the Soviets on legal problems of outer space was transmitted in airgram A-91 to USUN, September 24. (Ibid., SP 6 UN)

For the first time in the nearly two years of international discussion of outer space legal questions, the Soviets have seemed affirmatively interested in arriving at a meeting of minds with us. Our recent talks have gone well. At the end of this morning's session, Ambassador Morozov said he planned to refer unagreed points to Foreign Minister Gromyko, and he said he assumed that we on our side would be reporting to you. This memorandum is written to summarize the negotiating situation, in case Gromyko should raise the subject.

1. The Soviets have sought a treaty or international agreement setting forth principles of outer space law. We have argued strongly for a General Assembly resolution, following the pattern of General Assembly resolution 1721 (XVI). The question of form of declaration remains an issue with the Soviets, but they have intimated probable acceptance of General Assembly resolution form if the United States would make an appropriate statement on the character and effect of legal principles in a resolution voted unanimously by the Assembly. The text of a statement authorized by the Department for this purpose is given at Tab A./3/ We have not shown this text to the Soviets.

/3/Tabs A-C are not printed. This draft statement in Tab A reads: "The legal principles set forth in this resolution clearly reflect international law as it is accepted by the Members of the United Nations. The United States, for its part, will respect those principles in the same way as the United States respects international law generally. We hope that the conduct which the resolution commends to nations in the exploration of outer space will become the practice of all nations."

We recommend that you maintain our position in favor of a General Assembly resolution, with appropriate accompanying statements in the Assembly.

2. The text of a declaration setting forth legal principles in resolution form is largely agreed. The current United States draft is given at Tab B. A few significant differences remain:

a. Operative paragraph 6 in Tab B gives the United States position on the subject of "interference" and "harmful experiments". The Soviet proposal on this subject appears as operative paragraph 6 in their draft (Tab C). The Soviet position is entirely unrealistic and unacceptable as it would purport to give a veto to any of the more than 100 States around the world over any space project which the Unites States, the USSR, or another country might be contemplating. We have let the Soviets know that their proposal is non-negotiable, and have indicated that our suggested paragraph 6 (Tab B) is as far as we are prepared to go.

We recommend that you maintain this position.

b. The Soviets have pressed to insert the words "sovereign rights of" before the words "jurisdiction and control" in operative paragraph 7 of the US draft (Tab B). There is not an essential difference of meaning between the Soviet formulation and our own, but we have resisted the inclusion of a reference to sovereignty on the ground that this is inappropriate to a declaration of outer space legal principles and is not in conformity with the analogous provisions in the Antarctic Treaty and the Convention on the High Seas.

We recommend that on this point you indicate simply that it should be possible to work out some appropriate language. (We can accept the Soviet formulation if necessary.)

c. Throughout our recent discussions the Soviets have referred in a perfunctory way, from time to time, to the necessity of including in the declaration a provision banning reconnaissance satellites. We have stated flatly that we would not accept any such provision, and there has been no serious discussion of the subject. While the Soviets have not conceded on this, we think they will probably agree to a declaration which says nothing about the use of observation satellites.

In any event, we recommend that you dismiss summarily any suggestion by Gromyko that some compromise should be sought in this area.

3. We have agreed with the Soviets on the desirability of treating the current series of discussions as confidential for the present. We have, of course, made it plain that any text which our two delegations might come together on would next have to be submitted for consideration by the other members of the United Nations Outer Space Committee and the General Assembly as a whole. We plan in the next few days to brief a few selected delegations in New York, on a confidential basis, concerning the general course of the bilateral talks we have been having with the Soviets.


431. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Japan/1/

Washington, November 13, 1963, 7:48 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960-63, SP 6 UN. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Craig R. Eisendrath (IO/UNP); cleared by William B. Buffum, Raymond L. Garthoff, Louise McNutt, and Meeker; and approved by Richard N. Gardner. Repeated to USUN.

1244. UN General Assembly Resolution on Outer Space Legal Principles.

After long negotiations, US has reached working agreement with USSR in New York on text declaration outer space legal principles in form GA resolution. Negotiations were undertaken at request UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. We and Sovs have now initiated consultation with other 26 members Space Committee to gain their cosponsorship of res before item discussed in Committee One, probably about Nov. 18. (We have indicated Sovs that we should consider suggestions by other members, although acceptance by Sovs also necessary.) We attach considerable importance to Japanese support and cosponsorship.

Minister Nakagawa explained to Dept today that Japanese cosponsorship is dependent on acceptance three amendments: (1) Preambular reference in declaration to resolution 1884 (XVIII)/2/ calling upon all states to refrain from orbiting nuclear and other weapons mass destruction in space; (2) Language in operative para limiting outer space to "peaceful purposes"; and (3) Provision requiring prior registration and notification by launching state as condition for returning space vehicle or parts should such land accidentally in another state.

/2/This resolution was adopted by the General Assembly by acclamation on October 17. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 1082-1083.

You should present our position to FonOff at appropriately high level soonest along following lines taken by Dept today: (As Embassy will recall some of these arguments were discussed last year with FonMin in Tokyo.)

(1) US prepared accept preambular reference to res 1884. We are not sure Sov reaction, although they have taken negative attitude toward any amendments.

(2) Meaning "peaceful purposes" is not clear, and inclusion in legal principles would be confusing. We interpret "peaceful purposes" as meaning non-aggressive, rather than non-military uses as apparently do Japanese.

We believe res 1884 and nuclear test ban have accomplished principal objectives of proponents for "peaceful purposes only" provision. If other military uses of outer space are intended to be excluded, such as observation from space for military intelligence, this would impinge on programs necessary to defense US and entire free world, of which Japan is important member.

We are sure that if phrase means non-military, it would be unacceptable to Sovs as well as US. Both US and USSR have military space programs. Moreover, satellites like many objects common to all countries serve both military and non-military purposes, and carrying distinction into effect would be impracticable. For example, without adequate inspection it is impossible determine if satellite is photographing clouds or military installations. Satellites which help navigate commercial vessels may also steer warships and submarines.

(3) Providing advance notification and data, as suggested by Japanese, would facilitate Sov counter measures against US observation satellite program. While we have provided for advance notification of satellite launching in our general and complete disarmament proposals, this is coupled with pre-launch inspection of satellites. Until Sovs willing accept this and world moves into period of greater security and trust under GCD, we cannot accept obligation provide advance notification and registration.

Moreover there is every indication Sovs would not comply. While US, for example, has registered every object launched into space or beyond with UN, Sovs have not fully complied with this obligation. They have not registered launching of six satellites of Cosmos series.

(4) Text of declaration represents best we could obtain from Sovs after months hard negotiations. We believe it important step toward legal order in space and would greatly appreciate Japanese support and cosponsorship. Reservations Japanese might have could be brought up during framing future international agreements. Opportunity would be presented next spring during framing agreements on liability and return of astronauts and space vehicles. Japanese might also make comments, to reserve their position on certain points, during their speech on outer space item. Declaration of legal principles is not last word on subject and, as more experience is gained, there will be continual opportunities refine and improve these first general principles.

FYI. Nakagawa requested he not be mentioned as suggesting consultations with Japanese FonOff, although he indicated private agreement with US position and in fact suggested we raise matter at high level with Foreign Office. He suggested Japanese sensitivity on peaceful purposes question was related to attacks on government by Socialists. Position was moreover traditional one for Japanese. End FYI.



432. Editorial Note

On December 13, 1963, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution 1962 (XVIII), "Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space," and Resolution 1963 (XVIII), "International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space." Both resolutions are printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pages 1087-1092.


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