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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2609


Dr GUN (Kingston) - I want to discuss a matter that is of major importance not only to the security of Australia but to the security of all nations. I refer to the dispute between China and the Soviet Union. In this age of nuclear weapons, no nation can guarantee that it would be unaffected by any war between 2 major nuclear powers. The SinoSoviet dispute was forcibly brought to my notice during a visit I made to China in June of this year as part of a delegation from this Parliament which was led by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen). During our visit to China, the delegation had discussions with representatives of the Chinese Government, including one meeting with the Chinese VicePremier, Mr Li Hsien-nien. In this discussion I raised with the Chinese Vice-Premier the question of Chinese nuclear testing because, as all honourable members and people in Australia know, the Australian Government is strongly opposed to nuclear testing by any nation, and particularly to atmospheric testing.

The Chinese Vice-Premier's reply was that the Chinese are prepared to discon tinue their nuclear testing but only in the context of all nations, including the United States of America and the Soviet Union, dismantling their own nuclear arsenals. They believe that they cannot reasonably be expected to stop their nuclear testing while nothing is done to reduce the nuclear capacity of the Soviet Union - which is their next door neighbour and which they believe is threatening their security - and of the United States. Personally, I cannot agree with this point of view of the Chinese Government, and neither does the Australian Government. I do not believe that one can justify developing nuclear weapons just because the United States, and the Soviet Union already have nuclear weapons. If this argument were to be used to justify the Chinese developing their own nuclear weapons, then the same argument could be used for every other country doing the same. For that reason I believe that the Australian Government will continue to oppose nuclear testing, whether it is by China, by France or by any other country.

However, I do not believe we should stop there. It is essential that all the middle and small powers should jointly try to bring about complete nuclear disarmament, because this is the only way to ensure world peace. I do not want to say who is right and who is wrong in the Sino-Soviet dispute. The plain fact is that these 2 countries are suspicious of each other and distrust each other, and it is in the interests of all countries that this mutual suspicion and hostility be reduced. The overwhelming impression given to our parliamentary delegation in China, as far as the foreign policy of the Chinese is concerned, was that their great fear is of the Soviet Union. The Chinese maintain that the Russians are bent on a policy of territorial expansion. They say that unequal treaties were imposed on China in the nineteenth century - that is, treaties between czarist Russia and imperialist China. In fact, they maintain that the Soviet Union is demanding territory beyond even that which was conceded to it under these unequal treaties. The Chinese also claim that the Soviet Union has maintained and does maintain one million troops on the Sino-Soviet border to enforce its claims on what it believes is Chinese territory. Moreover, the Chinese say that their suggestions for a mutual withdrawal of troops from either side of the disputed border have been rejected. I repeat that I am not saying whether the Chinese point of view is justified or not. Frankly, I do not see any point in the Australian Government taking sides on this issue. The fact is, however, that there is a dispute which we would like to see ended, in our own interests.

There are some very important measures which should be taken to reduce tension in this area. The first concerns the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks, more commonly known as the SALT talks. These talks are supposed to be about arms limitation - that is, disarmiment Yet I wonder how many people realise that at the most recent round of SALT talks the United States and the Soviet Union mutually agreed on the Soviet Union increasing its numbers of intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. The Americans agreed to this on the ground that they themselves have a superiority in multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicles, or MIRVs. In other words, the agreement does not concern disarmament at all. It is merely about balance of terror. If this agreement were being carried out in a vacuum, I suppose it could be justified. But it did not take place in a vacuum. The Soviet Union - one of the 2 parties to the talks - will actually increase its numbers of ICBMs. To the Chinese, this is not a balance of deterrent forces but a gross imbalance. Obviously, that is why the Chinese feel apprehensive about the situation. I believe that it is no longer sufficient for the representatives of the United States and the Soviet Union to make agreements behind closed doors on the size of their nuclear arsenals.

My first practical suggestion, therefore, is that the SALT talks which are at present bipartite should be tri-partite 'and should include China, so that all decisions taken will have regard to the fact that the interests of more than 2 great powers are involved. Better still, they should be multi-partite and include all countries which have nuclear weapons. Obviously, this would not be the answer to all our problems, but it would be an important step and would at least establish workable machinery to enable realistic nuclear disarmament talks to take place. The other constructive suggestion I would like to make concerns the Sino-Soviet border dispute. In this area I believe that the Americans should take a greatly different course from that which they have taken so far. Up until now they have spoken to the Russian leaders, as in the Nixon-Brezhnev summit meeting, and this makes the Chinese suspicious. When the Americans speak to the

Chinese, the Russians become suspicious. I suppose that is just a fact of the multi-polar power situation. One could be pardoned for thinking that the United States is cynically playing off one nation against the other. Is it too much to ask that the United States could, in view of its improving relations with both China and Russia, act as an honest broker in the Sino-Soviet dispute? The settlement could start on a basis of a simultaneous withdrawal of troops to a given distance from either side of the border and arbitration or discussion taking place on where the border should lie.

The question might be asked: Where does Australia come into this? I believe that Australia, as an ally of the .United States should strongly advocate this course of action directly to the United States. Furthermore, we should press for action of this sort at world forums such as the United Nations. There is no doubt in my mind that the Sino-Soviet dispute is the greatest threat to world peace. The current rapprochement between the United States and the Soviet Union indicates that both these countries wish to avoid a war between them. The detente between the United States and China indicates a similar situation there. I know that there are some people who think we can take a back seat while the 2 great communist powers tear each other apart. I think it is a grossly inhumane attitude to remain indifferent to a situation where hundreds of millions of lives could be lost. Furthermore, we cannot exclude the possibility that Australia could be affected, either from an unanticipated widening of any conflict or from any radiation fallout. There is no doubt what the correct course of action is for Australia. Firstly, we should continue to press for the cessation of nuclear testing by all countries. Secondly, we should press for total nuclear disarmament. As a means of bringing this about, we should press for all nuclear powers to be included as participants in the SALT talks, and jointly we should press for international diplomatic action to bring about a resolution of the Sino-Soviet dispute.







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