Department of State
Foreign Policy Briefing
March 27, 1962
Afternoon Session: 4:17 - 4:45 p.m.
The President of the United States
So that I think we have to - what I think - when we talk about superiority, I think that we believe that we are superior in the means of delivering a thermonuclear attack. That we are.
But if you go the whole range of weapons in other areas, we may not be superior. Now, what we say is we want to disarm. I feel that the interests of the United States would be served if we had no more atmospheric nuclear tests, or in fact any kind of nuclear tests.
I think it would serve the world and would serve our particular national interests. We are prepared to sign a treaty. But it must have some inspection.
Now, if the Soviet Union is unwilling to give that commitment, or regards the inspection as such a loss to another source of their strength, in talking about relative strength, their secrecy, then of course we can't get it.
But I don't consider our position in any way - I don't consider our position to be paradoxical. I think we have strength. We have weaknesses. But I believe we would be better off if testing could cease around the world. Therefore we have attempted to do it. But we can't get it unless there is inspection. And Mr. Gromyko has made it very clear that he will not accept national inspection, international inspection.
Q: Mr. President, recently Khrushchev was boasting in a speech of having what he termed a "global weapon." Do you know of anything that would corroborate this, or is it a bit of Russian propaganda for the Russian people?
A: Well, we have a global weapon in a sense of a missile which can go to the Soviet Union. What he may have been referring to is a weapon that could come through the South Pole and up, which would be a very long flight. It would be - of course you would lose accuracy.
Now, we do not have an informed radar system that would be wholly adequate in that areas. But, on the other hand, their accuracy would be very affected by that long a trip.
And with our hardened sites and our Minutemen missiles, accuracy is extremely important. Because there is no sense in launching an attack which is unable to knock out our Minuteman hardened sites, and therefore permits us, on a much shorter course, to respond.
So I don't think that anyone has been particularly - I think everyone has agreed they have had this capacity. If they can go, send a probe to the moon, they can come around the South Pole...
But the question is with what kind of a warhead and with what kind of accuracy, and who would be able to respond. I think with the Minuteman hardened sites, Polaris, and the others, that we can, and therefore discourage an attack.
I know you have been through two days of this, so I will take one more question.
Q: We have some indication that Secretary of State Rusk will come back somewhat "encouraged" - in quotes - over the Berlin discussions, although everyone admits that no progress was made.
What do you suppose he based that on? [Laughter]
A: I suppose that Mr. Rusk has gotten in the position, as some of us, that when you don't have a disaster, you are encouraged. [Laughter]
I don't think there has been much of a shift in the Soviet position really, since, Vienna, but we - at least the talks were conducted in an atmosphere of some give and take, and a good deal was said.
I think that we ought to analyze very carefully and see whether it gives any indication, and in the meanwhile, as I say, the temperature seemed to be not ice cold or fiery hot but reasonable. And I think that is why we are - we he is encouraged, but not because we are convinced that a breakthrough may be soon.
I want to again express my thanks to you for your coming down and letting us talk to you. For radio commentators or newspaper editors and publishers to put yourselves on the receiving end this way for this long a time is very much appreciated.
SECRETARY BALL: Mr. President, we want to thank you very profoundly on behalf of the State Department for taking time to come here today.
I am sure this has been of immense value to everyone here.
[The meeting was adjourned at 4:45]
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