Right Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, hon. members will recall that on December 16 the Minister of Public Works tabled the text of a letter dated December 13 which had been addressed to me by the chairman of the council of ministers of the Soviet union, Mr. Bulganin. I should now like to table the text of the Canadian reply, which was given to the Soviet ambassador on the evening of Saturday, January 18, for delivery to Mr. Bulganin.
As the house is aware, similar letters were addressed in early December to the heads of governments of other NATO countries. These other NATO countries are also in the process of replying. The United States reply was delivered on January 12, the French reply on January 14 and the United Kingdom reply on January 16.
The Canadian government, in the reply I intend to table, deals essentially with the first letter and acknowledges receipt of the second, although some of the same points appear in both letters. As I said in the house on January 13, it is our intention to give further consideration to Mr. Bulganin's second letter, the one dated January 8, and to consult in the NATO council with regard to the issues with which it deals.
What the NATO countries looked for in these letters was evidence that the Soviet union was sincere in its expressed desire to adopt measures leading to the improvement of the international situation and to the creation of the necessary confidence in relations between states. We found little that was new in the letters, although it was recognized that they were more moderate in tone than Soviet communications received in the past. Also they placed emphasis on the settlement of differences by negotiation, an objective which certainly finds support in this and other countries. It was with these considerations in mind that the NATO governments examined the letters and agreed on the general nature of the replies to be given.
In preparing the Canadian reply the government has tried to adopt as positive an attitude as possible. We wish to reduce tension and to help settle world problems, but the need still exists-and this must be emphasized-for a strong defence system. In a positive sense, the reply displays our continued willingness, within the terms of a disarmament agreement, to open all or part of Canada to aerial and ground inspection on the basis of reciprocity. This type of proposal should prove mutually attractive to Canada and the U.S.S.R. since they are neighbours across the Arctic. Mr. Bulganin is reminded of Canada's strong interest in disarmament, and it is suggested that since he advocates step by step progress in this field the first step should be for the countries concerned to resume their discussions and to make use of the United Nations machinery created for this purpose.
In the reply we say that we intend to join with our NATO allies in studying the comments made by Mr. Bulganin on a proposal put forward earlier by Poland for the creation of a zone in central Europe free of nuclear armaments.
The assertion is made in Mr. Bulganin's letter that a meeting of heads of capitalist and socialist countries on a high level could have great significance. As I mentioned in the house early last week, this observation is made more specific in the second letter, the one dated January 8, with the proposal that a high level meeting be held within the next two or three months. Our reply states that a meeting at a high level would receive the Canadian government's support if there were adequate assurance that beneficial results could be expected, and if the utmost care were given to its preparation.
While on the subject of a possible summit meeting I might refer to the reply I gave in the house on January 7 in response to a question asked by the hon. member for Mackenzie, as to whether or not Canada would consider issuing an invitation for a summit meeting in Canada. As I said then, we attach great importance to reopening negotiations and would agree to examine any proposal which might result in the reaching of an agreement between the Soviet union and the western countries. In my reply to Mr. Bulganin I referred to the interest that had been displayed in this house in the possibility of a high level meeting, and I said that when the participants
Inquiries of the Ministry decide that they are ready to call such a meeting and should they decide to hold it in Canada, situated as we are between the United States of America and the U.S.S.R., such would be acceptable.
Subtopic: TABLING OF CANADIAN REPLY TO PREMIER