740.0011 European War 1939/1686

The Panamanian Ambassador (Boyd) to the Secretary of State

No. D–65

Mr. Secretary: I have the honor to transmit to Your Excellency herewith a copy of the note, with a translation thereof into Spanish, addressed to the Panamanian Chancellery by the Chargé d’Affaires of Germany in Panama, by means of which he replies in the name of his Government to the protest which the American Republics, through His Excellency the President of the Republic of Panama, addressed on December 23, 1939, to the countries which violated the Security Zone established in the Declaration of Panama, of October 3, 1939.

I avail myself [etc.]

Jorge E. Boyd

The German Chargé in Panama (Von Winter) to the Panamanian Minister for Foreign Affairs (Garay)

Mr. Minister: The late President of Panama communicated to the Chancellor of the German Reich, by a cablegram of October 4, 1939, on behalf of the American Republics, the text of the so-called Declaration of Panama, which sought to protect the neutral American Republics against menace to their vital interests by the effects of the state of war existing at present. For that purpose, the establishment of a security zone is contemplated in the Declaration and of such a nature that no military operations may be carried on by belligerents in the waters adjacent to the American continent, to a fixed [Page 697] distance. The Governments of the American Republics agree that they will endeavor to secure from the belligerents the recognition of such a security zone. In another telegram of the Acting President of the Republic of Panama, certain cases are mentioned, which, in the opinion of the American Governments, have been likely to endanger the efforts for the security of the American continents. In addition, it was stated in this telegram that the American Governments protested to the belligerent powers against these occurrences and that they had entered into consultation for the purpose of strengthening the system of common protection. The Chancellor of the German Reich acknowledged the receipt of these two telegrams by telegrams of October 23rd and December 29th, 1939, and added that he had instructed the German Government to consider the matter. As the result of this consideration, I have the honor to communicate the following to Your Excellency, with the request that it be transmitted to the other American Governments:

The German Government welcomes the intention of the American Republics, expressed in the Declaration of Panama, to maintain strict neutrality during the present conflict, and fully understands that they wish, as far as possible, to take precautionary action against the effects of the present war on their countries and peoples.
The German Government believes itself to be in agreement with the American Governments that the regulations contained in the Declaration of Panama would mean a change in existing international law and infers from the telegram of October 4th last year that it is desired to settle this question in harmony with the belligerents. The German Government does not* take the stand that the hitherto recognized rules of international law were bound to be regarded as a rigid and forever immutable order. It is rather of the opinion that these rules are capable of and require adaptation to progressive development and newly arising conditions. In this spirit, it is also ready to take up the consideration of the proposal of the neutral American Governments. However, it must point out that for the German naval vessels which have been in the proposed security zone so far, only the rules of law now in effect could, of course, be effective. The German naval vessels have held most strictly to these rules of law during their operations. Therefore in so far as the protest submitted by the American Governments is directed against the action of German warships, it cannot be recognized by the German Government as well grounded. It has already expressed to the Government of Uruguay its divergent interpretation or the law also in the special case mentioned in the telegram of the Acting President of the Republic of Panama of December 24th. Besides, the German Government cannot recognize the right of the Governments of the American Republics to decide unilaterally upon measures in a manner deviating from the rules hitherto in effect, such as are to be taken under consideration by the [Page 698] American Governments against the ships of the belligerent countries which have committed acts of war within the waters of the projected security zone, according to the telegram of December 24th of last year.
Upon considering the questions connected with the plan for the establishment of the security zone, there arises first of all one important point which causes the situation of Germany and the other belligerent powers to appear disparate with respect to this: that is, while Germany has never pursued territorial aims on the American continent, Great Britain and France have, however, during the course of the last few centuries, established important possessions and bases on this continent and the islands offshore, the practical importance of which also with respect to the questions under consideration here does not require any further explanation. By these exceptions to the Monroe Doctrine in favor of Great Britain and France the effect of the security zone desired by the neutral American Governments is fundamentally and decisively impaired to start with. The inequality in the situation of Germany and her adversaries that is produced hereby might perhaps be eliminated to a certain extent if Great Britain and France would pledge themselves, under the guaranty of the American States, not to make the possessions and islands mentioned the starting points or bases for military operations; even if that should come about, the fact would still remain that one belligerent state, Canada, not only directly adjoins the zone mentioned in the west and the east, but that portions of Canadian territory are actually surrounded by the zone.
Despite the circumstances set forth above, the German Government, on its side, would be entirely ready to enter into a further exchange of ideas with the Governments of the American Republics regarding the putting into effect of the Declaration of Panama. However, the German Government must assume from the reply of the British and French Governments, recently published by press and radio, that those twogovernments are not willing to take up seriously the idea of the security zone. The mere fact of the setting up of demands according to which entrance into the zone mentioned is not to be permitted to German warships, while the warships of the adversaries are officially to retain the right to enter the zone without restriction, shows such a lack of respect for the most elementary ideas of international law and imputes to the governments of the American States such a flagrant violation of neutrality that the German Government can see therein only the desire of the British and French Governments to do away with the basic idea of the security zone, first of all.
Although the German Government is entirely ready to enter into the proposals and suggestions of the American States in this field, the German Government can feel certain of a success of the continuation of the plan of the security zone only when the British and French position that has been made known is fundamentally revised.

I avail myself [etc.]

  1. This negative was omitted in the accompanying German text apparently by inadvertence.—Tr[anslator]. [Footnote in the file translation.]