Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

The Argentine Ambassador came in this morning at his request.

He referred to a previous conversation he had had with me, in which he had noted an editorial in the Washington Herald suggesting that this Government should have acquired a naval base in the Falkland Islands at the same time that it acquired bases from Great Britain in the other islands. At that time I had merely laughed the idea aside, but Dr. Espil had mentioned the fact that if this were generally known there might be repercussions in the Argentine.

Today he showed me a cablegram he had received from his Government saying that they had picked up a rumor which of course they did not believe indicating that this Government conceivably might acquire a naval base from Great Britain in the Falkland Islands. The cablegram was merely for his information. The Ambassador thought that it would be useful if we could stop the rumor now by enabling him to cable some assurance that we would not acquire a naval base in the Falkland Islands, certainly not without previous consultation with the Argentine Government.

I said that so far as I knew, the idea of a naval base in the Falkland Islands had never been discussed or considered here. Certainly, I said, I could not conceive of our taking such a move without discussing the matter with the Argentine Government, since we had always recognized the special situation existing in those islands, and were cognizant of the Argentine claim to them. I said I would take up with the Department the question of an assurance as to the future, though it must be recognized that the world situation and the naval situation in the Atlantic might change with extreme speed.

Dr. Espil said that they as well as we recognized that the Falkland Islands, commanding as they did the entrance to the Straits of Magellan, might be of extreme importance. What he really wanted was something which would enable his government to say, if the newspapers began to make anything out of the matter, that nothing unilateral would be done in the Falklands, but would be done after consultation with the Argentine Government. Possibly this might be done by a question addressed to the Secretary in his press conference, provoking the appropriate answer. I agreed that I would discuss this and let him know.

A. A. Berle, Jr.