The Secretary of the Navy (Knox) to the Secretary of State
Sir: The staff agreements that we now have with various American Republics provide that their harbors, ports, bases and facilities will become available to the Armed Forces of the United States only in case they are involved in repelling non-American aggression, either by invitation of the country attacked or by a special inter-American agreement.
There are no general agreements permitting the Armed Forces of the United States to use the harbors or port facilities of any of the American Republics under present conditions without special arrangements in each case.
The strategical situation is such that our Naval Forces now engaged in operations defending the Western Hemisphere should be permitted to use the port facilities of a number of the American Republics, with the least possible formality.
At the request of the Navy Department, arrangements have been made with Brazil to use the port facilities of Recife and Bahia. Negotiations are now pending for using the port facilities of Natal, Maceio, Guayaquil, Callao, Valparaiso, Antofagasta, and an anchorage in the Galapágos Islands. As our Naval operations increase in intensity, it will be most important to have available the facilities of many other ports of the American Republics, both on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.
It is suggested that broad agreements for the use of the desired ports and harbors, under present international conditions, might be arranged by means of a liberal interpretation of the Declaration of Uruguay, recently announced by the Uruguayan Government.[Page 31]
The original Declaration of June 18, 1917 was as follows:
“That no American country, which in defense of its own rights, should find itself in a state of war with nations of other continents, will be treated as a belligerent; and that existing decrees which may be in contravention to this resolution shall be null and of no effect.”
As a clarification of this Declaration, The United States Minister in Uruguay sent a despatch to the Secretary of State, as follows:
“Uruguayan Minister for Foreign Affairs authorizes me to say to Department of State that all ships of the American Navy, of any kind whatsoever, may now and henceforth visit the ports of Uruguay, for any purpose whatsoever, where they will be received as friend, and not as belligerent, and without restrictions.”16
It is understood that a number of the other American Republics have recently adhered to the Declaration of Uruguay, but under what conditions is not known.
In the opinion of the Navy Department, it is highly important that a definite understanding be reached with all the American Republics, regarding the Declaration of Uruguay and, if possible, secure the following:
- Adherence of all American Republics to the Declaration of Uruguay.
- All to give the same liberal interpretation as expressed by Uruguay in 1917.
- Permission for United States Naval Forces to use their port facilities now, as well as in case of our becoming a belligerent, by simple notification of entry, and without restriction as to time limits of the visits.