The Ambassador in Panama ( Wilson ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 5:20 p.m.]
274. Your 224, May 21, 7 p.m. The Panamanian Cabinet discussed the Senate bill yesterday and this morning the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs4 gave me a note5 setting out the Panamanian point of view, that it would be contrary to the text and spirit of article IV of the Defense Sites Agreement for the civil courts of the Canal Zone to exercise jurisdiction in relation to the defense sites; and that the retention of sovereignty of Panama over the sites as set out in article IV of the Agreement is incompatible with a consolidating policy of general character applicable to civilian communities in which the United States acts as territorial sovereign. The note suggests consultation between the two Governments regarding this matter. It seems to be the point of view of Panamanian Government that the jurisdiction granted the United States by article IV should be exercised only by military tribunals.
The Acting Minister assured me that the Panamanian Government had not the slightest intention of contesting or calling into question the jurisdiction specifically granted the United States in article IV. On the contrary, he said, that the Panamanian Government reaffirmed this grant of jurisdiction, and considered that it was simply a question of having such jurisdiction exercised in a manner compatible with the provisions of article IV.
Copy of the note is being forwarded by airmail. The Panamanian Government would greatly appreciate it if no action were taken by Congress on the bill until the United States Government has considered the note and opportunity been afforded for consultation between the two Governments.