The Ambassador in Panama (Hines) to the Secretary of State
[Received 5:20 p.m.]
630. With reference my letter to Wise September 2527 transmitting preliminary proposed draft of interim agreement looking toward solution defense sites situation, in an interview with the President this [Page 1118]morning at which Dr. Alfaro was present, I was informed that Panama would welcome some form of preliminary arrangement pending the negotiation of a new agreement along the lines suggested in draft submitted, which would not bring up for decision the two points of view as to termination date of May 18, 1942 agreement, but would follow the idea that a new defense sites agreement is necessary to conform with new modern weapons and warfare in hemispheric defense area and would carry joint policy and responsibility under general treaty of 1936.
The President mentioned the fact that radar stations were not only necessary for military purposes but for warning to commercial aircraft and sea navigation and that he could stress this point in press interviews in authorizing the US to retain such military installations as necessary pending the negotiation of a new agreement on a permanent basis. This settles 18 of 34 new positions.
He said also he could play up hemispheric defense on the part of Panama and instructed, in my presence, Foreign Minister Alfaro to prepare, jointly with me a detailed tentative agreement for submission Department’s approval and to his Cabinet. I pointed out that, of course, there were two interpretations of the existing agreement and intimated strongly the possibility of being forced to submit our interpretation of the agreement in a note unless we could rapidly reach some form of agreement so there would be no misunderstanding as to question of our legally occupying bases under present agreement.
The President and the Foreign Minister were both most cordial and am sure are extremely anxious to bring about a satisfactory settlement of defense sites problem. The President stressed the hope that such defense sites as are not needed would be returned as rapidly as possible. I replied that we concurred with this view and suggested that it might be a good idea to return Chorrera base with an appropriate ceremony which obviously would be helpful to Government’s position. In this he concurred and I am working out details with General Crittenberger.
I took advantage of the opportunity to stress our high regard and respect for the sovereignty and national pride of Panama in the same manner as if we were negotiating with a powerful military nation, and left with the impression that if the Department will approve negotiations along the line as set forth in my tentative interim agreement, we can promptly and satisfactorily reach a full understanding with the Panamanian Government.
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