711.19/12–1548: Airgram

The Ambassador in Panama (Davis) to the Secretary of State

A–923. With reference to the Embassy’s airgram 919, December 10, there are quoted below questions submitted by Mr. Luis Noli, prominent local newspaper man on the staff of the Star & Herald, who acts as correspondent in Panamá for the AP, together with proposed replies:

Q. What is the status of the defense sites question from the US viewpoint? Q. Have any discussions been held, formally or informally, with Panamá on the resumption of negotiations? Q. What requirements must be fulfilled, from the US viewpoint, before negotiations can be resumed? Q. Has the United States drafted any list or plan of defense requirements that would be asked of Panamá if and when the negotiations are resumed? Q. If so, are these requirements radically different from those that existed at the time of the evacuation of the defense sites last December?

A. As to the foregoing five questions, reference is made to my statement to the press of last May 26, which is still a valid expression of [Page 680] the attitude and policy of the US Government with respect to defense sites. (For convenient reference the statement is quoted in full below.)1

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Q. What would happen if a sudden emergency arose and no negotiations had yet been undertaken? A. It is believed such a contingency is covered by Articles II and X of the General Treaty between the United States and Panamá, of March 2, 1936.

Q. Assuming that bases in Panamá will be negotiated for sooner or later, are the negotiations being delayed in any way pending Congress’ decision on the proposal for the conversion of the present Panama Canal to sea-level? Or is the delay solely a question of waiting for Panama to request the resumption of the negotiations? A. While it cannot be assumed that bases will be negotiated for, the reply to both the above questions is in the negative.

Q. Is the United States testing sentiment towards it before undertaking new bases negotiations—for example, would the approval or rejection by Panamá of the proposed aviation agreement have any bearing on US readiness to enter negotiations for bases? A. The purpose of the United States Government in proposing an air agreement is to resolve outstanding aviation questions. While the negotiations may be a test of our ability to conclude an agreement believed to be to the mutual advantage of both countries, the purpose of the negotiations is not to provide such a test. The Embassy in fact has no instructions to take up the question of defense sites irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations regarding aviation.

  1. See press statement of May 25, p. 670.