Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Robert J. Dorr of the Office of South American Affairs


Subject: Courtesy Call by Admiral Saldías

Participants: Admiral Roque A. Saldías, Peruvian Minister of Marine
Minister Germán Aramburù, Peruvian Chargé
ARA—Mr. Miller
OSA—Mr. Dorr

Admiral Saldías called to pay his respects to Mr. Miller and to extend his personal and official thanks as well as the thanks of the Peruvian Navy for the Department’s assistance in facilitating the transfer of three D–E’s to Peru.1 Saldías indicated the D–E’s would be ready for formal transfer sometime in March as there is considerable rehabilitation to be accomplished as well as training of the crews.

Admiral Saldías said he will call on the Secretary of Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations tomorrow in the company of Admiral Miles. During these visits, he will inquire regarding the possibility of transferring a cruiser to Peru as Peru has funds earmarked for such a purchase which can be used for other unspecified purposes in case a cruiser is not available. The Admiral was appreciative of the information he had received from Ambassador Tittmann and believed his conversations tomorrow were the best means of finding out definitely.

Saldías said he would witness the signing today of the contract with the Electric Boat Co. for the construction of two submarines. Friday he departs for San Francisco to inspect an LST Peru has purchased, will return to Washington briefly and then visit the D-E’s at Jacksonville with Admiral Miles before returning to Lima.

Mr. Miller spoke of the good relations between the two countries and mentioned the fine work Ambassador Berckemeyer was doing in obtaining a settlement of Peru’s external debt, especially as such [Page 1606] settlement presaged considerable benefit to Peru from loans which will be available from the IBRD. Admiral Saldías remarked Peru officially recognized the need for re-establishing its credit rating And was confident the bond settlement would be ratified by Congress. Commenting on Pedro Beltràn’s2 attitude on this matter, Saldías was sure Beltran recognized the need for such settlement in spite of his previous objection to further dealings with the Foreign Bondholders Protective Council. Saldías also said there had been little press or public comment in Peru on the announced settlement terms and what there had been was favorable.

Mr. Miller likewise introduced the subject of a proposed U.S. duty on tuna fish imports. He indicated the Department was seriously concerned with this proposal in spite of the Department’s letter on the subject to the House Ways and Means Committee, which had not been cleared with the interested political sections of the Department. Admiral Saldías stated he had received many calls on this subject when his trip to the U.S. became known. He said the cotton and sugar producers in Peru were also financially interested in the exploitation of Peru’s fantastically rich fishing resources and that considerable Peruvian capital was tied up in this nascent industry, which would be seriously affected if not killed by our imposition of a duty. The Admiral said he had received complaints that tuna fishing vessels of non-U.S. registry but with U.S. crews or ownership had been violating Peruvian fishing regulations frequently, though he had not ordered any patrol action by the Peruvian Navy as he did not wish to comiplicate the present situation by any action that might be considered hostile. He said Ecuador had requested Peru’s cooperation in presenting a unified resistance front, along with other countries, but indicated Peru officially did not wish to do so at this time, again to avoid complicating the problem. He said Peru officially was remaining calm on the subject in the expectation this threat to its industry would not materialize, although he said the same was not true for those outside the administration. He referred to the verbal attack on Congressman McKinnon,3 sponsor of the U.S. bill, by Peruvian fishing interests during the Congressman’s recent visit to Lima and the proposed legislation introduced in the Peruvian Congress which would triple import duties on many articles imported from the U.S. to provide dEunds to assist the Peruvian fishing industry. Admiral Saldías indicated these methods were not sponsored nor approved of by the Peruvian Government.

Mr. Miller then turned the conversation to a discussion of possible Peruvian military participation in Korea, mentioning his previous [Page 1607] conversations on the subject with General Noriega4 and Foreign Minister Gallagher.5 Prefacing his comments by making a distinction between this subject and the probable future discussions with Peru on hemisphere defense under the Mutual Security Act,6 Mr. Miller reviewed the financial aspects of a Peruvian contribution to Korea in order that this aspect be clearly understood by Peru. He said that any Peruvian contingent, whether military or naval, would be considered the same as an American unit and be equipped, trained, supplied and serviced the same as American units. While such support would be given only on a reimbursable basis, the matter of reimbursement would be the subject of future negotiations and arrangements. Admiral Saldías expressed his keen interest in this information as he initially had questions on the financial aspects in considering possible Peruvian naval participation. Admiral Saldías said he personally believed Peru should send units to Korea in order to comply with Peru’s international obligations and fully agreed with Mr. Miller’s opinion that service in Korea was highly desirable from a professional standpoint because of the experience gained by troops. Admiral Saldías stated he had always been in favor of sending naval units to Korea and had so informed President Odria, He spoke, rather vaguely, of one or two frigates, especially since the recent rehabilitation of two frigates and the future receipt of three D-E’s will put the Peruvian Navy in a position where it can afford to release units for use in Korea.

The Admiral showed particular interest in Mr. Miller’s brief mention of discussing the subject with General Noriega and specifically asked if Noriega had made any special comment on the proposal. When, told Noriega had not made any specific comment, Admiral Saldías stated he could only speak for the Navy and not for the Army. His facial reaction reflected the apparent opinion that Noriega was not in favor of sending troops to Korea and that a Peruvian contribution was doubtful without Noriega’s express approval. His manner and statements on this subject implied that Noriega was the key to Peruvian assistance and had not been in favor of the idea heretofore.7

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Mr. Miller also inquired about the pending petroleum legislation, pointing up his remarks about the benefits to Peru of acceptable legislation by referring to the tremendous advantages Venezuela has obtained through its oil resources and their exploitation. Admiral Saldías expressed the opinion the proposed legislation would pass both the Chamber and the Senate during the present special session in spite of the large number of Deputies who are scheduled to speak on the subject. The Admiral felt many Deputies were trying to gain popularity by nationalistic remarks but believed the people would soon tire of the subject with a resultant rapid close to the debate and approval of the legislation. Saldías said President Odria inquired daily about the legislative debate and had many private conversations daily with interested individuals. The Minister of Public Works8 is keeping a daily voting and speech record on the many Deputies, a record which Admiral Saldías implied would have an effect on the course of the debate and voting. Referring to “El Comercio’s” strongly nationalistic editorial on the subject, Saldías said he had been unable prior to his departure to talk with Pedro Beltran and was not certain what his motivation was. However, the Admiral said “El Comercio” “no pesa ya” and that its nationalistic editorials were not important or influential.9

  1. The United States Congress authorized the transfer of three destroyer escorts to Peru under Public Law 146, approved September 15, 1951; for text, see 65 Stat. 322.
  2. Editor and publisher of the Peruvian newspaper, La Prensa; he had served as Ambassador to the United States, 1944–1946.
  3. Clinton D. McKinnon (D-Calif.).
  4. See footnote 2, p. 1600.
  5. Apparent reference to Mr. Miller’s conversation with the Foreign Minister, summarized in Mr. Miller’s letter to Ambassador Tittmann, p. 1600.
  6. For text of the Mutual Security Act (Public Law 165), approved October 10, 1951, see 65 Stat. 373.
  7. In a letter to Assistant Secretary Miller, dated December 11, 1951, Ambassador Tittmann stated in part the following: “Regarding Peruvian troops for Korea, the outlook, I am sorry to say, is not too bright for the moment. After consulting with Gallagher, I went over to the Ministry of War on December 10 to have a talk with General Noriega in his office. His manner was not enthusiastic when I brought up the subject of the troops. … He said that he had promised you when he was in Washington that he would take the matter up with President Odría. … This he has done and he therefore considered that Ms promise to you had been fulfilled. He went on to say that OdrÍa continued to feel that he (Odría) could not order Peruvian soldiers to serve outside of the country without the approval of Congress.” (Miller Files, Lot 53 D 26)
  8. Carlos Salazar Southwell.
  9. In telegram 307, from Lima, dated December 17, 1951, not printed, the Embassy notified the Department of State that the petroleum bill under consideration in the Chamber of Deputies was approved on December 15 (823.2553/12–1751); thereupon it went to the Peruvian Senate.