397. National Security Action Memorandum No. 951


  • The Secretary of State

As you know, the President of Panama has sent me a letter requesting that we re-negotiate our Panama Canal Treaties. It seems to me we should take a careful look at this problem with a view to analyzing what our basic interests are in the Canal Zone, what concessions we could make, and on what terms we could reasonably expect to get a long-term settlement. After we formulate our own views we should discuss them quietly with the Panamanians. We don’t want to make a public announcement of negotiations until we have decided what the result of the talks will be.

I think we should establish a special working group with Assistant Secretary Woodward as Chairman,2 including representatives from [Page 816] Defense, the Budget Bureau, Jerry Wiesner3 and Dick Goodwin. I would like the recommendations of this group within the next two weeks. After that we can go ahead and begin some talks with the Panamanians. You might also bring Farland up for consultation with the group.

John Kennedy
  1. Source: Department of State, NSAM Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM 95. Secret. A September 15 memorandum from NSC Executive Secretary Bromley K. Smith states that after Kennedy’s memorandum had been distributed, it had been decided to include it in the NSAM series and to insert a subject line. Smith’s memorandum is filed with a copy of NSAM 95, which includes the subject line, “Renegotiation of Panama Canal Treaty.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Panama, General)
  2. A memorandum of September 27 from Battle to McGeorge Bundy indicates that the Department was making arrangements for Under Secretary Ball to chair the study; an attached note states that Bromley Smith had indicated White House approval. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.1913/9-2761)
  3. Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Jerome Wiesner.