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349. Memorandum of Conversation0



Paris, France, December 13–15, 1962


  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Ambassador Elbrick
    • Assistant Secretary Tyler
    • Willis C. Armstrong, BNA
  • Portugal
    • Foreign Minister Nogueira
    • Ambassador Dr. Cunha
    • Mr. de Sousa Pernes


  • Portuguese Problems in the UN; Situation in Angola; Azores’ Base Discussions; US Policy Towards Portugal
[Page 953]

[Here follows discussion of other subjects.]

The Secretary turned his attention to the United States base at the Azores, and said that he understood that the Foreign Minister had indicated that current base arrangements could be extended pending the conclusion of the talks which had been proposed.1 The Secretary pointed out that a day to day extension is not very manageable and that it left us in a position in which our rights could be cancelled on a moment’s notice, if the Portuguese government concluded that the negotiations were not getting anywhere. Mr. Nogueira said that the position of his government was that the United States could stay as long as conversations continue and after negotiations are finalized unless we do not reach agreement. In the event of a recognition that agreement had not been reached, a six months period would start, and at the end of that six months the base arrangements would be terminated. The Secretary pointed out that we have very large commitments and the base is a very large operation. If we are legally subject to change at any moment, it is very difficult to operate. We would like to have some idea of the time we can stay and otherwise we are on shifting sands. As far as we are concerned, the question of the base arrangements becomes relevant as to how the talks go on other matters. It is difficult to see how to discuss all other matters while the tentative nature of the base arrangements hangs over our heads. We have to make contracts, order troop rotations, etc. We can not really be expected by an ally to be subject to unprecedented interruption in the operation of an important military facility. The Secretary wondered what kind of letter could be written by the Portuguese government, so that we could continue to work at the base. He wondered if we could have a one year extension or an agreement from the Portuguese that they would give a six months advance notice of the date on which the six months termination period could begin. Mr. Nogueira said he perceived the problem and would try and write something which would reach our point.

The Secretary asked whether the Foreign Minister had any comments on the other aspects of our discussions, and Mr. Nogueira said that the Ambassador always says that United States policy is not going to change. This is the policy of self-determination and Portugal does not expect this policy to change overnight or radically. The United States is entitled to its own position on such matters and there is no objection to the position, which is understood. Nevertheless, there are frequent occasions when the United States, through officials and other speakers, appears to single out Portugal for criticism. Also the United States appears [Page 954]to find it necessary to encourage people who work against Portuguese policy. The Secretary asked how the speeches had been on the sanctions resolution and Mr. Nogueira said that the speeches had been quite satisfactory, because they referred to a decision to integrate into another country as a form of self determination.

Mr. Nogueira went on to another point which was that general United States’ propaganda appeared to condemn Portugal, and often in circumstances when the net advantage for the United States was imperceptible. The impression conveyed by much of United States propaganda is that it is doing everything possible to make Angola and Mozambique collapse.

The Secretary asked the Foreign Minister what he felt about the aide-mémoire which was recently given to him,2 and he said there were some exceptions to be taken, which would be done in writing in due course. The Foreign Minister went on to say that if in fact the United States wishes to control or to destroy Portugal, this could be understood but each time Portugal is told of United States policy, it finds some bit of evidence which tends to contradict the statement of policy. President Kennedy had said that we should avoid friction and irritation, but irritation comes from the United States side, and tends to undermine the Portuguese position. Mr. Nogueira said he had been very pleased to note that the Secretary had spoken of Soviet threats as being global in nature, and that he had also included Africa as a part of Western security. Portugal felt that its position was more important than many people realized.

The Secretary said that he had two or three comments. In the first place, it was not the United States which raised the Portuguese question in the United Nations or anywhere else and the question comes up as a result of other initiatives. If we are asked how we feel, we must say that the Portuguese presence in Africa depends on the attitude of the people in the area they control. If the local people do not want the Portuguese, they will bleed them white and throw them out. The United States believes both in self determination and a continuing Portuguese presence in Africa. The Foreign Minister said he agreed that people could not be held against their will. The Secretary said that some of the things that bother Portugal involve private people or organizations, and we can not do anything about them. He wondered if Portugal had any complaint about statements made by the President or the Secretary of State, and Mr. Nogueira said no, but that sometimes other government people speak and criticize Portugal, and no correction is made. This seems to be a lack of good faith, because there is no clarification and no correction, [Page 955]despite the fact that the speeches are frequently contrary to the stated policy. The Secretary said that he was responsible for what government officers said, although he did not always know what this was. The Secretary added that we had worked very hard to assure fair treatment in the General Assembly, and Mr. Nogueira agreed. The Secretary asked how many allies had voted against the sanction resolution3 and Mr. Nogueira agreed there have been only four besides the United States. The Secretary said that our position on this matter was not contrived. The resolution was wrong and we said so. Mr. Nogueira conceded that there have been helpful remarks by the United States in the United Nations, but went on to say that the more outside pressure there is on Portugal, the slower it is likely to move in the direction in which the United States wants it to. The Secretary said he could see this point. Mr. Nogueira said there is a Portuguese public opinion and there can be no harm in Portugal’s pressure upon the United States but it is hard when there is pressure on Portugal. The Secretary said it is hard to be a satellite of forty-two allies.

The Secretary said that we agree with the Portuguese Ambassador in Washington in his comments about self determination in which he recognized that motion towards self determination should be from people inside a country not from the outside. If it were from the outside we agreed it should not happen and the UN and the Congo could not afford to have the kind of thing go on which had been described by Mr. Nogueira a little earlier. Mr. Nogueira asked whether the Secretary had read a recent interview of Salazar in Life magazine, in which Salazar had said that the United States believes in self determination, not necessarily independence. Puerto Rico, for example, is self determining but not independent.

Mr. Nogueira wondered how Portugal could be sure that the United States was not working behind its back. The Secretary said that we have to continue to work at credibility, separating fact from fiction, and suspicion from fact. Mr. Nogueria said that there is a difficulty in the tendency of many Americans, including officials, to talk like Afro-Asians, and what he would like is a denial by the United States of their assertions. The United States, according to Mr. Nogueira, has supported the thesis that Portugal is a threat to international security and this is pretty intolerable. Portugal had expected better from the United States. Sometimes the United States appeared to be talking principles and sometimes it appeared to be talking interests. The dialogue appeared to get rather confused sometimes, and Portugal had difficulty knowing which we were discussing.

[Page 956]

The Secretary asked about self determination for South Katanga and Mr. Nogueira said that this was a matter for the Congolese since Portugal has no opinion on the subject. He said that for 700 kilometers of Portugal’s frontiers in Africa there is trouble, and on the other 1,000 all is secure. One can not expect Portugal to feel like having the chaos extend over the other 1,000 kilometers as well. The Secretary said that if we were convinced that everybody could get out and stay out of the Congo and a line could be drawn around it, we would all be happy, but this does not seem to be the case. Mr. Nogueira agreed and said he realized the problem. He said that Portugal is not a champion of secession for Katanga. The Secretary said that unfortunately integration in the Congo determines what kind of government it will have.

Mr. Nogueira said that there were Americans working against Portugal in the Congo and the Secretary asked what kind of Americans they were. He said that Mr. Nogueira should tell Ambassador Elbrick about them.

The conversation ended with reiteration of the following points:

How can we be more precise in stating our policy so that the Portuguese can understand it?
We will proceed with the UN resolution on rapporteurs.
The Secretary will look at the Bingham speech.
Mr. Nogueira will see what he can say about the base so that there will be more stability of tenure and operation.
Both the Foreign Minister and the Secretary agreed that they would tell the press, if asked, that they had discussed a wide range of problems of mutual interest in the context of the Alliance.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 533, CF 2198. Secret. Drafted by Armstrong and approved in S on January 7, 1963.
  2. On December 11 Elbrick had reported this in telegram 435. (Ibid., Central Files, 611.537/12–1162)
  3. Presumably this is the aide-mémoire of November 14, which apparently made a commitment to issue a high-level statement condemning attacks on overseas territories. No copy has been found, but it is described briefly in aigram 465 from Lisbon, March 6, 1963. (Ibid., Pol Port-US)
  4. For text of Resolution 1807 (XVII), December 14, see U.N. doc. A/5349; printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 198–200.