367. Memorandum for the Record0



  • Secretary Rusk, Ambassador Stevenson, Ambassador Yost, Messrs. Harlan Cleveland, G. Mennen Williams, Henry Tasca, Abe Chayes, Department of State; Secretary McNamara, Mr. William Bundy, Department of Defense; Messrs. Schlesinger and Brubeck, The White House
Before the President entered Secretary McNamara raised the problem of the 1951 US-Portuguese letter of understanding which committed us, on Portuguese request, to permit use of US supplied arms in Portuguese Africa. Since our freedom of action on Portugal is in fact greatly limited so long as this understanding is in force, it was agreed that State and Defense would review the problem and possible renunciation of the 1951 agreement, for later Presidential consideration.
The President suggested that we should so far as possible, sit back and let others take the lead. He thought the French might use an American lead as a pretext to criticize us to the Portuguese. He thought we should listen to the Africans, Portuguese, etc., express our concern but offer no specific solutions, and let the situation develop next week. He agreed that the timing of any compromise proposal must remain a matter of judgment and flexibility.
Ambassadors Stevenson and Yost pointed out that it is not enough simply to block an extreme resolution since this would simply ensure a possibly drastic resolution in the Assembly in the fall.
The President agreed with Secretary McNamara that, even if we reach the point of ourselves surfacing such idea as a mediator scheme, we should avoid if at all possible taking the lead on any embargo proposal. The State Department undertook, at the President’s request, to revise our draft resolution language to soften the onesided effect of arms embargo language against Portugal.
The President authorized Ambassador Stevenson in light of the guidance of this discussion and the President’s desire to avoid a conspicuous American initiative to use his own discretion in the development of tactics of a Security Council debate. He stressed, however, that in light of the critical issues up this year, such as a possible test ban treaty, it is of the utmost importance to avoid a risk of losing the Azores.
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Meetings with the President, 5/63-7/63. Secret. Drafted by Brubeck. The meeting was held at the White House.