407. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson 1


  • Ambassador Bunker’s meeting with Moreno

Bunker reports that he had a quite satisfactory talk with Moreno this afternoon.2 He presented to Moreno the attached redraft, from which the direct reference to the Panama Canal has been removed.3 He told Moreno that he had your personal backing in making this proposal and that what you were aiming at was the simplest, clearest understanding that was possible. He told Moreno further that you did not want complicated language which might stand in the way of [Page 862] getting an agreement through the Senate at some later time. He told Moreno that we had no fall-back position and that if this did not work we thought it would be best to wait until the elections.

All in all, he sounds as if he had acted like the excellent Ambassador that he is, and I wish we had used the technique of sending him in with your direct instructions before now.

Moreno did not seem to be terribly distressed at the omission of the Panama Canal reference, but he did argue strongly for the inclusion of the footnote saying that the word “agreement” is used “in the broadest sense that the word has in international law.” Bunker told him that we did not want that clause in the statement of agreement, but when Moreno said that it would be only a repetition of what the Chairman of the Council has said before, Bunker indicated that we would not object to having Chairman Lavalle repeat it on his own. He took this position because Dean Rusk had told him earlier that phrase was really no bother to us, and that in fact it protects us. Dean’s reasoning is that “the broadest sense” covers everything from an informal oral understanding to a treaty. It remains true that some Panamanians will read this note as meaning that the agreement which is being sought will be a new treaty.

But as long as we are not pinned to this understanding directly, and as long as we are protected by the fundamental clause of the whole arrangement—”without limitations or preconditions of any kind”—I think we can endure to have the Chairman interpret the agreement in this way. Do you agree? If not, we should tell Bunker at once.

Moreno left Bunker saying that he would do his best to button up an agreement on this basis. My own guess is that we may get one more bit of pressure from Panama, but Bunker is optimistic.4

McG. B. 5
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. III. No classification marking.
  2. In a telephone conversation earlier that afternoon, Bundy told the President that “we’re again sort of within a very few inches of an agreement” with Panama. (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and McGeorge Bundy, April 1, 2:23 p.m.; ibid., Transcripts and Recordings, Tape F64.22, Side A, PNO 2)
  3. Not attached; the language as approved is printed in Department of State Bulletin, April 27, 1964, p. 656, and American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1964, pp. 365–366.
  4. On April 2 the NSC met to review a number of issues including Panama. According to Bromley Smith’s account of the meeting, Rusk stated that “there may be developments later today with respect to wording of an announcement which would be acceptable to us.” (Summary Record of NSC Meeting No. 525, April 2, noon; Johnson Library, Natioal Security File, NSC Meetings File, Vol. I, Tab 6, 4/2/64) According to McCone’s account of the meeting, Rusk reported that “there was a possibility that today or tomorrow there would be a break which would permit us to move to the conference table” with Panama. McCone noted in his record of this NSC meeting that “on April 1st, the President asked me personally if I thought we were acting correctly on this Panama issue. I replied that I felt his position was defendable and would not recommend any changes.” (Memorandum for the record by McCone, April 2; Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80–B01285A, Meetings with the President) Prior to the NSC meeting on April 2, Johnson queried McNamara about the pending agreement. He responded that having an agreement would be helpful and the timing, in spite of the Fulbright speech, was all right. “I think if it drifts on too long, there’ll be criticism mounting in our own press, so I would conclude it.” (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Robert McNamara, April 2, 11:15 a.m.; Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.22, Side A, PNO 5)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.