425. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Panama Canal Treaty Negotiations

Agreement has been reached by Tom Mann, Jack Vaughn, Steve Ailes and Bob Anderson on a new and forthcoming approach to the Panama Canal treaty negotiations. On the basis of the new instructions, Anderson hopes to be able to hold rapid and fruitful discussions with the Panamanians.

The core of the new approach is to tell the Panamanians that:

Our aim is to negotiate with them promptly a sea level canal treaty acceptable to both countries;
U.S. base rights and a status of forces agreement will be negotiated along with but separate from the canal treaty;
if agreement on a sea level canal is reached and U.S. base rights are obtained, we will alter our existing rights under the 1903 treaty and work out an interim treaty or a transitional agreement covering the period from the present to the coming into effect of the sea level canal treaty; and
we will attempt to finish our negotiations with the Panamanians before talking further about site surveys or a sea level canal with Colombia, Costa Rica or Nicaragua.

Bob Anderson will be talking with Congressmen tomorrow about the new approach in keeping with our commitment to tell certain Congressmen informally about any new proposals before informing the Panamanians.2

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If all goes well, the new approach will be explained to the Panamanians at a meeting in the State Department this Wednesday.3

McG. B.


Speak to me

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Bundy Files, Memos to the President, Vol. X. No classification marking.
  2. In a May 7 memorandum to Bundy, Mann emphasized the need to keep Congress informed: “We should be very sure that Congress is going along with us at all stages of the negotiations.” (Ibid., NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964)
  3. May 12.
  4. This option is checked. In a telephone conversation with Anderson on May 17, the President told him: “God almighty, you watch Panama any way you can.” Johnson continued, “Where you can really talk to ‘em and—gonna work out all right—do it so they can’t say that we messed around for a year and wouldn’t talk to ‘em.” (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Robert Anderson, May 17, 9:07 a.m.; Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F 65.29, Side A, PNO 1 and 2)