492. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

13904. For Ambassador Only. Following message, dated July 28, 1967, from the President to the Prime Minister, sent by WH Private Channel, is for Embassy FYI only:

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I have reviewed your request on the sale of Canberras to Peru with the greatest care.2 I appreciate your consulting with us on this matter and the cooperation we have had from your Government on military sales to Latin America.

Congressional feeling on the acquisition of unnecessary military equipment by under-developed countries receiving economic assistance from us has reached such a point that the whole foreign aid program is threatened.

Peru is at present seeking substantial economic assistance. Were they to use scarce foreign exchange on military procurement at a time when we are furnishing dollars to tide them over financial difficulties, the Congressional and public reaction would be so strong that our ability to continue supporting the Alliance for Progress would be seriously endangered. Earlier this week our Ambassador in Lima informed President Belaunde of our willingness to conclude a sizeable loan provided we could agree, among other things, on a total level of military spending, with special attention to costs of major equipment purchases such as aircraft.

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President Belaunde understands that the purchase of French Mirage aircraft would make it impossible for us to go forward with the loan. Unfortunately the Canberras also fall within our general conditions to Peru about levels of military spending, and we could not successfully explain to Congress why under such circumstances we have given consent to sell Canberras to Peru.

I feel that I must do all that I can at this time to meet widely and deeply held Congressional objections to unnecessary arms expenditures by countries such as Peru. This includes equipment of United States origin. Certain influential Congressmen have for the moment expressed their concern about supersonic military aircraft, because it is the supersonic Mirage that has been the major problem. But I am sure that if I did consent to the sale of the sub-sonic but medium-range Canberra, Congressional reactions would be equally strong.

For these reasons, and with full understanding of the embarrassing position in which the British aircraft representatives in Lima will find themselves, I must conclude that we cannot alter the negative decision on the proposed sale.

I realize that the United Kingdom group will have to tell the Peruvians why the Canberra sale cannot go forward, and I have no objection to their doing so. While there is some added risk that the denial of Canberras might of itself trigger a Peruvian decision to spurn American assistance and buy Mirages, I have some doubt that this would occur. It seems to me that it is a risk which we will have to take, given our major problems with the Congress with our foreign aid programs. End text.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12–5 PERU. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Text received from the White House and approved by Francis Meehan (S/S). A draft message to Prime Minister Wilson that was nearly identical to the final version, was enclosed in a July 27 memorandum from Rusk to the President. (Ibid.) Rostow forwarded the draft to the President under the cover of a July 27 memorandum. A handwritten note indicates that Johnson returned this memorandum on July 28, evidently implying his approval of the message. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 26)
  2. Rostow forwarded Wilson’s request under the cover of a memorandum to the President, July 26. Wilson acknowledged the “right of the U.S. government to withhold permission in this case, since these aircraft are partly M.D.A.P.-funded.” The Prime Minister maintained, however, that the sale should be approved; Peru already had Canberra aircraft and could acquire “less suitable aircraft” from other sources, e.g. the French. “Indeed, in his present mood,” Wilson argued, “De Gaulle might regard this as an excellent opportunity to make trouble for and between us; and, of course, between yourselves and the Peruvians.” (Ibid.) Additional documentation on the Canberra issue is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12–5 PERU.