136. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Possible Security Council Meeting in Panama

Subsequent to our memorandum of September 252 a number of developments made more difficult—and urgent—our task of preventing a Security Council meeting in Panama which would unhelpfully focus on the Canal Zone. We have now made clear to Security Council members our strong opposition to such a meeting and believe we have induced some second thoughts concerning its desirability. However, to be successful we will have to persuade Panama and/or Security Council members to back away from the issue; if the matter were pressed to a vote now, it is unlikely that we could win. However, the issue may be joined only in 1973—when the composition of the Council will be still less favorable to us. Panama is scheduled to preside over the SC in March, 1973.

Panama’s hard campaigning on the “colonialism” aspects of such a meeting succeeded in making the non-European SC members wary about opposing a meeting and elicited considerable support. Two particular developments strengthened Panama’s position: Unexpectedly French Foreign Minister Schumann at a dinner for Latin American representatives September 26 gave a public endorsement to the SC meeting in Panama. And it appears that Panama may have obtained Indian assurance of support in return for Panama’s support of the Indian position on the admission of Bangladesh to the United Nations.

On October 5 Embassy Paris under instructions made a forceful approach to Schumann explaining our objections to the SC meeting in Panama and stressing the seriousness with which we regard the matter. After having said at first that he was “completely” committed to the meeting, Schumann was taken aback by our representation, stating that he had misunderstood the situation and concluding, “I must disentangle myself from myself. I have been uncautious and it will take time.”3 We also weighed in with Douglas-Home who indicated that he [Page 258] would remind Schumann of their previous correspondence on the subject and urge him to oppose the SC meeting in Panama.4

In New York we have had repeated conversations with Panamanian Permanent Representative Boyd, emphasizing that we regard it as inadmissible for Panama to attempt to manipulate SC procedures as a propaganda exercise aimed at the U.S. public, asserting that this initiative would backfire in the United States and underlining the pertinence of the fact that there are no Latin American issues currently being considered by the Security Council.5 Ambassador Jova made a somewhat similar approach to Panamanian OAS Ambassador Pitty in Washington stressing that the attempt to stage an SC meeting in Panama would hinder the prospects of constructive bilateral progress on the Canal question. Ambassador Finch, as the President’s Personal Representative, is to make this point also to the Panamanians in general terms at the inaugural ceremonies October 11 if the issue is raised with him.

Our Mission in New York has conveyed our opposition to the Panamanian SC meeting to present and prospective SC members—except the People’s Republic of China whom we are still trying to see. With the exception of the European SC members (and French and Austrian attitudes are still equivocal) SC members are inclined to favor the meeting in principle and indicate they would find it difficult not to go along if the issue is pressed to a vote.6 However, our point that there are no Latin American matters currently before the Security Council together with our strong opposition seems to be striking home even with the Soviet and African delegations.

We intend to concentrate on finding a “way out” that will induce wavering SC members, Argentina and other sympathetic Latin American countries to persuade Panama to withdraw its proposal. However, we do not wish to provoke Torrijos into a polemical reaction and, hence, will not initiate or encourage discussion of the substance of U.S.-Panamanian positions or differences in the Canal Zone negotiations. Nonetheless, we can and will stress that we have recently reiterated to the Panamanians (by means of a confidential letter from the President to Torrijos) our desire to resume negotiations, and that we are prepared to be forthcoming and flexible in them. We will utilize any helpful signals that Ambassador Finch may receive from General Torrijos in this regard. We will, of course, also continue our efforts to bring the French around.

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We are not yet prepared to have a confrontation with Torrijos. But we are making clear the extent and rationale of our opposition to an SC meeting in Panama to Panamanian Foreign Minister Tack as we are unsure how accurately or fully Boyd has reported our position to him.

Richard W. Mueller 7
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 3 SC. Confidential. Drafted by Armitage and cleared by Bell and Herz.
  2. Presumably a reference to Document 129, which was drafted on September 25.
  3. See Document 133.
  4. See Document 132.
  5. See Document 135.
  6. Opinions of Security Council members were summarized in telegram 3772 from USUN, October 9. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 3 SC)
  7. Mueller signed for Eliot above Eliot’s typed signature.