67. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Panama Canal Negotiations


  • Defense

    • General Brown, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
    • General Weyand, Chief of Staff, Army
    • Admiral Bagley, Vice Chief of Naval Operations
    • General Jones, Chief of Staff, Air Force
    • General Anderson, Assistant Commandant, Marine Corps
    • Vice Admiral Train, Director, Joint Staff
    • Ambassador Koren, Chairman, Panama Canal Working Group
    • Mr. Jordan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)
  • State

    • Ambassador Bunker
    • Minister Bell
    • Mr. Wyrough
    • Mr. Barkley
    • Mr. Vest, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
    • Mr. Churchill, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
    • Captain Pasztalaniec, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
[Page 187]

Ambassador Bunker’s opening remarks were substantially as contained in the enclosure.2 He remarked that he has presented no position to the Panamanian negotiators that had not been cleared in advance with the Department of Defense.

At the conclusion of Ambassador Bunker’s opening remarks, General Brown asked what the United States would get in exchange for agreement to a treaty of shorter duration. Ambassador Bunker responded that the guidance change is critical and that there would be no treaty without a lesser term than now authorized by the President.

With regard to the land use question, Amb. Bunker said that further work was required but that he was hopeful that some mutually acceptable formula that will give the total substance of control while disguising the outline of the United States presence could be reached. He observed that recent discussions showed that the Panamanian land use position presented in January had omitted lands associated with the so-called “other activities.”

On the question of expansion, Amb. Bunker anticipated agreement on the basis of a definitive option of short duration in combination with a right of first refusal for a longer period.

General Brown said that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had recently recommended the inactivation of SOUTHCOM with establishment of a small residual element for security assistance and related matters. He mentioned that he disagreed slightly with the Service Chiefs over the details of establishing this element. He stressed a concern of his, which he said is shared by Vice President Rockefeller, to avoid action which would create the impression in Latin America of a lessening U.S. interest in the area. In this sense, he stressed the value of continuing the existing military schools which are now located in the Canal Zone. General Brown also commented about the significant manpower savings, reduction in numbers of general officer spaces, and lowered profile associated with the disestablishment and the various alternative plans being considered for discharge of the residual functions.

Ambassador Bunker responded to General Jones’ question concerning the congressional mood by acknowledging that we face a tough fight. He said the new Congress is an unknown and that there is no constituency favoring a treaty. However, with the backing of the President and the State and Defense Departments he was optimistic that we could move the treaty forward. In any event, he observed that Panama has said that it would rather have a treaty that sits than no [Page 188]treaty—that such a situation would show the Administration’s good will.

Ambassador Bunker stressed, in response to General Brown’s query about company employees in the SOFA, that he would insist upon equal rights.

General Weyand observed that Governor Parker in recent conversation with him shared Amb. Bunker’s view that it is now or never for a treaty. He quoted General Parker as saying that Amb. Bunker needs flexibility, that Panama has a real interest in seeing the Canal operated effectively, and that the duration of our right to operate the canal is less important than that for the canal’s defense. Ambassador Bunker agreed.

General Weyand asked Amb. Koren for Secretary Callaway’s views. He said that the Secretary would stand by any decision of the President but that he would favor a treaty duration for as long as possible. General Brown observed that a shorter duration works against the likelihood of Senate ratification.

Admiral Bagley asked why Panama would want a 30 rather than 50 year treaty. Amb. Bunker responded that we offered them a 30 year treaty in 1967 and that we would like a residual presence after treaty expiration. General Brown concluded by observing that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are concerned with the security of the United States, not Panama, and that they would be weighing Amb. Bunker’s views carefully in considering the issues involved in the proposed guidance change. He remarked that since they would be expected to help support a treaty before the Congress they would want to see a treaty supportive of our security.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Ambassador Bunker’s Correspondence, Lot 78D300, Box 3, DOA–DOD, Liaison With. Confidential. Drafted by Wyrough. The meeting was held at the Pentagon.
  2. An undated paper entitled “Suggested Remarks for Ambassador Bunker’s Meeting with Joint Chiefs of Staff” is attached but not printed.