97. Memorandum From Stephen Low of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger 1

SUBJECT

  • Clements-Brown Trip to Panama

As Bill Rogers has undoubtedly told you, the Clements-Brown trip to Panama, which I accompanied was quite successful in itself.2 Unfortunately, I do not believe that it will set to rest for any length of time the differences between the two Departments on the subject.

Clements and Brown said exactly the right things to the Panamanians and to the Americans in the Zone:

A) To the Panamanians they said that we would not be prepared to sign a treaty for a year or two, but that

—the President was serious in his desire to negotiate a new treaty;

—the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, though unenthusiastic at first, were now fully committed to a new agreement;

—any violence would make this more difficult for us and therefore we needed Panamanian cooperation in keeping the situation quiet.

Torrijos responded that he needed:

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—help from the Zone militarily to keep the situation quiet;

—some successes (“conquistas”) to demonstrate to his people that the U.S. was serious in its purpose.

B) To the American military commanders, both the Governor and the CINC, Clements and Brown stated

—their unequivocal support for the negotiations;

—the expectation that we could arrive at a new agreement in the next year or two;

—their insistence that we begin now preparing Panamanians to take over from us at the end of the treaty period.

They directed the U.S. military commanders in Panama to adopt a new attitude from the top-down, looking towards a more cooperative relationship with the Panamanians.

There are already indications that in spite of this forthright attitude and the initial impression of unity, problems between State and Defense are likely to reappear. The party included Assistant Secretary of the Army Veysey, who has responsibility for the Canal. However, Clements made very clear that he himself would continue handling the Panama matter personally, and he left Veysey out of it. He told us frankly (and privately) that ISA was not “with us” on this matter. I believe the new Army Secretary (Marty Hoffman) will not be long in wanting to assert his voice in this (he ‘owns’ the Canal Company, as you know), and that he will be supported by Bob Ellsworth in ISA. As long as Clements is around to express himself, Gen. Brown will go along with him, and they can keep things running in the right direction. However, Clements blows hot and cold on this, as you know. Further, his unwillingness to designate middle and lower level support for his position will open him to a lot of negative pressure from others. Further pressure will inevitably be generated by some of the military and the Zonians.

Appointment of a Deputy Negotiator from Defense will help a little. However, I don’t think it will be long before we get a new series of complaints from DOD and some foot dragging, unless Clements is willing to appoint some middle-level people who look at things his way and are willing to spend full-time working with State on this problem.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Latin America, Box 6, Panama (3). Secret; Outside the System. Sent for information.
  2. Jorden reported on the reactions to the September 3 visit of Brown, Clements, and Rogers in telegram 5407 from Panama City, September 4. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D750306–0284)