Dear Mr. Secretary:
Thank you for your letter of April 15 regarding our current efforts to develop international agreement on some important aspects of law of the seas. You expressed special concern with the interests of United States fisheries and hope that they not be prejudiced by the international efforts now underway.
I agree with the comments you make in your letter relating the need to accommodate the interests of United States fisheries whenever possible in reaching an international agreement. I also agree with you that defense interests outweigh fishery interests, if it comes to a conflict between the two. However, we hope that our efforts can be successful without this conflict arising.
I would like to comment on two specific points you raised. You state that after the meeting of December 12, 1968 in Under Secretary Katzenbach’s office, “decisions on strategy have ignored domestic fishery interests.” I should be concerned if such were the case; however, I understand that responsible officers in your Department have been brought into all our activities in this area since December 12, including our meetings with the Soviets which produced the fisheries article in our present set of draft articles.[Page 2]
You urge that we have an inter-departmental review of the consideration to be given domestic fisheries interests in determining the United States positions on this problem and express concern that the consultations this week in the North Atlantic Council not prejudice this review. After these consultations, we hope to begin a worldwide canvass as soon as possible to determine whether a law of the sea conference can be held successfully. We, of course, would be happy to review with you and the other interested agencies all the aspects of this matter. I believe that this review would not be prejudiced by the upcoming NATO discussions and, after talking with our European Allies, we may be in a better position to consider the issue you are particularly concerned with.