395. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2

Kissinger: We have one other technical [unclear] connected with Latin America. The Brazilians have established a 200 mile limit, and they want to start enforcing it as of June 1st.

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: Now, our problem is that unless we get them—unless we tell them that we’re willing to negotiate the fisheries issue with them, they will have to start enforcing it. We’ve already agreed to negotiate, but we don’t have a formal position yet. And so there’s some debate. The State Department wants to negotiate now, but the Defense Department wants to have a showdown. They’re not so concerned about fisheries, but they’re concerned about law of the seas. I would recommend that we tell them we’re willing to negotiate in the fall. That if we—because if we don’t do it on fisheries, the Latin Americans will oppose us on the more important issue of navigation, which comes up on the law of the seas conference later this year. While if we can settle Brazil, it’s not basically a hostile country to us. [unclear]

Nixon: I don’t give a damn about the fisheries anyway. Let everybody have 200 miles to fish. They’re all poverty-stricken down there anyway.

Kissinger: If we dig in on the fisheries, we’ll lose on navigation—

Nixon: Navigation we want. Let them fish if they want. That’s my view.

Kissinger: Well, that’s my recommendation, Mr. President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, Oval Office, Conversation No. 507-4. No classification marking. The portion of the discussion transcribed was part of a conversation covering a variety of subjects that began at 8:13 a.m. and concluded at 10:32 a.m. The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume. Assistant to the President H. R. Haldeman was also present at the meeting but did not speak during the portion of the conversation transcribed.
  2. Nixon and Kissinger agreed that the highest priority for U.S. oceans policy should be to secure free navigation on the high seas and through international straits.