137. Editorial Note

Legal Advisor John R. Stevenson and Under Secretary of the Navy John W. Warner met with Brazilian Foreign Minister Mario Gibson on May 11, 1971, and delivered a letter from President Richard Nixon to President Emílio Médici of Brazil. The U.S. officials were optimistic that Gibson would give serious thought to the suggestion in President Nixon’s letter that Brazil defer implementation of its fishing regulations, provided Gibson was reasonably sure of the willingness of the United States to hold bilateral talks on the fishing dispute soon after the Seabeds Committee meeting in Geneva in the summer. (Memorandum from Nachmanoff to Kissinger, May 12, 1971; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 771, Country Files, Brazil, Vol. II, September 1970–July 31, 1971; Telegram 366 from Brasilia, May 11; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 33–4 BRAZ–US. Secret) However, as the June 1 deadline approached, no formal or informal assurances that the regulations would not be enforced were offered by the Brazilian Government. (Telegrams 3519, May 21, and 3677, May 27, from Rio de Janeiro; ibid.)

On May 25, Secretary of State William P. Rogers submitted an options paper to President Nixon outlining the positions of the Departments of State and Defense on how to respond in the event Brazil enforced its fishing regulations to 200 miles beyond its coastline. The Department of State urged that multilateral negotiations be scheduled, but stated that it would accept bilateral negotiations if necessary. The Department of State requested Brazil delay its implementation of the 200 mile territorial sea claim pending negotiations. The Department of State wanted to delay the talks until autumn, but was prepared to undertake them sooner if necessary. The Department of Defense recommended that negotiations with Brazil over fisheries would prejudice the U.S. legal position at the 1973 Law of the Sea conference, and that the United States should continue to pressure Brazil to delay enforcement of its fishing regulations, even at the cost of disruption in U.S.-Brazilian relations. Further, Defense urged that direct communication between Nixon and Médici and an early announcement of the planned Médici visit to the United States in the fall be used to induce the Brazilians to delay enforcement. (Memorandum from Rogers to Nixon, May 25; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 771, Country Files, Brazil, Vol. II, September 1970–July 31, 1971, Top Secret) For more information on the U.S. position at the Law of the Sea conference, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–3, Documents on Global Issues, 1973–1976.

On May 27, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger recommended that Nixon authorize the opening of talks with the Brazilians in the fall, as it would give U.S. officials time to formulate a position vis-à-vis Brazil consistent with the overall oceans policy, which was then under consideration.

Kissinger stated that if the Brazilians insisted on an earlier starting date, the talks would begin sooner. He concluded that the U.S. offer to begin talks was “likely though not certain to avert seizures of U.S. fishing vessels” in the 200-mile zone. (Memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, May 27; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–224, NSDM Files, NSDM 111) On May 29, in National Security Decision Memorandum 111, Nixon approved opening talks with Brazil “after the completion of the preparatory law of the sea negotiations to be held in Geneva beginning July 19.” (NSDM 111, May 29; ibid.) However, the President would consider starting the discussions earlier if Brazil so desired. For the full text of NSDM 111, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–1, Documents on Global Issues, 1969–1972, Document 397.