314. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, May 18, 1972.1 2

[Page 1]

Washington, D.C. 20520

May 18, 1972


Subject: Fisheries dispute with Ecuador, Peru and Chile

My memorandum of April 28, in response to your request of March 4, updated the Department’s views on the status of our fisheries dispute with Ecuador, Peru and Chile and the prospects for its settlement in the light of recent developments in the law of the sea negotiations, the conclusion of a fishery agreement with Brazil, the resumption of military sales to Peru, and the developing policies of the new regime in Ecuador.

More recently the Department has had occasion to review the possible strategies for continuing efforts to resolve the vessel seizure problem, to which we consider Ecuador the key. We have begun to implement the following scenario as the one most likely to be productive, both in terms of the specific problem and of normalizing other aspects of our relations with Ecuador insofar as possible.

1. Three development assistance loans for Ecuador which had been held under review since January 1971 have been released for signature.

2. On Ambassador Burns’s return to Quito, he will ask the GOE to engage in quiet, informal talks, involving a small number of persons, in which the United States [Page 2] will explain the Brazilian fishery agreement and explore the possibilities of adapting it to a solution of the tuna boat seizure problem.

3. If the exploratory talks indicate reasonable prospects for a Brazilian-type solution, either bilaterally or in a new quadripartite conference, or if they reveal some other basis for an end or an acceptable limitation of the seizures, we will, after consultations with Congress and the fishing industry, recommend lifting the military sales suspension on the basis of reasonable assurances against continued seizures and will then proceed with fishery negotiations while initiating discussions of a new MAP program.

4. Planning of new development assistance projects for the GOE will be carried forward while efforts to resolve the vessel seizure problem continue. While we will studiously avoid any appearance of a direct linkage, such projects will be taken up and discussed with the GOE only when and to the extent that progress toward a solution of the seizure problem warrants, in order to ensure that we do not enter into commitments which we will be unable to honor because of renewed seizures and their repercussions.

We will continue studying possible alternatives with a view to being in a position to recommend other actions in the event that these do not produce the desired results.

[R.H. Miller signed for]
Theodore L. Eliot, Jr.
Executive Secretary

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 784, Country Files, Ecuador, Vol. 1, 1969–1970. Confidential. RH Miller signed for Eliot above Eliot’s typeset signature. Attached but not published is a May 22 covering memorandum to Kissinger, in which Hewitt stated, “Essentially the strategy is to use the fisheries agreement recently concluded with Brazil as a lever to pry Ecuador loose from its hardline position on 200-mile territorial limits while at the same time dangling a carrot in terms of potential economic development and military assistance.”
  2. Executive Secretary Eliot outlined the Department of State’s strategy to get Ecuador to compromise on its 200-mile territorial sea limit. The Department of State would release development assistance loans which had been held under review, and begin “quiet, informal” talks.