521. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon1 2

[Page 1]


  • Canal Treaty Negotiations with Panama


That you approve the enclosed terms of reference prepared by the Panama Review Group for further canal treaty negotiations with Panama and for seeking an agreement with Panama for the continued use by the United States Armed Forces of the Rio Hato Military Training Area.


We anticipate that the Government of Panama will in the near future propose the resumption of the canal treaty negotiations which have been suspended since 1967. In expectation of such an initiative, the Panama Review Group has undertaken a review of our canal policy with a view to recommending a course of action for the United States in future negotiations with Panama concerning the present canal and a future sea-level canal.

Several important issues are involved. We shall need to decide whether we should agree to negotiate with the unconstitutional government presently in power in Panama. We must also determine what revisions may be required in our treaty objectives in the light of developments since [Page 2] the negotiations were suspended in 1967. Recent findings of the Atlantic-Pacific Interoceanic Canal Study Commission regarding the possible construction of a sea-level canal in Panama are particularly relevant in this regard.

The impending expiration, on August 23, 1970, of our rights to use the Rio Hato Military Training Area in Panama constitutes a special and immediate problem. Rio Hato was one of the items covered by the previous treaty negotiations, and provision for its continued use was included in the treaty drafts agreed upon by the United States and Panamanian negotiators in 1967. Because of the delays in the Canal negotiations, however, it will be necessary, if we are to be assured of access to Rio Hato after 1970, to make special arrangements with Panama, at least for the interim period before new canal treaties are concluded.

The enclosed memorandum prepared by the Panama Review Group sets forth a recommended course of action for future canal treaty negotiations and for arranging the continued use of Rio Hato. The members of the Panama Review Group include the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs as Chairman, the Secretary of the Army, and the Special Representative for United States Panamanian Relations (Ambassador Robert B. Anderson). The memorandum represents their views, and also those of the representatives of the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Atlantic-Pacific Interoceanic Canal Study Commission, who participated in the discussions of the Panama Review Group.

I believe the Panama Review Group proposal presents a realistic approach for dealing with Panama on the Canal and such related issues as Rio Hato and recommend its approval.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 790, Country Files, Latin America, Panama, Vol. 1, January 1969–February 28, 1970. Secret. Rogers signed “WPR” above his typed signature. Neither approval nor disapproval was checked, but the President indicated his approval in Document 524. Attached but not published is the enclosed memorandum.
  2. Secretary of State Rogers reviewed the Panama Review Group’s terms for initiating Panama Canal negotiations. The most important topics included the issue of negotiating with the unconstitutional government in Panama City, the findings of the Atlantic-Pacific Interoceanic Canal Study Commission, and the expiration of U.S. rights to the Rio Hato Military Training Area.