524. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to Secretary of State Rogers1 2

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  • Panama Canal Treaty Negotiations

The President has reviewed your memorandum of July 15 transmitting recommended terms of reference prepared by the Panama Review Group for any future canal treaty discussions with Panama. The President has approved these terms of reference as immediate operational guidance with the following qualifications:

While the President recognizes the practical difficulties outlined in the memorandum of signing a treaty with the present Panamanian government, he believes that the question of whether or not to do so and to proceed to ratification should be kept under continuing review in terms of our estimates of the practical consequences. As long as we recognize the present Panamanian government, we should be prepared to talk seriously with it and to conclude a treaty if this appears desirable and in our interests; the President does not want to decide in advance that we would never sign a treaty with it.
The decision to seek definitive rights to a sea-level canal in Panama is also approved as a tentative conclusion for immediate planning with regard to renewed talks, but subject to review again for final decision at the appropriate time. The definitive Canal Study Commission recommendations, as well as the results of the reviews of the 1967 treaty package, would be relevant in this regard.
The question of seeking interim arrangements for use of Rio Hato through an exchange of notes should be handled by the Undersecretaries Committee.
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With reference to the question of reviewing the 1967 treaty package objectives to determine what revisions may be necessary, as is proposed by the Panama Review Group, the President would like the opportunity personally to review, in the light of recent developments, the matter of our own interest and objectives in concluding new treaties and with what timing. He has asked that a brief review be prepared for him, as soon as practical, outlining:

Our own present interests and objectives with regard to concluding new treaties, including timing, and the options open to us to achieve those objectives in the light of expectable contingencies, e.g., an extended stay in power by the present Panamanian Government.
The objectives of the 1967 drafts and various options with regard to any major revisions or changes which appear desirable, if any.
Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–169, NSSM Files, NSSM 86. Secret. Rogers’s July 15 memorandum to the President is published as Document 521. A summary of the review requested by the President is referenced in Document 530, footnote 1.
  2. President Nixon requested a review of the U.S. stance regarding the Canal Treaties that included, first, the objectives of the 1967 draft treaties, and, second, U.S. interests and objectives in concluding new treaties.