246. Action Memorandum From the Secretary of State’s Special Representative for Panama Treaty Affairs (Popper) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1


  • U.S. Membership on Panama Treaty Committees

You will recall that in my memorandum of September 27 on this subject,2 which awaits your action, we sought your authorization:

—to propose to the White House our slates for the Consultative Committee and the Joint Commission on the Environment established by the Panama Canal Treaty;

—to request the White House to include a State Department member on the Panama Canal Commission’s Board of Directors;

—and to continue to press for full Embassy participation in the Coordinating Committee and the Joint Committee, locally-appointed liaison bodies dealing with technical matters of Treaty implementation.

We had hoped that our differences with Defense on the latter two subjects would be resolved at the Friday3 morning White House meeting. Unfortunately, the subject was not discussed.

Since the Treaty goes into effect on Monday, October 1, we must proceed urgently to minimize the delay imposed upon us by the absence until Thursday4 of implementing legislation, and by State-Defense disagreements. Accordingly, I hope we can now move ahead with the Presidential appointments on which Defense has no objections, and as a separate matter, visibly maintain our position on the issues in dispute, so that they may be resolved quickly.

I therefore recommend that you authorize us to forward to the White House immediately our nominations for the Consultative Committee and the Joint Commission on the Environment, as described in the memorandum of September 27. While DOD does not favor the nomination of Ambassador Moss to serve on the Consultative Committee, it is informed of our intentions and is not likely to raise an objection, since it considers this committee a diplomatic forum which is principally a [Page 588] State affair. Our other candidates are General Dolvin (nominated by DOD) and myself. There is no problem with the Environment Commission.5

With respect to the Panama Canal Commission Board of Directors, and in an attempt to expedite a decision, Ben Read discussed the matter with Assistant Secretary of the Army Blumenfeld on September 28. Blumenfeld had been informed of your telephone conversation with Deputy Defense Secretary Claytor and acknowledged that he owed you a response.6 Blumenfeld confirmed DOD’s opposition to State representation on the Board. He considered it pointless, since Board Members are obligated to vote at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, and opined that it would result in bickering, appeals to OMB, etc. He suggested DOD might accept having the Ambassador present as an observer during Board meetings.

We continue to feel that State membership is required. The Board’s activities will bear directly and importantly on our ongoing relationships with Panama. The Panamanian members are outstanding public figures who have participated in Treaty negotiations. The voting requirement is essentially irrelevant to our position: a State presence on the Board is needed to prevent the American membership bloc, which Congress has structured predominantly to reflect private interests, from precipitating needless and potentially injurious controversies with Panama as a result of Board deliberations. We hope you will maintain this position when Secretary Claytor telephones you, and that you propose that the two Departments submit an options paper for White House decision.7

As to the Coordinating Committee and the Joint Committee our Embassy continues to feel very strongly, and we agree, that it should be represented as a participant8 in both. We have received an additional, strongly worded cable from the Embassy which is attached.9 We con[Page 589]tinue to believe that the Embassy should have full membership10 in these committees on terms comparable to those governing the activities of similar groups around the world, while DOD authorities are seeking to preserve the independence of action which has characterized their past operations in Panama. We recommend that you advise Mr. Claytor of our position in support of full Embassy membership in the two committees.11

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology, Security Assistance Country and Subject Files, 1979, Lot 82D44, Box 3, Panama Canal Company (1979) SA. Confidential. Sent through Read. Drafted by Popper and cleared by Vaky.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. September 28.
  4. October 4.
  5. Christopher checked the approve option on October 3.
  6. In a September 21 memorandum from Popper to Christopher, Christopher noted that he had called Claytor on September 25 and communicated State’s request that a State nominee fill one of the two official U.S. Government positions on the Panama Canal Commission Board of Directors. Christopher wrote on the memorandum “non-commital response.” (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary, Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 21, Memos to WC From Offices/Bureaus—1979)
  7. Christopher checked the approve option on October 3. In an October 16 memorandum from Popper to Christopher, Christopher noted that he had called Claytor on October 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P790163–0080)
  8. Christopher underlined “participant,” placed a question mark in the right margin and wrote: “As a member or as a deputy? Meaning unclear—see underlying memo.”
  9. Telegram 7945 from Panama City, September 28, is attached but not printed.
  10. Christopher underlined “full membership” and placed a question mark in the right margin.
  11. Christopher did not indicate his approval or disapproval of the recommendation.