273. Letter From the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Claytor)1

Dear Graham:

While the implementation of the Panama Canal Treaty has generally proceeded well during the first year of the Treaty’s operation,2 I am concerned that the mechanisms for ensuring coordination among [Page 640] our three agencies in Panama are not adequate. My concern derives both from reports from various sources (including the General Accounting Office) and from a number of incidents of poor coordination during the past year. I have attached for your consideration a sampling of such incidents, which illustrates the serious dimensions of the problem.3 Because our total presence in and relationship with Panama are affected, I believe that we should act to remedy this situation as promptly as possible.

Two years ago Charles Duncan, Clifford Alexander and I issued guidance to govern the relationship between the Administrator and the Ambassador.4 At about the same time, guidance was worked out between our Departments concerning agency coordination for the activities of the two military committees established by the Treaty.5

The guidance, which establishes the concept that effective implementation of the Treaty requires the coordination of the policies and activities of the three agencies, remains sound. But I am concerned that officials of our Departments are apparently at odds over the spirit and application of this guidance. While I had hoped that the means for applying the guidance could be worked out among our representatives in Panama, I now believe it would be useful to provide our representatives with a clear indication that we mean what we say in instructing our agencies to coordinate. What is essential is a clear-cut process whereby United States’ positions falling within the purview of the Joint and Coordinating committees are fully cleared within the United States Government at all stages of their development, negotiation, and conclusion, and at all levels of agency consideration, prior to any discussions with Panama. The best means for achieving the needed coordination, in my judgment, would be to provide full Embassy membership on the Coordinating and Joint Committees and to reestablish a committee functioning under the auspices of the Panama Review Committee which would be responsible for establishing and implementing clearance procedures. I would welcome your thoughts.6

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Our representatives in Panama who have helped to achieve the successes of the first year under the new Treaty deserve our congratulations. They share with us a common interest in wanting to improve upon the record of the past year. I stand ready to work with you and with them toward that end.

With regards.


Warren Christopher 7
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC: 330–82–0217–B, Panama 1980. Confidential. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “Nov 10 1980 Dep Sec Has Seen.”
  2. An assessment of the first year of treaty implementation by the Embassy in Panama is in telegram 9188 from Panama City, October 28, in the Department of State, American Embassy Panama, Classified and Unclassified Political Subject Files, 1979–1980, Lot 83F67, POL 33.3.2 Procedural Guarantees, 1980.
  3. Attached but not printed. The incidents included radio frequencies, Embassy representation on the Joint Committee, the Joint Committee Charter, contractor withholding of income tax from Panamanian employees, convoy movement, telephone service, and building use among others.
  4. See Document 201.
  5. Not found.
  6. In a January 19, 1981, letter to Christopher, Komer explained that he encountered differences of opinion and interpretation by senior officials concerning the various examples of “alleged lack of cooperation” cited by Christopher. Komer stated these officials believe the PRC and its Treaty Implementation Planning Subcommittee remain the keys to effective interagency coordination of U.S. representatives in Panama. They did not find that a subcommittee for clearance procedures under the PRC, as Christopher had suggested, was necessary. Komer closed by assuring Christopher that “all members of the Defense Department are anxious to promote the closest cooperation among all elements of the U.S. official presence in Panama and will continue to work to that end.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC: 330–83–0104, Panama (1 Jan–30 Jun) 1981)
  7. Christopher signed “Chris” above his typed signature.