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permanent neutrality. It thus gives the United States the continuing right, unilaterally if necessary, to defend the canal and its operation against threats to its neutrality, and thus, the ability to defend the canal for the indefinite future. And this same regime of neutrality, and our right and responsibility to underwrite it, will apply as well to any other international waterway that might be built in Panama in the future.
Furthermore, under article V of the neutrality treaty, Panama would relinquish the right to invite or accept foreign military forces or foreign military installations anywhere in the Republic. This would bar Panama from engaging in an alliance with any other power in a way which involved the presence of military personnel on its soil. By the same token, Panama's breach of that commitment would entitle and oblige the United States to take appropriate action to insure the canal's neutrality.
We would not, in short, have a general right of "intervention" in Panama's internal and domestic affairs. Nor would we want such a right. But we have under the new treaties the right and the obligation to take such action as is required to insure that the canal remains permanently neutral—free of the threat of foreign military presence and forever open to the oceanborne commerce of the world on a nondiscriminatory basis.
PROTECTION OF U.S. INTERESTS
The new treaties will establish a far stronger legal underpinning and political environment for the protection of our interests in the canal while retaining all the essentials of assuring the canal's security. Their ratification is thus an opportunity to advance fundamental American foreign policy interests. Their
rejection, on the other hand, would be read by the nations of the hemisphere as a demonstration that this Nation stands on force as the final arbiter even when a constructive alternative is available.
Such a course would be unnecessarily costly to many other of our interests, particularly to the solidarity and alliance of the Western Hemisphere nations that has been central to our foreign policy for generations.
And I am convinced that we shall not again be given the opportunity to safeguard and advance our interests on terms as favorable as those which have just been negotiated. The moment when we are clearly strong enough to defend our rights in the canal and while the canal is free of immediate threat and menace provides the best opportunity to preempt a potential crisis and to secure the future of the canal on mutually beneficial terms.
Let me turn now to some of the concerns and questions that have been raised with respect to the new treaties.
TREATY ABROGATION RISKS
First, some have asked what would happen if Panama were to abrogate the treaties.
There is no question that this is a possibility. But it must be viewed against the near certainty that the 1903 treaty will not be accepted any
longer either by Panama or by the other nations of the hemisphere. The question therefore is which arrangement puts us in the best legal, political, and military position to protect our rights and interests if we are forced to do so by the unilateral action of Panama. I believe that the new treaties will significantly reduce the risks of abrogation and will also create far better conditions in which we could defend our rights if abrogation should occur.
By establishing a relationship of shared responsibility and benefit, the new treaties make Panama a partner in a successful canal enterprise. They increase Panama's stake in safeguarding the vital interests we wish to assure—a free, open, safe, and well-run canal. The new arrangement accords with the reality that consent and cooperative endeavor are the only bases for secure operation of a canal which is located within Panamanian territory and even now is run by a predominantly Panamanian labor force. But if, despite everything, we have to act to defend the canal, we would be in a far stronger position to do so in the name of a 1977 treaty freely negotiated and signed in the presence of the heads of government of most of the Western Hemisphere nations than in the name of an agreement concluded 75 years ago and which every Latin American nation in every recent meeting of the Organization of American States has repeatedly urged us to replace.
RATIFICATION IMPACT ON COOPERATIVE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
One of the strongest arguments in favor of ratification is in fact its impact on cooperative Western Hemisphere relationships. Our decisions on these treaties will testify to them whether or not we are willing to resolve disputes with them on the basis of negotiation. This does not mean that ratification of the treaties will resolve all differences between us and our neighbors to the south. Our capacity for cooperation, understanding, and imagination will be tested in this hemisphere long after the Panama issue is resolved and for as far into the future as one can see. There will be many who do not wish us well in the area even if we ratify the treaties. But failure to ratify will provide hostile forces with a permanent issue of incalculable value around which to rally and encourage a vast new tide of antiAmerican sentiment and it will make it politically impossible for our friends to rally to our side.
I find it significant that no Western Hemisphere leader, regardless of what his private feelings on this issue might be, feels able publicly to take any position other than that of strongest support for the modernization of the 1903 treaty. This reflects the depth of public sentiment on the issue. No government and no public opinion in any of the countries of this hemisphere would be willing to support us if we now refuse to modernize the canal relationship. We would witness a gradual deterioration of our relationships even when some leaders might prefer to retain constructive ties. If the treaties are accepted, on the other hand, our many friends in the hemisphere will be enabled to cooperate in the development of a constructive Western Hemisphere policy.
HOSTILE WARSHIPS-CANAL TRANSIT
Another question which has been raised is whether the neutral status of the canal would mean that hostile warships could transit the canal and, in effect, benefit from U.S. protection. I can only comment that the United States has and must continue to have at its disposal other means to defend its vital security interests in any such situation. The United States must have the capacity to control the sea lanes; hence we must be able to prevent hostile ships from reaching the canal. If we do not maintain that capability of preventing hostile ships from reaching the canal, we are in a perilous condition indeed and the provisions of a legal document will be precious little help.
U.S. PUBLIC FEELING
I recognize the deep feeling of many Americans who wish, after the Vietnam tragedy, to see an end to yielding and retreat by the United States. No one can appreciate such concerns better than one who strove for an honorable outcome during the Vietnam period. But the canal is not the issue to select to demonstrate that we remain strong and resolute. Panama is the smallest and weakest of nations. We are not "giving" the canal to Panama; we are, rather, ensuring our ability to protect it. By taking constructive action now to revise our relationship with Panamana in an atmosphere free of physical pressure, while we are still able objectively to assess the long term risks and benefits, we will be demonstrating fundamental strength, not weakness. It is just this ability to distinguish between symbol and reality, to plan for future needs and to take timely action to advance our basic interests, that is the essence of a strong and effective world policy.
U.S. FOREIGN POLICY EFFECTIVENESS Firmness in the defense of essential national interests is vital. But a nation assures its international position by understanding and defining clearly what its interests are and taking the precise appropriate and necessary action to safeguard those interests. Unreasoning adherence to the status quo has never been the mark of an effective and vigorous foreign policy.
We have demonstrated ourselves capable of meeting the challenge of the unprecedented on many occasions in the past. At the end of World War II, we embarked on a number of new initiatives—the Marshall Plan, the North Atlantic Treaty, Point Four, to cite a fewthat constituted a dramatic change from the course we had followed in the past. We did so because we realized that the new circumstances of the post-war era required new responses—that we could not assure the security and prosperity of our Nation by adhering to the isolationist policies of the past. To cling to outmoded approaches was to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by future events.
CONSTRUCTIVE RESPONSE TO CHANGING WORLD CONDITIONS And there are many more recent examples of constructive response to changing world conditions. The efforts to control the arms race;
the opening of relations with China; our efforts to modernize the institutions of international economic cooperation are cases in point. In each case, we did not hesitate to modify old policies and arrangements when we felt that our national interest would only be preserved by doing so.
The new Panama Canal treaties should be viewed in the same light. They mark a step forward, an improvement over the present situation. They present you and the people of this country with an opportunity to modernize an outdated arrangement that has itself come to threaten the very interests it was designed to protect.
IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL UNDERTAKING
Beyond the immediate issue with which they deal, these treaties represent the most important and serious international undertaking formally submitted to the Congress by the administration of President Carter. Thus you have a doubly grave responsibility: a rejection of the treaties would not only cause a crisis in our relations with the nations of the Western Hemisphere; it would in addition weaken the President's national authority at the very beginning of his term. It would thus be a demonstration of national weakness, which would be taken by friend and enemy alike as evidence that we are systemically incapable of recognizing and pursuing our international objectives because of domestic division, doubt, and conflict. This would be all the more so because we have every reason to consider that the new treaties in fact advance our interests and are seen as such throughout the world.
SENATE ROLE IN RATIFICATION PROCESS
In supporting both the concept of a new treaty arrangement and the essential structure of what has been negotiated I do not mean to imply that the Senate's role in the ratification process should be that of a mere rubber stamp. On the contrary, I believe that the Senate can and should make a constructive contribution in clearing up ambiguities in the current texts and assuring the American people that our vital interests are indeed being safeguarded.
SUPPORT FOR TREATIES BASIS
My support of the treaties is based on my reading of two key provisions—a reading which coincides with the administration's interpretation: First, is our right to maintain the regime of neutrality" under article IV of the neutrality treaty; and second, is the meaning of our right to “expeditious transit" under article VI of the neutrality treaty.
CANAL DEFENSE INTERPRETATION
With respect to our right to defend the canal, I concur in the administration's interpretation that we have the right and obligation to act, if necessary unilaterally, to defend the canal's neutrality. It is unfortunate that the word "intervention" has been injected into the debate to characterize that right; this word conveys implications with respect to interference in the domestic affairs of Panama that we either need nor claim, and which are provocative throughout Latin America. With
respect to expeditious passage, I consider that it must mean “priority passage” in wartime and speediest possible passage at all times.
The fact remains that these interpretations have been drawn into question--partly by ambiguous statements of Panamanian officials understandably concerned with their own ratification process and subject to attacks, which are the mirror image of the opposition in this country, that they have yielded too much to the United States. Ambiguity is, of course, the essence of diplomacy; it ofen permits each side to maintain its domestic position while safeguarding essential international interests. I have resorted to it in negotiations on several occasions.
I have never considered ambiguity of language acceptable, however, if it masked a true difference of interpretation. Whatever the words of an international instrument may say, it is vital in my experience that both sides share the same understanding of the intent of that instrument. In this particular case, ambiguity or lack of public understanding could sow the seeds of future crisis if in fact the parties are not of a single view as to the central provisions of the treaties.
SENATE ROLE IN ENDORSING INTERPRETATIONS
I believe, therefore, that the Senate can play its constructive role by explicitly and formally endorsing the interpretation of article IV that has been put forward by the President and the Secretary of State: that the new treaty confers upon the United States the right and obligation unilaterally to defend neutrality of access to the canal, and to defend the canal itself should that ever become necessary. I see no need at this juncture to renegotiate the treaties. Nor do I favor a formal reservation which implies a split between the Congress and the Executive on a matter which calls for national unity.
But I do favor that the Senate interpretation should be reduced to formal and explicit language with the Senate's advice that it be submitted by the administration as an integral part of the instrument of ratification, either by protocol or by some other method which would insure that it becomes the authoritative and mutually acceptable explanation. Another way of dealing with the interpretation would be an agreed minute between Panama and the United States which would then be endorsed by the Senate as part of the ratification process. Either course would insure that there could be no question or ambiguity in the future.
The same procedures could be followed with respect to the meaning of "expeditious transit." Either the Senate or an agreed minute with Panama should state that in time of war U.S. vessels of war and auxiliaries should be given priority passage and at all times the speediest passage possible. In either case, the full Senate should approve the interpretations by a two-thirds majority.
I wish to express my strong hope that these steps be taken in harmony and cooperation with and not in repudiation of the administration. They are fully consistent with the administration's interpretation. They reflect our necessities; they take nothing away from Panama's dignity. The ability of the two branches of Government to work out a constructive solution to this problen is a great service they could render to America's position of continued leadership in the world. I can think