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37. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, February 26, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 411.616/2-2661. Confidential. No drafting information appears on the source text.

Soviet Crab Meat

You will recall our discussion on February 21, concerning the prohibition against the importation of Soviet crab meat./2/ It is my recommendation that the ban against imported Soviet crab meat be lifted, and I am advised that Mr. Dillon concurs in this recommendation.

/2/Presumably at the meeting during which the President's February 22 message to Khrushchev was drafted; see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. VI, pp. 5-6.

We believe that it is of great importance at this juncture to take some action which would further our objectives of developing the channels of communication with the Soviets. Removal of the ban on the importation of Soviet crab meat would be a tangible demonstration of our desire to improve United States-Soviet relations. It would remove a barrier to United States-Soviet trade which Soviet leaders apparently regard as particularly discriminatory and which was imposed at a time of considerable political tension.

The ban on the importation of Soviet crab meat was imposed at the time of the Korean War in 1951 by the Department of the Treasury in conformity with the provisions of Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930, on the basis of its finding that Soviet crab meat was produced by convict, forced and indentured labor. The finding was based on eye-witness affidavits, mostly from former Japanese prisoners of war, regarding the employment in Soviet crab meat canning and crab fishing of Japanese prisoners of war, Japanese civilians trapped in areas occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II, Korean civilians, and Russian convict labor.

In the last few years various Soviet officials have denied that slave or convict labor conditions exist in the Soviet crab meat industry. These include Soviet Deputy Premier Mikoyan and Deputy Foreign Trade Minister Kuzmin. Other information which has come to the attention of the Departments of State and Treasury bears this out. In the Department's opinion these statements should be sufficient, in the absence of any recent evidence to the contrary, to justify a lifting of the crab meat prohibition. It is our understanding that the Department of the Treasury is also convinced of the justification for removing the prohibition.

Under these circumstances, I am convinced that a lifting of the crab meat ban at this time would be in the national interest.

Dean Rusk/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.


38. Editorial Note

On February 27, 1961, Walter J. Stoessel, Director of the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State, sent to the White House for clearance the drafts of four telegrams to Ambassador Thompson. The four cables were approved the following day and transmitted to Moscow late on February 28. In the first, telegram 1401, the Department of State reiterated the points that Bohlen had made to Ambassador Menshikov on February 14 concerning expansion of trade between the United States and the Soviet Union. (Department of State, Central Files, 411.6141/2-2861) Telegram 1402 outlined the U.S. position on Germany and Berlin, stating that the "central difficulty is of course continued division of Germany" and that the "United States continues to believe that there will be no real settlement of this problem or any real tranquillity in Central Europe until Germans were permitted to unite themselves. This will remain our constant aim and we would not be disposed to take any legal or other definitive steps which would appear to perpetuate or legalize this division." For text of telegram 1402, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume XIV, pages 16-18. Telegram 1403, which outlined the U.S. position on the Congo, is included in the microfiche supplement for volume XX. (Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/ 2-2861) The final telegram, 1404, instructed Thompson to inform Khrushchev that the President intended to make a vigorous effort to reach an agreement on the cessation of nuclear testing. (Ibid., 397.5611-GE/2-2861)

Following the despatch of these telegrams, the Department of State sent Ambassador Thompson two additional cables, 1405 and 1406, drafted on February 28. In the first Thompson was authorized to deliver the President's message (see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume VI, pages 5-6) to Gromyko if circumstances warranted, although the Department preferred delivery to Khrushchev. (Department of State, Central Files, 600.0012/2-2861) The second elaborated on the President's desire to reach an agreement on disarmament. (Ibid., 600.0012/2-2861)

On March 2 following a discussion of how to proceed on disarmament, Thompson reported that he had explored with the protocol section of the Foreign Ministry the possibility of meeting Khrushchev outside Moscow. (Telegram 2050 from Moscow; ibid., 600.0012/3-261) The following day he reported that Khrushchev would see him at Novosibirsk on March 9. (Telegram 2065 from Moscow; ibid., 123 Thompson)

FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P18

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