Critics of the Panama Canal treaties charged yesterday that a proposed Senate amendment guaranteeing U.S. passage and defense rights is a "sugar-coated" political maneuver that fails to protect security interests of the United States.
Retired Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee the amendment would neither assure this country of priority passage afger the year 2000 nor enable the United Stzies to use military force to protect the wateway.
President Carter and Panama's Gen. Omar Torrijos signed a communique last Oct. 14 to guarantee the United States priority emergency use of the cannal and the right to defend it after 2000. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee says these guarantees must be made part of the treaties to gain the two-thirds Senate vote required for approval.
"The new amendment now being proposed may solve our domestic political problems, but the big question still unanswered is, waht problems will the United States face when she sets about to correct violations of neutrality and what prctical actions do we propose to take? This has not been examined in depth," Moorer said.
Former Deputy Defense Secretary William P. Clements, a candidate for governor in Texas, joined Moorer in criticizing the proposed amendment.
Clements said that during his time in the Pentagon. U.S. officials devised a "proper security clause" that protected U.S. interests and that Panama had accepted it.
"Subsequently this clause was eliminated by Mr. Carter, and a weak, ambiguous clause was substituted," Clements said. "A strong unambiguous security clause must be the keystone of any Panama Canal treaty."
Meanwhile, a State Department spokesman said the department will accept changes the Senaate Foreign Relations Committee recommended on the treaties.
"We believe that the process worked out (by the committee) sucecessfully meets the needs of the Senate, of the administration and of Panama," spokesman Hodding Carter III said.
He said that while the administration acccepts those changes in the treaties, "we continue to believe . . . that further amendments on thefloor are not required, are not necessary and would not be useful."