"The decision to transfer control of the Canal to Panama is history and the transition is already in its final stages. Although this decision is now behind our nation, the important strategic question remains: Do we as a nation continue to have vital national security interests in Panama and the Canal, and are there policies we can formulate to advance these interests? I believe the answer is a resounding 'yes.' The Canal continues to have a vital role in our strategic interests not only in the stability and security of Latin America, but because of expanding trade with the emerging economic giants and international markets of the Pacific Rim, China and the Far East. It affects our global interests as well. The policy objective for our nation in Panama must be to remain effectively engaged in Panama politically, economically and diplomatically to ensure that the Canal and the Republic of Panama remain healthy during the next century. This means that the Canal must remain free and open to world trade, it must be properly maintained and modernized; and toils must be controlled at reasonable levels. Furthermore, Panama must remain democratic and economically independent."
Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC): http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/