Q. "Why is Indochina important to Americans?"
MR. SMITH: "For one vital basic and two special additional reasons. In the first place, the vital basic question is: Shall we or can the free world allow its position anywhere and particularly in Asia to be eroded piece by piece? Can we allow, dare we permit, expansion of Communist Chinese control further into Asia? Propagandists of the Soviet Union and of Communist China have made it clear that their purpose is to dominate all of Southeast Asia. Remember that this region helps to feed an immense population. It stretches all the way from India to Japan. It's a region that is rich in raw materials, full of tin, oil, rubber, iron ore.
"Now, from the strategic point of view, it lies across the most direct sea and air route between the Pacific and South Asia. There are major naval and air bases located in the area. Communist control of Southeast Asia would threaten the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand directly, would threaten Malaya; it would have a very profound effect upon the economy of other countries in the area, even as far as Japan."
Q. "The President, at his news conference on April 7, described the process of Communist conquest as the 'falling domino' principle. Is that a good description of the threat in Southeast Asia?"
MR. SMITH: "Yes, it is. If Indochina is lost to the Communists, Burma is threatened, Thailand is threatened, the Malay Peninsula is exposed, Indonesia is subject to the gravest danger, and, in addition to these countries and their possible loss, there is the possible loss of food source. I have already mentioned the strategic raw materials, the bases in the area; and, while they are of enormous importance, the most important thing of all is the possible loss of millions and millions of people who would disappear behind the Iron Curtain. There are enough millions behind the Iron Curtain now. So what's at stake in Indochina? It is the human freedom of the masses of people for all that enormous area of the world."
* * *
Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Vol. 1 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), p. 598-9
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