"[Reading] I am glad, for course, that agreement has been reached at Geneva to stop the bloodshed in Indochina. The United States has not been a belligerent in the war in which thousands of brave men, while defending freedom, have died during the past 7 years.
"The primary responsibility for the settlement in Indochina rested with those nations which participated in the fighting.
"Our role at Geneva has been at all times to try to be helpful where desired, and to aid France and Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam, to obtain a just and honorable settlement which will take into account the needs of the interested people.
"Accordingly, the United States has not itself been a party to or bound by the decisions taken by the conference, but it is our hope that it will lead to the establishment of peace consistent with the rights and needs of the countries concerned. The agreement contains features which we do not like, but a great deal depends on how they work in practice.
"The United States is issuing at Geneva a statement to the effect that it is not prepared to join in the conference declaration but, as loyal members of the United Nations, we also say that in compliance with the obligations and principles contained in article II of the United Nations Charter, the United States will not use force to disturb the settlement. We also say that any renewal of Communist aggression would be viewed by us as a matter of grave concern.
"As evidence of our resolve to assist Cambodia and Laos to play their parts in full independence and sovereignty, in the peaceful community of free nations, we are requesting the agreement of the governments of Cambodia and Laos to our appointment of an ambassador or minister to be resident at their respective capitals. We already have a Chief of Mission at Saigon, the capital of Viet-Nam, and this embassy will, of course, be maintained.
"The United States is actively pursuing discussions with other free nations with a view to the rapid organization of a collective defense in southeast Asia in order to prevent further direct or indirect Communist aggression in that general area. [Ends reading]"
* * *
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: "Mr. President, President Rhee of Korea will be here soon. Do you regard the partition of Korea as permanent, short of war, and are you including, planning to include, Korea and Free China in any kind of a southeast Asia pact?"
THE PRESIDENT: "Well, of course, Korea is not in southeast Asia.
"Already we have, you know, a treaty of mutual defense with Korea. It has been enacted, it has been approved, by the Senate.
"Now, as I understand it, when the Korean war started, the purpose of the United Nations was to prevent any advance by force into South Korea; they did do that.
"I know of no one that has ever proposed that we go to war to free North Korea.
"As it is, it is an unsatisfactory situation, exactly as exists in Germany, and now apparently is going to exist in part of Indochina.
"These are very unsatisfactory situations and, to my mind, will always give reason for aggravating situations that are difficult, at best. But there is no thought on the part of any of us to start an aggressive move for the freeing of that country."
"I have never felt that, except through these satellite excursions, that the Cornmunist world wants any war at this time; in other words, I don't believe they would deliberately challenge us, challenge the free world, to a war of exhaustion.
"So the problem, no matter whether you happen to be fighting in one of these areas, remains the same. The loss of great areas through propaganda and deceit and subversion and coup d'etat, and every means available to a secret, well-financed conspiracy, they are all there. I personally think that if there is one good that can come out of this whole southeast Asian experience, it is this: to get the free world to looking facts in the face, and to seeing what we must do, what we should do, what sacrifices we are ready to make, in order to preserve the essentials of our system.
"I think that when the freedom of a man in Viet-Nam or in China is taken away from him, I think our freedom has lost a little. I just don't believe that we can continue to exist in the world, geographically isolated as we are, if we just don't find a concerted, positive plan of keeping these free nations so tightly bound together that none of them will give up; and if they are not weakened internally by these other methods, I just don't believe they will give up. I believe we can hold them."
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: "Mr. President, along that line, a number of Congressmen today are branding the Geneva settlement as appeasement. Do you think there are any elements of appeasement in the cease-fire agreement?"
THE PRESIDENT: "Well, I hesitate, Mr. Clark, to use such words, as I have told you so often. I find that so many words mean so many different things to different people. I would say this, as I said in my statement: this agreement, in certain of its features, is not satisfactory to us. It is not what we would have liked to have had.
"But I don't know, when I am put up against it at this moment,
to find an alternative, to say what we would or could do. Then if I have no
better plan, I am not going to criticize what they have done."
Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Vol. 1 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), p. 604-06
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