President Kennedy's News Conference, Response to a Question About Criticisms by Senator Mansfield on US Southeast Asian Policy, June 14, 1962

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, pp. 813-814

President Kennedy's News Conference, June 14, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents, Kennedy, 1962, p. 492:

Q: "Mr. President, Senator Mansfield a few days ago suggested a review of Far Eastern policies because he said they seem to him either marking time, or at least on a collision course.

Do you think such a review is necessary?"

THE PRESIDENT: "Well, we have been reviewing. As you know, we have been attempting in the case of Laos to work out a policy which would prevent either one of those situations, whether we shall be successful or not, only time will tell.

"I know that we have put large sums of money, and the situation there is still hazardous, what is true there of course is true all around the world. This is a period of great tension and change. But if the United States had not played a part in Southeast Asia for many years, I think the whole map of Southeast Asia would be different.

"I am delighted, as you know, I have the highest regard for Senator Mansfield, and I think that we should constantly review, and I think that he suggested we should make judgments between what is essential to our interest and what is marginal. We have been attempting with great difficulty to carry out a policy with Laos which would permit a neutral and independent government there, and in Senator Mansfield's speech he used the examples of Burma and Cambodia. Those were the examples that were also used at the Vienna meeting by Chairman Khrushchev and myself in which we stated the kind of government that we both said we hoped would emerge in Laos. That is the commitment that was made by the Soviet Union, and by the United States.

"Now we have moved to a different plateau, and we are going to see whether that commitment can be maintained. But on the other hand, I am sure and I know Senator Mansfield would not think we should withdraw, because withdrawal in the case of Vietnam and in the case of Thailand might mean a collapse of the entire area."

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