Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 4, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 661-662.
Secretary Rusk interview on 'Today' Program, January 12, 1967, With Hugh Downs from New York and Joseph C. Harsch in Washington; Department of State Bulletin, January 30, 1967, p. 168.
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AGGRESSION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
Mr. Harsch: "Thank you, Hugh. I'm glad I am here."
"Mr. Secretary, I'd like to start it out by going back to the news conference that Secretary-General U Thant of the United Nations did 2 days ago. In that there appeared to be considerable differences with American policy. For example, he said, 'I do not subscribe to the generally held view that if South Viet-Nam falls, then country X, then country Y, then country Z will follow. I do not agree with this so-called domino theory.' Is this a matter of difference with our policy?"
Secretary Rusk: "Well, I myself have never subscribed to something called the domino theory, because that suggests that we're merely playing games with little wooden blocks with dots on them. Actually, the problem is the old problem of the phenomenon of aggression.
"Country X, if you like, is South Viet-Nam. North Viet-Nam is trying to seize South Viet-Nam by force.
"Country Y is, perhaps, Laos. We had an agreement on Laos in 1962 under which there would be no North Vietnamese forces in Laos. And Laos would not be used as a route of infiltration into South Viet-Nam. That has not been performed. And the government that we agreed on in Geneva in 1962 has not been permitted to exercise authority throughout Laos. And the International Control Commission has not been permitted to exercise its functions in the Communist-held areas of Laos. So, undoubtedly, there are appetites with respect to Laos.
"Country Z is, perhaps, already Thailand. The other side has announced that they are going after Thailand. There are subversive guerrilla elements in northeast Thailand trained outside. There's a Thai training camp now in North Viet-Nam preparing additional guerrillas to go into Thailand.
"So, there's no need for something called the domino theory.
"The theory is that proclaimed in Peking repeatedly, that the world revolution of communism must be advanced by militant means. Now, if they can be brought toward an attitude of peaceful coexistence, if the second generation in China can show some of the prudence that the second generation in the Soviet Union has shown, then, maybe, we can begin to build a durable peace there."
Mr. Harsch: "Mr. Secretary, the Secretary-General of the U.N. also in that same news conference said, 'I do not subscribe to the view that South Viet-Nam is strategically vital to Western interests and Western security.' What are our vital strategic interests in the area? Do you regard Viet-Nam as vital?"
Secretary Rusk: "Well, there are important geographical features, natural resources, large numbers of people in Southeast Asia.
"I think the heart of the matter is, again, the phenomenon of aggression. And if the momentum of aggression should begin to roll in that part of the world, stimulated or supported or engaged in by those who are committed to the spread of the world revolution by violence, then that seems to put us back on the trail that led us into World War II.
"What is important is that all nations, large and small, have a chance to live unmolested by their neighbors, as provided in the United Nations Charter.
"Article 1 of the charter deals with acts of aggression, breaches of the peace, the necessity for peaceful settlement of disputes. Article 2 of the charter is about the self-determination of people. These are very important lessons derived from the events which led us into World War II. We feel that we've got to hang on to those lessons, because if they lead us into world war III, there won't be much left from which we can draw lessons and start over again."
THREAT TO DURABLE PEACE
Mr. Harsch: "Mr. Secretary, is it not the question so much of our vital interests, as of the threat to our vital interests?
"Now, you said yesterday that four Presidents have identified this area as being strategically important to us. At the time that process started--we're talking about President Truman now and then President Eisenhower's time--there certainly did seem to be a major threat to our interests in that area.
"What has happened to the nature of that threat? During the last year I had in mind the breach between Moscow and Peking. Is there not a diminution in the threat to our interests in that area because Moscow and Peking are no longer close together?"
Secretary Rusk: "Well, Peking has the capability of maintaining a major threat there, depending upon both its policy and its action.
"You see, we have a very strong interest in the organization of peace in the Pacific, just as we have in the Atlantic. We have alliances with Korea and Japan and the Republic of China and the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand. So, we are very much interested in the stability of the peace in the Pacific Ocean area and in East Asia.
"Now, if these aggressive pressures from Hanoi, with the support of Peking, should move into Southeast Asia, not only are hundreds of millions of people involved and vital resources involved, but the prospects for a durable peace dissolve.
"And so we have a tremendous interest in establishing in that area of the world, as we have done in the NATO area, the notion that the nations must be left alone and be allowed to live in peace, as the Charter of the United Nations provides."
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