Secretary Rusk's News Conference of October 12, 1967; Department of State Press Release No. 227, October 12, 1967


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 4, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 680-682.


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"Our commitment is clear and our national interest is real. The SEATO Treaty, approved with only one dissenting vote by our Senate, declares that 'Each party recognizes that aggression by means of armed attack in the treaty area . . . would endanger its own peace and safety, and agrees that it will in that event act to meet the common danger. . . .' The Treaty says 'each party' will act. The fidelity of the United States is not subject to the veto of some other signatory-and five signatories have engaged their forces alongside Korean and South Vietnamese troops. Indeed, the proportion of non-U.S. forces in South Viet-Nam is greater than non-U.S. forces in Korea.

"In August 1964 the Congress by joint resolution declared, with only two dissenting votes, that 'The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia.' This was not a new idea in 1964. It was the basis for the SEATO Treaty a decade earlier. It is no less valid in 1967. Our several alliances in the Pacific reflect our profound interest in peace in the Pacific, and in Asia where two-thirds of the world's people live, no less vital to us as a nation than is peace in our own hemisphere or in the NATO area.

"I have heard the word 'credibility' injected into our domestic debate. Let me say, as solemnly as I can, that those who would place in question the credibility of the pledged word of the United States under our mutual security treaties would subject this nation to moral danger. If any who would be our adversary should suppose that our treaties are a bluff, or will be abandoned if the going gets tough, the result could be catastrophe for all mankind."

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". . . I have never subscribed to the domino theory; it's much too esoteric. There are North Vietnamese regiments today fighting in South Viet-Nam. There are North Vietnamese armed forces in Laos being opposed by Laotian forces. There are North Vietnamese-trained guerrillas operating in Northeast Thailand. There are Communist dissident elements in Burma who are being aided, encouraged, and helped from outside Burma across the Chinese frontier.

"There was a major Communist effort in 1965 to pull off a coup d'etat against Indonesia. You don't need the domino theory. Look at their proclaimed doctrine and look at what they're doing about it."

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Q. "Mr. Secretary, one of the questions--basic questions--that seems to be emerging in this Senate debate is whether our national security is really at stake in Viet-Nam, and whether Viet-Nam represents an integral part of our defense perimeter in the Pacific.

"Your earlier statement indicates that you think our security is at stake in Viet-Nam. I think it would help in this debate if you would perhaps elaborate and explain why you think our security is at stake in Viet-Nam."

A. "Within the next decade or two, there will be a billion Chinese on the Mainland, armed with nuclear weapons, with no certainty about what their attitude toward the rest of Asia will be.

"Now the free nations of Asia will make up at least a billion people. They don't want China to overrun them on the basis of a doctrine of the world revolution. The militancy of China has isolated China, even within the Communist World, but they have not drawn back from it. They have reaffirmed it, as recently as their reception of their great and good friend, Albania, two days ago.

"Now we believe that the free nations of Asia must brace themselves, get themselves set; with secure, progressive, stable institutions of their own, with co-operation among the free nations of Asia-stretching from Korea and Japan right around to the subcontinent--if there is to be peace in Asia over the next 10 or 20 years. We would hope that in China there would emerge a generation of leadership that would think seriously about what is called 'peaceful co-existence,' that would recognize the pragmatic necessity for human beings to live together in peace, rather than on a basis of continuing warfare.

"Now from a strategic point of view, it is not very attractive to think of the world cut in two by Asian Communism, reaching out through Southeast Asia and Indonesia, which we know has been their objective; and that these hundreds of millions of people in the free nations of Asia should be under the deadly and constant pressure of the authorities in Peking, so that their future is circumscribed by fear.

"Now these are vitally important matters to us, who are both a Pacific and an Atlantic power. After all, World War II hit us from the Pacific, and Asia is where two-thirds of the world's people live. So we have a tremendous stake in the ability of the Free Nations of Asia to live in peace; and to turn the interests of people in Mainland China to the pragmatic requirements of their own people, and away from a doctrinaire and ideological adventurism abroad."

Q. "Could I ask just one follow-up question on that, sir:

"Do you think you can fulfill this very large commitment of containment and still meet the commitment of the Manila Conference-to withdraw within six months after a peace agreement has been reached?"

A. "Oh, yes, I think so.

"That does not mean that we ourselves have nominated ourselves to be the policemen for all of Asia. We have, for good reasons, formed alliances with Korea and Japan, the Philippines, the Republic of China, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand; and South Viet-Nam is covered by the Southeast Asia Treaty.

"That doesn't mean that we are the general policemen. Today, the Laotian forces are carrying the burden in Laos on the ground. The Thais are carrying the burden in Thailand; the Burmese are carrying the burden in Burma; the Indians are carrying the burden upon their northeastern frontier--the Sikkim border--and whatever other threat there might be in that direction.

"But we have our part; we have accepted a share, and we have accepted that share as a part of the vital national interest of the United States."

Q. "Mr. Secretary, would you describe the net objective here then as the containment of Chinese Communist militancy?"

A. "No. The central objective is an organized and reliable peace.

"Now if China pushes out against those with whom we have alliances, then we have a problem, but so does China. If China pushes out against the Soviet Union, both China and the Soviet Union have a problem.

"We are not picking out ourselves--we are not picking out Peking as some sort of special enemy. Peking has nominated itself by proclaiming a militant doctrine of the world revolution, and doing something about it. This is not a theoretical debate; they are doing something about it.

"Now we can live at peace--we have not had a war with the Soviet Union, in 50 years of co-existence, since their revolution. We are not ourselves embarked upon an ideological campaign to destroy anybody who calls themselves Cornmunist. . . . "

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