UNITED STATES POLICY WITH RESPECT TO VIETNAM: Address by the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, Walter S. Robertson, Washington, June 1, 1956. Delivered to the American Friends of Vietnam at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC.


This past March, I had the pleasure of accompanying the Secretary of State on his visit to Saigon where we conversed with President Diem on the present and future problems of Viet-Nam. I was struck, as so many other recent observers have been, at the progress Free Viet-Nam has made in a few short months toward stability, security, and strength. President Diem seemed to reflect this progress ill his own person. On the occasion of our earlier visit some 15 months ago, he seemed tense and gravely concerned about the problems facing Viet-Nam. This time he was reposed, poised, and appeared confident of the future of his country.

Among the factors that explain the remarkable rise of Free VietNam from the shambles created by 8 years of murderous civil and inter-national war, the division of the country at Geneva and the continuing menace of predatory communism, there is in the first place the dedication, courage, and resourcefulness of President Diem himself. In him, his country has found a truly worthy leader whose integrity and devotion to his country's welfare have become generally recognized among his people. Asia has given us in President Diem another great figure, and the entire free world has become the richer for his example of determination and moral fortitude. There is no more dramatic example of this fortitude than President Diem's decisions during the tense and vital days of the battle against the parasitic politico-religious sects in the city of Saigon in the spring of 1955. These decisions were to resist the multiple pressures to compromise that were building up around him, and to struggle to the victorious end for the sake of a just cause. The free world owes him a debt of gratitude for his determined stand at that fateful hour.

Consider Viet-Nam at three stages in its recent history:

First, in mid-1954, partitioned by fiat of the great powers against the will of the Vietnamese people devoid of governmental machinery or military strength, drifting without leadership and without hope in the backwash of the defeat administered by the combined weight of Communist-impressed infantry and of Chinese and Russian arms.

Secondly, in early 1955, faced with the military and subversive threat of the Communists north of the 17th parallel, confronted with internal strife, its government challenged by the armed, self-seeking politico-religious sects, its army barely reformed and of uncertain loyalty, assailed from within by the most difficult problems, including that of having to absorb the sudden influx of three-quarters of a million refugees who would rather leave their ancestral lands and homes than suffer life under Communist tyranny:

And finally Viet-Nam today, in mid-1956 progressing rapidly to the establishment of democratic institutions by elective processes, its people resuming peaceful pursuits, its army growing in effectiveness, sense of mission, and morale, the puppet Vietnamese politicians discredited, the refugees well on the way to permanent resettlement, the countryside generally orderly and calm, the predatory sects eliminated and their venal leaders exiled or destroyed.

Perhaps no more eloquent testimony to the new state of affairs in Viet-Nam could be cited than the voice of the people themselves as expressed in their free election of last March. At that time the last possible question as to the feeling of the people was erased by an overwhelming majority for President Diem's leadership. The fact that the Viet Minh was unable to carry out its open threats to sabotage these elections is impressive evidence of the stability and prestige of the government.

The United States is proud to be on the side of the effort of the Vietnamese people under President Diem to establish freedom, peace, and the good life. The United States wishes to continue to assist and to be a loyal and trusted friend of Viet-Nam.

Our policies in Viet-Nam may be simply stated as follows:

To support a friendly no n-Communist government in Viet-Nam and to help it diminish and eventually eradicate Communist subversion and influence.

To help the Government of Viet-Nam establish the forces necessary for internal security.

To encourage support for Free Viet-Nam by the non-Communist world.

To aid in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of a country and people ravaged by 8 ruinous years of civil and international war.

Our efforts are directed first of all toward helping to sustain the internal security forces consisting of a regular army of about 150,000 men, a mobile civil guard of some 45,000, and local defense units which are being formed to give protection against subversion on the village level. We are providing budgetary support and equipment for these forces and have a mission assisting the training of the army. We are also helping to organize, train, and equip the Vietnamese police force. The refugees who have fled to South Viet-Nam to escape the Viet Minh are being resettled on productive lands with the assistance of funds made available by our aid program. In various ways our aid program also provides assistance to the Vietnamese Government designed to strengthen the economy and provide a better future for the common people of the country. The Vietnamese are increasingly giving attention to the basic development of the Vietnamese economy and to projects that may contribute directly to that goal. We give our aid and counsel to this program only as freely invited.

I do not wish to minimize the magnitude of the task that still remains and of the problems that still confront this staunch and valiant member of the free world fighting for its independence on the threshold of the Communist heartland of Asia.

The Communist conspiracy continues to threaten Free Viet-Nam. With monstrous effrontery, the Communist conspirators at Hanoi accuse Free Viet-Nam and its friends of violating the armistice provisions which the Vietnamese and their friends, including ourselves, have scrupulously respected despite the fact that neither the Vietnamese nor ourselves signed the Geneva Accords while they, the Communists who have solemnly undertaken to be bound by these provisions, have violated them in the most blatant fashion.

The facts are that while on the one hand the military potential of Free Viet-Nam has been drastically reduced by the withdrawal of nearly 200,000 members of the French Expeditionary Corps and by the reduction of the Vietnamese Army by more than 50,000 from the time of the armistice to the present as well as by the outshipment from Viet-Nam since the cessation of hostilities of over $200 million worth of war equipment, we have on the other hand reports of steady constant growth of the warmaking potential of the Communists north of the 17th parallel.

Our reports reveal that in complete disregard of its obligations, the Viet Minh have imported voluminous quantities of arms across the Sino-Viet Minh border and have imported a constant stream of Chinese Communist military personnel to work on railroads, to rebuild roads, to establish airports, and to work on other projects contributing to the growth of the military potential of the zone under Communist occupation.

As so eloquently stated by the British Government in a diplomatic note released to the press and sent to Moscow in April of this year, and I quote:

The Viet Minh army has been so greatly strengthened by the embodiment and re-equipment of irregular forces that Instead of the 7 Viet Minb divisions in existence in July 1954 there are now no less than 20. This striking contrast between massive military expansion In the North and the withdrawal and reduction of military forces in the South speaks for itself.

By lies, propaganda, force, and deceit, the Communists in Hanoi would undermine Free Viet-Nam, whose fall they have been unable to secure by their maneuverings on the diplomatic front. These people, whose crimes against suffering humanity are so vividly described in the book by Lt. Dooley who addressed you this morning, have sold their country to Peiping. They have shamelessly followed all the devious zigzags of the Communist-bloc line so that their alliance with Communist China and the Soviet Union is firmly consolidated. These are the people who are now inviting President Diem to join them in a coalition government to be set up through so-called "free elections."

President Diem and the Government of Free Viet-Nam reaffirmed on April 6 of this year and on other occasions their desire to seek the reunification of Viet-Nam by peaceful means. In this goal, we support them fully. We hope and pray that the partition of Viet-Nam, imposed against the will of the Vietnamese people, will speedily come to an end. For our part we believe in free elections, and we support President Diem fully in his position that if elections are to be held, there first must be conditions which preclude intimidation or coercion of the electorate. Unless such conditions exist there can be no free choice.

May those leaders of the north in whom the spirit of true patriotism still survives realize the futility of the Communist efforts to subvert Free Viet-Nam by force or guile. May they force the abandonment of these efforts and bring about the peaceful demobilization of the large standing armies of the Viet Minh. May they, above all, return to the just cause of all those who want to reunify their country in peace and independence and for the good of all the people of Viet-Nam.


Source: U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 90th Congress, 1st Session, Background Information Relating to Southeast Asia and Vietnam (3d Revised Edition) (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, July 1967), pp. 92-94


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