PRESIDENT Nguyen Van Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam and President Lyndon Bo Johnson of the United States held an informal working dinner this evening, both being present in Canberra for the memorial service for the late Prime Minister Harold Holt.
There was a full exchange of views on all aspects of South Vietnam's struggle to defend its freedom from external force.
The military situation was reviewed and found to show good progress.
Progress was also noted in the work of pacification and of economic reconstruction with the intention that this could be speeded up in the coming months.
President Johnson congratulated President Thieu on the completion of a constitution, the holding of successful national elections, and the installation of a constitutional government.
It was recognized that many problems remained to be overcome and President Thieu outlined the plans of his government to deal with these problems along the lines of his inaugural speech and the later program presented to the people of South Vietnam by Prime Minister Loc.
Both Presidents agreed that their objective remained an honorable and secure peace in accordance with the basic statement of the South Vietnamese position contained in the Manila communiqué of October 1966 and supported by the other participants. They regretted that there was no sign that North Vietnam was prepared to take any of the many avenues to peace that had been opened. They agreed that in these circumstances there was no alternative to continuing appropriate military actions.
President Thieu once again explained his government's policy of reconciliation enunciated at Honolulu in February 1966. In the light of elections which subsequently have taken place, he noted that the Government of Vietnam is now prepared to grant full rights of citizenship to those now fighting against the government who are prepared to accept constitutional processes and to live at peace under the constitutionally elected government.
President Thieu likewise reaffirmed a willingness to discuss relevant matters with any individuals now associated with the so-called National Liberation Front while making clear that his government could not regard the Front as an independent organization in any sense. He noted that it was not useful to attempt constructive discussions with any elements in South Vietnam committed to violent methods to obtain their political ends. Noting press comment on President Johnson's five points as stated in his television broadcast of December 20, President Thieu affirmed that they were fully consistent with a policy on which the Government of Vietnam and the Government of the United States have long agreed.
President Johnson stated the intent of the United States to continue its support for this policy of national reconciliation.
Both Presidents agreed that the basic principle involved was the right of the South Vietnamese people to determine their own future through democratic and constitutional processes noted in the principle of one man-one vote.
They further agreed that the removal of external interference and the acceptance of this principle by all citizens of South Vietnam were fundamental elements in an enduring and honorable peace in South Vietnam. They agreed that these elements were totally consistent with the spirit and essential terms of the Geneva Agreements of 1954 and the Geneva Agreements of 1962 respecting Laos.