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Joint Statement Following Discussions With President Thieu of South Vietnam at the Honolulu Conference.

July 20, 1968

PRESIDENT Nguyen Van Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam and President Lyndon B. Johnson of the United States of America met in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A., on July 19 and 20. The meeting was held at President Thieu's suggestion, in light of the fact that the pressing military situation did not permit him to be absent from South Vietnam for the longer time required for a State visit and made it necessary for him to request the postponement of the State visit to a later time this year.

The primary purpose of the meeting was to allow the two leaders to discuss current military and diplomatic developments in South Vietnam and Paris. Their discussions were chiefly private, though they drew on the assistance of senior members of their respective governments.


The two Presidents once again declared that their common objectives, both in Vietnam and in East Asia and the Pacific, were those stated in the Manila Declaration of 1966

--to be free from aggression

--to conquer hunger, illiteracy and disease --to build a region of security, order and progress

--to seek reconciliation and peace throughout Asia and the Pacific.

They reaffirmed their deep belief that the struggle to defeat aggression and to restore an honorable and secure peace in Vietnam was vitally related to these broader objectives, and had already contributed to confidence and constructive efforts by other nations in Asia.

President Thieu expressed to President Johnson the abiding gratitude of the South Vietnamese people for the sacrifice of the American people in the cause of freedom in South Vietnam and peace in Southeast Asia. President Thieu further expressed his gratitude for the significant military contributions of the five other Asian and Pacific nations with military forces in the Republic of Vietnam.

President Thieu stated his Government's determination to continue to assume all the responsibility that the scale of the forces of South Vietnam and their equipment will permit, while preparing the Vietnamese nation and armed forces for the important and decisive role that will be theirs in the coming stages of the struggle.


The Presidents reviewed the course of events since their December meeting in Canberra: the treacherous Communist attacks at TET; President Johnson's speech of March 31; and the resulting Paris talks (being conducted on the U.S. side by Ambassadors Harriman and Vance).

They noted that the last six months have revealed a major and continuing change in North Vietnamese strategy. With greatly stepped up infiltration of men and modern equipment from the North, Hanoi has sought and continues to seek military and psychological successes that would shift the balance of the conflict in its favor in a relatively short period. In spite of its failure in February and May this year, this strategy continues.

The two Presidents noted the tremendous losses suffered by the other side during 1968. These losses are being increasingly replaced by North Vietnamese infiltration, rather than by local recruitment. As a result, it now appears that North Vietnamese comprise over 70 percent of the main force battalions on the other side, as compared to 26 percent in late 1965.

Reviewing the current situation in the light of these significant basic changes, the two Presidents noted that the rate of infiltration from the North---evidenced by massive movement in North Vietnam and Laos-continues at a high level. They agreed that the pattern of military activity on the other side continues to indicate renewed offensive action at some time in the next two months. Military factors---enemy regrouping and effective allied spoiling actions--appear to account for the drop in the level of fighting over the last two to three weeks, including the lull in indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population in Saigon.

The two Presidents noted the negative position of North Vietnamese negotiators at Paris. They also reviewed the evidence together and concluded there had been no response to the major limitation of bombing put into effect on March 31, which freed 90% of the people of North Vietnam and 78% of its territory from attack. Hanoi appeared to be continuing to follow the policy of "fighting while negotiating" long foreshadowed in North Vietnamese strategic documents. The two Presidents called on the authorities in Hanoi to respond to the substantial de-escalation initiated on March 31 and open the door to serious peace negotiations.

The two Presidents agreed that in the face of this North Vietnamese strategy the fundamental aims of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam and its allies must be:

A. To meet and defeat whatever military and terrorist actions might be initiated by the other side, under direction from Hanoi.

B. To strengthen the South Vietnamese armed forces.

C. To continue to seek a reduction in the level of hostilities and an honorable and secure peace that

--would assure the right of the South Vietnamese people to decide their own affairs without external interference,

--be in accord with the essential principles of the Geneva Accords of 1954, and

--provide for full compliance with the Geneva Accords of 1962 respecting Laos.


The two Presidents reviewed the basic military dispositions and strategy of South Vietnamese and Allied forces, on which President Johnson had just received a full report from Secretary Clifford. It was agreed that the measures being taken provided a solid basis for confidence that further major attacks by the communist side would be repelled.

The two Presidents then devoted major attention to the steps under way to increase the numbers and improve the fighting power of the South Vietnamese armed forces. President Thieu reported that the increase in volunteers, the extension of the draft to 18 and 19-year-olds, and the calling back to service of veterans and reserve officers, have brought the armed forces of South Vietnam to a level of 765,000 men in June--some 48,000 more than the original goal for this date. With the mobilization law enacted at the end of May, it is expected that the total will exceed 800,000 men by the end of 1968--the equivalent in population ratio of some 15 million men in the United States. It is also anticipated that an additional 200,000 men will be made available by the end of 1968 in auxiliary and paramilitary forces, such as the police and self-defense forces.

President Johnson expressed himself as encouraged by these efforts, and reviewed the joint program under way to equip South Vietnamese armed forces with improved weapons, accelerated technical training programs, and financial assistance. M-16 automatic rifles have already been provided to all regular Vietnamese infantry, airborne, marine and ranger battalions. The supplying of these weapons to paramilitary troops, down to the hamlet level, is proceeding on a high priority basis. Increased production of the M-16 should make it possible to get the weapon into the hands of all South Vietnamese forces during 1969.

Looking to the longer term the Presidents agreed that the South Vietnamese forces should continue to develop increased capabilities in terms of certain key items of equipment now largely provided by Allied and U.S.. forces. It was agreed that military authorities would consult further on a program to work in this direction, and that additional items would be programmed in the near future toward this end.

President Thieu then reviewed significant developments in the strengthening of the South Vietnamese Government and in key areas essential both for war and peace. He specifically noted:

--the formation of a new Cabinet in May under Prime Minister Tran Van Huong, with a broader political base;

--the actions of the National Assembly in passing a series of important measures-including tax increases, war risk insurance, and the Mobilization Law--and in developing the necessary spirit of cooperation between legislative and executive;

--the progress being made in dealing with corruption and ineffective administration;

--the resiliency shown by the economy in recovering from the damage caused by enemy action, and the high percentage of refugees and evacuees now re-housed;

--the dramatic success achieved in spreading new and improved rice seed, the measures being taken to assure an adequate return to the farmer even under wartime conditions, and the progress of the program directed toward a more equitable distribution of land;

--the substantial recovery of the pacification and security program in the countryside, after the setbacks incurred at TET. President Thieu expressed the policy of his government to support fully the program of Revolutionary Development, and to improve security in a lasting way through the use of both Revolutionary Development cadre and, to an increasing degree, Regional and Popular Forces--with the continued support of Regular Forces wherever required.


The two Presidents considered the current status of the Paris talks--already fully reported to the South Vietnamese and Allied governments--and weighed at length the contingencies that might arise.

The two Presidents deplored the use of the discussions for propaganda purposes on the North Vietnamese side, and such unrealistic positions as Hanoi's refusal to admit the presence of North Vietnamese forces in the South. They agreed that the basic objective in the Paris talks is to open the way to a stable and honorable .peace. In the face of continued high infiltration and other military actions directed from Hanoi, however, they saw no alternative but to continue to press for realistic discussions on the appropriate actions by both sides.

The two Presidents again affirmed that the Republic of Vietnam should be a full participant playing a leading role in discussions concerning the substance of a final settlement, and that their two governments would act in full consultation with each other, and with their allies, both in the present phase and throughout.


The two Presidents further reviewed and reaffirmed the Manila Communiqué of October 1966 and the additional matters covered in the Canberra Communiqué of 1967. President Thieu summarized the views of his government as to the essential conditions of peace in South Vietnam in the following terms:

--the reestablishment of the 17th parallel as the demarcation line between South and North Vietnam, pending a determination, by the free choice of all Vietnamese, on reunification;

--respect for the territorial integrity of the Republic of Vietnam;

--full compliance with the principle of non-interference between South and North Vietnam;

--the withdrawal from South Vietnam of military and subversive forces from the North;

--an end to aggression and a complete cessation of hostilities throughout Vietnam;

--effective international supervision and guarantees for the carrying out and preservation of the above measures.

President Thieu reaffirmed the policy of his government to resolve the internal problems of all the South Vietnamese people in an amicable, just, and peaceful way in accordance with the principle of one man, one vote.

He noted his government had rejected the principles of retaliation and revenge in favor of national reconciliation. He offered full participation in political activities to all individuals and members of groups who agree to renounce force and to abide by the Constitution of Vietnam.

President Thieu further stated that, when peace was restored, it would be the policy of his Government to explore all the avenues which may lead to the reunification of Vietnam by peaceful means, through the free and democratic choice of all Vietnamese in the North and in the South. To that end he would consider favorably the gradual development of relations beneficial to both South Vietnam and North Vietnam, subject only to essential safeguards against renewed subversion. President Johnson endorsed these principles and policies as essential elements of an honorable and secure peace. He described American policy in the following way:

--U.S.. forces are fighting to repel external aggression. The United States has no other ambitions in Vietnam. It desires no bases, no continued military presence, and no political role in Vietnamese affairs.

--As North Vietnam takes its men home and ends its aggression against South Vietnam, U.S.. forces will be withdrawn, in accordance with the Manila Communiqué.

--The United States will not support the imposition of a "coalition government," or any other form of government, on the people of South Vietnam. The people of South Vietnam--and only the people of South Vietnam--have the right to choose the form of their government.

--The United States wants to help the people of Southeast Asia--including the people of North Vietnam-- develop their rich region in conditions of peace. Though the United States is prepared to fight if necessary, it much prefers to reach a just settlement at the conference table. In search of such a settlement, U.S.. negotiators are meeting with those of North Vietnam in Paris now. The American people are deeply hopeful of their success.

The two Presidents stated that a complete cessation of hostilities must be part of a final peaceful settlement. U.S.. negotiators are attempting to discover in Paris important elements of mutual de-escalation. They then reviewed the arrangements necessary for a general cessation of hostilities in South and North Vietnam. They concluded that such a cessation would be possible whenever the Government of North Vietnam is prepared earnestly to examine the arrangements required. Effective controls and guarantees would be necessary.


The two Presidents thus solemnly called on the authorities of North Vietnam to forsake the path of violence and to take the road toward peace now open to them through the Paris talks, which should lead to negotiations involving directly North Vietnam and South Vietnam.

Until these hopes are realized, the two Presidents confirmed their determination to halt aggression and to defend the Republic of Vietnam. Toward that end, the President of the Republic of Vietnam affirmed the unrelenting efforts of his Government and people, and President Johnson pledged the continued support and assistance of the United States to the people and Government of the Republic of Vietnam as long as such aid is needed and desired.

Note: A statement by President Nguyen Van Thieu at the joint working session of the conference is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 4, p. 1129).

The joint statement was released at Honolulu, Hawaii.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Joint Statement Following Discussions With President Thieu of South Vietnam at the Honolulu Conference. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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