Statement on the July 11 Speech of President Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam.
PRESIDENT THIEU has put forward a comprehensive, statesmanlike, and eminently fair proposal for a political settlement in South Vietnam. It deserves the support of all who seek peace in that tortured land.
President Thieu's proposal would establish a set of procedures and guarantees to ensure that the political future of South Vietnam would reflect, as accurately and as fairly as possible, the will of the people of South Vietnam including those whose allegiance is to the other side as well as those whose allegiance is to his own government.
In my television address of May 14, I said: "What the United States wants for South Vietnam is not the important thing. What North Vietnam wants for South Vietnam is not the important thing. What is important is what the people of South Vietnam want for South Vietnam."
I believe President Thieu's proposal is in this spirit, and that it would genuinely give the people of South Vietnam--all of them---the opportunity to determine their own fate for themselves. If the other side is prepared for serious negotiations, and willing to abide by the free choice of the South Vietnamese people, this should open the way at last for a rapid settlement of the conflict.
President Thieu has proposed elections in which all political parties and groups can participate--specifically including the National Liberation Front. He has offered to set up special guarantees to ensure fairness:
--establishment of an election commission, on which the NLF and all other parties would be represented,
--empowering this commission to assure all candidates equal opportunity to campaign, and all parties equal opportunity to participate in watching the polls and in supervising the counting of ballots,
--establishment of an international body to supervise the elections. Beyond this, President Thieu has indicated his willingness to discuss with the other side the timetable and details of these elections. He has declared that his government will abide by the results of such elections, and has asked that the other side do the same. He also has renewed his offer of private talks with the NLF without preconditions.
President Thieu's offer marks the culmination of a long series of steps by the South Vietnamese and American Governments, all of which together demonstrate clearly the sincere desire of our two Governments to negotiate an honorable and rapid settlement of the war. Let us look at the record:
Prior to January 20, the United States had halted the bombing of North Vietnam and agreed to sit down at the conference table with the NLF, as well as with the Governments of Hanoi and Saigon. We! have remained at that table and refrained from a resumption of the bombing despite Hanoi's shelling of South Vietnam's major cities, its violation of the Demilitarized Zone, and its refusal to deal with the Saigon Government.
On March 25, President Thieu offered to meet with the NLF for private talks without preconditions on a political settlement. This was refused.
On May 14, with the full support of President Thieu, I put forward an eight-point plan for peace. In this plan, I renounced reliance on a military solution. I offered a withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces within 12 months. I suggested placing the process of mutual withdrawal under international guarantees. I said that we sought no military bases, and no military ties, but only to secure the right of the people of South Vietnam to determine their own future without outside interference.
On June 8, at Midway, with the agreement of President Thieu, I announced the withdrawal of 25,000 American troops. The fact that the troops being withdrawn are actual combat forces, not logistical units, should underscore the fact that our desire is to reduce violence and achieve a negotiated peace. The program of replacing U.S. forces with South Vietnamese will be reviewed again in August.
At that same Midway meeting, president Thieu and I declared our readiness to accept any political outcome which is arrived at through free elections.
President Thieu has now offered a concrete program by which free elections can be held and the will of the South Vietnamese people can be determined. He has challenged the other side to test its claims to popular support at the polls. He has offered means by which the other side can participate in developing election procedures and by which the elections themselves can take place under international supervision.
If the other side genuinely wants peace, it now has a comprehensive set of offers which permit a fair and reasonable settlement. If it approaches us in this spirit, it will find us reasonable. Hanoi has nothing to gain by waiting.
I also want to repeat to the American people what I said in my speech of May 14: "Nothing could have a greater effect in convincing the enemy that he should negotiate in good faith than to see the American people united behind a generous and reasonable peace offer."
We and the South Vietnamese Government have made such an offer.
I call upon the leaders of the other side to respond in a spirit of peace, and let the political issues be resolved by the political process.
Richard Nixon, Statement on the July 11 Speech of President Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239595