The President's News Conference
PLANS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOUTHEAST ASIA THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Earlier in the day the Secretary General 1 wrote me in reference to my speech last evening 2 and I am replying to him expressing my pleasure at his reaction. I am asking Mr. Black, 3 who incidentally is governmental and fiscal adviser to a good many people, including the President and Mr. U Thant, to get together with and assure the Secretary General of our desire to be helpful in connection with any southeast Asian plan that could be evolved.
1 U Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations.
2 Item 172.
3 Eugene Black, adviser to the President on southeast Asian social and economic development.
Mr. Black will convey my views to him and ask him for any further suggestions he may want us to consider. In the meantime, we will be awaiting any suggestions that may come from that area of the world, or that Mr. U Thant may make to us.
Mr. Connor, the Secretary of Commerce, was here earlier and had to leave for a speaking engagement. Ambassador Stevenson 4 was here earlier and had to leave for a speaking engagement. Mr. Black is here now and will have to leave for some other kind of engagement.
4 Adlai E. Stevenson, U.S. Representative to the United Nations.
You can ask him any questions. Just have mercy on him.
QUESTIONS Q. Do you have any date for meeting with U Thant?
MR. BLACK. No. I just learned about this yesterday and I came down today, as the President said, for a further understanding of this, and so I have not been in touch with the Secretary General.
THE PRESIDENT. I might add that I had some remarks with General Eisenhower yesterday before I made my speech, and he called me this afternoon while we were in the meeting. I talked to him and he said that he had listened to the speech last evening with great interest. And he commended my approval of--my selection of Mr. Black and the general statement I made with regard to his work, and he sent his good wishes to Mr. Black. I asked Mr. Black to come in and talk to him, also. The General is coming east at the end of the month. 5
5 Gen, Dwight D. Eisenhower was returning to his home at Gettysburg, Pa., after spending some time at Palm Springs, Calif.
Q. What was that about Easter, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. The General is coming east toward the end of the month, coming to Gettysburg about the first of the month. We'll have a further meeting after he gets back.
Q. Of additional members of the committee?
THE PRESIDENT. No, there won't be any until the Secretary General and people out there have a chance to move--until we have further meetings.
Q. Mr. Black, may I ask you about the mechanics of what you are going to be setting up? I am sure there are a lot of these countries that would like to stand in line for their checks, but you have to set up a new committee with the U.N. Secretary General and with those countries out there. Or how is this?
MR. BLACK. We just don't know yet.
THE PRESIDENT. I am not sure as you are about standing "in line for their checks." What we are going to do first is say to the Secretary General, "Here is the feeling of this country"--in somewhat more detail than we outlined last night--and we are going to await his pleasure and the application of his wisdom and knowledge of that area and see what they come up with. And we will see where we go from there.
Q. Mr. Black, admitting there is preliminary thinking about this project, might we look forward to any involvement with any developed nations with or without additional ties in that area?
MR. BLACK. I would think this is very likely. As a matter of fact, there has been some preliminary interest expressed by some already.
Q. Could you mention some of them? MR. BLACK. I would rather not.
Q. These are developed countries? MR. BLACK. Yes.
Q. Do we know whether the billion dollars would be grants or loans?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think you can put the cart before the horse, fellows. I told you last night what I felt I would like to see evolve and what I would recommend. What I said was I would like the Secretary General to use his knowledge of that area and the leadership and prestige of his office, and that is where he will go. That is what he will come back with, what programs--it won't come from this station.
Q. Mr. Black, you had a great deal of experience as President of the World Bank in bringing India and Pakistan together. Do you see another sort of negotiating role for yourself in getting these nations to work together when there has been so much trouble in that area?
MR. BLACK. I think that is what we hope for.
Q. Mr. President, do you plan to bring General Eisenhower into this program more than this consultant position or just conferring with him again generally ?
THE PRESIDENT. I talked to President Truman and General Eisenhower at every opportunity I had--I always seek their advice and counsel--and he called me this afternoon and just told me he heard the speech. I told you everything that happened after that.
Q. Mr. President, is the next step then the meeting with Secretary General U Thant?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. U Thant, and he takes it from there and you go with him from there on.
Q. This committee, I understand, Mr. President, is a governmental committee. Am I wrong in that?
THE PRESIDENT. This is a committee of certain people from the Government to work in this area. Mr. Black is the committee for the moment. Maybe after Mr. U Thant and the Asian planners come up with their suggestions I may add to that committee.
Q. From the outside?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know whether it will be Baptists, Methodists--it might be a welfare group. He is the committee at the moment and we will add to it when we need it. These people are going to outline to him what the resources of the Government are, and appropriations are, and what we are doing. He is going to carry what information he has to Mr. U Thant, and Mr. U Thant will take it wherever he wants to. He will get back to us and if Mr. Black wants a committee of four more or eight more we will work it out. I am not trying to discriminate against anyone in Government or out.
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT FOLLOWING HOUSE APPROVAL OF MEDICARE BILL [2.] Q. Mr. President, on another subject, what do you think of the House passing the medical bill ?
THE PRESIDENT. I just happen to have it here.
[Reading] "This is a landmark day in the historic evolution of our Social Security System. The overwhelming vote of support in the House of Representatives for the Social Security Amendments of 1965 demonstrates once again the vitality of our democratic system in responding to the needs and will of the people.
"In 1935 the passage of the original Social Security Act opened up a new era of expanding income security for our older citizens. Now, in 1965, we are moving once again to open still another frontier: that of health security. For an older person good health is his most precious asset. Access to the best our doctors, hospitals, and other providers of health service have to offer is his most urgent need.
"Today the whole country has reason to be grateful to the Members and leadership of the House for responding positively to the carefully devised proposals of the House Ways and Means Committee to deal in a practical way with a historic idea 'whose time has come.'
"As Senator Harry Byrd 6 has already indicated he will have hearings in the Senate Finance Committee. I believe that speedy Senate action may convert this monumental bill to the final reality of an enacted law."
6 Senator Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
FURTHER QUESTIONS ON THE PLANS FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA [3.] Q. Could we return to one final question on southeast Asia, sir? We all understand that the plan is in its preliminary stages, but have you talked about the scope of the plan?
THE PRESIDENT. It is an idea now and the plan will be evolved later.
Q. Will it include possibly India, on the one hand, and Indonesia, on the other?
THE PRESIDENT. We are not going to get down to countries or even individuals now. We are just going to say to Mr. Black: Here is what the Government is doing, here is what the President said, here are my views. I have just gone over with him a quotation of my report to President Kennedy on May 6, 1961, which may give you a little more feel of my view:
"Any help, economic as well as military, we give less developed nations to secure and maintain their freedom must be a part of a mutual effort. These nations cannot be saved by United States help alone. To the extent the southeast Asian nations are prepared to take the necessary measures to make our assistance effective, we can be and we must be unstinted in our assistance. It would be helpful to enunciate more clearly than we have in guidance of these nations what we expect or require of them."
Now, that was 3 or 4 years ago, when I was meeting with the United Nations Economic Group out in Saigon. This statement followed that meeting. My March 25th statement 7 indicated what I thought would be the good course to follow--that the Secretary General use his influence in the area, and have the Asian planners plan a program for southeast Asia, and we would be glad to participate. Last night I expressed the hope that the Secretary General would use his knowledge of the area and prestige of his office to evolve the plan. Now you want me to evolve it for him. That I am not going to do, either by individual country or by individual program.
7 Item 130.
We are doing a good many things in agriculture, in medicine, in aid, and all these things now. We told Mr. Black what those things are. We are spending almost a billion dollars a year in the Department of Defense for what we are doing in that area now-bombs, bullets, planes, and supporting them, and all those things, and spending $450 to $500 million in addition in military assistance. We are spending in aid and Public Law 480 funds in southeast Asia some 400-odd millions more.
So, we indicated last night as a goal, if we could in some way find peace we would like to bring our men home right away. We would like to take some of these resources now being used and instead of converting them into bombs and bullets put them into food, medicine, and clothes, and economic development--like the Mekong River development and how that comes out, how much we put in and what others put in. What nations come in and what nations are developed is somewhere down the road, and we hope Mr. U Thant and the southeast Asians evolve that.
Q. Mr. President. this is already being called a Marshall plan for southeast Asia. Is that label familiar to you?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I have not heard it yet. I don't think we have a plan yet. As I have tried to state several times, the idea here, an indication of our willingness, what we are saying to Mr. Black he will be saying to the Secretary General, that here is what I think the President had in mind, in detail, and we will be waiting to see what the Secretary General says.
I am saying to the Secretary General something like this: "I am greatly encouraged about my speech last night. I welcome your assurance of your own continuing concern for peaceful settlement of Viet-Nam. I am asking Ambassador Stevenson to keep in dose touch with you on these matters." And Mr. Black will also be talking to him about what went on this afternoon.
I want to stress and emphasize: we expect it to be a plan formulated under the leadership, guidance, and prestige of the Secretary General and which we want the people of southeast Asia to do the planning and to lay out the program which we will try to fit our resources into. Is that clear?
I know how much you can use some extra copy, but it is not going to be formulated here. It is going to be formulated out there and it will come back here and we will act on it.
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's forty-first news conference was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House at 6:40 p.m. on Thursday, April 8, 1965.
As printed, this news conference follows the text of the official White House transcript.
Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/241919