John F. Kennedy photo

The President's News Conference

August 01, 1963

THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.

[1.] The end of this summer of 1963 will be an especially critical time for 400,000 young Americans who, according to the experience of earlier years, will not return to school when the summer is ended. Moreover, without a special effort to reverse this trend, another 700,000 students will return to school in September, but will fail to complete the school year. The greatest growth in labor demand today is for highly trained professional workers with 16 or more years of education. The second fastest growing demand is for technical and semiprofessional workers with 1 to 3 years of post high school education. Jobs filled by high school graduates rose 30 percent, while jobs for those with no secondary education decreased 25 percent in the last decade.

We must therefore combat, intensify our efforts to meet this problem. We are now talking about the lives of a million young American boys and girls who will fail to meet their educational requirements in the next few months unless we do something about it.

This is a serious national problem. A boy or girl has only a limited time in their life in which to get an education, and yet it will shape their whole lives and the lives of their children. So I am asking all American parents to urge their children to go back to school in September, to assist them in every way to stay in school. I am asking school principals, clergymen, trade union leaders, business leaders, everyone in this country, to concern themselves. Here is something that all of us can do in a practical way in the month of August and in the months to come.

One of the things which we are going to do here is to provide, out of the Presidential emergency fund, $250,000 on an emergency basis for guidance counselors in the month of August to see if we can get some of these boys and girls back to school. They will appreciate any effort we make for the rest of their lives.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, some Republican leaders, and some Democratic Senators as well, have expressed a "wait and see" attitude about the nuclear test ban treaty. Does this give you any concern about its ratification or about the size of the margin you expect?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think everybody ought to--I think there is nothing wrong with waiting and seeing. Sooner or later, however, if you wait long enough and you see long enough you have to do something, and then you have to vote "yes" or "no."

My judgment is when the testimony is all in that this treaty will be ratified. I think it would be a great mistake not to. I think the treaty has been carefully considered. I think it provides protection for the security interests of the United States and gives us some hope. Maybe that hope won't be realized but some hope of moving towards a more peaceful world. In my judgment, after the Senators--and they have a right to meet their responsibilities in a careful way, this is a constitutional power, as I said the other night, vested in them. They have to study the matter carefully; they should hear from the Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Secretary, the State Department, and the rest, and make their judgment. I believe they will vote "yes."

Q. Mr. President, have you made any policy decision on whether we will continue testing nuclear weapons underground as the treaty permits us to do?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Yes, we will.

Q. We will continue?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, that is correct.

Q. Mr. President, is the United States considering giving France some of its nuclear weapons secrets in order that that nation might stop testing?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, France is a nuclear power and the United States and Britain have been in touch with the French authorities on this matter of how the interests of France, Britain, and the United States can best be protected in a test ban. At the present time, as you know, over a period of time, we have offered assistance to France on other occasions. After Nassau, we offered assistance to France on the Polaris program. That offer was rejected.

In Germany there are French aircraft with U.S. nuclear weapons, which are ready for the defense of the alliance which the United States has made available for sale, or tankers which could be used by the French military force, air tankers. So that we have been in some cooperation in this area. We have discussed--we have made some suggestions recently as to how that cooperation could be more satisfactorily developed if there were a test ban, but we have received no response from the French Government, other than the remarks of General de Gaulle at his press conference.

Q. Mr. President, Senator Dirksen and some West German officials have expressed concern that if the nuclear test ban is signed amongst others by this Government, by the Federal Republic of Germany, and by the East German regime, that this will amount to a tacit recognition of East Germany. What is your thinking on this point?

THE PRESIDENT. No, that is not correct. This matter was discussed and the position of the United States and Britain was made very clear to the Soviet Union. As a matter of fact, the Soviet Union mentioned a regime which it did not recognize and did not wish to recognize. So that a procedure was developed whereby a regime which is not recognized by one of the other parties to the treaty can file its assent with one of the three parties. This act would not constitute recognition by the remaining signatories. The fact of the matter is that we signed a part of a multilateral treaty on Laos which the Red Chinese also signed, but we do not recognize the Red Chinese regime. This is a matter of intent. Diplomatic procedure, custom, and law provide that recognition is a matter of intent. We do not intend to recognize the East German regime and, therefore, the language which is in the treaty was part of the treaty when it was tabled more than a year ago. It has been before us for a year and it does not provide for recognition of East Germany, and we will not recognize it, and we believe strongly in the reunification of Germany as a free, democratic country. That is our policy in the past and our present policy and our future policy and would not be affected by this test ban agreement.

I do think that it is important that we have as great a participation in this nuclear test ban agreement as possible. We have received no encouragement, but we would like the Red Chinese to come into the agreement. It looks like they will not, but it would obviously be in the interest of world peace, but that does not constitute recognition.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the Red Chinese hard line, the recent flare-up of violence in Korea, reported troop movements along the Indian-Tibetan border, do you believe that the situation has taken a turn for the worse in the Far East? If so, what should we do about it?

THE PRESIDENT. The potentiality is there for a turn for the worse. I don't think we can make a judgment as to what events will bring us. Broadcasts are very hard out of Peking. There has been a development of roads in the areas north of India's frontier. There are concentrations of troops. The potential for trouble is always there, and the same is true in other parts of Asia, but we have lived with a good deal of danger in Asia for a number of years. We have made quite clear, I think, our commitments, and we intend to carry out those commitments, and we would hope that there would not be a flare-up which would bring a direct conflict. That's our hope, and we cannot say as of yet there have been any actions which would indicate that in a final way that hope would be denied at this time.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, General de Gaulle has pledged that France will not commit aggression against any other country, and he says that therefore there is no purpose in a nonaggression agreement. Is it possible, in view of his attitude, to proceed with other NATO allies now, to see if a nonagression pledge or agreement or pact can be achieved with the Russians and the Warsaw Pact powers?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I understood it, General de Gaulle has made a nonaggression pledge himself. It would seem to me that it might be advisable for the other members of NATO to meet together and discuss the matter. One of our interests in a nonaggression agreement would be greater security for Berlin. If everyone is going to unilaterally make a nonaggression agreement, then you have a nonaggression pact in a sense, and it does not seem to me that our interests have been adequately recognized. So I would feel, personally, for the United States, that we should consult with our other allies. We should, as Governor Harriman agreed to do, take up the matter of a nonaggression pact with our allies, consider their interests and our own interests, consider, as I said, for one matter, Berlin, and then go back to the Soviet Union and see what the situation looks like. That is the procedure we are going to follow. Every country, of course, is free to follow its own.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, former Vice President Nixon has been making a number of suggestions on the American foreign policy recently. In doing so, do you think he is sounding like a would-be presidential candidate again?

THE PRESIDENT. NO. I have taken him at his word, that he won't run again.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, in some 24 States all over the country, there are miscegenation laws in various forms. California courts once found them unconstitutional under the 14th amendment, and said that marriage is a fundamental fight of free men. Now, in your crusade against racial discrimination for all races, will you seek to abrogate these laws, and how would you go about it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the law--if there was a marriage of the kind you have described, I would assume--and if a legal action was taken against the party, then they would have a relief, it would seem to me, in the courts. And it would be carded, I presume, to the higher courts, depending on the judgments, so that the laws themselves would be affected by the ultimate decision of the Supreme Court.

I think there are legal remedies for any abuses in this field now available.

Q. Does not the Department of Justice take some discrimination cases to the courts themselves?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not sure they could, as you describe it, because I am not sure they would be a party in the case. It would probably be--in order to have the case heard, and this is a legal matter which I am not familiar with, and I speak with some valor of ignorance as I am not a lawyer, I would think that they would have to be a party in interest, who would bring the suit. But this is a matter which I would be glad to have the Attorney General or the Solicitor speak to you about personally.

[7.] Q. There are indications lately that your policies on civil rights are costing you heavily in political prestige and popularity. Would you comment on that, and would you tell us whether civil rights are worth an election?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I assume what you say is probably right. On the other hand, this is a national crisis of great proportions. I am confident that whoever was President would meet his responsibilities. Crises come in different forms. I don't think anyone would have anticipated the exact form of this particular crisis. Maybe last winter we were dealing with other matters. But I think it has come and we are going to deal with it. My judgment is that both political parties finally will come to the same conclusion, and that is that every effort should be made to protect the rights of all of our citizens, and advance their right to equality of opportunity. Education, jobs, security, right to move freely about our country, right to make personal choices--these are matters which it seems to me are very essential, very desirable, and we just have to wait and see what political effect they have. But I think the position of the Government, the administration, is well known, and I expect it will continue to follow the same course it has followed in the past.

[8. ] Q. Mr. President, when Lord Hailsham returned to London, he said Premier Khrushchev had expressed an interest in a summit meeting in the fall. I wonder, sir, if you could give us your view on the issue of the summit, now that a test ban treaty has been initiated?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have not heard any discussion of the summit, and I don't really see at the present time it would serve a useful purpose. It seems to me that we have been able to conduct the negotiations, which are important, the matter of the hot line, for example, and the test ban treaty, the limited test ban treaty, through skilled negotiators, and that is really the best way unless there is an overwhelming crisis, or unless there is some new factor introduced into the international situation which is not now visible which would make such a meeting desirable.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, Representative Adam Clayton Powell has said that Negroes should retain the leadership of the civil rights movement in their own hands, excluding, for the most part, whites. This has upset a great many people, both Negroes and whites, who support the civil rights movement. Could you give us your view of this position held by Mr. Powell?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't seen the statement that you attribute to him, so it is hard to comment on it. I would think that this is a matter, of course--when you are talking about 10 percent of the population-it is a matter which affects Negroes and whites and the relations between them are what are at issue; not the relationship between the Negro community itself, but the relationship between Negroes and whites. Therefore, it requires the work of Negroes and white. It seems to me quite obvious. But I don't know what he said about it.

[10.] Q. A two-pronged question, please: Do you feel that the relaxation of cold war tensions resulting from the test ban treaty might in any way affect relations between Cuba and the United States, and do you think that the United States might take any action against the students who are now in Cuba?

THE PRESIDENT. That's really three questions. I don't know what the next step in regard to relaxation of tensions are. We can't predict it. I described it as the first step in a long journey, so I don't think we should make any presumptions about what the future will bring. I think we should maintain our strength. I don't think we should cut our defense budgets. I think we should pursue, however, the next step and the next step, to see if we can bring about a genuine detente--we don't have that yet--a genuine one, which covers a broad area.

What we have now is a limited test ban agreement, and we should realize it as an important step, but only a first step.

Now, secondly, our policy I described very clearly in regards to Cuba at the last press conference.

Thirdly, in regard to the students, their passports are going to be lifted when they come back here. Some of the leadership, it seems to me, are definitely Communists. The journey was paid for in cash by the Cuban Government. Some of the students may be just young men and women who are interested in broadening their horizons. But I think that they should have some concern for the security and foreign policy objectives of the United States.

In any case, their passports will be lifted, which may discourage their travel for a period, and, in addition, other steps may be considered in regard to a few who are not students but who are Communists.

[ 11. ] Q. Some reputable experts estimate that it will be at least 10 years before Communist China could become a full-fledged nuclear power. Against that background, could you expand a little bit your answer to a previous question on just how we assess the power and the threat of Communist China today?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we assess its power at 700 million people, increasing at 14 million or 15 million a year, surrounded by countries which are, in every case but one, much smaller, which are faced with very difficult geographic and social problems, which do not have a strong national history. So that we find a great, powerful force in China, organized and directed by the government along Stalinist lines, surrounded by weaker countries. So this we regard as a menacing situation.

In addition, as I said, that government is not only Stalinist in its internal actions, but also has called for war, international war, in order to advance the final success of the Communist cause. We regard that as a menacing factor. And then you introduce into that mix, nuclear weapons. As you say, it may take some years, maybe a decade, before they become a full-fledged nuclear power, but we are going to be around in the 1970's, and we would like to take some steps now which would lessen that prospect that a future President might have to deal with.

I would regard that combination, if it is still in existence in the 1970's, of weak countries around it, 700 million people, a Stalinist internal regime, and nuclear powers, and a government determined on war as a means of bringing about its ultimate success, as potentially a more dangerous situation than any we faced since the end of the Second War, because the Russians pursued in most cases their ambitions with some caution. Even in the case of the most overt aggression, which was the North Korean invasion of South Korea, other forces were used and not the Russians.

So what we are anxious to do, and one of the reasons why we have moved into the limited test ban, even though we recognize its limitations, is because we don't want to find the world in as great a danger as it could be in the 1970's, for the reasons that I have described.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, it has seemed that as the summer has progressed, the vigor or some of the fever has gone out of the Negro demonstrations that we had around the country earlier in the year. I wonder, sir, how you feel, or why this might have come about, what effect it might have on the opinion of legislation, and in short if you could assess the demonstrations that we have had with the spring, and what we have accomplished?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it is partly because an awful lot of work is being done in the local communities by biracial groups, by responsible officials, and this is true north and south, east and west, partly because I think that the Negroes are aware that the Congress is considering the legal remedies for some of the difficulties that they face.

It is partly because the responsible Negro leadership, I think, realizes that this is a long drawn-out task to bring about, which requires jobs, which requires education, and all of the rest, and a quick demonstration in the street is not the immediate answer.

But merely because the demonstrations have subsided does not seem to me, those of us who are in a position of responsibility, does not mean that we should go to sleep and forget the problem, because that is no solution. So I think that it may be a good thing that the demonstrations, particularly in their extreme form, are subsiding. I think in some cases they were becoming self-defeating, and particularly demonstrations that I have seen, that I've read about recently, which seemed to me to be rather fringe actions. I thought that they were self-defeating.

But I would hope that if there is a period of quiet, we would use it and not merely regard it as an end of the effort.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, this is related to an earlier question. Senator Dirksen also expressed concern about Cuba, and he said that Cuba could become a party to the Moscow treaty, and then could test nuclear weapons in the caves down in Cuba. Do you share Senator Dirksen's concern about such a matter?

THE PRESIDENT. If they did not become a party to the treaty, couldn't they test in the caves or in the atmosphere?

Q. Search me, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it seems to me that that doesn't--there is some logic, I am sure, to it. [Laughter] But the fact of the matter is that this testing underground is a very difficult business, very difficult, very expensive, and this will have a restraint on the development of nuclear weapons.

If you could get a complete, comprehensive test ban treaty, which we still are for, which I think we ought to pursue, then you would have an ending to all prospects. But to say that the test ban treaty itself is an encouragement to develop nuclear weapons, presents the problem in a way which does not add materially, it seems to me, to the illumination that I am confident that the debate will bring.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, this month we shall celebrate the second anniversary of the Alliance for Progress. With all of its frustrations and yours, and advancement in some areas, I wonder how you evaluate the movement during this 2-year period, since it was one of your inauguration ideas?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am always depressed, to an extent, by the size of the problems that we face in Latin America, with the population increases, the drop in commodity prices, and all the rest. We sometimes feel that we are not going ahead. In addition, in nearly every country there are serious domestic problems.

On the other hand, there have been some changes in Latin America which I think are encouraging. I think there has been a common recognition that there is the necessity for revolution in Latin America, and it is either going to be peaceful or bloody. But there must be progress, there must be a revolution. In my opinion, it can be peaceful. In my opinion given time and concentrated effort on behalf of all of us, in Latin America, and in this country, we can bring about success.

So I think the Alliance for Progress should be pursued, its efforts should be intensified. Wherever it has failed, if it has failed, and it has failed, of course, to some degree, because the problems are almost insuperable, and for years the United States ignored them, and for years so did some of the groups in Latin America themselves, but now we are attempting, we have a program, I think we should pursue it. I think we should do more about it. I am not sure that we are giving still enough attention to Latin America.

What I find to be almost incomprehensible are those who speak about Cuba all the time, and yet are not willing to give the kind of assistance and the kind of support to assist other countries of Latin America to develop themselves in a peaceful way. So I say on the second anniversary, we have a long, long way to go, and in fact in some ways the road seems longer than it was when the journey started. But I think we ought to keep at it.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, to go back to the French situation, you said, I believe, that you had made some suggestions with the British to the French in the nuclear field. Have you ever suggested or considered suggesting using the authority which I understand you have under the Atomic Energy Act, to treat France as we treat Britain, as a nuclear power, either under the present French policy or under a possibility of France joining with the U.S. and the U.K. and others in some form of Western or European nuclear force?

In other words, when you said the other night that France was one of the four nuclear powers, were you prepared to recognize it in the hard terms of the Atomic Energy Act as such?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do recognize it in terms of the Atomic Energy Act. As a matter of fact, at the time of the Nassau agreement, we thought that it would be profitable to enter into a dialog with the French, and as you remember in the Nassau accord, it said we would make a similar offer to the French. That offer was rejected. It was rejected because, while the British were prepared and have placed their Vbomber force under NATO and Polaris under NATO, their Polaris force under NATO, I think that the French regarded that condition as unsatisfactory, or that proposal as unsatisfactory. I think that is a more precise word, proposal, not condition.

Now, we have the question of where we should go from here. As the General made clear in his press conference, he has a somewhat different view of NATO than we do, and its importance, and he has suggested on several occasions that it should be reorganized. He also has some objection to the word "integration," which we think is a good word. But he does not. So that the problem does not rest solely with an interpretation of the McMahon Act. The problem really goes to the organization of the defense of the West, and what role France sees for herself, and sees for us, and what kind of a cooperative effort France and the United States and Britain and the other members of NATO--and this is important, the nonnuclear powers of NATO--could join in.

Now, that is a very complicated political problem and this is a matter which we opened up for discussion some months ago, and which I would assume that we should continue to discuss. And, of course, we are always prepared to, and have indicated as much to the French.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, apropos the Nassau talks, we haven't heard much about the multilateral nuclear force lately. During your talk with Prime Minister Macmillan, he apparently gave you some rather discouraging answers about their interests. I wonder if you still have a timetable for the development of that force, or whether you have decided to abandon it, at least temporarily?

THE PRESIDENT. NO, there has been a meeting-since my trip there has been a meeting of some of the interested parties and there will be another meeting in the next few weeks in which other countries will join. What we have to concern ourselves with, though this may not seem very pressing, is the problem of the countries which do not have a nuclear capacity. How are they going to be included in? I think as the General said in his press conference last January, those who have a monopoly position always regard it as the wisest organization, and as the most beneficial. Well, we have a strong nuclear position, the British do, the French are developing theirs. What about those who do not have a nuclear capacity? How can we include them into this cooperative effort so that we do not break up the alliance? That is what we have been attempting to deal with.

Now, there are many shortcomings to our proposal, but my experience has been that there are shortcomings to every proposal, and those who do not like our proposal, it seems to me, should suggest one of their own. We hear frequently, for example, there should be a European deterrent. It seems to me that the General discussed that when he said that there was not the political organization of Europe that would permit the organization of a deterrent in a European sense. There may be someday. In the meanwhile, we think the multilateral force represents the best solution to hold the alliance together, which we believe to be essential, and I know of nothing that has happened which in my opinion lessens the need on both sides of the Atlantic for the closest cooperation on military matters, on economic matters, on political matters, on foreign policy matters.

Now, we don't have always that viewpoint and cooperation, but we intend to work at it. We intend to work at it.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, one of the concerns voiced by some of the critics of the partial nuclear test ban agreement involves the relative status of the anti-missile-missile programs of the Soviet Union and the United States. And these critics point to last year's massive series of Soviet tests in which very large warheads were detonated as probably giving the Soviets an advantage in this area. Now have our scientific and technical intelligence people examined those tests, and can you give us your estimate of where we stand relatively?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think that the problem is solved by the explosion of a large megaton bomb. The problem is really one, as you know, of discrimination, of being able to prevent saturation, of having to protect many targets while the adversary can select a few.

The problem would not be solved if the United States exploded a 100-megaton bomb. The reason that the United States did not explode or develop is because we had no military use for it.

When you talk about 100 megatons, which we do rather casually, we should realize what we are talking about. What is the blast effect? Would three 30-ton megaton bombs do more damage? Well the fact of the matter is they would, because the effect of a 100-megaton as opposed to a 50-megaton does not move up in arithmetical progression. So we have felt that lesser yields, combined with the means of delivery, provided the United States with the greater security.

The problem of developing a defense against a missile is beyond us and beyond the Soviets technically, and I think many who work in it feel that perhaps it can never be successfully accomplished, because the whole problem, as you know, is to have 100 objects flying through the air at thousands of miles an hour, to be able to pick them out. And if you can do that there is an advantage, it still seems to me, to the offense, because they can pour in 200 or 300. And therefore, the problem is not the size of the bomb, but rather the problem of discrimination and the problem of selectivity, targeting, and all the rest.

On those matters we can continue to work, but I must say those who work the longest are not particularly optimistic that a scientific breakthrough can be made, and polluting the atmosphere by further tests will not materially advance our security.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Kennedy's fifty-ninth news conference was held in the State Department Auditorium at 4 o'clock on Thursday afternoon, August 1, 1963.

John F. Kennedy, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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