The President's News Conference in New York City
[Prince Souvanna Phouma, Prime Minister of Laos, participated in the news conference.]
THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I thought I would give you a fill-in before you had to leave. The Prime Minister and I met at 9:30 and we will continue with our discussion into the next hour. We have been here about 50 minutes but they told me that some of you would need to have portions of our discussion as soon as possible because of travel arrangements and your deadline this afternoon.
The Prime Minister will be glad to summarize very briefly his viewpoint on the matter and I will do likewise. I won't give you any extended remarks about it but if you will be decent about it I will be glad to answer any questions.
Q. Would you give us the substance of your conversation?
THE PRESIDENT. The Prime Minister will give you a brief statement and review whatever he may choose to say.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S STATEMENT
[2.] THE PRESIDENT. I am deeply honored to have been received today by President Johnson. This is our first meeting since President Johnson became President. I had had the honor to meet with him when he was here on the occasion of the state visit of His Majesty the King of Laos to the United States.
Reviewing our conversation, we have exchanged a number of viewpoints on the situation in Southeast Asia. Our conversation has been extremely cordial and I am very happy to note that President Johnson is very fully informed about what goes on in Indochina and what goes on in my own country.
Together we have tried to find possibilities to bring peace back to that part of the world. I believe personally that the settlement of the present problem cannot be brought about by force of arms and that we must come as soon as possible to a conference, international in character, along the lines of the Geneva Conference of 1954, perhaps with a much broader membership.
We have also discussed the recent tragedy we have sustained in Laos with the floods of the Mekong River and the great devastation it has brought to the country.
I am happy to hear that the Government of the United States is ready to assist us in recovering from the damage of the destruction.
I should now like to leave it to the President to give you any additional firsthand information.
THE PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT
[3.] THE PRESIDENT. My part of the discussion consisted of expressing regret that I did not get to see the Premier last year when we had a tentative arrangement to meet. Because of my illness I had to forgo that pleasure.
Second, I asked him for a rather full report on the flood damage as a result of the Mekong disasters. He went into some detail of the loss of life--something in excess of 100--and the loss of values of the crops-something in excess of $5 million. It was the worst flood disaster in 40 years in that country. I asked for his views on how he thought we could achieve peace in Southeast Asia and he is in the process of giving me his views at some length in the light of what is taking place there.
He has discussed the general picture in Indochina--that whole part of the world. I emphasized to the Premier the desire for the people of the United States to have a positive, affirmative policy. We do not seek to conquer anyone. We are not bent on conquest. We do not want to dominate any people. We have no desire for any American presence in that area any longer than is necessary to resist aggression. We have no desire to maintain any bases. We have stated and restated and restated our desire to transfer the activity from the battlefield to the conference table.
I reviewed generally our objectives and our hopes for the Manila Conference and asked for his views on any suggestion he might have that he would wish me to consider. I pointed out to him that it must be obvious to the aggressors that they cannot succeed. And it must be equally obvious that we have no desire and no intention to impose our will upon their people or to change their form of government or even their way of life; but that Ho Chi Minh and the people of Hanoi have absolute, complete, and full responsibility for carrying on the war every day that it is carried on; that we were willing to stop yesterday and go to the peace table.
I further pointed out that we hope that all the nations of the world will realize this and all of this country realize it.
I told him that those who desire peace in the world do not need to exercise any influence on us to get us to have unconditional discussion. So if they can divert their talents and energies to the aggressors and Mr. Ho Chi Minh--if they have any influence with him, maybe they can contribute to advancing the cause of peace to which all of the American people have so fully dedicated themselves.
The fact that we love peace and hate war doesn't mean for a moment that we are going to break our commitments or retreat in the face of aggression. We think the world must know that aggression will not succeed in Indochina, in that area of the world, and that it is not our desire or our intent to impose our political views on any people.
It is in the interest of every American family that aggression not succeed, that the United States' word be kept, that our commitments be fulfilled, and that the people of the world not misinterpret the raucous and rasping voices in various quarters as indicating (a) either we want to dominate the area or (b) that we will get tired.
As in the Dominican Republic, we are not going to let might make right and let the aggressor impose his will on liberty-loving people. But as soon as the people have a right to self-determination and they make that determination under a supervised election or honest, proper procedures, we will act promptly in accordance with our statements. I have assured the Premier we have no desire to expand the conflict in Vietnam. We hope to work positively with all nations toward stability in Southeast Asia.
I summarized briefly my hopes in the seven-nation conference coming up. I pointed out to the Premier that I welcomed his visit and this opportunity to talk with him. In the last several weeks I have been busily engaged with reviewing with all of the leaders in that area: President Park of Korea, representatives of Malaysia, representatives of Burma, Ne Win, President Marcos, Prime Minister Holt, Prime Minister Holyoake. I discussed these problems at some length with the Prime Minister of India and with the President of Pakistan. Most of these people have come to Washington and most of them have come in very recent days. I have a general view of their attitude and their hopes and there is no substantial disagreement among us.
So far as the desire for peace is concerned, we believe that the peoples involved should be allowed to determine for themselves the type of government they should have.
I think we discussed some other technical, detailed problems about aid from other countries and about other matters affecting the internal affairs of this Government. But that is about the complete summary.
I think I will take any questions you may have.
[4.] Q. Mr. President, did the Prime Minister describe to you how serious he regards the Pathet Lao threat now?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Any other questions?
[5.] Q. Mr. President, was there any suggestion of expanding the Manila Conference by bringing the neutralist countries in?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
[6.] Q. Mr. President, did the Prime Minister suggest or ask for another bombing pause in North Vietnam?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
[7.] Q. Mr. President, do I understand an indication that you suggested that he use some influence on Ho Chi Minh?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I said that we would invite that from all peoples everywhere; that we have made our case very clear and that none of you--and I say speaking of "you," the three billion people of the world--need have any doubt about this country's desire to go from the battlefield to the conference table.
Now the question is to produce the other party. I just stated that as a policy of this Government. We invite peaceful efforts in that direction from any and all.
[8.] Q. Mr. President, did you receive any invitation to visit Laos?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Q. Mr. President, did you discuss the military situation in Laos; the Ho Chi Minh Trail?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Q. Did you discuss the internal political situation in Laos?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
You might add that we have met with the representatives of that Thai Government, the Deputy Prime Minister and others from the Australian Government in recent days.
George1 will give you the names and a list as soon as we get back to Washington.
1George Christian, an assistant press secretary.
Q. Mr. President, are these all in preparation for the Manila Conference?
THE PRESIDENT. No, they are all a part of the general search for peace and the study of the situation in the area which would be very useful. But the visits were not scheduled because of it. Some of them have taken place before we were invited. Some of them have been taking place after. As I have said to you we are glad to attend the conference. It is a problem for us.
We prefer to go in the middle of November after the Congress is out and after we have our problems adjusted here at home, but they have an election there November 26 and they just couldn't come. Of course, we have a problem of accepting because we always have some of you that can find something questionable about doing it. But think about the problem we would have if we had refused--probably from the same sources.
Reporter: Thank you.
Note: President Johnson's seventy-ninth news conference was held in the Presidential Suite at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City at 11:20 a.m. on Thursday, October 13, 1966.
As printed above, the news conference follows the text released by the White House Press Office.
Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/238243