John F. Kennedy photo

The President's News Conference at the Foreign Ministry in Bonn

June 24, 1963

THE PRESIDENT. I want to take this opportunity to express the appreciation all of us feel to the German people for their very generous welcome. And I am delighted to accept the invitation of the German press corps to have this press conference here. Is there a question?

[1. ] Q. Mr. President, would you please tell us of what importance you attach to the relationships between your country and Germany at the present time, and what you think the German role should be in the European development in the future?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think we have consistently attached the greatest importance to the maintenance of a free Europe since 1945, and a whole series of collective actions have been taken by both of our countries and other countries since that time. That relationship is, I think, even more vital today because while I think the security of Western Europe against military attack is well guaranteed by the efforts that we have all made collectively, I think Western Europe and the United States, and Canada, Great Britain, and the Commonwealth, have a major role in serving as the center or the core of a great effort throughout the world to maintain freedom.

In addition, the Federal Republic and Berlin, are in the front lines of this struggle. It is a powerful country which has made an astonishing comeback. It has a great influence in Europe. That influence has been directed towards liberal, progressive, international monetary and trade policies. It is my hope that that policy will continue and, therefore, I am hopeful and I am confident that our countries will work in the closest relationship with each other.

[2.] Q. At the airport yesterday, there seemed to be a note of difference of emphasis between your remarks and those of Chancellor Adenauer. He seemed to be concerned mostly with your concern to defend Europe, while you were concerned with new approaches or approaches to a new peace. Has this difference manifested itself in your private talks with the Chancellor?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I thought that the Chancellor was quoting--most of his remarks were a quotation from a speech which I gave at American University a weeks ago. He was quoting statements that I had made in regard to our commitment to Western Europe which, of course, is very basic to American policy. I also feel that the effort that we are making is in behalf of freedom and peace. That is the object of our policy, the policy of the United States. It must be, it seems to me, the object of every free country, and I am sure is the object of the policy of this country.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, is there a possibility that you might attend the coronation of Pope Paul VI?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think the Chief` Justice is leading the American delegation to that coronation, although I hope to see him during my visit to Italy.

[4.] Q. You said yesterday that our common strategy had to be directed toward overcoming the division of nations and countries. In relation to that remark of yours I would like to ask you, do you specifically see any chance of overcoming the division of Germany, if nothing else, in the sense of perhaps reducing the pressures?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would hope that-and it has been the policy of the United States for a great many years not to recognize in the juridical sense the division of Germany. Quite obviously, the German people wish to be reunited. If the people of the United States had lost a struggle, and the Mississippi River divided us, we would wish to be reunited. I think the people of the Soviet Union, if they experienced a comparable fate, would wish to be reunited. People and families wish to join together. So that is the object of our policy. Quite obviously there is no immediate solution. We hope that time, the desire of people to determine their own destiny, will be sufficiently strong, the policies that may be developed as time goes on, as events may change, will bring about that reunification which is, I think, the very strongly held desire of the German people, even though today that future may be uncertain, that date may not be possible to mark. There have been so many changes in the world in the last 18 years that I don't think anyone should despair.

Q. Mr. President, the allies have protested as illegal the most recent spread of the so-called Prohibitive Zone by the Communists in Berlin, but they have not tested that zone with controls. This has caused some to feel and to speculate that this means that we are letting the Communists take another so-called "slice" of salami. Could you clarify our position in that respect, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that the commandants have made very clear what our view is of the action which has been taken. This matter does involve the interests of two other countries which bear responsibilities comparable to ours, and we work in consultation with them as to what would be the most appropriate steps. Therefore, I fed that it is a matter which should be dealt with by the commandants in Berlin in connection with their government, rather than by me on a unilateral basis.

Q. In the framework of reducing East-West tension, is there any intention of picking up the plan of April of last year for an international approach authority toward Berlin, international access authority?

THE PRESIDENT. The matter which was-which came to the surface or was discussed last year was not considered to be a sound basis for negotiation. The Soviet Union did not respond favorably to it. Therefore, I would think it would lie on the table until such time as they might indicate some interest. My own feeling is that the--and I would say this in answer to this question and the previous one--that the position of West Berlin, the assurances we have given to it, are going to be fulfilled. And, therefore, in some ways it seems to me there is greater security in West Berlin--although, of course, the situation can always change--than there was, perhaps, in June of 1961. It is a continuing struggle because of the geographic location of West Berlin, but I think that the determination of those who have guaranteed Berlin is well known to the people of Berlin, to the other members of NATO who have joined in that commitment, and to those who make themselves our adversaries. So I expect West Berlin to continue to be free.

[5.] Q. Why are you making this entire trip?

THE PRESIDENT. Because I regard the relationship between the United States and Western Europe as vital to our security. This is a changing period in the West as well as in the East. We deal with problems of nuclear defense, of monetary policy, of trade policy. We are making decisions which may affect our relative positions through the world over the next decade. I think it is very appropriate that a President of the United States should come here to emphasize our strong convictions in these matters. The Chancellor of the Federal Republic has journeyed to the United States on 13 occasions. I think as a result of each of his visits the interests of the United States and the Federal Republic were served. I think it very appropriate that the President of the United States come to Western Europe. This is a matter of the greatest importance to us and I hope to the people here.

[6.] Q. Does the U.S. Government still have any objections to the German-French treaty?

THE PRESIDENT. The United States never registered any objections to the treaty. What I think we are concerned about is the maintenance of the integrity of NATO. And it seemed to me that the form in which the treaty passed the Parliament here in the Federal Republic took very important cognizance of the NATO obligation and the NATO responsibility and the NATO defense. I don't think that we can find strength in bilateral arrangements that we can in multilateral arrangements.

The reconciliation of France and Germany, I think, is essential to the security of the West. Europe has been torn by civil wars over a good many hundreds of years. To end that prospect, to bring France and Germany together, is a matter I would think of the greatest priority to the French and German people and a matter of the greatest interest to us. Twice the United States has been brought into war across the Atlantic because France and Germany were not friends. So I want to make it very clear that we support strongly the reconciliation and the effort at friendship which is being made and has been made over a number of years. We also want to be sure that NATO stays strong, because I think NATO is essentially the security of the Federal Republic, and we regard it as essentially the security of the United States. Those who do not place comparable importance on it, it seems to me, are ignoring history and are over-optimistic of the future.

[7.] Q. What meaning do the talks scheduled in July in Moscow have in relation to the Federal Republic's role in any multilateral atomic forces? Is there any possibility that these Moscow talks will be concerned with the nonspreading of the use of atomic weapons?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think they will be concerned with the nondiffusion of nuclear weapons. But we have felt that the organization of the multilateral force, as discussed between the Federal Republic and the United States, does not provide for a diffusion which would threaten this peace. In fact, I think it would give greater security and more satisfactory conditions of control.

The purpose of the talk basically, of course, is to get a test ban. I believe it essential that we get a test ban this year, or otherwise I think it greatly increases the prospect that there will be additional nuclear powers throughout the world in the months-in '64, '65, or '66. Now, I would regard that as a disaster. I do not regard the atomic weapon and the prospect of its spreading, and the realization that war has been the constant companion of mankind throughout our history and the conflict between the Communist system and the free system-when you mix all these factors together you have a highly explosive and a highly dangerous situation. When Pandora opened her box and the troubles flew out, all that was left in was hope. Now in this case, if we have a nuclear diffusion throughout the world, we may even lose hope.

[8.] Q. After the failure of the admission of Great Britain to the Common Market, do you have any new ideas concerning European trans-Atlantic economic cooperation?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the management, the successful management, of our monetary policies and our trade policy is essential. I would think the experience of the twenties, which helped lead to the disaster of the thirties, should be sufficient warning to us that we should be able to give this matter the highest priority. No nation, by itself, can maintain its own security and a successful management of its own fiscal affairs. There has to be the closest cooperation. I would hope that we would not, in 1963, when the trail is still uphill, when we have great challenges from the Communist world-that we would not break apart, that the Atlantic would not be regarded as a wall between us. I think we have to work in very close harmony; or otherwise, I think you will find successively in various countries deflationary policies which will lead to a lower standard of living at home; which will lead to each country managing its own monetary affairs with indifference to the affairs of others; which will lead finally to the breakup of our defensive alliances. Now that is the prospect which we face unless we are successful in working out the new round of talks, trade talks, that are coming up in 1964, and unless we can use other means of successfully solving our monetary challenges, or otherwise they are going to master us.

So I regard this matter of monetary policy, which deals with the standard of living of all of our people, as a matter of first priority. In addition we can't help but be concerned by the fact that the price of raw materials of the underdeveloped world has steadily declined relative to the price of manufactured goods. Therefore, their economic position in some ways is worse off in spite of all the aid we have given. Therefore, we may find ourselves, unless we work hard, and progressively, and with imagination, and idealism-we may find ourselves a rich area in a poor world, which is subject to all the influences that poverty brings with it, and ultimately we will be infected. So I hope that this is a matter which will not be left merely to those trade commissions, but, instead, will be a concern of presidents, chancellors, prime ministers, finance ministers, and defense ministers--and in fact the concern of all of our citizens.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, in regard to an earlier answer, if a test ban agreement were signed by the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union, how can this prevent France, for example, China, or any other country who wasn't a signatory to the pact, how could this prevent them from going on and making nuclear weapons?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you know, it is proposed in the treaty that those who sign the treaty would use all the influence that they had in their possession to persuade others not to grasp the nuclear nettle. Now, it is up to those countries. Quite obviously, they may not accept this persuasion, and then, as I say, they will get the false security which goes with nuclear diffusion.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, a German newspaper wrote today that, about your next visit to Italy, you are giving more importance as a Catholic to the visit to the Pope than to the meetings with the President, mostly because we [Italy] had a recent crisis and our Government is only a technical one. Could you say anything on that?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I wouldn't attempt to comment on that. I am visiting the President of Italy and the Government of Italy. I shall certainly look forward to paying a call on the new Pope. We have a good many matters of concern to us in relations with the Italian Government, not only defense but also economic and trade matters. I think the visit is important. Now, there is never a time when every country in the world is secure and is not having an election. There is no perfect time for visits, I suppose, but I think that this is not an inappropriate time, because I think that 1963 in the summer is the time of change. I would like to see the change be useful and in our favor.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, when you addressed the American University, you used the phrase that reads, "It is our hope to convince the Soviet Union that she, too, should let each nation choose its own future so long as that choice does not interfere with the choices of others." Could you say what you mean by "so long as that choice does not interfere with the choices of others"?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, what we mean is that we cannot accept with equanimity, nor do we propose to, the Communist takeover of countries which are now free. What we have said is that we accept the principle of self-determination. Governments choose a type of government, if the people choose it. If they have the opportunity to choose another kind, if the one they originally chose is unsatisfactory, then we regard that as a free matter and we would accept it, regardless of what their choice might be. But what we will not accept is the subversion or an attack upon a free country which threatens, in my opinion, the security of other free countries. I think that is the distinction we have made for a great many years.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, after your talks with Chancellor Adenauer today, do you have the impression that the Chancellor is no longer worried that there might be some arrangement between the Soviet Union and the U.S. at the expense of the Federal Republic?

THE PRESIDENT. I am sure that the Chancellor never thought that there was any prospect, any more than we have considered the prospect, that other allies of ours would sell out the interests of the Free World. The United States has never had that intention, and I think the record of 18 years demonstrates it quite clearly. If anybody needed to be reassured, I am glad they are.

[13.] Q. Senator Fulbright was quoted today in the newspapers as saying that it is obvious that the United States will have to pull some troops out of Europe unless the Common Market changes its trade policies. Is it also obvious to you--and would you explain, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I have not seen all of Senator Fulbright's statement.

The United States, as I said yesterday-our troops are in Western Europe because it meets a very vital need of the United States. The security of Western Europe, the freedom of Western Europe, is essential to the security of the United States. That is why we are here.

Now, we keep 400,000 troops here in Western Europe. That is a burden to the people of our country. We would hope that in considering what use these troops are-and I think they have been useful--I would think that most Europeans would think they should stay. It is our hope that these matters which we may discuss, of trade and monetary policy, that some cognizance would be taken of the fact that the United States has carried a very heavy load around the world for 18 years. The United States put into assistance in Europe after the Second War over $50 billion--$100 billion around the world--and we are prepared to continue, as I said yesterday, to make this effort because we think it is essential to our security. But we regard our security as tied up with the welfare of others.

We hope that as these matters of monetary and economic and fiscal and trade policy are discussed, that every country will take a look at the general welfare and not merely at the very immediate and sure to be temporary advantage which might come from following a policy of restriction.

I think that Senator Fulbright is concerned that we are moving in the winter, spring, and summer of '63 backwards rather than forward toward a closer accommodation of all of our policies. Quite obviously if that happens, then it becomes far more difficult for all of us to sustain our welfare. The Federal Republic cannot do as much as it is doing, for example, in India and Pakistan, unless it has the resources to assist. The same is true with the United States.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, when you said a moment ago that the Harriman-Hailsham talks will include the nondiffusion of atomic or nuclear weapons as well as a nuclear test ban treaty, will those topics be extended to include other topics in dispute?

THE PRESIDENT. The primary purpose is the treaty, but I am sure the other matter may come into the conversation. They are dealing primarily with the treaty but, of course, relative to the treaty and the purpose of the treaty is nondiffusion, and therefore it is certainly going--I am sure will come up.

[15.] Q. Have you any comments, sir, on the most recent notes that France is withdrawing additional naval forces from the control of NATO?

THE PRESIDENT. No. They withdrew most of their forces in 1959. I think that Secretary McNamara said the other day that what concerns him most is the condition of the forces, land, sea, and air. We are confident that if an attack occurred that the French would certainly meet their obligations for the defense of Europe.

I am a strong supporter of NATO. Some others may not be. But what we are concerned about primarily is not only the command distribution, and organization, but also the condition of the forces. And we hope that the French will maintain their forces at peak strength, as we are, and we are confident that if trouble comes that General de Gaulle, as he has in the past, will definitely meet his responsibility.

[16.] Q. On Wednesday, when you are at Checkpoint Charlie, sir, you will be just a few yards away from the entrance of East Berlin. If there were any thought given to your entering East Berlin, what was your reasoning behind not going, or are you planning to go?

THE PRESIDENT. No, there wasn't; we had not planned to go into East Berlin.

Q. What was the reasoning behind the idea of staying away from East Berlin, where you have every legal right, of course, to go?

THE PRESIDENT. Because the trip that we planned is to take us to West Berlin. I don't think that any gesture, however spectacular, of this kind would materially improve the lot of the people of East Berlin. That is why we are not going.

[17.] Q. Do you have any intention this year to have any talks with Mr. de Gaulle about the strategic differences within NATO policy?

THE PRESIDENT. No, we have no meeting planned.

[18.] Q. In your 10 June speech at American University, you spoke of the desire to end the cold war. Which role, in your opinion, could the Federal Republic play in attaining this goal?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the role of maintaining our strength, of providing a better life for the people of the Federal Republic, joining in an effort in Europe to build a strong Europe, a Europe which can not only take on the burdens and responsibilities of partnership here in Europe but also play the role that its strength and its traditions entitle it to play throughout the world-Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

I hope, in other words, that the Federal Republic will, as it has for the past decade, look outward. I hope Western Europe will, as it has, look outward. I do not regard our effort as one that concerns only Western Europe and only the United States. I regard us as chosen by nature and our own decision to play a role throughout the world, or otherwise there is no security for any of us.

[19.] Q. It has been said once in a while that there were some plans to exchange nonaggression statements between East and West, but this, in our opinion, would amount to a recognition of the zonal regime. Is any consideration still being given to such an exchange?

THE PRESIDENT, I know of no consideration being given to any proposal which would involve the concern which the questioner expressed.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, what is the feeling the West has towards the recent African conference in Addis Ababa, and have you any plans of visiting any of the African countries?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have no plans to visit the African countries. I welcome the effort which the Africans are making not only to meet their own problems but towards unity. I think it sets a good precedent-the unity of Africa--for the unity of Europe, a unity which is very encompassing in Africa and which may some day be in Europe, and I regard it as a very important step forward.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The President's fifty-seventh news conference, held at 5:30 p.m. at the Foreign Ministry in Bonn on Monday, June 24, 1963, was broadcast over television. Some of the questions were in German and were translated by an interpreter.

John F. Kennedy, The President's News Conference at the Foreign Ministry in Bonn Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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