Shortly after President Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam gave a speech proposing a fair political settlement in South Vietnam on July 11, 1969, President Nixon gave a statement in support of the South Vietnam leader’s plan to expedite peace in that “tortured land,” as he called it. RN believed that Thieu’s proposal would, as accurately and fairly as possible, allow Vietnam’s political future to reflect the will of the people of South Vietnam, including those whose political predilections were with parties not of Thieu’s own government.
President Nixon expounded some of Thieu’s special guarantees designed to ensure fairness in elections. There would be an establishment of an election commission, on which the National Liberation Front, one of Thieu’s major opposition groups, and all other parties would be represented. The commission would oversee that all candidates had equal opportunities to campaign, and that all parties would have opportunities to watch the polls and supervise the counting of the ballots. Lastly, an international body would be empowered to supervise the elections.
President Thieu’s offer marked the culmination of months of talks between the Vietnamese and American governments. Earlier that year, President Nixon had, with the full support of President Thieu, put forward an eight-point plan for peace. This plan, renouncing the use of overwhelming military force, offered a withdrawal of US and allied forced within 12 months. Soon thereafter both RN and Thieu declared their willingness to accept any political outcome derived from free elections.
President Nixon further expressed his desire to reduce violence and achieve a negotiated peace by withdrawing 25,000 American combat, not logistical, troops. He went on to challenge Thieu’s opposition, namely the NLF who declined to meet with Thieu for private talks without preconditions, to test their claims of popular support at the polls for Thieu had proposed a concrete program in which the will of the South Vietnamese people could be determined.
RN implored Thieu’s opposition to meet at the negotiating table with a spirit of peace and reason so that they may finally see beyond the violence and accept a generous and comprehensive settlement.
Photo courtesy of Corbis images: President Richard Nixon and President Thieu of Vietnam issue a joint press conference on Midway Island, June 8, 1969.