President Nixon and President Thieu address the media following their discussion of Vietnam strategy.
On June 8, 1969 President Nixon met with South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu at Midway to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam and U.S. negotiating strategy with the North Vietnamese at the Paris Peace Talks.
View the entire transcript of conversation between President Nixon and President Thieu during their Midway talks:
The President emphasized the importance of ending the war honorably, telling President Thieu, “the war in Vietnam concerns not only Vietnam but the entire Pacific. The people of South Vietnam, however, have the greatest stake. If the peace is inadequate, there will be repercussions all over Asia. There can be no reward for those engaged in aggression. At the same time, self-determination is not only in the Vietnamese interest, but in the American interest as well. It would improve the prospects of peace throughout the Pacific.”
President Nixon also made President Thieu aware of the enormous political pressure he was under to the end the war immediately, stating, “we have a difficult political problem in the U.S. and that he appreciated Saigon’s understanding for his domestic problems.” He also “described the Congressional situation and the importance of the 1970 elections. The U.S. domestic situation is a weapon in the war.”
To help ease public pressure on President Nixon and demonstrate the improvements of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, Thieu agreed to U.S. troops withdrawals but emphasized, “that troop replacements, if not handled carefully, could be misunderstood by the North Vietnamese and their allies. He pointed out that we have kept saying the war is going better. We must now prove it; it is important for both U.S. and Vietnamese opinion. Even though the war is going on, we must use the troop replacement to fight Communist propaganda.”
Upon returning to the U.S. on June 10, the President addressed the public on the meetings with President Thieu, stating:
First, that meeting brought home the message that the forces of South Vietnam have now been trained and equipped to the point that they are able to take over a substantial portion of combat activities presently being borne by Americans.
Second, that meeting means that President Thieu completely approves and supports the eight-point peace program which I set forth in my May 14 speech to the Nation. There is no disagreement between us on that program.
And, third, that meeting means that after 5 years in which more and more Americans have been sent to Vietnam, we finally have reached the point where we can begin to bring Americans home from Vietnam.
This does not mean that the war is over. There are negotiations still to be undertaken. There is fighting still to be borne until we reach the point that we can have peace.
The President also warned North Vietnam to cease attacking South Vietnam or face the consequences of blocking a political and diplomatic solution to ending the war:
But I do think, in conclusion, that this observation is worth making: By the May 14 speech that I made setting forth an eight-point program for peace, and by our action in withdrawing 25,000 American combat forces from Vietnam, we have opened wide the door to peace.
And now we invite the leaders of North Vietnam to walk with us through that door, either by withdrawing forces, their forces, from South Vietnam as we have withdrawn ours, or by negotiating in Paris, or through both avenues.
We believe this is the time for them to act. We have acted and acted in good faith. And if they fail to act in one direction or the other, they must bear the responsibility for blocking the road to peace and not walking through that door which we have opened.