On March 6, 1970, I gave the first comprehensive accounting of our activities in Laos that has ever been made to the American people. I traced the pattern of subversion and then invasion by North Vietnam. I reviewed US efforts under previous administrations to help the legitimate government. When we took office there had already been a US military assistance program for six years and increasing US air operations for four.

Since early 1963 the North Vietnamese have in effect conducted two wars in Laos. in the north they have kept up constant pressure against the neutralist government established in 1962 at their own urging. In the south they have occupied and fortified the Ho Chi Minh Trail area to attack South Vietnam.

In the face of these continuing North Vietnamese actions, we believed that the US role we inherited remained important. Our material aid and air operations in the north were needed to support the Royal Lao government and preserve the 1962 Geneva agreements. In the south, Vietnamization called for continued air strikes against the enemy to protect allied forces. Since 1965 at least 630,000 North Vietnamese troops have streamed down the trail. They have brought with them more than 400,000 weapons, over 100 million pounds of ammunition, and at least 200 million pounds of food.

Our defensive and supportive policy was outlined in the March 6 statement: no American around combat forces; minimum American presence; military assistance for regular and irregular Lao forces when requested by the Lao government; reconnaissance flights and air operations to interdict North Vietnamese troops and supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail: logistic and air support for Lao forces when requested by the government.

Within this framework we have maintained our military aid and air operations during the past year in response to increased North Vietnamese levels of infiltration and aggression.

Southern Laos became critical for Hanoi after the allied Cambodian operations deprived it of the port of Sihanoukville and the border sanctuaries. They swelled their forces in the area by more than twenty-five thousand, captured the towns of Saravane and Attopeu and intensively built up their supplies and their logistics network. Whereas for years southern Laos had been central to Hanoi's opera- tions in northern South Vietnam, at the end of 1970 it was becoming the hub and crossroads of Hanoi's campaigns throughout Indochina. Almost all of its men and supplies were now flowing through this area. The strategic principles that applied to the enemy's bases in Cambodia were valid as well for southern Laos. Hanoi deepened the area's part in the Vietnam war, with direct implications for Vietnamization and our withdrawals.