The ProspectsWe do not underestimate the difficulties ahead for Laos and Cambodia. Hanoi has intensified the war on these fronts, and its focus is likely to remain there in the coming months.
The Lao government has already demonstrated determination to preserve its independence in the face of overt aggression, diplomatically if possible, militarily if necessary. The Cambodians also have the essential ingredients for success-national unity, maximum self-help and the support of friends. The country's small, unprepared army is gaining both in size and ability, and the spirit of its people continues to inspire all observers. We can expect major testing of Cambodia over the coming months, but we believe that time is on its side.
Our future policy in Laos and Cambodia will follow the lines we have established. We face some very serious problems:
At the conference table.
Even if Hanoi were to negotiate genuinely about Vietnam, difficult issues remain concerning its neighbors: the removal of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, the securing of South Vietnam's borders, and the re-establishment of the Geneva agreements.
On the battlefield.
Enemy intentions and capabilities in Indochina will pose some hard choices about the deployment of allied troops as we pursue our own withdrawals. While North Vietnamese activities have subsided in South Vietnam, some of their sixty thousand troops massed in southern Laos could move into South Vietnam, or into Cambodia, or against northern Laos. In Cambodia we can expect sustained enemy thrusts against the government.
In the United States.
We will have the continuing responsibility of explaining the purpose and extent of our activities in Laos and Cambodia. North Vietnamese actions could require high levels of American assistance and air operations in order to further Vietnamization and our withdrawals.
I will continue to do what is necessary to protect American men as they leave Vietnam. Throughout I will keep the American people and the Congress fully informed.
A negotiated settlement for all Indochina remains our highest priority. But if the other side leaves us no choice, we will follow the alternate route to peace-phasing out our involvement while giving the region's friendly countries the time and the means to defend themselves.