Maybe not as apparent at the time, but this news conference covers some interesting ground, certainly where the future is concerned. In historic context – the French suffered a shattering defeat at Dien Bien Phu in what is now known as Vietnam, but was then known as French Indo-China. The issue regarding the potential fate of Southeast Asia was one of the main topics of this news conference. Needless to say, it was a subject only the future would know about.
President Eisenhower (reading prepared statement): Ladies and gentlemen, you know that the meeting at Geneva is still in session; as a matter of fact, I believe there is a plenary session now going on. There are also many details of the agreements that have been reached there, or at least auxiliary parts of the agreement, that we have not been able to study in detail.
In this situation, I have prepared a statement which I shall read. You need not take it down because there are copies that will be provided before this meeting is over.
[Reading] I am glad, of course, that agreement has been reached at Geneva to stop the bloodshed in Indochina. The United States has not been a belligerent in the war in which thousands of brave men, while defending freedom, have died during the past 7 years.
The primary responsibility for the settlement in Indochina rested with those nations which participated in the fighting.
Our role at Geneva has been at all times to try to be helpful where desired, and to aid France and Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam, to obtain a just and honorable settlement which will take into account the needs of the interested people.
Accordingly, the United States has not itself been a party to or bound by the decisions taken by the conference, but it is our hope that it will lead to the establishment of peace consistent with the rights and needs of the countries concerned. The agreement contains features which we do not like, but a great deal depends on how they work in practice.
The United States is issuing at Geneva a statement to the effect that it is not prepared to join in the conference declaration but, as loyal members of the United Nations, we also say that in compliance with the obligations and principles contained in article II of the United Nations Charter, the United States will not use force to disturb the settlement. We also say that any renewal of Communist aggression would be viewed by us as a matter of grave concern.
As evidence of our resolve to assist Cambodia and Laos to play their parts in full independence and sovereignty, in the peaceful community of free nations, we are requesting the agreement of the governments of Cambodia and Laos to our appointment of an ambassador or minister to be resident at their respective capitals. We already have a Chief of Mission at Saigon, the capital of Viet-Nam, and this embassy will, of course, be maintained.
The United States is actively pursuing discussions with other free nations with a view to the rapid organization of a collective defense in southeast Asia in order to prevent further direct or indirect Communist aggression in that general area. [Ends reading]
Here is that complete News Conference, including the above statement and a lengthy Q&A from July 21, 1954.