President Kennedy - Cooler heads prevailed.

The President Holds A News Conference – March 6, 1963

President Kennedy – Cooler heads prevailed.

President Kennedy – Press Conference #51 – March 6, 1963 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

On this day in 1963, President Kennedy held his 51st news conference, covering a wide area of topics, including a Youth Employment program and pending legislation on Mental Illness, which was becoming a much larger concern than previously thought. Also, the subject of Latin America, and in particular the situation between the U.S. and Cuba:

QUESTION: Mr. President, Ambassador, or former Ambassador Guillermo Belt, the Ambassador from Cuba to the United States in the old days, said in a lecture at Georgetown Visitation Convent last Sunday that Castro would not be able to survive two weeks if he was denied Soviet oil. I wonder if there isn’t something that you can do about this, or maybe bring greater pressure on some of our allies who are shipping Soviet oil in their ships to Cuba?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but those are not our figures. There isn’t any doubt that over a long period of time that denial of oil would make a difference. To deny the oil would require, of course, a blockade, and a blockade is an act of war, and you should be prepared to go for it. I think we indicated last October that in periods when we considered the United States was in danger, we were prepared to go as far as was needed to remove that danger, and we would, of course, be willing always to do so again, if we felt there was a situation which carried with it that kind of danger to the United States.

But you should not be under any impression that a blockade is not an act of war, because when a ship refuses to stop, and then you sink the ship, there is usually a military response by the country involved. We are attempting to persuade NATO and other countries not to ship into Cuba, but the primary source of shipments into Cuba are bloc ships, and at this time we do not believe that war in the Caribbean is to the national advantage.

QUESTION: Mr. President, it is ten years now, sir, since the death of Stalin, and it is a fact ironically noted much more in the western world than the Communist world. Could you give us your appraisal, sir, of the significance of the changes in the Soviet Union in terms of the future of the East-West relations in this period of time?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I think that it would take at least a half hour program on a national network, and I couldn’t comment on that.

QUESTION: Mr. President, yesterday UN Secretary General U Thant received a letter from the Cuban Foreign Minister in which Roa hinted that the Cubans might like to discuss the resumption of friendly relations with us. I wonder if you think that this might be possible, and if so, what conditions would have to be met first?

THE PRESIDENT: I understand the note had some reference to it from Havana but the note actually delivered at the UN did not have any such reference. We have had no indication that there is a desire to resume friendly relations to us. We have said on many occasions that we regard the present Soviet presence in Cuba as unacceptable to us and we regard the communization of Cuba and the attempt to subvert the hemisphere as matters which are not negotiable. I don’t see any evidence that there is in prospect a normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States.

Even some five months after the dramatic showdown during what became known as The Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba was still at the center of Cold War tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Here is that News Conference with President Kennedy, as it was broadcast on March 6, 1963.

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