Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 9. 1965.
Vietnam War ar Nz — Statement by the Prime Minister to Salient
Vietnam War [unclear: ar] Nz
Statement by the Prime Minister to Salient
The history of South-East Asia in the twentieth century still has to be written. It is therefore difficult, as yet, to form final judgments on the Indo-Chinese war centred now in South Vietnam. In New Zealand in addition there are few who can claim to speak with authority in this field. So for students to search for truth in the accepted academic sense is made doubly difficult.
I would suggest, however, that a balanced understanding of developments is possible if, in addition to New Zealand sources of information reputable British, French, and American journals, which have also been debating the issue, and authors, are studied. The main problems, issues, and implications are fairly clear and readily grasped. The difficulties are that they have been clouded by misconceptions and noisy propaganda.
In any search for truth one must check the reliability of sources. Now I make no claim for infallibility for the Government. But we do have a vast amount of varied information. And in the light of it I have no hesitation in denying the reliability of some of the Government's critics. (Mr. Holyoake then considered the credentials of Mr. Hugh Campbell, who has written for the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, and suggested that he was less qualified to write on the situation than the Foundation claimed). Furthermore, Mr. Holyoake concluded from the correspondence that he had had with the Chairman of the Foundation, Mr. L. F. J. Ross, that Mr. Ross "was not a genuine seeker after truth, and . . . nothing that I might say, and no assurance I might give, would prevail against his closed mind and fixed ideas."
The Prime Minister then discussed in detail the nature of New Zealand's treaty obligations, before examining—
New Zealand's Position
The Government believes that a small nation like New Zealand cannot condone aggression in Vietnam if we value international law and order and our own security. In our modern world, where Communist leaders claim the right of supporting wars of liberation, it is frequently no longer possible to maintain a meaningful distinction between civil wars and international wars.
Vietnam Issue Continued On Page 11
It may similarly be difficult to point to a single specific act as in itself constituting aggression. In these circumstances the test of aggression is provided by patterns or conduct. And in North Vietnam's conduct towards South Vietnam, the pattern of aggression — the provision of arms, troops, and supplies across the frontiers, and the direction of military operations in the South —is unmistakable.
If we want security we must establish now that armed assistance across international borders, both provisional and fixed, to sustain "wars of liberation," must be checked.
Because of our relationship to South-East Asia we have a special interest in the Indo-Chinese war. For on that war the whole of our post-war position now turns. In 1941 New Zealand learned that war in Asia directly affected our security, and in 1945 New Zealand joined in the effort to create a new world organisation for world security.
The United Nations Charter dealt with a world community of independent states, each with its own institutions, but co-operating together for the common good. It was this sort of world which the Communists immediately challenged.
Have we already forgotten Czechoslovakia and Greece in Europe and all the Communist campaigns in Asia? New Zealand became involved in containing open Communist aggression in Korea in 1950 and Communist insurgency in Malaya in 1955.
By virtue of the ANZAM relationship, and in accordance with the terms of the Manila (Seato) Treaty, we have established regional defence arrangements which recognise that New Zealand security is directly connected with events in South-East Asia. From 1955 New Zealand provided forces, to assist in defeating and containing Communism, for the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya. Indonesian "confrontation" is a much later development, an offshoot indeed of Communist tactics, and a result perhaps of their success elsewhere. Success for either Indonesian "confrontation" or Communist "war of national liberation" would threaten the security arrangements New Zealand entered into the 1950s.
In 1954 after the Geneva Conference on Indo-China, the Government stated that "New Zealand would regard any violation of the Geneva Agreements as a threat to the security of South-East Asia and a danger to international peace and security." In the Manila Treaty New Zealand also recognised that aggression in Indo-China would endanger our own peace and safety.
At Salient's request, the Prime Minister, Mr. K. J. Holyoake, outlined the Governments view on Vietnam. The statement printed here is a heavily cut version of the original statement (over 5000 words long).
Salient aims to present as many views as fully as possible, so that readers can make their own decisions. No endorsement of the views presented is intended.
These obligations were accepted by both parties in New Zealand when in power. Should New Zealand now forget such treaty obligations when requests are made for help? The Government believes both in terms of its treaties and of the United Nations Charter that New Zealand must assist in resisting aggression. It is only in this way, given the world as it is at present, that we can hope for a settlement that will end Communist aggression in Indo-China and stay the threat elsewhere in South-East Asia.
Test of Wars of Liberation
For the Communists make no secret of their view that the Indo-Chinese war is a test of the theory of wars of liberation. General G$$lap has said it. Peking has spoken of the "liberated" area of Laos with the inference that the remainder is still to be liberated. Thailand has been warned by Communist China that it stands next in line. Malaysia's fate is then easy to imagine. Many profess not to believe in the "domino" theory.
But if we remember how recently the young nations of South-East Asia attained independence—without, like New Zealand, the blessing of protection for a century by British sea power—we must recognise that they need time to attain political stability and proceed with the economic and social development required in a modern state. The fall of one country quite obviously means an increase in the pressure on its neighbour. A glance at the map will show just how strategically significant Vietnam is and just what it would mean for all South-East Asia — including Malaysia—if it were to succumb.
Moreover, if this tactic of [unclear: t] "war of national [unclear: liberation"] which is a war of terrorism—[unclear: su] ceeds in Vietnam it will, in Communist eyes, be confirmed as [unclear: t] road to power, and it will be attempted again and again.
Danger of Escalation
Some critics fear that [unclear: mili] support for South Vietnam [unclear: ri] escalation of the war. But New Zealand does not, any more [unclear: th] the United States, wish to [unclear: ov] throw the Government of [unclear: No] Vietnam. The President of the United States has again and again sought negotiations. The Communists have repeatedly refused take up his offers. They [unclear: have] jected the approach of the 17 [unclear: no] aligned nations, declined to [unclear: see] British Special Envoy, [unclear: denied] possibility of United Nations [unclear: me] ation, and denounced the [unclear: propos] of the President of India. [unclear: T] are insisting, in effect, that [unclear: t] have the right to secure the [unclear: So] by conquest.
It is this aim which New [unclear: Zeala] has joined in resisting. If [unclear: No] Vietnam's major partners [unclear: wi] because of a New Zealand [unclear: comm] ment, to expand the war, [unclear: that] be their decision. But it is [unclear: nonse] to suggest that a New Zealand [unclear: fo] of 120 men will lead to the [unclear: int] vention of Communist [unclear: Chin] armies.
It is indeed clear that both sides are concerned lest [unclear: th] conflict widen. But this [unclear: ha] been true of all the [unclear: campaign] inflicted on the world by [unclear: th] Communists since 1945. [unclear: I] would be a strange [unclear: commentar] on those 20 years if we [unclear: wer] to cease from defensive [unclear: actio] because of the danger of [unclear: wide] Communist intervention. Communist plans will not be affected by any New Zealand commitment. But the lesson [unclear: o] history is surely that by showing collective [unclear: determinatio] now we may head off the danger of wider conflict.
Military support alone will not defeat Communism. New Zealand more than most, has recognised the importance of the second main strand of the Charter "the search for social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom." That is why the Government has welcomed President Johnson's imaginative and generous proposal for a vast South-East Asian development programme to be devised by the United Nations. We recognise the obligation we have under the Charter not only to keep the pence, but also to assist development.
If military action alone will not defeat Communism, it is in most cases an essential means of creating the conditions in which political and economic measures can assume full effect and meaning. Vietnam is such a case.
New Zealand's military aid must be small. But was it not so in Malaya and Korea or even in the Second World War, when measured against the overall forces? It will, we may be sure, prove useful and effective. It will have political value out of proportion to its size. It will show we ore not fair weather friends. It will show we value our treaty obligations and intend to meet them. And that we intend to play our full part in measures for collective self defence in South - East Asia.
New Zealand's interests are now bound up with the security, stability and peaceful development of South-East Asia. Those interests are also bound up with the wider issues of world peace and freedom under the rule of law. These issues of peace and freedom are now under test in Asia. New Zealand may not decide the struggle. But it cannot stand aside from it. It is on this basis that the Government has acted to help safeguard New Zealand security and to maintain international law and order.