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1969

President Nixon responds to National Liberation Front proposal

In his first full-length report to the American people concerning the Vietnam War, President Nixon responds to the 10-point plan offered by the National Liberation Front at the 16th plenary session of the Paris talks on May 8. The NLF’s 10-point program for an “overall solution” to the war included an unconditional withdrawal of United States and Allied troops from Vietnam; the establishment of a coalition government and the holding of free elections; the demand that the South Vietnamese settle their own affairs “without foreign interference”; and the eventual reunification of North and South Vietnam.

In his speech, Nixon responded to the communist plan by proposing a phased, mutual withdrawal of major portions of U.S. Allied and North Vietnamese forces from South Vietnam over a 12-month period. The remaining non-South Vietnamese forces would withdraw to enclaves and abide by a cease-fire until withdrawals were completed. Nixon also insisted that North Vietnamese forces withdraw from Cambodia and Laos at the same time and offered internationally supervised elections for South Vietnam. Nixon’s offer of a “simultaneous start on withdrawal” represented a revision of the last formal proposal offered by the Johnson administration in October 1966–known as the “Manila formula”–in which the United States stated that the withdrawal of U.S. forces would be completed withiin six months after the North Vietnamese left South Vietnam. The communists’ proposal and Nixon’s counteroffer were diametrically in opposition to each other and neither side gave in, so nothing meaningful came from this particular round of diplomatic exchanges.

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