HC Deb 30 June 1964 vol 697 cc1132-5
Q3. Mr. Warbey

asked the Prime Minister if he will now inform President Johnson that, in view of the new official United States policy of military confrontation with Communist Governments and forces in South-East Asia, the pledge which he gave to President Johnson last March to support American policy in South Vietnam is no longer valid.

Q5. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that British policy is involved by reason of the pledge given by him to support United States action in the area, if he will consult President Johnson on the threat of military action against the Chinese People's Republic made by the United States Government in respect of events in South-East Asia.

The Prime Minister

The pledge of support I gave in Washington was for the present United States policy of helping the Republic of Vietnam to defend its independence. I am not aware that there has been any change in this policy. President Johnson reaffirmed on 19th June that in South-East Asia the United States were steadfast in a policy which has been followed for ten years".

Mr. Warbey

Does not the Prime Minister appreciate that the United States Government have now officially and publicly declared that they intend to seek a military solution to the problems of Vietnam and Laos, and that they are also publicly seeking to involve their N.A.T.O. allies in this military confrontation? In view of the obvious dangers of this situation to peace not only in Asia but Europe, will not the right hon. Gentleman now declare that his pledge is voided by circumstances, and that Britain is not committed to this disastrous military policy in South-East Asia, and that we will seek a political solution of the problems of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia?

The Prime Minister

I am not aware that there has been any statement—and I am concerned with Government statements and not with rumours and statements in the Press—of alterations in United States policy. The United States are in South Vietnam at the request of the South Vietnamese Government, who feel that they are being subverted and infiltrated by Communists from North Vietnam.

Mr. Zilliacus

Does the Prime Minister recall that on 15th February last he told the Young Conservatives that he would never surrender the right to share with the United States any decision affecting peace or war? Has he been consulted by President Johnson about threats of a show-down with China being made from Washington, or is he content to be committed without being consulted on this issue?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member is wrong. There has been no official statement by the United States Government that I have seen about a confrontation or a military attack upon China, or anything of the kind.

Mr. P. Williams

However much hon. Members opposite may wish to jar the elbow of the Leader of the Opposition, will my right hon. Friend undertake that he will not have his elbow jarred in this matter and will continue to support friends?

Mr. Shinwell

Will the Prime Minister state, as clearly as he is capable of doing, what is the value of the support that he proposes to accord to President Johnson and the United States Government in South Vietnam? Does he mean to implement his support by sending forces out there? If so, where are they to come from? Is he aware of the possibility—indeed, the probability—that if this trouble develops in South Vietnam and extends to North Vietnam it is by no means unlikely that it will inject into the conflict there the forces of the Chinese Republic? Does not he express some concern about that probability?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is making all sorts of assumptions—first, that the war may spread to North Vietnam, and then further spread, beyond that, to China. No indication has been given to me, and no statement has been made by the American Government, to suggest that this is in their mind.

Mr. H. Wilson

The right hon. Gentleman will remember an exchange on this question on the first Thursday in March. Are we right in taking it—since the Question refers only to South Vietnam and not to China—that his information is that there is no official suggestion at all on the part of the United States Government of any extension of the war into North Vietnam? Will he make it quite clear—as we asked him to make it clear in March—that we would not support any extension of the war into North Vietnam?

The Prime Minister

There has been no suggestion and no statement. I confirm the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. I do not think that the second part arises. If war were to extend into South-East Asia as a whole we would have to consider the matter with the American Government, but there is no reason to think that it will. If, by chance, war were to come to the SEATO area, of course the United Kingdom has engagements under the SEATO Treaty.