Mr. Melvin Laird, the United States Defence Secretary, said on Monday (8 January) that even?
GV & LV INT Laird talks at microphone (2 shots)
CU Laird (name caption Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense)
SV PULL OUT Laird turns away, walks off
REPORTER: "One question is this - what are we quibbling about a piece of paper in Paris for, if this all comes down to the ability of the South Vietnamese to defend themselves, and, according to your report, they now have this ability?"
LAIRD: "Well, the President of the United States has made that clear on many occasions. That the Vietnamisation programme will not be completed until the Prisoners of War and the Missing in Action have been accounted for."
REPORTER: "Many people, based on your remarks this morning, will leave here thinking that the only reason we are still in Vietnam is our POWs and our MIAs and that's the hang-up in the negotiations."
LAIRD: "Well, I can assure you that the President has made it clear on many occasions - and I will make it clear again if there is any question about that - we will maintain a force in Vietnam until the Prisoners of War and the Missing in Action have been accounted for. I am glad that you got that impression from my testimony today. because that is the position that I have taken and that is the position that the President of the United States has taken on many occasions, and that was the impression I tried to leave with the committee today. Thank you very much."
Initials ESP/0145 ESP/0153
original available on 316/73 93ft
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Mr. Melvin Laird, the United States Defence Secretary, said on Monday (8 January) that even if the Paris Peace Talks fall, the United States military involvement in Indochina could be ended by the release of U.S. prisoners held in North Vietnam.
Mr. Laird was testifying to the House of Representatives Armed Service Committee. It was his last appearance before the committee before he steps down later this month after four years as Secretary of Defence.
Here is a transcription of his later comments to the Press, which appear in this film: