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Wednesday, 14 October 1970

Mr McMAHON - When the announcement of the withdrawal of a further 150,000 troops from Vietnam was made in April of this year there were certain conditions under which the withdrawals would take place. They were, first, that Vietnamisation should be successful; in other words, that the South Vietnamese themselves should be able progressively to take over the combat role from the American and other free allied troops in South Vietnam and be in a position to defend themselves. Secondly, there was the fundamental principle that in withdrawing the troops there should be complete protection and security for the allied forces, including the Americans there.

The truth is that Vietnam isation has succeeded beyond expectations. In recent discussions with people, such as Robert Thompson, and in my 2 visits there, I confirmed the view that Vietnamisation is being successful and, consequently, that the target set in April by President Nixon can be more than achieved or achieved in quicker time. The President announced yesterday that there would be an accelerated withdrawal within the 150,000 troops agreed to in April. He pointed out - and I want to emphasise this - that while statements have been made in recent weeks as to a somewhat accelerated withdrawal, it will be within the 150.000 troops that have been mentioned.

Simultaneously with the statement by the President, our own Prime Minister announced that we would be withdrawing one battalion and supporting troops. The date of that withdrawal has already been announced in this House. So I cannot understand why anyone could argue that this is a compulsory or forced withdrawal. We are withdrawing in accordance with a timetable. Now I can add that so far as the recent statement of President Nixon is concerned as to a ceasefire standstill, since April investigations have been made in South Vietnam to indicate those areas which are regarded as safe for the South Vietnamese and which they can defend themselves. During the whole of that time investigations have been made to ensure that when the withdrawal takes place it is on the basis of successful Vietnamisation and without danger to the allied forces there.

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