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Sec. 2. It is further the sense of the Senate that the President should submit a report to the Senate within thirty days after the adoption of this resolution describing fully and completely the steps he has taken to carry out the purposes of this resolution.
Sec. 3. The Secretary of the Senate shall transmit a copy of this resolution to the President.
In supporting the resolution, Senator Mike Mansfield stated that a prerequisite to any kind of aid program for Viet-Nam should be a good faith effort by the Saigon government to open urgent negotiations seeking to establish a tripartite Council of Reconciliation under Article 12 of the Paris Peace Accords of 1973.
Cong. Rec., Vol. 121, No. 61, Apr. 21, 1975, pp. 56329-6334 (daily ed.).
Status of Agreements
At a news conference in Washington on April 29, 1975, announcing the evacuation of all American personnel from South VietNam, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger was asked, ". . . do you consider the United States now owes any allegiance at all to the Paris pact? Are we now bound in any way by the Paris agreements?” The Secretary replied:
as far as the United States is concerned, there are not many provisions of the Paris agreement that are still relevant. As far as the North Vietnamese are concerned, they have stated that they wish to carry out the Paris accords though by what definition is not fully clear to me. We would certainly support this if it has any meaning.
Dept. of State Bulletin, Vol. LXXII, No. 1873, May 19, 1975, p. 627. The Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Viet-Nam was signed at Paris on Jan. 27, 1973 (TIAS 7542; 24 UST 1; entered into force Jan. 27, 1973). The Dept. of State publication Treaties in Force does not carry the agreement in its 1976 edition. The Act of the International Conference on Viet-Nam signed at Paris on Mar. 2, 1973 (TIAS 7568; 24 UST 485; entered into force Mar. 2, 1973), continues in force.
SS Mayaguez Incident
Following the seizure on May 12, 1975, by Cambodian forces of the American merchant ship SS Mayaguez with a crew of 40 aboard, and the failure of diplomatic efforts to obtain the release of the ship and crew, President Ford ordered U.S. military forces to board the illegally seized ship, for the purpose of rescuing the crew and the ship, and to conduct supporting strikes against nearby Cambodian military installations. The following is the series of events leading to the resort by the United States to military force and the accomplishment of the U.S. mission, as reported in various official announcements and press reports.
On May 12, 1975, White House Press Secretary Ron Nessen announced that a Cambodian naval vessel had fired on a U.S. merchant ship in international waters in the Gulf of Thailand early that morning and forced it into the Cambodian port of Kompong Som, renamed Sihanoukville. The statement issued by the Press Secretary read as follows:
We have been informed that a Cambodian naval vessel has seized an American merchant ship on the high seas and forced it to the port of Kompong Som. The President has met with the National Security Council. He considers this seizure an act of piracy. He has instructed the State Department to demand the immediate release of the ship. Failure to do so would have the most serious consequences.
Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Vol. 11, No. 20, May 19, 1975, p. 510.
Mr. Nessen identified the seized vessel as the SS Mayaguez, an unarmed container ship, sailing under American registry on a voyage from Hong Kong to Sattahip, Thailand, which, when fired on, was about 60 miles off the coast of Cambodia and about eight miles from a rocky island claimed by both Cambodia and South Viet-Nam.
A statement issued by the Department of State shortly after the White House announcement on May 12 reported that immediate steps were being taken to obtain prompt release of the ship but that it would not be helpful to discuss publicly the details at that time. However, press reports based on “informed sources” indicated that contacts were made directly with the Chinese liaison office in Washington as well as with Chinese officials in Peking.
At a news briefing at the White House at 6:54 a.m. on May 13, 1975, Press Secretary Ron Nessen gave the following additional information on the seizure:
The merchant ship Mayaguez at last report was anchored close to the island of Koh Tang, 30 miles off the coast of Cambodia. During the night, Washington time, it was escorted by two Cambodian naval vessels from the point where it was originally boarded (that point was 8 miles from the rock island of Poulo Wai) toward its present location. The ship is being kept under observation by U.S. military aircraft. The President was kept informed of developments during the night.
On May 14, 1975, the Department of Defense issued an announcement that U.S. aircraft were being used in action to protect
the captive crew. The announcement, read at a news briefing in the White House at 11:50 a.m., stated:
Beginning at 8:30 p.m. e.d.t. yesterday, there were indications that the Cambodians appeared to be attempting to move U.S. captive crewmen from the ship to the mainland. After giving warning, U.S. aircraft began efforts to block this movement.
Three Cambodian patrol craft were destroyed and about four others were damaged and immobilized. One boat succeeded in reaching Kompong Som.
U.S. aircraft had been receiving small arms fire from such boats for several hours prior to this action.
The Mayaguez is still anchored off Koh Tang Island. The first U.S. Navy vessel, the destroyer U.S.S. Holt, is now in the area.
Id. at p. 511.
On May 14, 1975, the U.S. Government also appealed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for assistance in obtaining release of the ship and crew, and reserved the right to take appropriate measures of self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. Ambassador John Scali, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, sent the following note, dated May 14, 1975, to the Secretary-General:
The United States Government wishes to draw urgently to your attention the threat to international peace which has been posed by the illegal and unprovoked seizure by Cambodian authorities of the U.S. merchant vessel, Mayaguez, in international waters.
This unarmed merchant ship has a crew of about forty American citizens.
As you are no doubt aware, my Government has already initiated certain steps through diplomatic channels, insisting on immediate release of the vessel and crew. We also request you to take any steps within your ability to contribute to this objective.
In the absence of a positive response to our appeals through diplomatic channels for early action by the Cambodian authorities, my Government reserves the right to take such measures as may be necessary to protect the lives of American citizens and property, including appropriate measures of self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
Later the same day Ambassador Scali sent a letter addressed to the President of the Security Council of the United Nations, stating that the U.S. Government had taken appropriate measures under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter to achieve the release of the vessel and its crew. The letter stated the following:
My Government has instructed me to inform you and the members of the Security Council of the grave and dangerous situation brought about by the illegal and unprovoked seizure by Cambodian authorities of a United States merchant vessel, the SS Mayagriez, in international waters in the Gulf of Siam.
The SS Mayaguez, an unarmed commercial vessel owned by the Sea-Land Corporation of Menlo Park, New Jersey, was fired upon and halted by Cambodian gunboats and forcibly boarded at 9:16 p.m. (eastern daylight time) on May 12. The boarding took place at 09 degrees, 48 minutes north latitude, 102 degrees, 53 minutes east longitude. The vessel has a crew of about 40, all of whom are United States citizens. At the time of seizure, the SS Mayaguez was en route from Hong Kong to Thailand and was some 52 nautical miles from the Cambodian coast. It was some 7 nautical miles from the islands of Poulo Wai which, my Government understands, are claimed by both Cambodia and South Viet-Nam.
The vessel was on the high seas, in international shipping lanes commonly used by ships calling at the various ports of Southeast Asia. Even if, in the view of others, the ship were considered to be within Cambodian territorial waters, it would clearly have been engaged in innocent passage to the port of another country. Hence, its seizure was unlawful and involved a clear-cut illegal use of force.
The United States Government understands that at present the SS Mayaguez is being held by Cambodian naval forces at Koh Tang Island approximately 15 nautical miles off the Cambodian coast.
The United States Government immediately took steps through diplomatic channels to recover the vessel and arrange the return of the crew. It earnestly sought the urgent cooperation of all concerned to this end, but no response has been forthcoming. In the circumstances the United States Government has taken certain appropriate measures under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter whose purpose it is to achieve the release of the vessel and its crew.
U.N. Doc. S/11689, May 15, 1975.
At 9:15 p.m. on May 14, two additional statements were released at the White House. The first announced the military measures taken by the United States and read as follows:
In further pursuit of our efforts to obtain the release of the SS Mayaguez and its crew, the President has directed the following military measures, starting this evening Washington time:
-U.S. Marines to board the SS Mayaguez;
-U.S. Marines to land on Koh Tang Island, in order to rescue any crew members as may be on the island;
-Aircraft from the carrier Coral Sea to undertake associated military operations in the area in order to protect and support the operations to regain the vessel and members of the crew.
The second announcement was addressed to the Cambodian authorities. It stated:
We have heard radio broadcast that you are prepared to release the SS Mayaguez. We welcome this development, if true.
As you know, we have seized the ship. As soon as you issue a statement that you are prepared to release the crew members you hold unconditionally and immediately, we will promptly cease military operations.
Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Vol. 11, No. 20, May 19, 1975, p. 512. A broadcast by Cambodian radio of a Cambodian communique, dated at Phnom Penh May 15, 1975, on the seizure of the SS Mayaguez was recorded by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), a U.S. Government agency. The communique charged that the ship had been in Cambodian territorial waters with the purpose of conducting espionage and provoking incidents. It stated that there was no intention of detaining the ship permanently and that it would be released. For the text of the communique, as translated by the FBIS, see The New York Times, May 16, 1975, p. 15. For excerpts from the communique, see ante, Ch. 7, § 5, p. 424.
At 12:27 a.m. on May 15, 1975, the President announced the successful accomplishment of the U.S. mission to rescue the ship and its crew. He said:
At my direction, the United States forces tonight boarded the American merchant ship SS Mayaguez and landed at the island of Koh Tang for the purpose of rescuing the crew and the ship, which had been illegally seized by Cambodian forces. They also conducted supporting strikes against nearby military installations.
I have now received information that the vessel has been recovered intact and the entire crew has been rescued. The forces that have successfully accomplished this mission are still under hostile fire, but are preparing to disengage.
I wish to express my deep appreciation and that of the entire Nation to the units and the men who participated in these operations for their valor and for their sacrifice.
Id. at p. 514.
On that same day, May 15, 1975, the President reported the military action to the Congress in accordance with Section 4(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution (P.L. 93–148; 87 Stat. 555), enacted November 7, 1973. He stated that the operation had been ordered and conducted pursuant to the President's constitutional Executive power and his authority as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Dept. of State Bulletin, Vol. LXXII, No. 1875, June 2, 1975, pp. 719–722. For the text of the President's report, see post, Ch. 14, § 8, p. 879. Regarding the SS Mayagriez incident, see also ante, Ch. 2, § 1, p. 13; Ch. 7, § 5, p. 423; Ch. 13, 83, p. 766.