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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Kennedy Administration > Volume XXIV
Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, Volume XXIV, Laos Crisis
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 412-432

July 1962-March 1963:
Failure of the Geneva Settlement; Breakdown of the Souvanna Government

412. Memorandum of Meeting/1/

Washington, July 27, 1962.

/1/Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI-McCone Files, [text not declassified]. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by McCone. This meeting was in anticipation of the President's meeting with Souvanna; see Document 413.


1. The President asked Souvanna's attitude. Harriman recalled that Souvanna wrote Kennedy February 7th, prophesying what would probably happen. Kennedy gave cold answer./2/ However, Souvanna has expressed confidence in Kennedy and some, but not all, elements U.S. Government. Still feels U.S. caused his downfall.

/2/Message from Souvanna Phouma to the President, February 7. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 2/1/62-2/19/62) Kennedy's reply has not been found.

2. Harriman said following questions would be raised:

(1) Policy reference aid.

(2) Support of integrated political and armed forces, both now and later, and question of how to accomplish integration.

(3) How the North Vietnamese are to be removed and the possibility of their return policed. Souvanna to reaffirm Laos not to be used by the NVN for occupation of access to SVN.

(4) Relations with Sarit and Cambodia. Souvanna's relations with Sarit very bad.

3. Kennedy asked if Souvanna would request removal of U.S. troops from Thailand. Indication he would not.

4. Kennedy on Aid. Raised questions about the three million dollars. AID reported amount deposited for June and July in New York bank, and August deposit will be made. So far none has been withdrawn; however, withdrawals can be made for purposes not limited to "buy America." Kennedy remonstrated this represented dollar loss, stated his impression all aid commitments were to be designed to limit dollar drain.

5. Harriman then stated Souvanna [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] had improved [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] impression CIA. Feels DCI rather than President should discuss political action for building strong neutral party; stated Souphannovang will attempt to control elections by use of troops and all other means. Souvanna has stated repeatedly he must win the elections. Harriman feels we can discuss the fight against communism with Souvanna.

6. Kennedy discussed relations between Souvanna and Souphannovang, Harriman stating that Souvanna believes Souphannovang controlled by the Pathet Lao, but he, Harriman, believes that he is a card-carrying Communist. Forrestal reported on skirmishes in Southern Laos, claimed by Phoumi but denied by Tucker. Kennedy questioned whether any Communists were accompanying Souvanna. Quinim apparently leftist but not Communist, but one member of party suspect.

7. Kennedy asked about Soviet aid; reply that they probably would continue by giving identified projects. French indicated aid in education and organizing gendarme. British have indicated nothing but a willingness to consider some aid. Japan ready to give aid. President felt we should keep pressure on our allies to assist. Forrestal said aid from USSR to continue and it was decided we should keep silent. Harriman emphasized giving of cash a mistake and that Souvanna felt French procedure of building something--a dam, road, hospital, school, and turning it over to Laos a better procedure.

8. [5 lines of source text not declassified]

9. President left; then Harriman and DCI discussed the following:

(1) Meo situation, which Harriman recommended DCI discuss frankly with Souvanna, but not reveal our first alternative to hold Meos intact with arms hidden. Harriman stated that Souphannovang considers Meos armed bandits; Right Wing considers them minority tribe that needs help and loyal to Souvanna and the King and therefore should be considered an asset to the new government. We should discuss with Souvanna logistic problem of feeding the Meos as use of planes would be criticized by Souphannovang. However supply of food essential and can only be done by air. Kha situation similar but easier.

(2) Souvanna will expect aid for his newspaper and this should be discussed.

(3) We should ask Souvanna how he intends to pull many factions of neutralist group together to form a united party, and how we can help.

(4) Harriman urged we keep [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in close contact with Souvanna, possibly putting him in the field on an interim basis.

(5) McCone questioned how we would get rid of the North Vietnamese and this should be discussed frankly. McCone also raised question of the covert use of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was felt Souvanna would not have capability of policing this and ICC must be used.

John A. McCone/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

413. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, July 27, 1962, 11:28 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/7-2762. Secret. Drafted by Koren and approved by the White House on August 6. Following the meeting, the participants went to a White House luncheon in honor of Souvanna. (Kennedy Library, President's Appointment Book)

Meeting with Prince Souvanna Phouma/2/

/2/Souvanna Phouma and his party arrived at 5 p.m. on July 26 for a 4-day official visit to Washington. In telegram 105 from Vientiane, July 22, the Embassy listed a series of topics which it recommended that the President and other U.S. officials should raise in their meetings with Souvanna and other Lao officials. Listed as high priority items were non-Communist cooperation in forthcoming elections, Laos' economic aid relationship with the United States and the Soviet bloc, release of American and Philippine POWs held by the Pathet Lao, Lao cooperation with the ICC, diplomatic recognition to prevent as much contact with the non-Communist world as possible, restoration of the Lao national police, and relief operations, especially to the Meo. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.51J11/7-2262)


His Highness Prince Souvanna Phouma, Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Laos
His Excellency Quinim Pholsena, Minister of Foreign Affairs

The President
Hon. W. Averell Harriman, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs
Mr. M.V. Forrestal, White House Staff
Mr. H.L.T. Koren, Director, Office of Southeast Asian Affairs

The President told the Prime Minister he was very glad he had come to the United States since he was anxious to talk with him and find out how the United States could help make the Geneva Agreements a success and also assist Souvanna in his tasks. Souvanna replied that he was very pleased at the opportunity to thank the President personally for the President's understanding and support of his policy of neutrality which he had consistently pursued.

The President said it was too bad that the United States and other Governments had not supported this policy of neutrality more actively during the late 1950's. From the beginning his administration had pursued the goal of a neutral and independent Laos and was now committed to and very closely identified with Souvanna, his policy and his Government. This Administration policy had been under some opposition within the United States and the prestige of the United States was now tied to this policy, so we were most anxious for it to be successful.

The President asked Souvanna the following three questions:

1. How did he feel integration of the Armed Forces would take place.

2. What would happen politically. (The President noted that the Communists seemed to be working very hard already. It was important for the non-Communists to function effectively.)

3. How did Souvanna view the role of the ICC. (The President said it would be a very serious situation for us if the Lao Agreements did not mean the closing of the corridor but should open the way for greater infiltration.)

Souvanna said his reputation and his honor were at stake in the implementation of the Geneva Agreements. Regarding the specific questions he replied as follows.

1. Integration. It was not easy to bring together those who had been fighting each other. He would appeal to the good sense and patriotism of all. There would be no "private armies." He visualized gradual integration and also a large scale civic action program using the troops for public works programs. As integration progressed so would demobilization. The National Army would have a strength of 15 to 20 thousand.

2. ICC. Souvanna said he would make maximum use of the ICC in accordance with the Agreements. He visualized the ICC as the arbiter between the three Armed Forces but he hoped he would not have to appeal to the Commission to arbitrate over an extended period. Its major role was to check on foreign Armed Forces and keep them out of the country.

3. Political Situation. Souvanna's idea is to form a single non-Communist political party. Disunity among the non-Communists would mean defeat. Phoumi could not win politically and the NLHX did not want to. In answer to the President's question as to why the PL would not wish to win, Souvanna said that according to the Lao constitution the King would have to choose the Prime Minister from the winning party. The PL realized that the West would not accept them. Similarly the other side would not accept Phoumi; therefore, the only hope was a Prime Minister from the neutral party. The President agreed, but expressed concern that demobilized PL were already carrying out political operations to reverse the situation and gain ascendancy. Souvanna felt they would not be successful since a major part (80%) of the population was behind him and against policies of the Pathet Lao.

The President said we intended to withdraw our MAAG people in accordance with the Agreements. We were more conspicuous than the Viet Minh and our withdrawal would be obvious. Did Souvanna think there would be any problem with the Viet Minh withdrawal? In reply, Souvanna said he had been disturbed over this question but on his June visit to Hanoi, Pham Van Dong had assured him that he would do nothing to make it difficult for Souvanna internally or externally. Souvanna had asked Pham whether he had sent troops to South Viet-Nam. Pham had answered he had sent no troops but had helped the South Viet-Namese who had revolted against Diem with cadres. The President said that the difference between cadres and troops was only a matter of dialectics. Souvanna said that he did not think that the Viet Minh would use the corridor to send troops, since it would be easy to control this.

The President asked Souvanna his opinion as to why the Communist side accepted a neutral Laos since communism traditionally pushed outward whenever it could. Souvanna said they needed peace. Both Mao and Chou En-lai/3/ had told him they feared US presence in Laos and needed a buffer between SEATO and themselves. They had consistently repeated this, and that they needed time to consolidate and build their regime. Souvanna could not guess how long this would last but he thought perhaps 10 to 15 years, and this time could well be used by Laos.

/3/Mao Tse-tung, Chairman of the Central Committee, and Chou En-lai, Premier of the State Council, People's Republic of China.

The President observed that in order to assure that there would be no pressure on Laos from the Communist side we should probably maintain a degree of presence in areas surrounding Laos such as Thailand. If there were a power vacuum in the area the Communists would assuredly move to fill it. Souvanna said that he did not think that SEATO intended to disband, and its continuation (even without its being an official guarantor of Laos) should be enough to restrain the Communists.

Further, he felt that Communist pressure could be controlled. It was a peaceful struggle and could be won in Laos if it were possible, with the help of friendly countries, to raise the standard of living and give the people a chance to work. That, combined with the people's basically stable nature and respect for the monarchy, would bring victory for him and his policies. He said that the population was not unhappy; however he was concerned over the hill people, 80% of whom were not even earning one kip a day and had barely enough to live on. He wanted to bring them down and establish them on the fertile lands of which there was abundance. He was concerned over his people's susceptibility to propaganda. Their present orientation might change if they heard propaganda only of one kind. He had in mind using the compulsory military service law to bring young men from the hills and remote districts to the cities for a year to educate them, show them something of modern urban life then to return them home. This would be good propaganda for his government. The President asked whether he was referring to the Meo or others. Souvanna said he was not referring only to the Meos, but to the Khas and all others. There were many tribes in Laos, which in reality was a crossroad of races.

The President inquired when the US prisoners would be released, noting that the Agreements called for their release within 30 days of the signing. Souvanna said he was sure they would be released soon and read a telegram he received from Souphanouvong in Geneva to the President. In the telegram Souphanouvong said he would make double effort despite rains and other difficulties so that US prisoners could be freed as soon as possible.

The President asked Souvanna how the US could be useful in the coming months, for instance to assist in economic programs. Souvanna said that he would take up this question in Vientiane through the normal channels. He wished to restart public works that had been suspended on highways and bridges. He mentioned the previous US commitment to rebuild the Thakek-Paksane road on which the French had agreed to rebuild the bridges. He would look into this when he got back because there were still two months to plan before the end of the rainy season.

Regarding political assistance, Souvanna said he would be very happy if the US could get the Thais to refrain from interference in Lao internal affairs as they had done in the past. If there were unrest in Northeast Thailand it was only a local uprising. The PL had been accused of fomenting this, but it was not true. The President agreed in the importance of non-interference of one country in the affairs of another. There were many problems in the area. We were concerned over the internal security of Thailand. He did not think that the Thais would interfere in Laos and it was important not to give the Thais any occasion to claim subversion from Laos. We were going to work very closely with Souvanna and also with Sarit. In this connection the President said we were taking some more troops out of Thailand, but we were going to continue to assist the Thais since we were convinced that the more stability in Thailand the more stable Laos would be.

414. Editorial Note

On July 27, Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma and his party met with Secretary Rusk and Department of State officials at 9 a.m. in George Ball's conference room. (Johnson Library, Rusk's Appointment Book) Rusk and Souvanna discussed U.S. aid, the prospects for withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from Laos, the need of the non-Communist parties to unite under Souvanna, and Laos' relationship with Thailand and South Vietnam. Souvanna stated that Souphanouvong and the Neo Lao Hat Zat were too quickly "given a color." He did not think Souphanouvong a Communist nor that the two Pathet Lao ministers and secretaries of state posed a threat to his government. Souvanna was quick to charge that Thailand "had it in for" Laos and raised a series of past Thai transgressions against Laos. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/7-2762)

Souvanna and his party also met with Secretary of Defense McNamara and Deputy Assistant Secretary William Bundy on July 27. It was the first meeting between Souvanna and McNamara. The Secretary of Defense probed Souvanna on his plans for demobilization and integration of Laos three armed forces. McNamara stressed the need for a cessation of North Vietnamese infiltration into South Vietnam. Bundy then carried the conversation to the shape and role of the new army, which Souvanna thought would be about 20,000 strong and mostly made up of current existing forces, but he anticipated they would gradually be replaced with conscripts. (Memorandum of conversation, July 27; ibid.)

Also on July 27, Souvanna and his party met with Seymour J. Janow, the Assistant Administrator, Far East Bureau, Agency for International Development, and other relevant officials from the Agency. Souvanna suggested that Washington not repeat the mistake of deluging money on Laos as it had in the late 1950s since the result was a plague of corruption with very little impact on the Lao people. Janow and Souvanna discussed aid projects and currency problems. (Ibid., EA/Laos Files: Lot 66 D 457, Souvanna Phouma Visit to Washington, Laos 1962)

On July 28, Rusk met with Foreign Minister Quinim Pholsena and they discussed aid matters with both men agreeing that military aid would no longer be needed. (Ibid., Central Files, 751J.00/7-2862) On July 30, Souvanna had a conversation with Under Secretary of State McGhee and Counselor and Chairman of the Policy Planning Council Rostow, which, in keeping with Rostow's interest in economic development, surveyed the prospects for economic growth and development in Laos. (Memorandum of conversation, July 30; ibid., 751J.00/6-3061)

415. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Washington, July 28, 1962.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.51J/7-2862. Secret; Eyes Only. No drafting information appears on the source text.

Highlights of Meeting held 28 July 1962 Between Prince Souvanna Phouma, Mr. John A. McCone, Governor Harriman, [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

1. The meeting was cordial and covered all subjects projected for discussion. (Support for his newspaper, his political action program, the Meo problem, and the North Vietnamese Communist presence in Laos.) Considerable success was achieved in securing understanding if not agreement with our points of view. Additional subjects covered were his relations with neighboring countries, specifically Thailand, his plans for the current administration of Laos, and Kong Le. Unsatisfactory from our point of view, though not unexpected, was Souvanna's vagueness on the North Vietnamese Communist problem. In sum, we believe the meeting diminished Souvanna's distrust of the CIA and contributed to his confidence in the intentions of the U.S. Government.

2. Souvanna was pleased when the Director promised support for his paper. Souvanna commented that General Soukan, head of the Lao Neutral Party, has asked him to request support for the paper from the Quai d'Orsay. Souvanna said that because the French had already given him considerable support for the Lao students in France and otherwise, he had been loath to go to the Quai d'Orsay, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Souvanna explained that Soukan had acted because his paper was shoddy compared to others in Laos. [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

3. Souvanna at this juncture mentioned that he was disturbed by the possible division of effort represented by Phoumi's new political groupment. Though Phoumi has asked him to be honorary president, he believed it better to unite all non-Communist forces around his and Soukan's Lao Neutral Party. The Director stressed the importance of exploiting the potential of all non-Communist groups and uniting them behind Souvanna. Souvanna commented that it was unthinkable that the Lao would be taken in by Phoumi and his new group because Phoumi had become overnight a neutralist for his own advantage whereas the people knew that he, Souvanna, had always been neutral. In passing, he added that he had always advised Phoumi to wait until he was sufficiently politically mature and strong before attempting to play an important role in Laos. Souvanna did not believe that his problem was basically with Phoumi but with Phoumi's entourage of generals and officers to whom he was beholden and whose personal interest and advantage dictates that Phoumi not act on the good advice he is receiving (advice from American and other sources to follow the Souvanna line understood). Souvanna believed that if members of this entourage were around him for several months they would be converted.

4. When asked to clarify his earlier remarks to the Secretary of State on his designs on the NLHS, Souvanna replied that he intended to include eventually in his party (LPK) discontents from the NLHS. He had not attempted this yet, because until his party combined with other Vientiane elements, it was not sufficiently strong to risk absorbing elements of the NLHS that might attempt to take over. He had neither the intention nor wish to incorporate the whole NLHS in his party.

5. He needed two types of aid. One, our representatives in Laos should influence the youth of Laos to join his movement; second, materiel--paper, ink, printing presses, food, blankets, clothing distribution to villages and refugees who have suffered from recent dislocation. He did not want money but materiel. Such money as his party needed would come from dues.

6. Meo Problem. We urged the importance of the Meos to Souvanna and admitted our feeling of responsibility toward them. We urged that Souvanna make a public declaration of confidence in the Meos. Souvanna did not have to comment on this as the question of the continued air supply of rice and non-war material was raised before he could. Souvanna agreed to the continued air supply and was not concerned by possible NLHS static. He would establish mixed inspection teams to insure no arms or ammunition went on the air drops. This would forestall NLHS complaints. He would take up the Meo question immediately on his return but was prone to view it from a long term viewpoint of their resettlement in the Plains rather than in terms of the immediate problem. He was unworried about the Meo problem because Touby, the Chief of the Meos, was loyal to him, indeed had been brought up by him.

7. North Vietnamese Communist Problem. He agreed that the North Vietnamese Communists should leave. He had assurances from Pham Van Dong, President of North Vietnam, that the North Vietnamese would support him and accede to his requests. However, as these still remain promises, he has reservations. He stated it was no great problem. All Lao villagers hated the North Vietnamese. They would keep him informed if the North Vietnamese remained but he did not explain how they would communicate with him, and what he would do if North Vietnamese promises were broken.

8. Souvanna agreed that the ICC should play an important role in assuring the evacuation of the North Vietnamese Communists from Laos.

9. Intelligence Support. When asked if he would like to be supplied regularly with intelligence briefings, he answered he would not only be happy to but he asked to be so supplied. He told us he had received these regularly from the French even when in Xieng Khouang. He inferred that he wanted to hear other sides of some questions and that the French briefings occasionally may have been slanted.

[1 paragraph (3 lines of source text) not declassified]

11. Questions raised by Governor Harriman. When asked how he intended to administer Laos, he replied that a direct answer was not yet possible but that now each sector of the country was run by the group in place when the new cabinet was installed. However, as far as the government, all ministers had access to every part of Laos. Harriman stressed that this was very important. When questioned as to Kong Le, Souvanna did not believe that the Communists had gotten to him. Souvanna admitted that there was continued tension between his and the Pathet Lao forces.

12. Souvanna's Relations with Neighboring Chiefs of State. Souvanna stated that he was on good terms with Ne Win, Sihanouk, and even U Nu. However, Laos, a former Thai vassal, had suffered much in past as well as recent history from the Thais. The Thais look down on the Lao. The importance of good relations with Thailand being urged, he agreed to keep a somewhat open mind toward Sarit and the Thais but would keep a jaundiced eye peeled on their actions. Harriman praised the statesmanship of Sarit in recent events and explained what Sarit contributed to Phoumi's acceptance of the current solution. Harriman stressed that Sarit was not against Souvanna but was afraid of the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Communist operations in Northeast Thailand.

416. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, July 31, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Staff Memoranda: M.V. Forrestal, 6/62-10/62. Secret; Personal.

Visit to Geneva and Far East

I thought I would give you some very brief notes on my trip to Geneva and the Far East.


The most important general indicator for the future that I got out of the Geneva negotiations was a rather clear impression that while the Soviets were happy with the agreement on Laos, they have little or no interest in being helpful in South Vietnam. From the ring of Pushkin's propaganda blast at lunch with Averell and myself, my guess would be that they do not believe that the time is ripe for serious negotiations, and they will continue to support North Vietnamese intervention so long as there seems to be a chance for success. They may be attaching some importance to the possibility of a political crisis in Saigon. This I derived from the emphasis Pushkin placed on the Paris-led National Front movement, which the Communists have been supporting as a means of attacking Diem in terms compatible with Western thinking. Consequently, I would think that our job was to get on with the pacification of South Vietnam and be a little more vigorous with the Diem Government in insisting on political improvements.


Things are not rosy in Thailand. Even discounting a certain amount of emotionalism which is shared both by their Foreign Minister Thanat and by our Ambassador, the Thais seem to be entering a new phase of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] uncertainty. Their preoccupation [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] is rising and making it more difficult than ever to direct their attention to the things that really need to be done to stiffen their country, especially in the north. My prescription for the situation would be to maintain a consistent pressure on them for specific improvement in their internal security situation while maintaining a polite boredom [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] about Cambodia and Laos. We should continue to bombard them with practical schemes and help for strengthening the up-country areas, both in the military and economic fields. In this connection I hope to find out what has happened to McNamara's logistic support program.


This miserable capital village was in better shape than I have expected. Only in Laos can one find men who two weeks previously were on opposite sides of the civil war sharing the same offices without attempting to do each other in, physically at least.

Vientiane was in a state of suspension pending the return of Souvanna Phouma. Both sides have been sniping at each other, both along the cease fire line and in political maneuvering; but no major hassles were erupting.

The principal danger in the situation is that too much is being expected of Souvanna, who has a remarkable ability of retreating in the face of difficult situations. As a result I think our own policy should be designed to avoid rushing in on him when he returns with too many propositions which demand immediate yes and no answers. Our best course would be to concentrate on improving Souvanna's basis of power, since the more secure he feels, the greater play his essentially pro-Western, pipe-smoking attitude will have.

Incidentally, my impression is that Phoumi remains refreshingly un-reconstructed. After making a very good speech about the glories of national union, he lowers his voice to discuss ways and means of intriguing against the other two factions. Len Unger, who is our white hope in this situation, proposes to move cautiously with Phoumi at the outset. I agree with this approach, but we will have to restrain Averell from time to time.


417. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, August 1, 1962.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/8-162. Confidential. Drafted by Harriman.

Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, USSR
W. Averell Harriman--FE

I lunched with Ambassador Dobrynin today at his request. We discussed at some length the Laos settlement and I assured him that President Kennedy has issued instructions to all concerned that we should adhere to the agreement in the spirit as well as the letter. He said that he knew Khrushchev felt the same way about it. We agreed that we could work closely together and we must not be suspicious of each other if, on the one hand, the Pathet Lao, or on the other, General Phoumi, should take actions which we did not fully approve of. The important thing was for each of us to be frank in advising the other of any suspicions when they first arose. In that way, difficulties could perhaps be prevented.

I told him I thought the Chinese Communists were ready to conform, but I wasn't so sure of the North Vietnamese. I found them quite intractable about their support of the insurgents in South Vietnam. He claimed not to have known of the details of the ICC Report. I told him I would send it to him.

He asked specifically about the details of Souvanna's visit, including whether we had given any promises of economic aid. I told him that Souvanna's visit had been successful with the press and others in gaining support for the President's policies and in gaining an understanding of the wisdom of a neutral Laos under Souvanna. I pointed out that President Kennedy had stated in his first press conference in January 1961 his desire for a neutral and independent Laos and recalled Mr. Khrushchev's agreement in Vienna, and that I felt sure that if both would work together our mutual aims could be achieved. I explained that no detailed agreement had been reached on aid, although Souvanna had indicated the general area of requirements, village development, roads, etc. He confirmed what Souvanna had told us, that the Soviet Union had as yet not made any specific offers of aid.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated matters.]

418. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, August 15, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries, Laos Security. 8/1/62-8/31/62. Secret. Drafted by Forrestal.

Proposed Economic Assistance Program for Laos

The memorandum delivered to you this morning/2/ proposes essentially a new approach to our economic assistance to Laos. In the past we have been supporting the Lao budget at very high levels made necessary by a disproportionately large army. We gave this support through cash grants with some very undesirable results. Local production of food stuffs in the country has fallen off, most of the imports purchased by our aid have been concentrated in the hands of relatively few people, and relatively little has gotten out into the country where it might have done some good.

/2/The undated memorandum is ibid., National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 8/1/62-8/22/62.

The new aid program does not contemplate a significant reduction in total aid to Laos. It does, however, adopt as a goal our disentanglement from support of the Lao budget. Instead we would agree to finance imports into Laos, continue our project assistance, and, in extraordinary cases where necessary to preserve political stability and encourage the demobilization of the armed forces, we would be prepared to consider special purchases of kip for dollars.

The proposal recognizes the political strain which is bound to occur when the Laos are forced to grapple with their own budget without direct help from us; and consequently a great deal of authority is given to the Ambassador and Aid Director to apply the new program flexibly, especially in the first year.

You should note that this program does not ensure a significant reduction in dollar drain./3/ Most imports into Laos come from non-dollar sources and cannot readily be switched to the U.S. Provision is made, however, for controls designed to ensure that our dollars are not used for purchases in bloc countries and that our local currencies do not go directly to the support of the Pathet Lao.

/3/At the daily White House staff meeting, August 15, the issue of aid to Laos was discussed as follows:

"Forrestal is trying to take the Laos economic program to the President this afternoon. Kaysen is supporting this program although he recognizes that it is both expensive and risky. It will cost somewhere between 30 and 40 million a year with about 10 million being in hard gold outflow. Bundy wished them luck, saying that 'old hard head,' referring to the President's attitude on gold outflow, would probably give them a very rough reception." (Memorandum for the record by Ewell, August 15; National Defense University, Taylor Papers, White House Daily Staff Meetings, May to Sept. 1962, T-123-69)

419. Memorandum of Presidential Conference/1/

Washington, August 15, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 8/1/62-8/22/62. Secret. Drafted by Forrestal.

Economic Assistance for Laos, 1963 Program

The President met with Governor Harriman, Messrs. Fowler, Kaysen, Mann, Sullivan, Wehrle and Forrestal in the Cabinet Room at 4 o'clock today./2/

/2/According to Kennedy's appointment book, the meeting lasted from 4:10 to 4:45 p.m. Koren attended and Sullivan did not. (Ibid., President's Appointment Book) James R. Fowler was Deputy Administrator, Far East, Agency for International Development.

Mr. Fowler briefed the memorandum on proposed AID program for Laos FY 1963/3/ which had been prepared at the Presidential request.

/3/See footnote 2, Document 418.

After an extensive discussion of the proposed program, the President approved the memorandum and directed Governor Harriman to arrange for formal consultations with the UK and France on the amount of aid which those two countries would contribute to the Government of National Union of Laos. The President emphasized that it was important to have the British and French share with us the burden of preserving the political stability of the new government. He observed that both France and the UK had urged us to support Phouma and that both countries accounted for a substantial percentage of goods and commodities imported by Laos.

Charles Mann, the new AID Director for Laos, and Roy Wehrle, the temporary economic advisor to our Ambassador and AID Director in Vientiane, were introduced to the President.


420. Memorandum From the Director of Intelligence and Research (Hilsman) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, August 24, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 8/23/62-8/27/62. No classification marking. A handwritten note by Hilsman on the top of the source text reads: "Mike [Forrestal]--I think the President might be interested in this. Roger." There was no indication that the President saw this memorandum.

Inside the Pathet Lao

As candidates for week-end reading, I recommend the two attached reports by/2/ the First Secretary of the British Embassy in Vientiane describing his experience as a prisoner of the Pathet Lao./3/

/2/Attached, but not printed.

/3/On August 17, five U.S. prisoners and one Filipino prisoner were flown on a Soviet plane with a Soviet crew from Plaine des Jarres to Vientiane where they were released to U.S. officials. Two prisoners held military rank, Major Bailey and Sergeant Ballenger; others were civilian employees of the U.S. Government. The Filipino was a contract technican. All were in good spirits; Bailey was noticeably weaker than the others who were in good to excellent health. (CHMAAG telegram ML 4194 to CINCPAC, August 17; Department of Defense, OSD Historical Office, Secretary of Defense's Cables, Laos)

Mervyn Brown is a seasoned political observer and an excellent writer. The first report (Tab 1) is a narrative account of his captivity. Both as an adventure story and as a description of a little-known part of the world (Southern Laos, east of the Plateau de Bolevens), it is good reading.

The second report (Tab 2) is interesting for different reasons. Brown made full use of his unique opportunity to observe the Pathet Lao and reaches a number of conclusions that seem germane to policy problems that lie ahead.

Brown says, for example,

--that at least in Southern Laos the Pathet Lao is not a Communist, but an anti-colonial and nationalist movement;

--that the local leader, Sithone Kommadom, and his followers accept Souphanouvong as their leader, but respect both Souvanna as Prime Minister and his goal of neutrality;

--that, contrary to our expectations, there is in Southern Laos neither a program of political indoctrination nor one of improving the economic lot of the peasant;

--and, most interesting of all, that the Pathet Lao in Southern Laos are drawn almost entirely from tribal minorities, whom the Lao hold in contempt, and that this will cause them trouble in a struggle for political domination.

421. Memorandum From the President's Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kaysen) to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, August 28, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries, Laos Security, 8/1/62-8/31/62. Secret.

1. The Laos review meeting you asked for will be at 4:00 p.m. in the Cabinet Room today. It will be run by Governor Harriman and those present in addition will be: Barney Koren (SEA Task Force), Roger Hilsman, State; Sy Janow, Assistant Administrator, and Jim Fowler, Deputy Administrator, Far East, AID; [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Paul Nitze, Admiral Heinz, and General Lucius Clay, Jr. (JCS Far East Planner), Defense.

2. The main point of the meeting will be to review the situation in Laos. Harriman and the others will present what is happening in Laos with respect to steps toward the integration of the government, the military situation, and whatever troop withdrawals we know about. They will be prepared to talk about our contingency plans in the event that things do not work out.

I think the general conclusion from our intelligence information is that it is much too soon to tell whether things are working out. I attach a copy of a memorandum from Hilsman indicating his views of where we are now. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]

3. In addition to this general review, there are three decisions which you will be asked to make, all connected with aid matters. First, Harriman thinks it urgent that we agree to give a $2 million cash grant to Souvanna for August. This is $1 million less than we have been giving, and it will be the first aid we have given to Souvanna. It is part of the total of up to $10 million in cash grants you approved tentatively at the Laos aid review of August 15. Harriman's view is that we must do something concrete to show we are supporting Souvanna and that this is the most practical thing to do now. Second, you will be asked to make a formal determination that we can sell our helicopters to the ICC. Everybody agrees that we should do this so that the ICC teams can get around. The French have agreed to be responsible for the operation and maintenance on these helicopters.

The third decision concerns the timing of our approach to Souvanna on aid.

4. In your last review of Laos aid policy, you instructed Harriman to approach the British and French for assistance and to defer discussion with Souvanna until we received a response from them. We have made approaches, both here and in their capitals, but responses are slow to come, partly because of the August vacation. Janow (AID) thinks it urgent that AID be authorized to initiate discussions with Souvanna on the aid program. We will make no final commitments until we know what we can expect from the British and French, but it is important to begin to indicate to Souvanna what our line of thought is.



Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hilsman) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Harriman)

Washington, August 28, 1962.

/2/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 8/28/62-8/31/62. Secret.

Communist Intentions in Laos

As requested, we have (1) examined recent reports coming out of Laos in an effort to assess possible Communist intentions; and, (2) attempted to explore the implications for United States policy of these intentions.

The Facts

Events and reports which should be considered in estimating Communist intentions include the following:

1. The Communists and the Pathet Lao continue to deny the presence of Viet Minh forces in Laos./3/ Although movements of Viet Minh personnel have been reported to include some withdrawals, there is no concrete evidence that Viet Minh combat forces have been evacuated from Laos in significant numbers. Nhommarath, which Souphanouvong offered as the only checkpoint in his area, is of little practical significance.

/3/The presence of Viet Minh "technicians" has been admitted, and the ICC has been notified that 15 have been withdrawn. [Footnote in the source text.]

2. Truck convoys continue to move between North Vietnam and Pathet Lao areas. We do not know what they carry. The Soviet airlift has not yet been stopped, although there is evidence that at least its pattern may be changed.

3. Pathet Lao attacks continue against Meo "pockets." Some minor Pathet Lao attacks against Phoumi's forces have also taken place in Sayaboury Province, north of Luang Prabang, and in the Saravane-Attopeu area.

4. The Pathet Lao has restricted the movement of neutralists into its areas and, according to Phoumi, even Souvanna has not had complete freedom of movement. The cabinet on August 23 decided in principle on the freedom of movement throughout Laos by central government officials. Souphanouvong took the position, however, that some areas may be "inaccessible during the rainy season."

5. In mid-July the Pathet Lao refused to allow a company of Phoumi's troops for the integrated battalion to enter Khang Khay, although Phoumi had permitted the Pathet Lao and Kong Le companies to go to Luang Prabang for the integrated battalion there.

6. The cease-fire committee established by the Souvanna government on June 30 has not as yet reached agreement on provisions to govern the cease-fire.

7. Reports indicate that Chinese Communist troops may have been introduced into Phong Saly Province where the Chinese Communists are building a road.

Our Judgments

These tactics are consistent with an intention to prevent the formation of a true government of national union in effective control of all Laos. On the other hand, given the traditional pattern of Communist behavior, they are equally consistent with a Communist intention to pursue their goals within the Geneva framework as they conceive it.

We would not expect the Communists to cooperate fully in permitting each side to penetrate the other's territory. Neither Hanoi nor Peiping can be expected to abandon Communist gains or to jeopardize them by admitting effective anti-Communist authority into areas they hold.

At the same time, however, the evidence so far available does not indicate that the Communists and in particular Moscow are ready to abandon the entire coalition principle. The pattern of past Communist negotiations at Panmunjom, Warsaw, Berlin, and elsewhere is to confront the West with prolonged intransigence and obstructionism in the hope of eroding resistance and winning cheap gains without provoking an unacceptable military response. When convinced that such a response may be in the offing or that public rupture of an agreement carries intolerable political costs, the Communists usually compromise their position so as to avoid either consequence.

If the Communists intend to pursue their objectives within the context of the Geneva accords, a limiting factor in their behavior is the importance of retaining Souvanna at the head of a government of national union. They must therefore calculate the degree to which their obstructionism threatens the willingness of Souvanna to continue to cooperate.

The interests of Moscow in issues much broader--and in their view more important--than Laos is also a limiting factor.

As to the attitude of the Chinese Communists, they may well be consolidating their logistic lines into Phong Saly, but their present area of suspected activity is so close to the Chinese border as to give no indication of offensive designs. Peiping's cautious and defensive stand along the Taiwan Strait and the Indian border makes it unlikely that the Chinese Communists will push the Pathet Lao into resuming hostilities.

In sum, we believe it is still too soon to take the full measure of Communist intentions. However, they probably plan to play the game within the Geneva terms as conceived in broad, elastic Communist dimensions. Accepting our challenge to shift from the military to the political arena does not, of course, mean that the Communists have abandoned their goal of obtaining control over all of Laos. Rather they are more likely to devote their effort at each point of political attack -- from winning key ministries in the government to the penetration of village administration. In this sense, an agreement in Geneva is only the beginning of a long and very difficult road, as we have long recognized.

Possible Course of Events

At the moment, then, it is impossible to say with certainty what direction events will take.

First, various pressures--including the deterrent effect of United States troops in Thailand and pressure from the Bloc itself--might conceivably lead the Communists to modify their tactics in the direction of greater cooperation with an increasingly effective central government.

Second, if the Communists change to a less obstructionist and more sophisticated course of action and if Souvanna is gullible and Phoumi stupid the Communists may succeed in taking over by purely political means.

Third, if the Communists insist on following an obstructionist line, Souvanna may quit in disgust and retire to Paris.

Fourth, if the Communists insist on following an obstructionist line and if Phoumi is equally firm, the result may be a de facto partition of Laos under the umbrella of an essentially powerless central government.

Implications for United States Policy

We take it that our strategic objective in Laos is to deny the Communists use of the Mekong Valley and its north-south communications routes. We take it also that given the geographic and political handicaps in Laos, the most promising means immediately at hand of attaining this objective is the establishment of an effective government of national union. We take it, finally, that our tactics are to support Souvanna without destroying the morale of Phoumi and the Vientiane group; to split Souvanna from the Pathet Lao; and thus to arrive at a position where we can strengthen all the anti-Communist forces (both Souvanna and the Vientiane group) in their political struggle with the Pathet Lao.


If the above analysis is correct, it would be premature to abandon the present course of United States policy at this time.

It is by no means certain that the anti-Communist elements would lose a political battle for control of a true government of national union. As demonstrated by the interesting account of his month's captivity submitted by the First Secretary of the British Embassy in Vientiane, the Pathet Lao at least in Southern Laos do not have effective programs of political indoctrination and economic betterment. If the neutralist and right-wing forces unite in civic, economic and political action programs, they would appear to stand an excellent chance in all of Laos except the Pathet Lao's long-established northern strongholds.

If the United States continues to press hard for the establishment of an effective government of national union, even though there may be doubts as to the likelihood of achieving it, we can strengthen Souvanna's hand vis-a-vis Souphanouvong and thus maximize whatever chances exist for a true government of national union. In any case such a policy serves the United States' purpose of clearly fixing the blame for a breakdown of the Geneva accords on the Communists, and greatly strengthens the possibility that Souvanna would be willing to call the Pathet Lao to answer for their obstructionism or that he will blame them if he chooses to abandon his role as Premier.

Moreover the coalition effort provides a legitimacy for the Vientiane group which permits its continued strengthening, thereby safeguarding United States interests should the coalition effort fail. The problem lies in tailoring our support of the Vientiane group to the requirements of backing an effective government of national union under Souvanna. To the degree that Souvanna, and to a lesser extent Khamouane Boupha, gain confidence in our support of the coalition as an effective authority over all of Laos, they may become correspondingly hostile to Communist obstructionism. Difficulties between the neutrals and the Pathet Lao in the field, in fact, have been going on for some time. This disillusionment could have wide and favorable political ramifications were a final, irrevocable split between the Communists and the non-Communists to reopen the conflict.

So far Communist intransigence and obstructionism have failed to undermine the position of Phoumi and the Vientiane group or to discredit the United States deterrent posture in Thailand. These remain the twin bases for our policy of protecting the Mekong Valley and hence our position in Southeast Asia.

422. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Washington, August 29, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 8/28/62-8/31/62. Top Secret. Drafted by Kaysen. This meeting lasted from 4 to 4:40 p.m. (Ibid., President's Appointment Book)

Meeting in the Cabinet Room, August 28, 1962, to Discuss Laos

The President, The Secretary of State, Mr. Harriman, Mr. Koren, Mr. Hilsman, Mr. Janow, Mr. Fowler, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], Mr. Nitze, Gen Clay, Admiral Heinz, Mr. Kaysen

Secretary Rusk opened the meeting by indicating that he had emphasized to the Canadians the importance of their role in the International Control Commission for a proper functioning of the Geneva Agreement./2/ He asked Mr. Hilsman to comment on the present situation in Laos in respect to troop movements and the carrying out of the Accords. Mr. Hilsman summarized briefly his memorandum of August 28 (attached)./3/ He said that it was too soon to form a definite judgment as to what was happening. The activity we observed, namely, a certain amount of staged withdrawal and a certain amount of real movement on the part of the North Vietnamese, was consistent with our expectations and consistent with a number of possible Communist strategies along the lines indicated in his memorandum. He sketched the availability, as a fall-back position for us, of a de facto partition under the umbrella of a non-functioning but still visible coalition government. Secretary Rusk asked whether there had been any change in the situation of infiltration from Laos to South Vietnam since the signing of the Geneva Accords. It was Mr. Hilsman's view that there still are no North Vietnamese in South Vietnam and that the infiltrators are returning southerners rather than Vietnamese of the northern origin. [1 line of source text not declassified] pointed out [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that the Viet-Minh and Pathet Lao are proposing minimum compliance with the Geneva Accords. He also mentioned the continuing fighting that these two groups are engaged in with the Meos.

/2/In Ottawa on August 24, Rusk discussed Laos with Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs Green. (Memorandum of conversation, August 24; Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/8-2462)

/3/Attachment to Document 421.

The President asked what we were doing about supplying the Meos. Mr. Harriman responded that we had an agreement with Souvanna that permitted us to get food supplies to the Meos. [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] They indicated that there were still U.S. advisers with the Meo, and that their presence would not constitute violation of the Geneva Accords until after October 6.

The President asked whether we had more requests for arms and whether we should accede to them if the other side were not in fact withdrawing their troops. Secretary Rusk thought that if we get no assurance from Souvanna of a genuine cut-off of help from the North, we should reserve freedom of action for ourselves. In response to the President's question, Mr. Hilsman emphasized that we don't know of any heavy movement from Laos to South Vietnam. In response to the other question of the President's, Messrs. Hilsman [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] indicated that we do have evidence that there is some genuine movement of Viet-Minh troops, as well as the staged withdrawals mentioned above. Further, there has been a sharp decrease in the Soviet airlift, with no Soviet movements observed in the last few days.

The President asked about our plans for the U.S. battle group in Thailand. Mr. Koren sketched out our long-period plan for replacing this battle group with engineers and service troops and constructing logistic facilities.

The President asked whether this had been agreed with Sarit, and Secretary Rusk indicated that he thought we should wait until October 6 (the Geneva Accords date) before making any move on this point. Mr. Hilsman pointed out the deterrent effect of the presence of troops in Thailand on Communist actions.

The President asked what we were doing now for Phoumi in the event we would have to fall back on the position of supporting him in a de facto partition in Laos. Mr. Harriman indicated that we were paying Phoumi's troops through the RLG and pushing him to demobilize down toward a force of a more appropriate size. We were also talking to Souvanna about helping his political party, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].

The President asked about Kong Le. Messrs. Harriman and Hilsman indicated that we do not trust Kong Le and do not think him a reliable person. However, his troops are being pushed by the Pathet Lao, and many of his troops are strongly against the Pathet Lao. We could not rely on Kong Le's neutralism, but we could rely on the anti-Pathet Lao sentiments of some of his troops.

The President then asked for the problems that required immediate decision. Mr. Harriman requested approval of an interim cash grant of $2 million to Souvanna, and initiation of discussing with him the aid plan presented to the President on August 15./4/ The French were not responding at all to our requests for a joint effort; the British were responding, but only slowly. Mr. Harriman did not think we should wait for the British and French responses before beginning to explain our new program to Souvanna. Mr. Janow seconded this point.

/4/See Documents 418 and 419.

In response to the President's question as to whether Souvanna had asked for a cash grant for the month, Secretary Rusk pointed out that Ambassador Unger had recommended it strongly but also recommended that it no longer be put in terms of a monthly grant. /5/

/5/In telegram 68 from Vientiane, July 17. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/7-1762)

The President indicated to Mr. Harriman that he thought negotiations with the British and French should be pushed as vigorously as possible after the first of September, and in Paris or London, rather than in Washington.

The President approved the $2 million cash grant and initiation of interim discussion of the new methods of organizing aid with Souvanna, but without any commitment as to the amount of aid. Further, we would continue to urge the French and the British to join with us.

The President asked who our negotiators would be. Secretary Rusk suggested that we rely on the two embassies for at least the first stages of the negotiations, as both were strong and contained officers with wide Far Eastern experience.

The President approved the offer to provide the ICC with helicopters by sale or lease.

The President asked the extent to which we were able to supply intelligence to the ICC. Messrs. Hilsman [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] responded that they were not planning on giving them all our intelligence, but that we were able to tell them substantially what was useful although not always in the most convincing way.


/6/Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.

423. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Harriman)/1/

Washington, September 21, 1962.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/9-2162. Confidential. Harriman wrote the following note at the bottom of the memorandum: "Alex, I think it is too soon. Pushkin told me they would be out by Oct 7th. Bill Sullivan has some assurance from Souphanouvong a few days ago. The time to bring in the big guns is after Oct 7th if we have sufficient evidence in which to complain. WAH."


What do you think of our attempting shortly to engage Khrushchev's personal prestige on withdrawal of the Viet Minh from Laos and the use of the corridor by a personal message from the President? My thought is that, given the background, the President might send something to Khrushchev to the effect that we are scrupulously observing agreements but are highly concerned over the slowness of Viet Minh withdrawal and reports of Viet Minh fading into Pathet Lao units, and in effect ask for Khrushchev's personal assurance that all Viet Minh will be out and use of the corridor stopped by October 7. I do not know whether we have sufficient base on which to mention Chicoms in Phong Saly.

424. Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hilsman) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Harriman)/1/

Washington, September 24, 1962.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/9-2462. Secret; Noforn.

Laos--The Troop Withdrawal Question

As you requested, we have examined both (1) recent evidence tending to indicate Communist intentions toward troop withdrawal in Laos; and (2) the implications of these intentions for our own decision on withdrawal./2/

/2/A forthcoming SNIE, due to be laid before USIB September 26, gives our overall estimate for Laos. See also my memorandum to you on August 28, "Communist Intentions in Laos." [Footnote in the source text. Regarding the SNIE, see footnote 4, Document 425. Hilsman's memorandum of August 28 is the attachment to Document 421.]

Military Position in Laos

1. There is still no hard evidence on Viet Minh troop withdrawal except for 15 Viet Minh "technicians" certified to the ICC. Truck convoys and the Soviet airlift continue to operate into communist areas in Laos. Whether they are evacuating, regrouping, or resupplying is a matter of conjecture. Minor skirmishes continue.

2. Publicly, the communists continue to insist that no Viet Minh combat forces are present in Laos. Privately, both Souphanouvong and Quinim admit that there are, but say to US officials that the Viet Minh will be out before October 7. Souvanna takes the same position.

3. U.S. army intelligence estimates that since late July covert withdrawals may have reduced Viet Minh forces in Laos from around 9,000 to perhaps 7,500. Of the 11 Viet Minh battalions previously accepted, two are presumed to have returned to North Vietnam from the north and central parts of Laos. Two more battalions from the central area are believed to have retired to the eastern edge of Laos near the Keo Neua and Mu Gia passes. (This would leave elements of one battalion in the Nam Tha-Muong Sai area in the north; one battalion in Sam Neua province in the northeast; three battalions in the Plain of Jars; and two battalions in southern Laos along the infiltration routes into South Vietnam.)

4. There are indications that Viet Minh units in central Laos may be pulling back from their advance positions and regrouping. These preparations would permit either rapid withdrawal (within 10 days to two weeks) or merely concealment.

5. Since it takes about two weeks for information to filter in, it will be difficult to reach a firm judgment on how many Viet Minh remain until some time after the deadline on October 7.

Probable Communist Position

1. Our memorandum of August 28 suggested that the communists probably plan to pursue their goal--control of Laos--primarily through political means and generally within the Geneva terms as conceived in elastic, i.e. communist, dimensions. Even if they do not contemplate resorting to military means, the communists probably still wish to maintain a military position in Laos--to backstop the Lao Communists in intra-government negotiations; to guard against a possible coup by Phoumi; to provide military pressure for possible use in the future; and to safeguard strategic interests in Laos including the corridor to South Viet Nam.

2. The Viet Minh are the military backbone of the Pathet Lao and the shock troops in attack. Equally important is their political role. They ensure that the "correct" line is propagated in the countryside and uphold North Vietnamese interests and status in communist councils. At least for Souphanouvong and Ho Chi Minh, then, there are very good reasons for retaining the maximum number of Viet Minh in Laos and we have no reason to believe the Peiping and Moscow Communists see the local situation much differently. At the same time it is probably true that Moscow is more willing than the Asian Communists to subordinate these local interests to broader questions--most importantly that of Soviet-US relations./3/

/3/There is no direct evidence of a divergence of views among the Communists over withdrawal of Viet Minh forces from Laos, but there is circumstantial evidence pointing in that direction. This includes Peiping's earlier public admonitions against any weakening of communist military positions in Laos by accepting US proposals similar to those advanced by the 1946 Marshall Mission to China; private Chinese Communist concern as expressed in the Tibet documents over Soviet compromises in Laos; the differing tenor of Soviet as compared with Chinese Communist remarks last summer at the Geneva conference; and the sudden resumption in late August of Chinese Communist barbed remarks implicitly criticizing the Soviet Union for imposing its views on other countries in foreign and domestic affairs. Against this evidence of differing views, the announcement in September of additional Soviet aid to the DRV, Souphanouvong's trip to Peiping and possibly Moscow, and Peng Chen's scheduled visit to Hanoi take on added significance as possible indicators of continuing pulling and hauling among the communists. [Footnote in the source text.]

3. Whatever differences may exist between Moscow and its Asian partners, they probably both agree that the situation in Laos does not call for either withdrawing completely or completely refusing to withdraw. They probably envision a flexible and phased policy, facilitated by the complex nature of the North Vietnamese presence in Laos,/3/ the rugged terrain and the low population density in the parts of Laos they hold, and the ease with which personnel can pass undetected across the border with North Vietnam.

/3/The North Vietnamese presence includes completely Viet Minh military units; mixed Viet Minh/Pathet Lao military units; Viet Minh "advisors" and military technicians attached to Pathet Lao and Kong Le military units; army engineers, civilian technicians and laborers engaged on such projects as road-building; and agents at the local level. [Footnote in the source text.]

4. We judge that the final communist decision on withdrawal of their military forces from Laos may not yet have been made. We believe this decision will be based on a communist assessment of how much they can get away with without either stirring up a military confrontation with the United States or incurring unacceptable political costs on charges of violating agreements. We also believe they will try to avoid a military confrontation so long as there is no direct threat to the frontiers of North Viet Nam and Communist China.

5. If the foregoing is correct, it follows that the primary element in the communist assessment will be the evidence that the United States and other Geneva signatories will take steps to offset communist non-compliance. Such evidence would presumably strengthen the Soviet Union in pressing for greater compliance with the Geneva Agreements--since, as we have said, the Soviet Union, unlike its Asian Communist partners, has interests in other parts of the world that it considers of greater importance.


1. On present evidence there is reason to believe that the communists will not have fully complied with the withdrawal provisions of the Geneva Accords by October 7. The degree to which the communists will have complied will depend on a compromise assessment within the bloc as to the proper balance between the requirements for Viet Minh support in Laos and the risks of unacceptable military or political consequence. The communists, particularly the USSR, will put a high premium on securing US withdrawal from Laos and on avoiding a strong and credible charge that they have violated the Geneva Accords.

2. Our strategic interest in Laos, we take it, is to keep the Mekong lowlands out of communist hands. For the moment, at least, the best means to this end still appears to be an effective government of national union. The following are therefore essential: (a) to secure a maximum--if possible, complete--Viet Minh withdrawal; (b) to keep Souvanna on our side in this issue; and (c) to discourage Phoumi from rash actions that would jeopardize the government and invite communist military action.

Implications for US Policy

1. Moscow is our best avenue of pressure on the communists. But the analysis above suggests that Moscow will increase pressure on its Asian colleagues only if it believes that it must in order to avoid either a military confrontation with the US or unacceptable political costs. Therefore, expressions of concern from our side that are not supported by something that would give the USSR grounds for concern, seem unlikely to have much impact.

2. To spur Soviet concern over the possible political costs of the Viet Minh remaining in Laos, it would be most effective if we could bring forward hard and publishable evidence. For technical reasons this would be difficult to do, especially before October 7. However, in the meantime we could apply indirect pressures and at the same time prepare the ground for action after October 7 by the following actions:

(a) Arming Souvanna with such information and estimates as seem appropriate to the purpose of hardening his disposition to use the ICC for investigations after October 7.

(b) Imparting similar information to the Canadian (and perhaps the Indian) member of the ICC, together with specific suggestions for inspections after October 7.

(c) Discussing with Souvanna and the ICC the desirability of preparing a case to present before the UN should adequate inspection of suspect areas not be possible. Soviet knowledge of these discussions would presumably provide Moscow with additional cause for concern, and we do not believe that this would be taken lightly at this time, given Khrushchev's avowed intention to resume pressure on the Berlin issue and his apparent hope of meeting with President Kennedy, both developments to occur following the November elections.

3. The above steps are designed to convince the communists that failure to withdraw the Viet Minh would be costly in political terms. Ultimately more effective than these, however, would be success in convincing them that failure to withdraw increases the risk of a direct military confrontation with the US. In our judgment there are two immediate courses of action open to us which might achieve this result.

(a) Withdrawal of MAAG Teams

One of these is to postpone further withdrawals of our MAAG teams and, if necessary, to hold them in Laos after October 7. To do so, however, would probably not of itself have much deterrent effect. The communists would probably calculate that they could afford to await further indications of our intentions, meanwhile wringing propaganda and political profit from our violation of the Geneva Accords. More important is Souvanna's reaction. Unless we could win Souvanna's approval--which is doubtful--our action would weaken his position in Laos and our influence with him. Given Souvanna's keystone position, and the fact that his own stake in the withdrawal of foreign forces is so high, it is important to work with and through him. At the same time, keeping the MAAG teams in Laos would tend to encourage intransigence on the part of both Souphanouvong and Phoumi. Withdrawing them on schedule would avoid these risks.

If this course is adopted, it might be useful to emphasize our dissatisfaction by pulling the teams no farther back than Thailand for the time being. The possibility of their return to Laos unless the ICC were able to verify Viet Minh withdrawal would not be lost on the Communists.

(b) Strengthening the US Military Presence in Thailand

The second course of action tending to persuade the Communists that failure to withdraw increases the risk of a direct military confrontation with the US is strengthening our military position in Thailand--and especially if we make obvious preparations for this move prior to October 7. The action itself could be taken at such time and in such pattern as our intelligence judgments of the Viet Minh position indicated. Even the preparations for such a move, however, would probably have a strong impact not only in Moscow but also in Hanoi, which is concerned over the dangers of direct reprisal. To Souvanna, strengthening of the US position in Thailand should be preferable to maintaining a US military presence in Laos itself, and might even win his tacit approval. To Phoumi it would be welcome, and it might make him more tractable if he entertains coup ideas. To Sarit and Diem, it would be reassuring and perhaps positively helpful in the broader operation of our relations with each of them. To the American public and elsewhere it would help offset any impression of US supinity [sic] in the face of another communist failure to live up to commitments.

4. In sum, we believe that in pressing the communists for Viet Minh withdrawal we should choose the means likely to be most effective against the communists and least expensive to us in political and military terms. US approaches to Moscow should take place only in the context of other moves that would give weight to our words. However, the UK, as Geneva co-chairman, and possibly other Geneva signatories might well express their interest and concern in the withdrawal situation at any time before October 7, making the point that a serious US reaction could be expected. The timing of our own approach to Moscow might be either before or after October 7, if our back-up moves are in train. After October 7, however, seems more practical, given both the lags and the gaps in our intelligence and the need to maintain Souvanna's alignment.

425. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, September 27, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries, Laos Security, 9/1/62-12/31/62. Secret. Drafted by Forrestal.


You are scheduled to meet tomorrow morning at 11:30 a.m. with Secretary Ball, Secretaries McNamara and Gilpatric, Governor Harriman, Messrs. William Bundy, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and Hilsman. Generals Taylor and Lemnitzer will also be present./2/

/2/See Document 426.

The purpose of this meeting is to review with you our current intelligence and compliance to date with the Geneva Accords by the Communists, and proposed U.S. actions to be taken before and after October 7th (the date under the Accords when all foreign forces are to be withdrawn from Laos).

There are attached as Tab A a memorandum from Roger Hilsman,/3/ and as Tab B the current SNIE,/4/ both on the short-run outlook in Laos. I have also attached for your information (Tab C) some recent cables which would be of interest to you if you have the time to peruse them:

/3/Document 424.

/4/SNIE 58-6-62, "Short Run Outlook for the Laotian Coalition Government," September 29. (Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries, Laos Security, 9/1/62-12/31/62)

Vientiane's 469/5/ gives Ambassador Unger's policy recommendations. He favors completing our withdrawal despite evidence that Viet Minh continue to maintain their presence in Laos.

/5/Dated September 22. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/9-2262)

Vientiane's 480/6/ discloses that Souvanna Phouma is aware of and admits continued Viet Minh presence.

/6/Dated September 24. (Ibid., 751J.00/9-2562)

New York's 902 and New York's Secto 12/7/ report recent conversations with Quinim and Gromyko on the question of Viet Minh withdrawal. Gromyko's attitude is not especially helpful, but is consistent with the previous Russian line.

/7/Both dated September 25. (Ibid.)

Deptel 362/8/ sets forth the Department's temporary approval of our withdrawal and asks Ambassador Unger to prepare to bring pressure on the Communists through the machinery of the Geneva Agreement.

/8/Dated September 26. (Ibid., 751J.00/9-2262)

Governor Harriman is very anxious that we continue to adhere strictly to the letter and spirit of the Geneva Accords despite conflicting evidence of Viet Minh compliance. He does not favor a special effort with the Soviets before October 7th, and he is not in favor of starting a propaganda campaign designed to build up world opinion against the Soviets and the Viet Minh at this time. He wants to fight this out initially at the diplomatic level and through the machinery of the Geneva Accords. Although he has not told me so, I suspect that part of his reasoning is based upon a concern that a public campaign at this time would have unfavorable political consequences here and complicate our diplomatic efforts. You may wish to express yourself on this point.

Although I have not seen their papers, the State Department should be ready by tomorrow morning to present you with their plans for the specific steps to be taken in implementation of the Geneva Accords. These will presumably include the gathering of evidence of the continued Viet Minh presence and its presentation to the ICC (and to the Co-Chairmen if necessary); the technique and timing of diplomatic pressures on the RLG and the ICC to commence investigations in Pathet Lao territory; high level approaches to the Soviets and related public information campaigns.

The Defense Department and the JCS may have suggestions to make on military movements which might be undertaken in support of diplomatic pressures. In this connection the question may arise whether the army battle group which is now stationed in Thailand should remain there beyond the date originally contemplated for its withdrawal. Secretary McNamara's plan was to withdraw the battle group simultaneously with the introduction of a roughly equivalent number of logistic personnel. It might be wise to consider separating these two movements so that the battle group would remain as long as the situation in Laos seems to require their presence (subject of course to rotation). The introduction of logistic personnel in Thailand would then occur independently of withdrawal of the battle group, since Sarit expects them as soon as the weather conditions permit. It is not clear that Secretary McNamara agrees with this thought, and you may wish to ask his opinion.

Governor Harriman will report on the economic situation in Laos and the efforts we are making to get British and French cooperation. He will probably ask for authority to make another special grant for the month of September. Tab D is a cable summarizing the economic position in Vientiane./9/

/9/Tab D was Toaid 267 from Vientiane, September 22. (Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries, Laos Security, 9/1/62-12/31/62)

426. National Security Action Memorandum No. 189/1/

Washington, September 28, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda, NSAM 189. Secret. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1981, 79 A.

The Secretary of State
The Secretary of Defense
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Director of Central Intelligence

Presidential Meeting on Laos, September 28, 1962

At the meeting to review the situation in Laos held in the Cabinet Room at 11:30 a.m. on September 28, 1962,/2/ the President took the following action:

/2/According to Kennedy's appointment book, this meeting lasted until 12:03 p.m. (Kennedy Library, President's Appointment Book) .

(1) authorized the withdrawal by October 7, 1962 of the remaining elements of MAAG Laos in accordance with the Geneva Agreements;

(2) authorized a special U.S. contribution to the Royal Lao Government for the month of September not to exceed $2 million;

(3) approved a review of intelligence data concerning Viet Minh withdrawals from Laos in order to ascertain what information could be given to the RLG and the ICC in Laos without jeopardizing the integrity of intelligence collection;

(4) approved the retention of U.S. combat forces in Thailand pending a further review of developments in Laos.

Carl Kaysen

427. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Harriman) and the Deputy Director of the United States Information Agency (Wilson)/1/

Washington, October 5, 1962.

/1/Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Telephone Conversations, June-December 1962. No classification marking. A note on this memorandum, which was transcribed in Harriman's office, indicates that it was unread and uncleared by Harriman.

On LAOS (WAH held backgrounder 10/4/62)/2/

/2/Harriman held a press background briefing on Laos on October 4, no record of which has been found.

W-- I am interested that you took it so easy on your backgrounder.

H --The press have blown this up, and also CIA & the Pentagon-- that this is a great event: Oct 7. This is only one of the relatively important or relatively less important steps which have not been taken--one is to open the country up--there is an iron curtain or a jungle curtain between the two parts of the country; no real amalgamation of the govt; no steps in line with integration of forces & demobilization. There are have [sic] a dozen subjects of equal importance. We expected them to cheat about this. This isn't going to be cut and dried. We had 1600--665 are out. Thais still there. KMT still there. SVN still there. They are going to make a lot of accusations we cannot prove wrong and we are going to make a lot of accusations we can't prove right. The real question is Khrushchev. Point is, we haven't got any combat troops there. Our troops are in Thailand--that's the most important thing--in Laos, not important. There's been a lot of good news--we've been asked to continue to supply Phoumi, to supply the Meo--all these are good. But the point is we don't want to blow up domestically that Oct 7 is something of importance. We are going to make a lot of noise to the ICC and the Co-Chairmen. We want to make noise to the people that count. This is not the test of their sincerity. If this blows up, it will be because fighting starts up--not because of infringement of the Agreements. The conflict is political now-- not military. It is going to be difficult, there is going to be a lot of sparring. What I have said privately is "It's going just about as badly as I expected but with some better news than I expected."

428. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, October 18, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Staff Memoranda, Michael V. Forrestal, 6/62-10/62. No classification marking.

U.S. Strategy on Viet Minh Presence in Laos

At the staff meeting this morning/2/ you asked what we proposed to do in the way of protest against continuing Viet Minh presence in Laos.

/2/The White House daily staff meeting. (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, White House Daily Staff Meetings, October 1962 to February 1963, T-222-69)

We have collected and are continuing to collect sanitized evidence of such presence. We have already presented the first bill of particulars to the RLG through Phoumi and Ngon Sananikone. They intend to take the matter up with the RLG Cabinet and the RLG cease fire committee. Simultaneously, we have presented the same evidence to the Canadian member of the ICC. If the RLG Cabinet requests an investigation (unlikely event) under the Accords the ICC is supposed to conduct it. If the RLG Cabinet is stalemated by Souphanouvong's people, then the Canadian member proposes an investigation by the ICC sua sponte. Such an investigation can be carried out by the vote of a simple majority of the Commission members, Canadian and Indian. There is reason to believe that the Indian will cooperate.

If an investigation by the ICC is then blocked by the refusal of the Pathet Lao to permit access to its territory, it is supposed to report such fact to the Co-Chairmen. Any member of the Geneva Conference (including the U.S.) can then raise the issue with the Co-Chairmen (i.e. we go back to Khrushchev).

All this takes time, but that is what we have really bought in Geneva.


429. Editorial Note

On October 30, W. Averell Harriman, in his role as Deputy Representative and Acting Chief of the Delegation to the International Conference on Laos, submitted to the Secretary of State a classified report of the Delegation, dated September 19. This report was a supplement to the official and unclassified report transmitted to the Secretary of State by Harriman under cover of a letter of September 24. The 62-page classified report was entitled, "Comments on Other Delegations to the International Conference on Settlement of the Laotian Question and Secret Memoranda and other Classified Papers Relating to the Conference." It characterized the attitudes of the other delegations and contained secret memoranda on interpretations of the United States concurred in by the Canadian, French, and United Kingdom Delegations on three topics: the meaning of the phrase, "Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos" in the third paragraph of Article 8 of the Protocol; the ability of the International Control Commission to investigate violations of the 13-power Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos and the Laotian Statement on the Neutrality of Laos; and the interpretation of Article 14 of the Protocol, the article on voting.

The report also contained a memorandum on the negotiating history of the phrase "with the concurrence of the Royal Government of Laos" as used in Articles 9, 11, 15, and 16 of the Protocol and a memorandum regarding the agreement of the Co-Chairmen that the understanding expressed in Article 17 of the Protocol that "the means of communication and transport will be under the administrative control of the Commission" meant that "the Commission will have full control of any equipment, whether purchased, leased or otherwise acquired, during the period this equipment is at the disposal of the Commission for the performance of its functions." The report contained an exchange of letters, December 5-8, 1961, between Harriman and interim Chief of the Indian Delegation, Arthur Lall, regarding the meaning of the phrase "agreed reports" as used in Article 15 of the Protocol regarding investigations. Finally, the report contained memoranda on Articles 8 and 14 of the Protocol. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/9-3062) The unclassified report is in the Department of State Library.

430. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, November 5, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 10/62-12/62. Confidential. Drafted by Forrestal.

Free World Assistance to Laos

Attached is London's 1756 to the Department/2/ stating that the British have agreed to make available $3 million per year to Laos for essential imports.

/2/Attached, but not printed.

As you know, it has taken some difficult bargaining to wring even this small amount out of the British; and it represents a concession in principle on their part, since $3 million is all they had budgeted for political aid throughout the world excluding the Commonwealth area. The French have agreed to put up approximately $4 million in francs and an equivalent amount in French services.

Although neither amount is large, they do, I think, represent a political commitment to stick with us in Laos.

431. Summary Paper Prepared by the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs/1/

Washington, November 8, 1962.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/11-862. Confidential. Drafted by Bruns and cleared in draft by Cross and by Koren and Rice. Attached to a note from McGeorge Bundy by Executive Secretary Brubeck in connection with the President's discussion on the afternoon of November 8.

In accordance with the August 13th Memorandum for the White House/2/ we are proceeding to implement an economic assistance program to Laos that contains two major categories project--and non-project assistance.

/2/See footnote 2, Document 418.


In our new aid program for Laos/3/ we are shifting our emphasis from providing direct budgetary support to meeting foreign exchange requirements. Accordingly, we have programmed $15 million for financing commodities under a commodity import program and at least $10 million for cash grants that will be used to achieve particular purposes such as demobilization or maintenance of the FAR. The dollars from these cash grants will be available to meet foreign exchange requirements that are not covered in the commodity import program.

/3/At the White House daily staff meeting on November 1, discussion of economic assistance to Laos went as follows:

"Dungan, Kaysen, Forrestal, and Hansen discussed foreign assistance for FY 64 with emphasis on Laos as an example of some kind. Dungan wondered why we had to spend $58 million in Laos, and the answer was that we had to pay $58 million in order to subsidize the continuation of a right-wing necessary to balance Souvanna Phouma and prevent him from falling completely into the Communist camp. Dungan keeps hammering home that foreign aid for FY 64 will be substantially less than for FY 63, and said that we should assume that even the initial requests will total under $4 billion. This requires a hard look at the marginal utility and return received from applying, for example, a given $50 million in Country X as compared with Country Y. Kaysen pointed out that in some cases such as Laos it was a question of either a fixed amount--maybe about $58--million or none at all, since the $58 million is the minimum required for the minimum objective, and one may as well cut the country down to zero dollars as cut it down to $30 million, say. There was general agreement that one must focus on those few places where the really big money goes, since it is there that the amounts can be reduced without destroying the entire purpose of the program." (Memorandum for the record by Legere, November 1; National Defense University, Taylor Papers, White House Daily Staff Meetings, October 62 to February 1962, T-222-69)

To effect this program, we have devised a reimbursable financing system that eliminates uncontrolled cash grants to the degree possible and, at the same time, maintains the flexible set of controls for accounting and auditing purposes which we believe are necessary to make such a system a viable substitute for cash grants. To ensure the legitimacy of the transactions under this system, the arrival of the goods will be certified by the U.S. at Lao customs. Although reimbursement under this system will certainly be restricted to expenditures made in non-communist countries, we may have to ease restrictions against procurement in the 19 developed countries and to allow a wider range of commodity imports than is normally financed under U.S. assistance programs.

To minimize the burden on the United States and to secure maximum free world involvement in the Lao solution, we have pressed the British and French to join with us in providing aid to Laos, our particular objective being to obtain a commitment from these countries to finance a portion of Laos' goods and services. The British have indicated that they are prepared to finance $3 million dollars annually for three years. Although we have not yet received a definite reply from the French, we are hopeful that they will match the assistance provided by the U.K. Together, then, the U.S., the U.K. and France are prepared to finance about $20 million of goods, which is approximately our estimate of Laos' annual needs. Other foreign exchange requirements will, as noted above, probably be met from cash either for the local currency costs of projects or for other purposes.

With the development of the reimbursable system to finance imports and the agreement of the British and, in all likelihood, that of the French, we are now ready to present our non-project program to the Lao Government. In doing so, we will coordinate our presentation with that of the British and French in order to impress upon Souvanna that his foreign assistance is limited and to convince him that the RLG budget must be prepared in accordance with the resources available to him, i.e. domestic revenues, and the local currency proceeds of commodity imports and cash grants, if he is to avoid financial collapse.

Project Program

For FY 1963 we have programmed $13 million to be used to meet dollar costs of the projects and up to $5 million of counterpart proceeds to meet the local currency costs. The project program, unlike non-project assistance, was not suspended and the following projects are currently being implemented: rural development, teacher training, rural medicine and health, communications media--Lao National Radio and Photo Press--Vientiane telephone plant, and refugee resettlement and relief. Unfortunately, the police program has not been resumed because Souvanna has not yet requested our assistance. In addition to the funds available for the FY 63, $8.5 million is available from prior year funds for the construction of the Nam Cadinh road.

RLG Budget

The major problem now facing Souvanna is the preparation of a budget that will not entail heavy borrowing from the BNL. To accomplish this he faces formidable obstacles: on the one hand, he cannot count on more than $8 million dollars of local revenue and not much more than $33 million in local currency proceeds from foreign assistance; on the other, he must finance the FAR, the PL, and the Kong Le forces as well as civil expenses. Together these costs could come to between $70 and $90 million depending upon Souvanna's ability to maintain some economic sanity. To minimize the effects of this potentially dangerous situation, we have been examining with our Embassy in Vientiane methods by which military costs could be minimized and borrowing from the BNL limited.

Cash Grant

We have given Ambassador Unger standby authority for a $2 million cash grant. He has indicated he will use it to obtain a specific objective in his negotiations with the Lao.

432. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, November 8, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries, Laos Security, 9/1/62-12/31/62. Secret. Drafted by Forrestal.


At 4 p.m. today the following officials will assemble in the Cabinet Room to give you a report on the current situation in Laos and Thailand:/2/ Secretary McNamara, Mr. William Bundy (Defense); Governor Harriman, Mr. Koren, Mr. Sullivan (State); Mr. Janow, Mr. Fowler (AID); General Clay (JCS); Mr. Ray Cline, Mr. Hepworth (CIA)./3/ The Report will include the following topics.

/2/According to Kennedy's appointment book, the meeting lasted until 4:30 p.m., and Taylor also attended. (Ibid., President's Appointment Book)

/3/For the results of the meeting, see Documents 433 and 434.

I. Laos

(a) The current political situation between the three factions. The status of the economy. Progress towards demobilization and integration. Prospects for the future (Harriman and Janow).

(b) Current intelligence estimates. Continued Viet Minh presence in Laos and utilization of the corridor. Intelligence estimates of the future Soviet and Viet Minh intentions (Cline).

(c) Diplomatic and economic moves by the U.S. presently under way or contemplated in light of the above (Harriman and Janow).

(d) The status of current U.S. military plans (General Clay).

II. Thailand

(a) Report on current political situation in Thailand including talks with Marshal Sarit on the withdrawal of certain military units and on the economic and military aid programs (Harriman, Janow and Bundy).

(b) Current intelligence on political situation in Thailand and evidence, if any, of Communist penetration in the north (Mr. Cline).


Talking Paper on Laos for Meeting with the
President on November 8/4/

/4/ Sections I and II were based on a paper prepared by the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs and sent to Bundy at the White House on November 1. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/11-162)

I. Lao Political Situation

1. Our policies have been designed to forward the neutral solution involving a unified Laos if that proves at all possible. However, we are also working to ensure that if this is unsuccessful the failure will: (a) be clearly ascribable to the Communists, (b) find Souvanna and the other non-Communists on the same side, and (c) that this side will have strength enough to hold its own in a partition.

2. There has been no real progress towards the unification of Laos nor on the demobilization and integration of forces. In fact, Souvanna publicly expressed his discouragement November 7 and said that he would resign unless there was progress soon in solving the problems of civil and military unification. Meanwhile many of Souvanna's neutralist supporters are known to be maneuvering behind his back (e.g. Quinim is staying in PDJ to await Souphanouvong); neutralist forces in Phong Saly have split dangerously and friction between Kong Le and PL forces in PDJ is steadily growing.

3. There has been some evidence of cooperation between Phoumi and Souvanna who in several recent instances supported each other against the PL. However, the arrest on November 5 of four KL officers (two of whom were on Souvanna's personal staff) by Phoumi's right-hand military commander has revived old animosities and probably destroyed chances of bringing KL and Phoumi together in the immediate future at least. Phoumi has also been borrowing freely from the Treasury and there are reports of graft among his group.

4. Steps to bolster non-Communist elements:

(a) providing follow-on spares, POL and some transport facilities to Phoumi's forces;

(b) exerting careful pressure on Phoumi to demobilize the FAR down to a manageable size of around 40,000 and to strengthen the political base of the FAR by civic action programs;

(c) encourage French military presence to fill the gap left by the departure of the MAAG (Phoumi is proving particularly obstructive). The French military mission is in touch with Kong Le which we hope can lead to a satisfactory working relationship with the neutralist forces;

(d) making arrangements to assist some of the military forces loyal to Souvanna at his request;

(e) continuing our relief and non-military supply activity with the Meo. (The PL are running a continuing campaign against Air America operations.)

II. International Political Situation

1. The major international problem remains that of a continued VM presence and the use of Laos as a corridor to SVN.

2. We are encouraging activity by the Lao themselves to investigate VM presence and to press for their removal.

3. We are encouraging tougher stands against the PL by Souvanna.

4. We are encouraging ICC investigations, none of which have yet taken place.

5. Stepping up our propaganda on Communist violations of the Geneva Agreements.

6. If pressures by Souvanna and the ICC fail to bring about the withdrawal of the Viet Minh, it will be time to consider high level approach to the Soviets. Timing and nature of this approach will depend on other aspects of the international situation and its success, if made, would be directly related to the current struggle for leadership in the Communist world.

III. Economic

1. Unger is now in position to negotiate an economic assistance program with Souvanna, including amounts. He will coordinate his presentation with French and British.

2. Proposed U.S. import program

$15 million commodities
$5 million cash grant to purchase kip
plus cash grants as needed to maintain and demobilize FAR. Unger has not yet used the $2 million cash grant authority given him in September; but can be expected to use it fairly soon.

3. Project assistance

(a) Rural development
(b) Teacher training
(c) Refugee relief and resettlement
(d) Nam Cadinh road to be build over two years at a cost of $8.5 million from FY 1960 funds
$13 million total

4. Third Country aid

The British have agreed to finance $3 million of commodities and services annually for the next three years. We have not yet had a definitive French commitment but we believe it is likely that they will probably make about $3 million available to meet foreign exchange requirements.

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