330. Telegram From the Embassy in Laos to the Department of State1

806. Department pass Defense and CINCPAC. Saigon pass Admiral Radford and CHMAAG. In conversation with Admiral Radford2 and myself today both Crown Prince and Defense Minister played down prospect of substantial offensive or counter offensive by Royal Forces in Sam Neua and Phong Saly.

Savang laid emphasis on efficacy of expanding guerilla and auto defense operations which he claims have already interdicted all but one Viet supply route into Phong Saly and which he believes will in near future render Viet position in Sam Neua equally uncomfortable and precarious. He spoke of utilizing against Viets same methods they employed against French and referred to support of RG by local population and mounting PL defections. He pointed out government would be in better position to take energetic action now that elections completed successfully,3 and mentioned ANL offensive as possible alternative to auto defense. He expressed view however such offensive would provoke Viet intervention which would oblige RG to call upon SEATO for assistance, would risk broadening scope of conflict and would be very costly to Laos.

Souvanna was reticent about military plans but expressed hope that, in view RG election victory and Laos admission to UN, ICC would now take more forthright position in its support. If not, he said, Laos would be able to appeal directly to UN. Both Savang and Souvanna referred to reported information inside Red China of irregular [Page 726] Thai and PL military unit and expressed apprehension re ChiCom intentions.

Since Crown Prince and Souvanna have recently been most ardent high-level proponents of vigorous ANL military action after elections, this caution and emphasis on auto defense represents volte-face which harks back to last summer’s policy. As recent military developments in two provinces have been favorable and encouraging, I surmise their shift rests on political grounds and arises at least in part from strong ICC and British pressure. Reversion to more aggressive line might occur if PL should step up attacks or if ICC should prove as irresolute and impotent after elections as it was before. However, fact must be squarely faced that government of country so vulnerably placed and intrinsically weak as Laos will be peculiarly susceptible to great power pressures. If British, French and ICC insist on necessity for great caution, and we feel it unwise to urge boldness, policy of caution is almost certain to prevail.

Embassy of course, strongly favors psychological war, auto defense and commando operations but we are far from being as optimistic as was Savang this morning that they alone will clear Lao-Viets out of two provinces.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/12–2755. Secret; Priority. Repeated priority to Saigon, Bangkok, and Phnom Penh.
  2. Radford was on an inspection tour of military installations in the Far East.
  3. Regarding the election, see Document 332.