333. Memorandum of Discussion at the 437th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, March 17, 19601

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting.]

1. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

Mr. Dulles said he would first review the situation in Southeast Asia. A number of conditions had arisen in various Southeast Asian countries which, while not now serious, held promise of future difficulties. In other words, elements of softness had appeared in South-east Asia. In Laos the Communists were no longer using the tactic of semi-overt invasion across the frontier. Mr. Dulles felt the UN action in publicizing Communist activities had been a wise one, but it had driven the Communists to adopt deep cover. The Pathet-Lao insurgents, [Page 746] aided by the North Vietnam Communists, were consolidating their forces and expanding their influence in Laos. Widespread reports were being received of the build-up of these forces, of their intimidation of the population and of their exploitation of the grievances existing among the tribes. In addition to its control of two “pockets” in Laos (Luang-Prabang and Xieng-Khouang), the Pathet-Lao exercised de facto control over a widespread area of the countryside. Security enforced by the central government exists fully only in the cities, to a lesser extent in the towns, and not at all in the countryside. Increased Communist action against South Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand is foreshadowed by the infiltration of Communists in the direction of these countries. A USIS team which recently tried to tour mountain villages in the Xieng-Khouang province was interrogated by uniformed Pathet-Lao forces and turned back. Mr. Dulles believed that the non-Communists could be persuaded to cooperate in putting up single candidates for the April election to the Laotian National Assembly wherever there is Communist opposition. The Communist electoral tactics during this election were not yet clear. The Communists may abstain from voting. Mr. Dulles thought the Laotian problem would continue to be a difficult one for a long time and was not susceptible of quick and easy solution. In summary, he believed the Communists were trying to gain their ends in Laos by subversion, guerrilla war and semi-legal means. Our military mission in the country was doing an excellent job in combating Communism. Secretary Herter said Mr. Hammarskjold had recently told him that the UN was sending a number of representatives into the Laotian villages and had also been asked to appoint advisors to a number of the administrative departments of the Laotian Government. Mr. Herter felt that a partial shift of responsibility to the UN was a favorable development from the U.S. point of view. Mr. Dulles agreed that the fact that UN representatives are watching over the situation in Laos is important.

[Here follow discussion unrelated to Laos and the remaining agenda items.]

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Boggs.