367. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Laos1

175. For Ambassador from Parsons. Although with situation still unclear we obviously not in position predict to Souvanna future US courses of action, consider it important you establish relationship of confidence with him if possible. You have probably found him, as I did, gentleman, intelligent, sophisticated, of great charm, sometimes overoptimistic but occasionally tricky and weak. Very aware of being royal prince and feeling he is person who can save Laos and bring peace and unity to country. Believes he can dominate fellow countrymen and situation. Is non-practicing engineer and generally adopts theoretical approach. USG does consider him sincere patriot not Communist or Communist-inclined.

However it well keep in mind Souvanna’s oft reiterated theme (perhaps planted by French) while PriMin in 1956–58 that he misunderstood by Americans, that Pathet Lao not Communists but merely misguided nationalists who wished return to fold. Although asserted Lao Government fully aware danger of subversion, he nevertheless proceeded push for PL agreement.

During Souvanna’s tenure as PriMin, Soviet representations for accreditation of diplomatic mission in Laos were sidetracked by RLG. However early in 1957 Souvanna, without knowledge of his government, apparently agreed to eventual additional accreditation of Lao Ambassador at Paris to Moscow. RLG recognition USSR and exchange of missions appeared imminent just before Hungarian uprising, but RLG again delayed when furnished details uprising by Embassy.

During courtesy visit Lao Government delegation headed by Souvanna to Peiping in August 1956, ChiComs offered to discuss aid but Lao Government sidestepped issue. In February 1957 Souphanouvong posed as new condition for political settlement acceptance ChiCom aid, but RLG stated ChiCom aid had nothing to do with political settlement.

In November 2, 1956 RLGPL agreement, never executed, RLG stated it willing establish diplomatic relations with all countries regardless of internal regime and would accept all economic aid granted without strings. Secret clauses provided Communist China would not be recognized until it could prove it effectively controlled all areas which ChiComs considered should be under their administration (presumably [Page 798] reference to Taiwan); and DRV would not qualify for de jure recognition until Lao–DRV border dispute and Pathet Lao problems settled.

We suspect Souvanna, while more aware dangers Communism than when negotiating with PL in 1956–57, nevertheless believes diplomatic relations with bloc and further negotiations with PL essential for maintenance peace in Laos. At suitable opportunity you might remind him that while PL tactics change their objectives remain same and are contrary to those of Souvanna. From tactics of negotiation in 1957, PL despite November 1957 agreement changed to tactic of armed insurrection in summer 1959 when their objectives could not be achieved within framework of agreement. Thesis set forth to you (your G–48)2 not accepted here and contrary to fact in that decision PL/VM to use forcing tactics and resume insurgency antedated US training teams and goes back to early spring 59 when pressures gradually built up.

If suitable opportunity presents itself, you should encourage Souvanna to beware of danger of including PL in Cabinet as well as special danger to Lao of establishing diplomatic relations with bloc. The opening of bloc missions would provide new and efficient bases for the direction of Communist subversive activity, to which Laos already dangerously exposed. In view Laos’ geographic position it is much better to keep Communists outside national borders if possible. The bloc’s devious use of the Polish ICC delegation is a case in point.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/8–1560. Secret; Niact. Drafted by Erickson, cleared with SEA and Parsons, and approved by Anderson. Repeated to Saigon, Bangkok, London, Paris, and Canberra.
  2. This reference is apparently in error.