431. Editorial Note

On October 17 at 4 p.m., Ambassador Brown met with Souvanna Phouma in Vientiane on instructions from Parsons. (See supra) Brown described their conversation in detail in telegram 765 from Vientiane, October 17. At the end of the telegram, Brown summarized the situation as a result of the conversation and made five recommendations:

  • “A) Souvanna has asked officially for large-scale aid for First Region.
  • “B) He is agreeable direct US aid southern regions, provided Phoumi accepts authority legal govt.
  • “C) He is sending emissary to Phoumi to ask him again recognize his govt, but is prepared consider counter proposal. (This in opposition heavy PL propaganda against any negotiations or accommodation with Phoumi.)
  • “D) He has not closed door to our direct aid to south, but has asked us wait day or two to see what comes of his feeler to Phoumi. In this he is clearly trying keep pressure on Phoumi to accept his terms or something near them and still have door open for our support.
  • “E) We have shown him how he can get our military aid, but have not agreed to give it.

“I recommend:

  • “1) That in order maintain maximum bargaining power I be instructed tell Souvanna tomorrow October 18 that we want to help him to resist PL anywhere and specifically in First Region, that we can do so quickly, but that our concern is with whole country and we must have his agreement our helping resist PL in south as well.
  • “2) That if practicable, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] collect and load equipment PEO agrees required by Houmphan [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for earliest delivery, supplies to be held pending Souvanna’s reply to 1) above and our decision there.
  • “3) That we tell Phoumi that Souvanna is prepared consider counter-proposal and that he must make reasonable one in response Souvanna’s feeler, perhaps along lines modified 384 with agreement drag out PL negotiations and assurance cut off if PL try go beyond implementation 1957 agreements or to get NLHX into govt. Should also insist anew on strict observance cease-fire by Vientiane forces, including Kong Le.
  • “4) That we continue analysis Phoumi and other plans and requirements pending arrival material Bangkok.
  • “5) That we tell Ouan and Houmphan (who now appear by their exchange of telegrams to have agreed cooperate against Pathet Lao) what we have told Souvanna in 1) above, but that he reluctant agree on direct supply south. We must be able to supply Phoumi legally if their joint effort against PL is to succeed. Hope this will press Souvanna agree our request in larger interest country.

“All members Country Team concur.” (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/10–1760; included in the microfiche supplement)

[Page 914]

The Department responded to these recommendations in telegrams 420 and 424 to Vientiane, October 17 and 18. The Department authorized Brown to tell Souvanna that the United States would assist all Lao forces in fighting the Pathet Lao, including Phoumi. As for recomendation 2, the Department informed Brown that such action was already being carried out. The Department preferred the following course of action on recommendation 3:

“We telling Phoumi he should dissolve his committee because this action would improve climate of relations among non-Communist elements and thus promote chances of reunification. Action should also restore some of Phoumi’s prestige. No quid pro quo was suggested. Believe it would be preferable to tell Phoumi he should give a reasonable and constructive response to Souvanna’s feeler, but it might be better avoid encouraging Phoumi make counter-proposals which would very probably lead to another extended, inconclusive exchange prolonging present division of non-Communist forces. The most important point is that we need Phoumi legitimized by removing the label of ‘rebel’.”

The Department agreed with recommendation 4, as long as the analysis did not interrupt the flow of matériel to Lao forces, includng Phoumi’s, which were willing to fight the Pathet Lao. Recommendation 5 was approved as stated. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/10–1760 and 751J.5–MSP/10–1760; both included in the microfiche supplement)

At 3:20 p.m., October 17, Assistant Secretary of Defense Irwin, Admiral Riley, and U.S. liaison officials to Savannakhet met with General Phoumi Nosavan and Prince Boun Oum at Ubon, Thailand. While the Americans encouraged Phoumi to join a new anti-Communist government and raised the problem of his rebel status, the thrust of their discussion was that the United States was prepared to support, at least secretly, a march on Vientiane and recapture of the government by Phoumi. (Telegram 686 from Vientiane, October 18; Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/10–1860; included in the microfiche supplement)