434. Memorandum of Discussion at the 464th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, October 20, 19601

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and items 1–3. Secretary of State Herter presided at the meeting.]

4. U.S. Policy Toward Laos (NSC 6012)2

Mr. Dulles began his briefing on Laos by pointing out that many of the developments there related to U.S. actions on which he assumed the Secretary of State would wish to report. The picture in Laos today was better than a week ago. Souvanna Phouma had moved a little away from insisting on an early agreement with the Pathet Lao. We do not know whether the Soviet Ambassador made any offers to Souvanna Phouma in his initial meeting but we believe that the meeting was exploratory. The King had not signed the new Soviet Ambassador’s accreditation papers but probably will. Meanwhile there was a slight hope that the King, Souvanna Phouma, and Phoumi could be brought together. Mr. Dulles observed that Mr. Parsons and Mr. Irwin had done a fine job and had moved the situation along.

Secretary Herter called on Secretary Dillon to bring the Council up to date on latest U.S. actions. Mr. Dillon indicated he would report on the latest situation rather than on the involutions that had occurred. The fundamental problem was that the person with the clear-cut anti-Communist position, Phoumi, had unfortunately set up a revolutionary regime which made him a rebel. He had, in fact, been declared a rebel by the government. This made it politically very difficult for us to give him support. We could not do so to an extent where the government would make an appeal to the UN based upon U.S. interference. We could not count on the support of anyone in the UN in such a situation. We would be in a position like that of the Russians on the Congo, but with no Guineas or Ghanas to back us up.

We were interested in two things in the current situation. One was to get a unified government so that we could strongly support Phoumi legally. The second was to work for disengagement of the Laos Government from its negotiations with the Pathet Lao. We had doubts about Souvanna but he was the government. We had decided to resume budgetary aid to all of Laos even though this puts us in the position of paying Kong Le’s troops. They had been paid by withdrawals from the central bank. We would have to make up these withdrawals anyway as long as we were going to give assistance to Laos. We want to ensure that Souvanna Phouma is put in a position where he [Page 921] would not want to risk breaking off relations with us or creating trouble in the UN. This would make it possible for us to take greater risks in sending matériel to Phoumi.

Originally, we had suggested, Secretary Dillon continued, that Souvanna Phouma move to Luang Prabang and stop his negotiations with the Pathet Lao. This had not yet occurred. However, Souvanna Phouma had told us that he concurs in our view that the primary job is to fight the Pathet Lao. He has said that the U.S. can send in supplies directly to any region of Laos, including supplies to Phoumi in the south. We are asking Phoumi to dissolve his revolutionary regime. It serves no purpose; no one has accepted it. If he gets rid of the revolutionary regime, Phoumi can act as he wishes to but he will no longer be a rebel.

Secretary Dillon went on to state that the region around Luang Prabang wished to fight the Pathet Lao. It was not clear, however, whether they wished to fight the Pathet Lao with Phoumi, with Souvanna Phouma, or on their own. The U.S. was sending supplies to the area, however. Secretary Dillon noted that General Ouane had recently gone to Luang Prabang where he had resigned. Souvanna Phouma had asked him to withdraw his resignation. General Ouane had refused to withdraw his resignation but had stated he would accept Souvanna Phouma’s refusal to accept his resignation. Mr. Dulles noted that it was not clear whether General Ouane’s original resignation had included both his position as Chief of Staff and his position as Secretary of Defense.

Mr. Dillon stated that in his negotiations with the Pathet Lao, Souvanna Phouma had stuck closer than we had expected to his original terms. There was an official report that the Pathet Lao had agreed to withdraw from Sam Neua. We would have to wait to see whether this withdrawal actually took place. Souvanna Phouma had also sent an emissary to Phoumi; this was the first time in some time that such contact had been established. Souvanna Phouma was seeking some arrangement to unify the country. All that Souvanna Phouma was asking now was that Phoumi not fight against him; that he accept the Souvanna Phouma government. Otherwise, he would be free to do what he wished to do. In response to a question from Secretary Dillon, Mr. Dulles stated that Kong Le had temporarily disappeared but had now re-appeared. It looked as though Kong Le was slipping a bit. Secretary Dillon noted that the significance of the fifteen day jail term which had been put in Kong Le’s dossier was the fact that it had been publicly announced.2 This announcement had meant some [Page 922] loss of face for Kong Le. There was some feeling against him among his own troops. If these troops now begin to waver, the situation in Laos was returning to normal, for these troops had been the only element that had stayed on course heretofore. Mr. Dulles noted that Phoumi had agreed to dissolve his revolutionary regime if he could be given some other status; otherwise he would have no status. He was asking something from the King.

The National Security Council:

Noted and discussed recent developments with regard to the situation in Laos.

[Here follows item 5.]

Robert H. Johnson
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Johnson on October 24.
  2. Document 65.
  3. On October 18, Souvanna told foreign newsmen that he had punished Kong Le with 15 day “arrest” for the unauthorized demonstration by the paratroopers of the 2nd Battalion upon the arrival of the Soviet Ambassador to Vientiane, October 13. Kong Le’s “arrest” did not involve confinement of any kind. The Embassy commented that the publicity of this action was probably as significant as the administrative punishment itself. (Telegram 773 from Vientiane, October 18; Department of State, Central Files, 751J.551/10–1860)