64. Memorandum of Discussion at the 452d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, July 21, 19601

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

1. U.S. Policy in Mainland Southeast Asia (NSC 5809;2OCB Special Report on NSC 5809, dated February 10, 1960;3NSC Action No. 2193;4 Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated July 11 and 18, 19605)

As background for Council consideration of the proposed changes in the policy on Southeast Asia, Mr. Dulles briefed the Council on the situation in Laos, Cambodia, North Vie-tnam and Burma, countries in which, Mr. Dulles said, developments particularly required attention. Turning first to Laos, Mr. Dulles stated that the Pathet-Lao was expanding its military and subversive capabilities and would be able to intensify its present low-level guerrilla effort at any time. It is presently quiescent but we believe that it is building up its assets. The new Laotian Government is concerned about the loyalty of the rural population and has inaugurated a political and social program which is the responsibility of teams from the 29,000-man Laotian Army. Six-man teams are sent to rural areas to teach the people sanitation and to spread government propaganda. There are other areas of Laos where governmental authority has to be established before such programs can be undertaken.

Mr. Dulles pointed out that the Laotian Army was being assisted through a joint U.S.-French program under an agreement concluded last September.6 There has been significant progress toward the establishment of an efficient military organization. However, U.S. arrangements with the French will end on September 1 when the existing agreement lapses. The program will not be completed by that date. The new U.S. Ambassador to Laos, Ambassador Brown, was told in Paris on his way to Laos that De Gaulle in the last three months has taken a direct personal interest in Indo-Chinese affairs, including [Page 204] Laos.7 As expected, he is taking a strong nationalistic line. The French would like to take over sole responsibility for the training of the Laotian Army partly for prestige reasons but also because they believe that there will be less Communist reaction to a French training mission. However, this does not accord with Laotian Government views. The Laotians want the French out and the U.S. in. The resolution of this problem may be the key to developments in Laos.

In Cambodia we continue to have to deal with Sihanouk who is a difficult character. He has threatened to accept Bloc military equipment unless the U.S. provides more and better equipment. Sihanouk says he needs additional means to defend himself against South Vietnam, Thailand, and, also, Laos. He suspects the U.S. of secret designs to “sink” Cambodia. [1½ lines of source text not declassified]

The threat to accept Bloc military equipment is not all bluff. Cambodia could probably get such equipment for the asking. Communist China has promised it and the Cambodian Government has prepared contingency plans for arming itself with Bloc weapons. There is a possibility that the Cambodians will make a deal with Czechoslovakia. Cambodia may already have secret commitments to the Bloc. The British believe that a draft military agreement with Communist China was concluded during Chou En-lai’s visit in May. SIHANOUK views Communist China as the wave of the future and has sent his three sons there for their education. SIHANOUK may want to frighten Vietnam and Thailand with intervention by the Bloc in an effort to get these countries to end their support of Cambodian dissidents. Thailand has been extending an olive branch; it has shelved its anti-SIHANOUK campaign. Vietnam, however, is still planning anti-SIHANOUK activities. Vietnam takes a tough attitude toward Sihanouk because the Vietnamese Communists are using Cambodia as a staging area for activities in Vietnam. Vietnam and Thailand are watching the U.S. reaction to the semi-ultimatum that Cambodia has given to us on assistance. Thai officials have suggested that the U.S. reaction may prove that they have used the wrong techniques in getting U.S. aid. North Vietnam on July 15 established a Cabinet-level National Unification Commission. There has been a growing emphasis by North Vietnam on the struggle for South Vietnam. The emphasis has been on peaceful unification but there have also been increasing subversive activities.

Turning to Burma, Mr. Dulles noted that U Nu had resumed the premiership in April. There were indications that the business of government was bogging down increasingly in Burma; in particular, a [Page 205] governmental committee which had been established to settle policy questions was bogged down. The U Nu Government was more likely to accept Bloc aid than the Ne Win Government had been.

Following Mr. Dulles’ briefing on the situation in Southeast Asia, Secretary Herter referred to the UN presence in Laos. He then went on to say that the Thais were worried about Cambodia and that while the Thai Foreign Minister was here with the King, he had seen Hammarskjold about the possibility of establishing a UN presence in that area. One question at the moment was whether Sihanouk would go first to Peiping or to Paris on his currently planned trip. The Secretary said he could not agree more with Mr. Dulles’ view of SIHANOUK. Secretary Anderson inquired about the health of General Sarit. Mr. Dulles indicated that he was presently in reasonably good health.

Mr. Gray then briefed the Council on the proposed changes in the policy. (A copy of Mr. Gray’s Briefing Note is filed in the Minutes of the Meeting and another is attached to this Memorandum.)8 After Mr. Gray had completed his presentation of the proposed changes dealing with Cambodia, Mr. McCone pointed out, with reference to Paragraph 44,9 that the Council had heard this morning a report by Mr. Dulles indicating that Cambodia was reaching toward Peiping for assistance and that Sihanouk had sent his three sons to Communist China for their education. The revised policy paragraphs say that the U.S. should discourage assistance from Peiping. Yet the policy also provided for no increase in U.S. assistance. Mr. McCone felt that we either matched Bloc assistance regardless of cost or we did not. He did not feel that these policy provisions were well tied together. In response Mr. Gray said that the factual situation was that Sihanouk had not yet submitted a formal request for arms. Under the language of the proposed policy we would seek to keep Cambodia from accepting “substantial” Bloc aid. The Planning Board had discussed whether we would match any offer of Soviet assistance and the general view had been that the amount of U.S. assistance provided would be governed by the reference to “modest” military aid. Nonetheless, Mr. Gray acknowledged that the operators would face a problem if Cambodia received substantial aid from the Bloc. In such a case we might not be able to adhere to this proposed policy but we could not now predict what might be needed.

Secretary Herter thought that Communist China would have a practical problem in getting matériel to Cambodia. Unless it were airlifted in, it would have to go through Thailand, Laos or Vietnam. Any substantial airlift would be a signal for Thailand or Vietnam to [Page 206] react. Mr. Dulles pointed out that it would be possible for Communist China to get matériel to Cambodia by water, although he agreed with Secretary Herter that it would take a long time for Chinese assistance to get to Cambodia by this means. Mr. Gray then pointed out that the draft revisions did permit aid to Cambodia for the purpose of precluding assistance from the Bloc. It was not possible to write a financial appendix giving dollar amounts for such possible assistance that would be accurate today. Heretofore, however, military assistance has been provided for internal security purposes only. Now the policy recognized this additional purpose.

Mr. McCone suggested that a question of philosophy was involved which related to every independent country in the world. This was the first time to his knowledge that such an objective for aid had been included in a policy paper. If this objective applied here, it would also apply elsewhere. He thought we would want to look carefully at such a change because it might have quite a price tag attached. In response Mr. Gray noted that we had no general policy of matching Soviet military or economic aid around the world. Secretary Herter pointed out that the proposed changes recognized that there was a particular problem in Cambodia. Secretary Gates suggested that the figures in the draft financial appendix did give an indication of the relative U.S. effort in each of these countries. The financial appendix estimated that all types of aid for Cambodia for the period FY 1959 through FY 1964 inclusive would total $93 million. This, he suggested, was not “peanuts”.

In this connection Mr. Gray said he wished to turn the attention of the Council to Vietnam for a minute. There was under consideration a military program for Vietnam which contemplated the introduction of jet aircraft into Vietnam. Because the introduction of such aircraft would be contrary to the Geneva Agreement, the Planning Board proposed that any decision on this matter be considered in the NSC. The Planning Board also recommended that any proposal to provide jet aircraft to Cambodia be considered in the NSC. SIHANOUK has asked for jets. Mr. Gray did not believe, however, that the financial appendix included provision for jets for Cambodia. In the normal course of mutual security programming they would not be provided for at least two years in any event. Secretary Herter agreed that we would want to take a good look before we decided to give jets to Vietnam. Secretary Gates suggested provision of jets to Cambodia involved a question of morale or prestige.

Mr. Allen pointed out to the Council that the proposed Cambodian policy paragraph did not represent any new or unique policy. For example, efforts had been made by the U.S. Government to keep Soviet arms out of the Middle East, Cuba, and the Congo. Mr. Gray read from Paragraph 25–b of NSC 5906/1 (Basic National Security [Page 207] Policy)10 which states that the U.S. should be prepared to provide limited military assistance to non-allied countries in order to “seek to prevent them from falling within the Communist sphere of influence.”

Mr. Gray then completed the briefing of the Council on the proposed changes in the Southeast Asia policy. In the course of his briefing he referred to the changes in the military assistance paragraph for Laos and pointed out that no increase in the Laos military assistance program was contemplated. Secretary Herter said that the whole situation in Laos should be considered in the light of contingency plans that had been developed by SEATO. In SEATO we have gone far toward developing plans for dealing with an act of aggression against Laos. Mr. Gray said that the Planning Board would refine the draft financial appendix11 and would not trouble the Council with it unless there was serious disagreement among the agencies. He also stated that the Council Record of Action would show that the questions of jet aircraft for Cambodia and Laos [Vietnam] would be considered by the Council prior to any decision to provide such aircraft. Secretary Herter pointed out that an Indian, a Canadian, and a Pole located in Vietnam were responsible for seeing that the Geneva accords are carried out; we should take a good look before we introduced jet aircraft into Vietnam. We had modernized Korean forces on the grounds that North Korea had violated the armistice. We would need to take a good look at what would justify a shift in Vietnam.

Mr. McCone said he had the same point on Laos that he had on Cambodia. He felt that the added aid objective for military assistance changed completely the level of military assistance that might be required. He hoped that the Planning Board would give consideration to this matter in its work on the financial appendix. He thought it was unrealistic to change our objectives and then say that no change was required in the amount of assistance. How would those who implemented the paper deal with this problem? Mr. Gray pointed out that the paper did not say that there would be no increase. The Planning Board was only saying what State and Defense had indicated—that the objectives stated in the policy paragraph could be met within the same general level of aid. Mr. Gray then reminded the Council of the ground rules on financial appendices, pointing out that they were submitted only for information and did not constitute a budget document.

Mr. Irwin suggested that the situation in Cambodia was different from that in Laos. In Cambodia we had a political problem and might, for political reasons related to SIHANOUK’s frame of mind, have to meet [Page 208] Cambodian demands for assistance. The question in Laos was not political in that sense. The government in Laos was favorable to the West. There was no pressure from a political point of view to supply the Laotians with equipment which they could not use. If it were a matter of maintaining more than an initial Laotian capability to defend the frontiers of Laos for a short time, the problem went beyond Laos itself and became a SEATO and a U.S. problem. The broadening of the language for Laos might make a difference in the long run but not in the short run. Mr. Gray stated that when the Planning Board dealt with the figures in the financial appendix, it would address itself to the questions Mr. McCone has raised. Secretary Gates said he understood that the reason for the proposed note in the Record of Action was to allay the fears of those who thought that the new language meant a large increase in U.S. military assistance for Laos. Mr. Gray said he thought the question Mr. McCone had raised was a fair one and that if any substantial increase in assistance to Laos was contemplated, it would be called to the attention of the NSC. Secretary Herter suggested that if we increased military assistance to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam would soon be crying that Cambodia planned to use the military equipment the U.S. provided against them rather than against Communist China.

Mr. Dulles thought that we should look soon at the problem of U.S. and French military training missions in Laos. Secretary Herter said that the French had agreed to increase their training mission but had not done so. We were now talking about the possibility of phasing out our mission slowly unless they increase the size of their mission to bring it up to the level of ours.

The National Security Council:12

Discussed the proposed changes to NSC 5809, prepared by the NSC Planning Board and transmitted by the reference memorandum of July 11, 1960; in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thereon, transmitted by the reference memorandum of July 18, 1960, and of an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the situations in Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam.
Adopted the changes to NSC 5809 transmitted by the reference memorandum of July 11, 1960.
Agreed that, at such time as policy decisions are required as to whether jet aircraft should be provided to Cambodia or Vietnam, these questions should be referred to the National Security Council for consideration.
Noted that the NSC Planning Board, in its revision of the draft Financial Appendix for Mainland Southeast Asia, would consider the questions raised in the Council meeting regarding the level of military assistance to Cambodia and Laos.

Note: The above actions subsequently approved by the President. NSC 5809, with the approved amendments and a revised Financial Appendix, and the action in c above, circulated as NSC 601213 for implementation by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government; and referred to the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency.

[Here follow items 2–4.]

Robert H. Johnson
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Robert H. Johnson.
  2. Document 12.
  3. included in the microfiche supplement. (Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 480, SEA 4)
  4. See footnote 4, Document 57.
  5. The July 11 memorandum contains the proposed changes to NSC 5809 as prepared by the NSC Planning Board. (Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5809 Series) In the July 18 memorandum, the JCS approved these changes. (Ibid.,) The July 11 memorandum is included in the microfiche supplement.
  6. See Documents 230 and 231.
  7. Reported in telegram 179 from Paris, July 12. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/7–1260; included in the microfiche supplement)
  8. The briefing note is included in the microfiche supplement.
  9. This draft paragraph called for the continuance of “modest” military aid to Cambodia to maintain internal security and discourage Cambodian acceptance of military aid from the “Sino-Soviet Bloc.” See footnote 5 above.
  10. See footnote 6, Document 44.
  11. Dated July 19. (Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5809 Series)
  12. Paragraphs a–d and the Note that follows constitute NSC Action No. 2267, approved by the President on July 25. (Ibid., S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  13. Infra.