3. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State0

Secto 26. Eyes only for President and Acting Secretary from Secretary. Previous tel contains text SEATO Council resolution agreed by all Ministers today.1 This resolution was considered at great length in restricted session and represents widespread satisfaction among Ministers both as to SEATO unity and as to relation of resolution to situation in Laos and to possible negotiations.

First five paras reflect general feeling Ministers that peaceful nature of SEATO arrangement should be emphasized and that broad political objectives should be stated. For the private record Serrano will express some misgivings about the possibility of achieving desired results through chain of negotiations set in motion by British proposals to Soviets.2

Last three paras indicate firm attitude SEATO powers and reassurance to govts and peoples of SEATO members located in the area who consider themselves threatened by Laotian situation.

[Page 5]

Despite liveliness of discussion and initial divergences of view, there is gratification among members that unanimity was achieved on a broadly satisfactory resolution dealing with a highly complex problem inevitably viewed differently by members of divergent circumstance and national interest.

You will notice that the word “neutral” does not appear in resolution but see language of third para and the word “unaligned” in fifth para.3 Sharp objections to use of word neutral arose from all Asian members who are highly sensitive to any suggestion that neutrality is a desirable goal and who are anxious about neutrals in this area who appear to be leaning strongly to the left. Home4 and I considered carefully whether public commitments of US and UK policy with respect to “neutral and independent” Laos could be compromised by failure to use specific word but both believe present language adequate to satisfy any Soviet questions on that point. It should be added that Asian members do not object to concept of neutrality for Laos but fear serious public opinion problems of their own if they themselves subscribe to this term. They understand that we shall continue to state our objectives as neutral and independent Laos.

In sixth para,5 we had considerable difficulty with Couve de Murville, who showed some initial nervousness about the policy and then retreated to the difficulty of translating “are prepared” accurately into French. He finally agreed to retention English text but French text will probably read “auraient a prendre”.

The phrase “within the terms of the treaty” in same para was intended to provide for an appeal by Laos under Article 4(3) of the Treaty.6

[Page 6]

Info here about seriousness of situation in Vietnam caused us to wish to include at least the warning note contained in seventh para.7

Brief summary attitudes Ministers: Lord Home. Initially suggested much weaker resolution but promptly joined in and worked effectively for present draft. Menzies8 was sturdy throughout and was most helpful in regard peaceful purposes SEATO Alliance and in strong emphasis on collective action; he was particularly anxious to insure that US would not “go it alone” in Laos. Holyoake9 was helpful but offered no major suggestions. Qadir10 was entirely cooperative and constructive and obviously had good influence on his Asian colleagues. Serrano was somewhat bitter about lack of full consultation prior to British proposals, was insistent on strong SEATO position, and deeply distrustful of possibility of a sell-out in negotiations. Thanat showed firmness but wisdom and good judgment and was obviously pleased that Council under his chairmanship could achieve a broadly satisfactory result. Couve de Murville started apathetically, was obviously struggling against views of his govt as well as immediate advisers here but joined ranks in good spirit to maintain SEATO solidarity. I would not send message of appreciation to de Gaulle since his Foreign Minister just might have some explaining to do.

As I study your and other messages from Washington, I am confident present resolution is not only satisfactory but more than we might have expected a few days ago. Since it has been necessary for us to work for solidarity here, it would not be easy for us now to propose minor changes, even though resolution could be obviously textually improved at certain points.

Resolution will be introduced formally by me at ten a.m. Wednesday Bangkok time, and will be released here either separately or as part of final communiqué as Council may decide tomorrow.

Have much appreciated prompt service in getting crucial info to me during these discussions. I do believe this Council meeting has been most productive in achieving understanding of common purposes and in resolving variety of suspicions which were present when we convened.

[Page 7]

Suggest Dept circulate text resolution to other posts with discreet digest my comments.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/3–2861. Secret; Niact. Rusk was attending the Seventh Meeting of the SEATO Council in Bangkok March 27–29.
  2. Secto 25 from Bangkok, March 28. (Ibid., 379/3–2861) The text of the SEATO Council Resolution is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pp. 940–941.
  3. A British aide-mémoire to the Soviet Union, March 23, proposed an immediate cease-fire in Laos, verification by the International Control Commission, and an international conference on that verification. Text is ibid., pp. 994–995.
  4. The third paragraph reads: “The Council desires a united, independent and sovereign Laos, free to achieve advancement in a way of its own choosing and not subordinate to any nation or group of nations.” The fifth paragraph reads: “The Council notes with approval the present efforts for a cessation of hostilities and for peaceful negotiations to achieve an unaligned and independent Laos.”
  5. Alexander Frederick Douglas Home, Earl of Home and British Foreign Minister until October 20, 1963.
  6. The sixth paragraphs reads: “If those efforts fail, however, and there continues to be an active military attempt to obtain control of Laos, members of SEATO are prepared, within terms of the treaty, to take whatever action may be appropriate in the circumstances.”
  7. The Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, signed at Manila on September 8, 1954, established the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. Article 4 (3) of the treaty, often referred to as the Manila Pact, reads: “It is understood that no action on the territory of any State designated by unanimous agreement under paragraph 1 of this Article or on any territory so designated shall be taken except at the invitation or with the consent of the government concerned.” The full text of the treaty is in American Foreign Policy, 1950–1955: Basic Documents, vol. I, pp. 912–916.
  8. The seventh paragraph reads: “The Council also noted with concern the efforts of an armed minority, again supported from outside in violation of the Geneva accords, to destroy the Government of South Viet-Nam, and declared its firm resolve not to acquiesce in any such takeover of that country.”
  9. Robert G. Menzies, Australian Foreign Minister until December 22, 1961.
  10. Sir Keith Holyoake, New Zealand Foreign Minister.
  11. Manzur Qadir, Pakistani Foreign Minister until June 13, 1962.