424. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Thailand0

1055. Your 1047.1 Appreciate full report your meeting Sarit and RLG leaders. Sarit’s attitude Lao solution and clear evidence he influencing Phoumi source most serious concern here. Our messages from here and Geneva have given you detailed explanation US position re Laos. This you have presented to RTG orally and in writing. Our stand has also been explained to Sarit in personal letter from President.2 If Sarit still refuses to go along with US stand (and reftel clearly indicates he does) do not believe further debate with Sarit re Lao Cabinet, Souvanna, etc., likely be productive. This clearly case where we reach different conclusions from same facts. Nevertheless in view Sarit’s evidently sincere concern for Thai security, we consider he is entitled to fullest possible assurances re US support for Thailand in case Souvanna solution in fact resulted in increased threat to Thai security.

Therefore if he agrees cooperate with us in achieving Souvanna solution, you authorized follow up last para President’s letter January 203 by telling Sarit that in event Communist aggression by means armed attack against Thailand, US will give full effect to its obligations under Article IV (1) of Manila Pact.4 Commitment under this article is not [Page 902] conditioned on prior unanimous consent all SEATO members. This is fullest commitment US can give RTG and will be confirmed in writing if desired.

You should point out that protection against Communist aggression offered by Article IV (1) of Manila Pact is identical to that provided by other treaties in area, and no commitment under bilateral with Thailand could be stronger. US has always regarded collective security to be not less but greater than sum of its parts. We consider that collective arrangements must support and strengthen individual efforts rather than hamper and weaken them.

FYI. This much broader statement than that included April 1961 aide-mémoire.5 It removes qualification re Laos to which Thanat objected in his talks here last October.6 Article IV (1) of SEATO Treaty deals with aggression by means of armed attack. Operative language this paragraph corresponds generally to language found in Article III of the Korea Treaty and Article V of China, Philippine and ANZUS treaties7 in the recognition by each party that “aggression by means of armed attack in the treaty area against any of the parties or any state or territory which parties by unanimous agreement may hereafter designate would endanger its own peace and safety.” In such circumstances, each signatory agrees that “it will in that event act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.” Action under this language by the US or other signatory would not require prior unanimous agreement of other SEATO members, and thus in effect Thailand has legally all protection under this article that it could reasonably expect from bilateral or possibly more if treaty were to be negotiated under present conditions. End FYI.

Re aggression against Thailand by less than armed attack: In Laos US was faced with large scale penetration, poor logistic situation and doubtful will and capacity to resist by local people. These facts have colored US policy thinking and led us to conclude that free world interests would be best served by a peaceful settlement at Geneva. In South Vietnam however where the people have will to fight and a government prepared to take appropriate measures deal with threat it faces, US is [Page 903] already making enormous effort in men, matériel and money to assist that nation in maintaining its independence and integrity. Obviously there is no reason to think US would do less in case of Thailand. RTG should be guided by these US actions in assessing US policy.

Following fundamental points should be presented with utmost emphasis:

We regard Lao situation as case war or peace. As President said, Souvanna government only feasible alternative to hostilities which could involve US and Thailand. Neither of us wants this to happen. There no acceptable alternative as we have repeatedly indicated. US thus fully committed to achieving peaceful settlement at Geneva and formation government of national union under Souvanna.
US policy is firm on Lao settlement; while we respect Sarit’s views as ally and friend we are nevertheless fully determined press forward toward solution which we and other powers represented Geneva believe is only feasible peaceful solution. Efforts by RTG change US policy or encourage RLG sabotage settlement will only make solution Lao problem more difficult and might force US resort increasingly strong measures to effect settlement.
We therefore urgently request that Sarit inform RLG that RTG fully supports concept of peaceful settlement Laos, and formation government national union along lines tentatively agreed at Geneva. You should tell Sarit that his cooperation this matter will go far in further cementing our mutual relations.
The time is short; there is much evidence that unless a Geneva settlement is achieved soon, we may be faced with a new outbreak of hostilities with consequences that are most dangerous.

Sequence and manner in which you present contents this telegram left your discretion. Written confirmation assurances re Article IV (1) Manila Pact would require advance Department approval of text.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/1-2162. Secret; Niact. Drafted by Cleveland and Masters; cleared in draft by Harriman, Chayes, and Cross and by Rice, Peters, and McGhee; and approved by U. Alexis Johnson. Discussed in substance with the President. Repeated to Geneva FECON, to Vientiane, London, Paris, Saigon, and CINCPAC POLA.
  2. In telegram 1047, January 21, Young reported a quadrilingual (Thai, Lao, French, and English, often used at once) conversation he had with Sarit; Boun Oum, and Phoumi. Young described it as as “not hopeful.” The principal theme of the meeting, fully endorsed by Sarit, was that if Souvanna became Prime Minister and controlled both the Defense and Interior Ministries, it would be a disaster for Lao anti-Communists and for Thailand. Notwithstanding Young’s efforts to dissuade them, Boun Oum, Phoumi, and Sarit agreed that the RLG could not concede both the Defense or Interior Ministries, despite the fact that Boun Oum had signed a communiqué at Geneva agreeing to do so. (Ibid.)
  3. The text of a personal and confidential letter from Kennedy to Sarit, January 20, was transmitted in telegram 1043 to Bangkok, January 20. (Ibid., 751J.00/1–2062)
  4. The last paragraph of the January 20 letter reads:

    “In closing, I desire to reiterate the determination of the USG to fulfill our obligations as an ally and friend of Thailand which I expressed to your Foreign-Minister H. E. Thanat Khoman. I am very mindful of the observations with respect to our security arrangements which were made to me by the Foreign Minister. They are continuing to receive our attention and we expect shortly to be discussing them more fully with your government.”

  5. This article stipulated that an attack on one party to the treaty constituted an attack on all the parties to the treaty and obligated them to act to meet the common danger. For the full text of the Manila Pact, September 8, 1954, see American Foreign Policy, 1950–1955: Basic Documents, vol. I, pp. 913–915.
  6. Attachment to Document 399.
  7. See Documents 419 and 420.
  8. For text of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Korea, October 1, 1953 (5 UST 2368–2376), see American Foreign Policy, 1950–1955: Basic Documents, vol. I, pp. 897–898. For text of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of China, December 2, 1954 (6 UST 433–438), see ibid., pp. 945–947. For text of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines, August 30, 1951 (3 UST 3947–3952), see ibid., pp. 873–875. For text of the Security Treaty among the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, September 1, 1951 (3 UST 3420–3425), see ibid., pp. 878–880.