67. Editorial Note

Ambassador at Large W. Averell Harriman made a tour of Southeast Asia to assess the situation and offer support to U.S. allies during the period before the implementation of the cease-fire in Laos. On April 30, 1961, Harriman was in Luang Prabang, the Royal capital of Laos, where Prince Sihanouk was attending the State funeral of King Sisavong and attempting to bring the Lao factions together. Harriman asked Sihanouk to use his influence with Prince Souvanna Phouma and Captain Kong Le to help establish a cease-fire. Sihanouk raised his idea of a neutral zone in Southeast Asia composed of Laos and Cambodia, confiding to Harriman that such a plan required prior approval of the powers and then could be ratified by a neutral nations commission. Sihanouk attempted to arrange a meeting between Harriman and Souvanna Phouma in Phnom Penh on May 2, but Souvanna was delayed and Harriman had to go on to Bangkok. (Memorandum, April 30; Department of State; Central Files, 751J.00/4–3061)

On May 3, Harriman and Ambassador William Trimble met with Sihanouk in Phnom Penh for 50 minutes. Their discussion related primarily to Laos, but Harriman assured Sihanouk that President Kennedy had a sympathetic understanding of the rights of nations to non-alignment, notwithstanding the U.S. belief in collective security. Indian Prime Minister Nehru had come, in Harriman’s view, to understand this. Harriman hoped Sihanouk would also find the U.S. position on neutralism compatible. (Telegram 1368 from Phnom Penh, May 4; ibid., 751J.00/5–461)