171. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy0


  • Plan for Southeast Asia

The attached Plan for Southeast Asia1 sets forth suggestions for: (a) continuing and expanding our efforts to obtain a peaceful solution based on a Souvanna government; (b) a course of action to be pursued if we are successful in achieving a peaceful solution; and (c) if we are not successful in achieving a peaceful solution, courses of military and other action in the event that (1) the Communists resume their offensive in Laos, or (2) while not clearly resuming their offensive, they continue their “whittling away” action.

These courses are to a large extent interrelated as it is difficult to obtain Communist agreement to a peaceful solution unless we confront them with the alternative of our willingness to take more forceful action if a peaceful solution is not achieved. Correspondingly, it is difficult to obtain the cooperation of some of our allies, such as the Thais and the Viet-Namese, in seeking a peaceful solution unless they feel some confidence that we are prepared to consider more forceful action in the event a satisfactory peaceful solution is not achieved.

The principal points upon which your decision is needed today are as follows:

Authorization immediately to undertake talks with our SEATO allies both bilaterally and with the SEATO Council representatives in Bangkok, and also with South Vietnam, as appropriate, in which we would explore their receptivity to:
enlarging the concept of SEATO Plan 5 so that if the Communists renew their offensive and the decision is made to implement Plan 5 the objective would be the expulsion of Communist forces from all of Southern Laos and the Mekong River line, including the Luang Prabang [Page 388] area. The establishment of such an objective would be conditional upon the willingness of Thailand and South Vietnam, and to a lesser extent possibly some other SEATO countries such as the Philippines, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand, to commit additional forces to Plan 5.
in the event neither a peaceful settlement is achieved nor has there been a sufficient renewal of the offensive by the Communists to justify consideration of implementing SEATO Plan 5, the carrying out of a SEATO exercise in Thailand about October 10 employing ground combat troops, supported by tactical air units and, on completion of the exercise, leaving behind in Thailand a SEATO command and communications “shell” prepared on a contingency basis to expedite the implementation of SEATO Plan 5,2
undertaking additional rotational training of SEATO combat units in Thailand,
introducing into Thailand a SEATO River Patrol along the line of the Mekong, and
declaring at an appropriate time a SEATO charter yellow or charter blue condition.
Immediately increasing our3 mobile training teams in Laos and seeking Thai agreement to supplying an equal number of Thais for the same purpose.
Immediately increasing by 2,000 the number of Meos being supported so as to bring the total up to the level of 11,000.4
Authorizing photo reconnaissance by Thai or “sanitized” United States aircraft over all of Laos. (This has for the most part been suspended during the cease-fire.)
As soon as the details are worked out with ICA and Congressional action has been taken on the aid bill, a letter from you to Sarit offering a $150,000,000 line of credit.

Dean Rusk5




The State plan covers four possible situations as indicated below.

[Page 389]

I. Continuation of Present Efforts to Achieve a Political Solution in Laos

Continue to pursue, on the basis of the Paris Agreements, the following objectives with a likelihood of reaching agreement as indicated: (a) a government of national union (may be possible); (b) a continued French military presence (may be possible); (c) an effective ICC (much less likely); and (d) an adequately safeguarded reconstitution of the Lao Army and dissolution of Pathet Lao forces (improbable).

After tripartite discussion of tactics, pursue further negotiations (including direct U.S. negotiations) with Souvanna, and, if these are encouraging, seek a meeting of the three Princes. If Souvanna will not comply with the conditions of the Paris Agreements, endeavor to get him to withdraw from the scene. Develop tripartite recommendations on Lao Army reorganization, surface the issue at Geneva and urge the three Princes to tackle it. In a demarche to Moscow make clear our conditions for support of a Lao Government of National Union and “our unwillingness to tolerate further ambiguous aggression”.

Following immediate bilateral talks with our SEATO allies, call a SEATO Council meeting to review, inter alia, alternative courses of action if a peaceful solution is not achieved and the timing and character of a SEATO exercise in Thailand. Meanwhile, stiffen the FAL with 1000 additional U.S. and Thai advisers, expand the Meo operation to support 2,000 new recruits (total: 11,000), improve photo reconnaissance, offer Sarit a $150 million line of credit and develop supporting economic and psychological programs (emphasizing in the latter the case against North Viet Nam). We recognize that stiffening the FAL could, if not carefully handled, reduce Phoumi’s incentive to reach agreement with Souvanna.

II. Achievement of a Political Solution

Demonstrate U.S. firmness in Southeast Asia, inhibit Communist penetration from Laos into neighboring states, and forestall gradual Communist takeover in Laos by a series of measures including accelerated aid programs, establishment of a SEATO Mekong River Patrol, and action to support Souvanna against Pathet Lao pressures.

III. No Political Solution and a Clearly Recognizable Communist Resumption of Military Action

Implement SEATO Plan 5, beginning with action to restore the cease-fire on the May 3 line and, after consultation with allies, expanding it to include at least the clean up of Southeast Laos (primarily with Asian troops). Support actions through diplomatic and propaganda measures.

[Page 390]

IV. No Political Solution and Continuation of Ambiguous Military Situation

Seek to maintain, and particularly in Southern Laos to improve, the military position of the FAL by training and by cautious introduction of Thai and Vietnamese para-military units. Increase the readiness of SEATO forces and about October 10 carry out a military exercise in Thailand (leaving a command and communications cadre behind following its completion). Step up other measures such as encadrement of the FAL with U.S. and Thai personnel and support of the Meo (to a total of 17,000). These courses of action would be pursued cautiously and related to any Communist escalation.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM 80. Secret. The following note in McGeorge Bundy’s hand is on the source text: “This is Alexis Johnson’s summary—parallel to Taylor’s—but note the gut paragraph [paragraph 2 was highlighted]. You may want to use this to guide decision.” On August 28, the President had sent Bundy a one-sentence memorandum: “I would like to discuss Laos with you.” (Ibid., Countries Series, Laos: General, 8/11/61–8/31/61)
  2. The plan was undated. A copy is ibid., Regional Security Files, Southeast Asia: General, 8/21/61–8/31/61. A summary of the plan is printed as an attachment below.
  3. Bundy wrote “No” in the margin next to this paragraph.
  4. Bundy wrote at this point “milit. advisers.”
  5. Bundy wrote “OK/JFK” next to this paragraph.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  7. Source: Kennedy Library, Regional Security Files, Southeast Asia: General, 8/21/61–8/31/61. Secret. Apparently prepared in the White House.