182. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Battle) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0


  • Weekly Summary, Geneva Conference September 4–11, 1961

Souvanna Phouma responded on September 6 to our invitation to meet with Ambassadors Harriman and Brown by offering several alternatives. Plans are now set for them to meet at Rangoon on September 15, and the British are making a plane available to Souvanna. The Burmese Government has reacted favorably to serving as the host country and, while Marshal Sarit, President Diem, and General Phoumi have doubts as to any fruitful outcome of such an encounter, they appreciate the motivation underlying this approach. Phoumi and Sarit are informed of Harriman’s plans to see them after his talks with Souvanna; he may also stop in New Delhi for discussions on Laos with the Indian Government and possibly return to Geneva via Washington.

Under instructions from his government, British Ambassador Addis saw Souvanna in Xieng Khouang September 11, but we have not yet heard the details of their conversation.1 We know, however, that Addis [Page 416] was to stress the same points of the August 7 Paris Agreement, which Ambassador Harriman will raise this weekend with the Prince, i.e., the need for a strong center group in any government of national union, an ICC endowed with adequate authority, a formula agreed to in advance by the three factions for the integration of the Pathet Lao forces into a new national army. (According to Indian Ambassador Ratnam there is some indication that Souvanna is already prepared to include some of the Vientiane moderates in his Cabinet should he become Prime Minister.)

The French and British governments have voiced concern that our contingency planning for Laos may encourage Phoumi to rely on a military solution rather than on a negotiated settlement and may also adversely affect the attitude of the Communist bloc with respect to the Geneva Conference.
There has been a definite slow down at Ban Namone and Phoumi has stated that he intends to take a harder position in those negotiations.
At Geneva only three restricted sessions were held last week and discussions on ICC terms of reference all ended in disagreement with belligerent statements made by bloc representatives, especially by the Chinese. Consultations among the Free World delegates and subsequently between Harriman, MacDonald and Pushkin resulted in a decision to string out the Conference by holding only two restricted sessions each week supplemented by smaller group discussions on the more thorny ICC issues, which might thus more easily be resolved and then submitted to the restricted session for approval. This group would include the U.S., UK, and USSR representatives, plus others, in particular the Chinese, depending on the topics under debate.
L.D. Battle2
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 9/61. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text.
  2. The results were reported in telegram 444 from Vientiane and commented on in telegram 445 from Vientiane, both September 12. In telegram 445, Brown commented that the Addis-Souvanna conversation revealed that Souvanna was still reluctant to accept the fact that he needed strong moderate candidates in the center group to contain the Pathet Lao. To persuade him otherwise would be one of Harriman’s “most important and delicate tasks.” (Both Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/9–1261)
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.