199. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Laos


  • United States
    • The President
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Kohler—EUR
    • Mr. Akalovsky—D/P (interpreting)
  • U.S.S.R.
    • Foreign Minister Gromyko
    • Ambassador Menshikov
    • Mr. Semenov
    • Mr. Sukhodrev (interpreter)

The President said he had talked to Ambassador Harriman yesterday and had instructed him to go back to Geneva. He hoped Ambassador Harriman could meet Ambassador Pushkin on Monday1 so that we could finally reach agreement on Laos, which is still a hazardous problem. The President said that there were two or three important points in this connection: 1) Both sides should use their influence on the Princes to come to a conclusion which we would regard as satisfactory. The President stated he understood that the Princes had met today and said that we had used our influence on Phoumi to get a really neutral government which would be in accord with the concept of a free and independent Laos. The President expressed the hope that the Soviet Union would, on its part, influence Souvanna to accept a government that would be really neutral and acceptable to our two countries. 2) Both our countries should exert their influence to have the armies in Laos dissolve so that there no longer be any private armies in that country and that there be only one native army under the control of a neutral central government under Souvanna Phouma. It would be unfortunate if private armies were to continue their existence and their mutual wars. 3) Laos should no longer be used as base for activities against Viet Nam, including such flights by Laos based aircraft as were observed in September. The President expressed U.S. concern that the fighting in Viet Nam would get worse and might prevent the achievement of the objective he and Mr. Khrushchev had agreed upon in Vienna. The President summarized these points in the following way: 1) a neutral government should be established in Laos; 2) all foreign troops should be withdrawn; 3) no private [Page 455] armies should exist; and 4) Laos should not be used as base for activities against Viet Nam. In conclusion the President expressed the hope that the two sides were not far from reaching agreement and that Ambassadors Harriman and Pushkin would be, in fact, able to reach agreement.

Mr. Gromyko said he understood that the main obstacle was the lack of U.S. agreement to Souvanna P.’s proposal for the composition of a new government. The Soviet Union does not see any reason for such objections. The Soviet Union does not even know the personalities suggested by Souvanna P. On the other hand, the Soviet Union believes that if the U.S. agree that Souvanna P. is truly neutral and capable of forming a neutral government, then there should be no difficulty in agreeing to the composition he is proposing. As soon as this obstacle is removed, Mr. Gromyko said, agreement could be reached. Ambassador Pushkin had been instructed to push for a prompt agreement. If Ambassador Harriman also has such instructions, then both sides could reach agreement and our two countries could cast away this needless burden.

Finally, Mr. Gromyko said that the Soviet Union was agreeable to having bi-lateral discussions through Ambassador Thompson on question of interest to our two countries. He said the Soviet Union believed that given the desire, agreement could be reached.

The President referred to the question of the composition of the Laotian Government and said that the U.S. had stated it would accept Souvanna P. rather than Boun Oum, the Prime Minister we had been supporting. Thus we are prepared to accept a Prime Minister whom the Soviet Union had been supporting and who is based on the territory of the Soviet side. We believe that if there is agreement that there should be four members from Vientiane and four from the Pathet Lao, then the center group is extremely important. However, this group, as suggested now, has a number of members from Xieng Khouang, who according to our information are extremely sympathetic to the Soviet Union and do not look like neutrals. The U.S. believes that it is not inappropriate for us to suggest other people who would be more neutral. In any event, Ambassadors Harriman and Pushkin probably know all of these people.

The President concluded by saying it would be good for the general international situation if the Laotian problem could be resolved at an early date.

Mr. Gromyko replied that the Soviet Union is also for a speedy solution of that problem.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 10/61. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Akalovsky. The conversation took place at the White House.
  2. October 9.