200. Telegram From the Department of State to the Delegation to the Conference on Laos0

Fecon 484. Eyes Only for Ambassador Harriman. Following are your instructions which were approved by Secretary October 5.

Upon your return to Geneva you should continue your bilateral discussions with Soviet Delegate supplementing normal procedures of Conference. Purpose of these discussions will be to explore in depth possibility of bilaterally negotiating with Soviets on matters of particular concern to us agreement on Laos which will ultimately be acceptable to all parties at Geneva Conference. You are given wide discretion as to course you may wish to take in these negotiations but you should concentrate upon following crucial issues:

1. Demobilization and reintegration of military forces in Laos

You should endeavor to ascertain Soviet intentions as to what responsibility they will accept for disbanding and integration of Pathet Lao forces. It is noted that at Geneva Chinese Communists, North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao have been equivocal on issue of demobilization of Pathet Lao, while Soviets have privately told you that they agree that all forces should be permitted to have independent force. They have also publicly avoided uncompromising position on this issue. Therefore it is believed that probing Soviets on this would provide clue to sincerity of their own intentions to provide stable military foundation loyal to prospective Souvanna Phouma government.

It is recognized that essential negotiations on demobilization of forces and reintegration of national Lao army will have to be conducted by Lao themselves. Our best means of influencing these negotiations will be through our advice to Phoumi. However you should press Soviets on type of assurances they would be willing to provide us that PL will actually disarm and accept integration into national army.

For your information, as of this moment, we have not reached consensus as to best method of demobilization and reintegration of Lao forces either within USG or with our Western allies. However, as you will recall from Secretary’s presentation to Western Foreign Ministers at [Page 457] Paris1 we have leaned toward form of reintegration which can best be described as zonal in character.

Such zonal arrangement would not technically constitute “reunification” or “integration” but would be something closer to regroupment. It might result, for example, in forces dominated by PL remaining installed in Phong Saly, Sam Neua, and Xieng Khouang, whereas pres-ent FAR forces would hold and secure strategic Mekong valley and most importantly panhandle area in south. Forces identified as strictly Souvanna units, such as Kong Le and Khamouane troops, could be given specific responsibilities, e.g. capital cities of Vientiane and Luang Prabang and/or new capital area which Souvanna talks about constructing.

Crux of any such arrangement would be willingness of bloc tacitly to agree that Pathet Lao forces now in panhandle area would be withdrawn. Any such arrangement tacit or otherwise would constitute significant step for Soviets and would not be possible to negotiate with them directly. In course of your discussions on this general subject, however, it might be possible to explore other suggestions from Soviets if such suggestions appear to have intention on Soviet side of providing stable security arrangements against PL-Viet Minh-Viet Cong activity which would threaten southern Laos or integrity of Thailand or Viet-Nam. If Soviets wished to bring forth plan for discussion which would not provide them disguised PL foothold in panhandle, we would give it serious consideration whatever its other disadvantages.

2. Use of Laos as corridor for infiltration into South Viet-Nam

Our concern over security aspects of southern Laos is based upon use by Viet Minh and Viet Cong of territories of Laos for infiltration into South Viet-Nam. You should repeat frankly our serious concern over this infiltration, tying your remarks in with commitments which we have taken publicly before world to help preserve freedom and integrity of South Viet-Nam. You should endeavor to obtain from Soviets specific acceptance of principle that continued infiltration of South Viet-Nam by DRV would be breach of broad understanding on which we are entering into agreement on Laos. You should also discuss how Soviets would propose to enforce provisions against such infiltration and what responsibility Soviets would assume. You can, within your discretion and at time you consider suitable, inform Soviet Delegate that you are authorized to explore with him ways and means whereby relations between North and South Viet-Nam could be stabilized.

[Page 458]

3. Composition of Lao Government

Although major burden of negotiations for acceptable Lao Government would be carried by Lao themselves, question of composition of government should be explored with Soviet Delegate. You should make clear to Soviet Delegate that we could not come to settlement on Laos unless we are satisfied that Lao Government is one which is capable of keeping Laos neutral and of living up to its undertakings in that respect. You should press him to use his influence with Souvanna and PL to produce balanced government which would include in its center represent-ative moderates from outside Xieng Khouang. In your discussions on this issue you should bear in mind that Soviets’ need to have Souvanna as Prime Minister in order to rationalize alleged legitimacy of their actions in Laos constitutes bargaining factor in our favor since presumably they would be willing to pay price to obtain this particular end.

4. Responsibilities of Co-Chairmen

You should pick up and explore in depth Pushkin’s remarks to you to effect that Soviet Union would assume responsibility for “seeing to it” that “socialist side” adhered to final agreement if UK Co-Chairman would do same for our side. Concept of Co-Chairmen’s sharing responsibility for implementation of agreement on Laos would have advantage of putting onus directly on Soviets for Communist behavior concerning all aspects of whole agreement. However, we would need to know what specific obligations Soviets would be willing to incur, how these mutual obligations could be formalized, and procedures of implementation.

We assume that you would follow your usual practice in Geneva of keeping British and French generally informed of your meetings with Soviet Delegate. [1–1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

These instructions are being repeated eyes only to Ambassadors at Moscow, Vientiane, Saigon, and Bangkok strictly for their background information.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/10–661. Top Secret. Drafted by Cross; cleared by McConaughy, Steeves, and Walter L. Cutler, Rusk’s Staff Assistant; noted by Anderson, Cleveland, and William H. Leurs of SOV; and approved by U. Alexis Johnson. Repeated as airgrams, eyes only for the Ambassadors in Moscow, Saigon, Vientiane, and Bangkok.
  2. See Document 153.