224. Editorial Note

In a November 10 letter, Chairman Nikita Khrushchev responded to the Laos portion of President Kennedy’s letter of October 16. (See Document 207) Khrushchev recalled the agreement at the Vienna summit for a “really independent and neutral” Laos and for a Souvanna Phouma coalition based on the 4–8–4 formula. Khrushchev complained that the United States was pressuring “the Boun Oum-Phoumi group” to demand that some of their representatives be included in the group of eight neutralist supporters of Souvanna Phouma. Khrushchev characterized these demands as groundless and dangerous to a coalition government, an attempt “to bind Souvanna Phouma by feet and hand.” The composition of the future coalition, according to Khrushchev, was an internal matter for Laos. He did not think it proper that he and President Kennedy should chose individual ministers. The only proper approach was to stop making demands on Souvanna and let him form a government.

Khrushchev then complained that “the Boun Oum group” was attacking the neutralist forces of Souvanna and Pathet Lao troops. Khrushchev assumed Kennedy was aware of this and he trusted that he would use his influence to stop the attacks.

Turning to South Vietnam, Khrushchev stated that the cause of the present tension there “is the policy of merciless terror and mass reprisals carried out by the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem which has absolutely no support among the people.” How could the United States support such a regime or consider sending U.S. troops there, Khrushchev asked. Sending troops to suppress a national-liberation movement could only complicate the situation in Southeast Asia. Khrushchev ended with a reaffirmation of the Soviet peoples’ desire to live in peace and friendship with other countries, including the United States, on the basis of peaceful coexistence. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163)

Kennedy’s November 16 reply, which deals mostly with South Vietnam, is printed in volume I, pages 636638.