225. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Laos0

450. Your 692, 693.1

Stand you took with Phoumi (Reftel 693) and planned talks with Boun Oum, Phoui and Somsanith completely in line our present thinking. View here is that all possible be done to impress on RLG necessity their responding positively to Souvanna invitation. In light discussions in Washington we regard it essential make every effort encourage formation soonest of coalition government under Souvanna and nomination new Lao government delegation to Geneva. You should continue speak in insistent terms.

In expectation three-Princes meeting will take place PdJ believe it appropriate review basic principles with respect composition of coalition govt and position RLG should take.

As stated earlier Deptels and most recently in your 6792 number of posts in cabinet of relatively less importance than individuals and posts they receive. There is some advantage in greater flexibility that would be afforded by enlarging cabinet particularly since Souvanna apparently adamant in having seven of his principal supporters in government and thus far indicated he prepared include only one outsider, non-leftist but fairly weak RLG Ambassador to Tokyo Outhong Souvannavong. Whatever the formula Lao agree upon we would wish to see included as many non-XK neutrals as possible. USG remains convinced that there must be strong independent center group of neutrals to enhance Souvanna’s capacity resist PL pressures and Communist attempts erode country’s neutral status and win elections. Phoumi should be induced negotiate diligently to this end.
We do not believe that US can or should attempt direct negotiations with respect to allocation portfolios. Since our chief objective is to keep Pathet Lao out of such critical ministries as Defense, Interior, Finance, Foreign Affairs and Justice, this could affect Phoumi’s bargaining position regarding his own role. However, if key ministries could be distributed among XK neutrals, non-XK neutrals and RLG, Phoumi as Vice Premier could still serve as rallying point of non-PL forces in government. Thus balancing Phoumi with PL Vice Premier would be manageable. [Page 508] If he were in position of Vice Premier where he could have comprehensive view activities various ministries, he and the King and other non-Communist elements could be assured that US attitude toward Souvanna government would be strongly influenced by their assessment as to whether genuine neutrality is present or whether PL takeover is in process.
Assuming Souvanna will keep Defense and Interior for himself or a close associate, PL as you have previously reported apt demand FonAff and Finance. Neither Foreign Affairs nor Finance should be in PL hands and one or both might well go to non-XK neutrals.
Choice of individuals for Vientiane and non-Xieng Khouang neutral slots of such critical importance in situation where country’s future so patently at stake that Phoumi must be made understand there no room today for nepotism. Selections will thus have to be made on basis of competence available. Since Phoui Sananikone most valuable of all Vientiane elements and since PL will certainly not accept him as “neutral” only way of ensuring his inclusion is to place him in RLG contingent. Without attempting impose ready-made slate, we would also hope such figures as Somsanith, Khamphan Panya, Keo Viprakone (possibly as SecState for Rural Development), Inpeng, Sisouk, Oun Heuan, Thao Leuam Rajasombath, Nhouy (if “health” permits) and possibly Phagna Bouasy be taken into consideration.
Of other matters which Souvanna reportedly intends place on 3-Prince agenda (Embtel 681),3 we adhere to tripartite Paris understanding on necessity completing armed forces demobilization and integration before elections, and on delaying latter until govt well in control of country. On National Assembly issue Souvanna mentioned, we can presume he and Souphanouvong will demand present legislature be recessed once new govt takes office. Again Phoumi might concede this to improve chances of winning on more crucial matters.
To provide favorable climate for 3-Prince talks, Vang Pao should be given order to cease attacks especially in area Xieng Khouang town. In return Phoumi should request Souvanna use his influence to get PL similarly stop harassing Meo positions and himself issue parallel instructions to Kong Le forces. Repetition of recent Xieng Khouang episodes could well be disastrous at this stage.

Since Souvanna questions our good faith (Nov 10 press conference Xieng Khouang) as result RLG foot-dragging,4 he must be reassured that US wishes support him if (1) he forms government so composed as to provide maximum possibility of maintaining country’s neutral status and (2) gets PL agreement on completion of integration and demobilization on priority basis and certainly prior elections.

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We believe most appropriate channel for passing this message to Souvanna is Addis with whom we know you are working closely. In discussion with Addis you should point out to him that US and RLG have already made a major and far-reaching concession in agreeing to Souvanna as Prime Minister and that we have seen no compensating concessions in Souvanna’s attitude. Further you should tell Addis for his own information that it will be extremely difficult for USG on any fraudulent basis to sign Geneva Agreements and pretend that Laotian coalition government is neutral. We have been talking about genuine neutrality. Therefore Addis should exert his best efforts with Souvanna to insist upon type of coalition government which could be genuinely neutral as response to attitudes Kennedy Administration and not one strongly biased towards Peiping and Moscow simply because of past history of support by those two capitals for Souvanna as an individual.

We suggest Addis see Souvanna ASAP after Phoumi’s acceptance Souvanna’s invitation and before Nov 17 meeting. He could reiterate US conditions for supporting Souvanna and add following points which we think should be made: (1) Essential that Souvanna enter into meaningful negotiations with Phoumi. We consider there room for improvement negotiating attitude on both sides at this critical juncture. Addis could describe strong pressure US exerting on Phoumi to go PdJ as indicative need for forthcoming attitude on Souvanna’s part. (2) Desirability Souvanna entering into quiet informal talks with Phoumi alone to see if they could get farther without Souphanouvong’s inhibiting presence. (3) Necessity holding further meetings away from PL dominated territory and indicate that should such meetings take place in LP or other location, talk with Amb. Brown could be arranged. We believe talk between Souvanna and Brown highly desirable.

We expect to discuss paragraph 7 with British here.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/11–961. Secret; Niact. Drafted by Queneau, Cross, and Rusk; cleared by Anderson; cleared in draft by U. Alexis Johnson and Harriman; and approved and signed by McConaughy. Repeated to Geneva for Fecon, Bangkok, London, Paris, Saigon, and CINCPAC.
  2. In these telegrams, November 9, Brown reported that he had tried hard to persuade Phoumi to respond to Souvanna’s call for a meeting of the three Princes on the Plaine des Jarres on November 17. Brown suggested that Phoumi and Boun Oum attend on the condition that future meetings would be held in Luang Prabang. (Both ibid.)
  3. See footnote 5, Document 222.
  4. In telegram 681, November 7, the Embassy reported that Souvanna at Khang Khay had told news reporters that before the formation of the new government, the Princes must agree on not only names and portfolios in the future government, but also on a cease-fire, military integration, general elections, and the future of the National Assembly pending new elections. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/11–761)
  5. Telegram 699 from Vientiane, November 10, contains a second-hand account of Souvanna’s news conference at Khang Khay on November 10. (Ibid., 751J.00/11–1061)