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

481. Embtel 718.1

Following is elaboration Deptel 4502 which remains your basic guidance for forthcoming three Princes negotiations.


Phoumi and Min Def or Interior. You are correct that rather than break off negotiations and obstruct formation government of national union, or be faced with PL matching Phoumi in either Defense or Interior, you are authorized at appropriate time to advise Phoumi to yield on Ministries Defense and Interior. Agree this is potentially explosive issue with far-reaching implications. Department notes other members of Country Team believe it better to accept risk of war in Laos than withdraw support for Phoumi on this issue, and that failure support him will lead to communization of Laos. Although we do not underestimate dangers involved we maintain that overall composition of cabinet will be more important in determining direction Souvanna Government will take than Phoumi’s own position in it. We would rather keep PL out of critical ministries than get one of latter for Phoumi.

Foregoing does not mean Phoumi should not commence by negotiating for Defense or Interior although we suspect his bargaining position weakened by Souvanna and Souphanouvong’s dramatic concession (in agreeing meet Vientiane) in matter of face which they undoubtedly expect recoup in matters of substance. One of Souvanna’s messages to Boun Oum (Embtel 721)3 clearly indicates Souvanna and PL will be tough and will take full advantage their access world press in Vientiane. We also expect that once three Princes get together situation will evolve rapidly. Under these conditions delicate matters of timing and negotiating tactics left your discretion and you have authority to advise Phoumi if and when necessary that he should yield on Defense/Interior.

Para 7 Reftel. Concur it most important keep Info, Education, Religious Affairs out of PL hands, notwithstanding importance of Justice portfolio. Would also be highly desirable that Youth and Rural Development [Page 521] go to center or RLG elements. Re Phoui, you might in your discretion remind Phoumi of our conviction Phoui’s presence in coalition government is essential non-Communist counterweight to PL.
Cabinet Formula. Agree on tactical advice you propose giving Phoumi in negotiating on formula for cabinet composition. Greatest difficulty will lie in determining when moment has come for fall back on Phoumi’s part. Much will depend on his skill in getting Souvanna and PL to lay cards on table sufficiently early in game so that total package possibilities can be assessed leaving ample time for any necessary RLG maneuvers.
Recessing Assembly. Fully agree RLG must not yield to any PL demand for “dissolution” of Assembly. This was why we purposely used term “recessed” in para 5 Deptel 450. Believe however RLG may have to accept “recessing” of present Assembly in order to win on other issues.
Contact with Souvanna. Department pleased British will cooperate on approach to Souvanna. If you concur we believe Addis should see Souvanna ASAP and convey points suggested Deptel 450 with changes necessitated by new meeting place. It most important British and French understand that much depends on advice and pressures they put on Souvanna. Whether US finally accepts Souvanna depends on overall package and we do not consider unilateral series of concessions by Phoumi with no corresponding ones by Souvanna can be termed genuine negotiations likely to lead to truly neutral Laos. We will stress this with British and French here.

In summation, guidance now is to put forth maximum effort convince Souvanna Phouma as well as Phoumi that US Government stands ready to support and fully cooperate with government of genuine unification if Souvanna Phouma will give us the opportunity to do so. Decision is largely in his hands. If he comes forth with reasonable package, we should encourage present RLG to respond in same spirit. This should be reflected in your conversation with him as well as transmitted through Addis if he sees him prior to Vientiane meeting in order to precondition him to be receptive.

In these delicate negotiations US team must speak as one.4 While we appreciate differences of opinion which may exist in minds of some there must be no question with regard to compliance with policy line under your direction.

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If negotiations prove fruitless and Souvanna Phouma proves during these negotiations he not worthy our trust this policy will have to be reviewed but all effort now must be directed toward making a reconciliation possible.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/11–1661. Secret; Niact. Drafted by Cross and Queneau; cleared by Cleveland, Anderson, and Steeves; and approved and signed by McConaughy. Also sent priority to Geneva as Fecon 601 and repeated to Bangkok, London, Paris, Phnom Penh, New Delhi, Saigon, and CINCPAC.
  2. Document 229.
  3. Document 225.
  4. Dated November 17. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/11–1761)
  5. In telegram 751 from Vientiane, November 24, Brown assured the Department that all elements in the Mission at Vientiane would “speak as one.” (Ibid., 751J.00/11–2461)