233. Telegram From the Delegation to the Conference on Laos to the Department of State0

Confe 870. Eyes Only for the President and Secretary from Harriman. Reference: Deptel 481 to Vientiane rptd Geneva Fecon 601.1

My Confe 8662 evidently crossed Reftel. Urgently request that Brown’s instructions be amended taking into account my recommendations contained therein. There is no doubt that other side looks upon this next Princes’ meeting as critical test of the seriousness of US Govt’s desire to negotiate settlement which will avoid renewal hostilities. Time is running short. Pushkin yesterday underlined importance they place on this meeting and implied that they responsible for Souphanouvong’s agreement go Vientiane. They will not believe that Phoumi is uncontrollable and is not speaking for the US.

Khrushchev himself has knocked down the demand for four of center eight for Vientiane neutrals. Most effective negotiating tactic is, I believe, to hit what we’re after from a different angle. The best one, I believe, is the one I proposed, which can obtain four of this category through expanding the center, although this will probably result in giving Souvanna six of his Xieng Khouang followers.

I don’t feel quite as strongly about Phoumi’s asking for Defense for himself, providing he indicates willingness fairly soon to back away from it on the condition that other posts will be satisfactorily filled. I still believe we would be better off if Phoumi would say he is giving up Defense, which he considers he has every right to hold, in order to cooperate [Page 523] in reaching agreement, but in return he demands other important posts for his group and Vientiane neutrals and downgrading Pathet Lao.

In addition, I am concerned by implication of last paragraph suggesting that Souvanna Phouma be judged by his negotiations with General Phoumi. Aside from Phoumi’s general unreliability, no one has confidence in his political judgment. Even Sarit will confirm this. He is an inheritance of the mistakes of the previous administration, partially due to their permitting him to force their hand. He should not be permitted now to stand in the way of achieving the President’s objectives. We cannot depend on Phoumi to negotiate for these objectives as we know that he wants to force US into military intervention. Therefore, I urge that Brown be encouraged to talk things over directly with Souvanna in order to come to an understanding of mutual confidence which is essential regardless of detailed arrangements.

Our gamble is on Souvanna and the men around him. It is difficult for me to believe that Phoumi will be effective in the kind of political battle new govt will have to wage against Pathet Lao infiltration. Other leaders such as Phoui, who is already thinking about organizing effective party machinery, can have important influence.

I fully agree with statement that all efforts must be directed towards making reconcilitation possible. By reconciliation, I assume we have in mind a reconciliation with our concepts, and not with Phoumi personally. As you know, I have been recommending for a long time that Phoumi attempt to achieve this, but at this late date I hardly think we can afford to have success of negotiations depend on this.

Fully agree with other points Dept’s telegram which I feel are excellently presented.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/11–2161. Secret. Repeated niact to Vientiane eyes only for Ambassador Brown.
  2. Document 232.
  3. Document 231.