243. Memorandum of Conversation0



Paris, December 10–12, 1961


  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Gavin
    • Mr. Bohlen
    • Mr. Kohler
    • Mr. Lyon
    • Mr. McNaughton
    • Mr. Hillenbrand
    • Mr. Brown
  • French
    • M. Couve de Murville
    • Ambassador Alphand
    • M. Lucet
    • M. Laloy
    • M. Manac’h
    • M. Soutou
    • M. de Beaumarchais
    • M. Froment-Meurice
  • United Kingdom
    • Lord Home
    • Sir Shuckburgh
    • Sir Dixon
    • Sir Rumbold
    • Mr. Ledwidge
    • Mr. Samuel
    • Mr. Butler


  • Laos

Lord Home opened by stating the news from Geneva is that an agreement with the Soviets may be achieved at any time. The problem is now to get the three Princes together. As co-chairmen, the UK and the Soviets could suggest to the Princes that they meet somewhere although it would be better if they did this on their own.

The Secretary said that there are indications there may be a meeting in Vientiane but no evidence that Souvanna Phouma and Souphannouvong are in a negotiating mood. We have been trying to get Phoumi to play but we should remember that essentially we are asking him to surrender. The composition of the future government worries us. We do not see how we can sign an agreement at Geneva if it is obviously a fraud.

[Page 539]

Couve suggested we ask the three Princes to meet in Geneva under the co-chairmen as there seems to be no progress in Laos itself.1 In Geneva they would be under some pressure to make decisions and would not have the security problem. This may create a problem with the King.

“Sec. said Ball might ask Harriman if it would make sense to get the three Princes invited to Geneva. Ball said he had been talking with Johnson. The feeling here is it would be more difficult to arrange it for them where it is taking place now because for quite obvious reasons they are reluctant to meet. It is not the geographic location. Sec. said another location may take away any. … Ball said we would explore that and see what might be done along that line. Ball asked about the possibility of Rangoon. Sec. said it may be it could be held at Delhi with their Chairman of ICC (?) Ball said we would explore that.” (Kennedy Library, Ball Papers, Laos; ellipsis in the source text)

The Secretary said there are signs that delegations from Xieng Khouang are in touch with the Chinese military mission in North Vietnam and may be preparing for a renewal of fighting. It might be useful to have a meeting in Geneva even as a delaying tactic. We should see if there has been any progress in the last day, which he doubted.

Lord Home said that Souvanna Phouma might ask some moderates to take part in the Government, perhaps Phoui. Despite the difficulty with the King, he thought there were advantages in a co-chairmen invitation. The matter could be put to Gromyko perhaps initially from MacDonald to Pushkin. In the meantime the British delegation would prepare a draft letter to the three Princes. The King could be informed that an agreement has been worked out in Geneva and that it has been suggested the three Princes meet there.

The Secretary said that some other site in Switzerland might be more acceptable. Geneva has a bad memory for the Lao Government.

Lord Home said he would go ahead with drafting. We could then look at the news from Laos. If there is no change, the letter could be sent.

Couve suggested that we inform the delegations in Geneva of this discussion and seek their advice.

This was agreed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–PA/12–1161. Secret. Drafted by L. Dean Brown of EUR and approved in S on December 12. The meeting took place at the Quai d’Orsay. Rusk was in Paris until December 16.
  2. A telephone conversation between Rusk and Ball, December 11, 9:10 a.m. Washington time, was transcribed as follows: