412. Memorandum of Meeting0


The President asked Souvanna’s attitude. Harriman recalled that Souvanna wrote Kennedy February 7th, prophesying what would probably happen. Kennedy gave cold answer.1 However, Souvanna has expressed confidence in Kennedy and some, but not all, elements U.S. Government. Still feels U.S. caused his downfall.
Harriman said following questions would be raised:
Policy reference aid.
Support of integrated political and armed forces, both now and later, and question of how to accomplish integration.
How the North Vietnamese are to be removed and the possibility of their return policed. Souvanna to reaffirm Laos not to be used by the NVN for occupation of access to SVN.
Relations with Sarit and Cambodia. Souvanna’s relations with Sarit very bad.
Kennedy asked if Souvanna would request removal of U.S. troops from Thailand. Indication he would not.
Kennedy on Aid. Raised questions about the three million dollars. AID reported amount deposited for June and July in New York bank, and August deposit will be made. So far none has been withdrawn; however, withdrawals can be made for purposes not limited to “buy America.” Kennedy remonstrated this represented dollar loss, stated his impression all aid commitments were to be designed to limit dollar drain.
Harriman then stated Souvanna [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] had improved [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] impression CIA. Feels DCI rather than President should discuss political action for building strong neutral party; stated Souphannovang will attempt to control elections by use of troops and all other means. [Page 873] Souvanna has stated repeatedly he must win the elections. Harriman feels we can discuss the fight against communism with Souvanna.
Kennedy discussed relations between Souvanna and Souphannovang, Harriman stating that Souvanna believes Souphannovang controlled by the Pathet Lao, but he, Harriman, believes that he is a card-carrying Communist. Forrestal reported on skirmishes in Southern Laos, claimed by Phoumi but denied by Tucker. Kennedy questioned whether any Communists were accompanying Souvanna. Quinim apparently leftist but not Communist, but one member of party suspect.
Kennedy asked about Soviet aid; reply that they probably would continue by giving identified projects. French indicated aid in education and organizing gendarme. British have indicated nothing but a willingness to consider some aid. Japan ready to give aid. President felt we should keep pressure on our allies to assist. Forrestal said aid from USSR to continue and it was decided we should keep silent. Harriman emphasized giving of cash a mistake and that Souvanna felt French procedure of building something—a dam, road, hospital, school, and turning it over to Laos a better procedure.
[5 lines of source text not declassified]
President left; then Harriman and DCI discussed the following:
Meo situation, which Harriman recommended DCI discuss frankly with Souvanna, but not reveal our first alternative to hold Meos intact with arms hidden. Harriman stated that Souphannovang considers Meos armed bandits; Right Wing considers them minority tribe that needs help and loyal to Souvanna and the King and therefore should be considered an asset to the new government. We should discuss with Souvanna logistic problem of feeding the Meos as use of planes would be criticized by Souphannovang. However supply of food essential and can only be done by air. Kha situation similar but easier.
Souvanna will expect aid for his newspaper and this should be discussed.
We should ask Souvanna how he intends to pull many factions of neutralist group together to form a united party, and how we can help.
Harriman urged we keep [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in close contact with Souvanna, possibly putting him in the field on an interim basis.
McCone questioned how we would get rid of the North Vietnamese and this should be discussed frankly. McCone also raised question of the covert use of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was felt Souvanna would not have capability of policing this and ICC must be used.
John A. McCone2

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI-McCone Files, [text not declassified]. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by McCone. This meeting was in anticipation of the President’s meeting with Souvanna; see Document 413.
  2. Message from Souvanna Phouma to the President, February 7. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 2/1/62–2/19/62) Kennedy’s reply has not been found.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.