448. Memorandum From the Director of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)0


  • Implications of Quinim’s Assassination

In response to your request we have examined the implications of Quinim’s assassination for the situation in Laos and for United States policy. A brief account of our findings follows. Our more detailed study is attached.1

We do not believe that Quinim’s assassination will lead to an immediate change in Pathet Lao tactics. Any drastic change—such as an all-out attack in the Plaine des Jarres—would presumably require advance consultation with Moscow, Peiping, and Hanoi. It is unlikely that any of them would consider the assassination of a neutralist—even one as close to the Communists as Quinim—a sufficient threat to their position to require them to reverse their present policies and risk a confrontation with the United States. Accordingly we see as most likely a continuation of present tactics—keeping the situation in the Plaine des Jarres tense, cutting off the trickle of supplies still reaching Kong Le from North Vietnam, possibly resuming attacks on supply flights, and probably trying to ensure that Quinim is replaced by a neutralist equally favorable to their interests.

In the circumstances, the United States might:

Make it clear, if necessary and appropriate, that the United States policy continues to support the coalition government and the Geneva Agreements.
As an interim solution for the Foreign Minister portfolio, nudge Souvanna to take it concurrently.
Encourage Souvanna to provide leadership to the neutralists and stand firm against Pathet Lao pressures on the basis that Quinim’s assassination is an internal neutralist matter. Consult with the British and the French, and with the Indians and the Canadians to make parallel approaches to Souvanna. The purpose of these actions would be to bolster the neutralists who will presumably be urging Souvanna along the same lines.
Continue to bolster Kong Le’s military position along present lines but without being too obvious. Increase pressure to get the ICC into the Plaine des Jarres.
Reassure the Soviets, and through them Peiping and Hanoi, that our policy remains unchanged and that our main concern is to prevent the situation from deteriorating. Also, consult with the British for possible action by the co-chairmen.
While withholding United States military moves into Southeast Asia which could be misinterpreted by the Communists and act as a trigger rather than a deterrent, consult with the Thai against a contingency which might necessitate military intervention. Meantime the United States should consider responses in the event of renewed Pathet Lao attacks on supply flights.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 Laos. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. No drafting information appears on the source text.
  2. Not printed. According to the study, April 2, Foreign Minister Quinim Pholsena was assassinated on the night of April 1 by a guard at his residence. A neutralist source contended that the assassination was carried out in accordance with a Kong Le plan.