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

1104. Kong Le preoccupation with need improve his military and prestige position in Plaine des Jarres well and sympathetically understood here. As stated previous messages, our concern is that he should take appropriate action designed assure his continuing ability maintain integrity his military forces. While realizing such assurance not attainable in absolute terms, his dispositions, his logistics and his forces morale should be such that, in order destroy his forces or drive him from PDJ communists will be required launch such overt and flagrant attacks that they might be above threshold political risk and opprobrium which even Viet Minh would be willing to bear.

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We do not have full confidence in Kong Le’s military and political judgment such matters, and particularly have doubts if such judgment exercised in collaboration General Phoumi. Most disastrous occurrence, in our view, would be repetition Nam Tha fiasco, but we recognize there are circumstances under which military action by Kong Le might be necessary.

It is impossible, from Washington vantage point, develop adequate information or criteria enable us give guidance or even useful reactions re specific military moves. Our kibitzing must perforce be concerned primarily with evaluating, in advance, rpt in advance, predictable international political repercussions to contemplated military moves.

Therefore, it becomes incumbent upon those at closer range to develop systematic guidance and judgment re Kong Le military intentions. We recognize friendly elements in Laos have only limited means undertake such functions and that major available instrument must be French Military Mission. However, we consider it essential that you and other friendly representatives Vientiane immediately establish mechanisms which will obtain maximum value from resources we have at hand.

For Vientiane: You should approach your British, French and Australian colleagues with view establishing informal group charged with responsibility determining best means meeting problem outlined first two paragraphs this message. (Realize you are already regularly consulting with British and French.) This should not become group which will assume responsibility for Kong Le military decisions or undertake specific command guidance. However, it should be able develop model situation which would constitute optimum positions Kong Le could reasonably be expected attain without resorting to reckless or foolish provocation. This model could then serve as benchmark against which friendly reps in Vientiane could judge either requests for material or advisory assistance.

It would also serve as a clearing house for intelligence information concerning any proposed military actions by Kong Le and Phoumi which might, in group’s judgment, prove ill-considered.

We would expect that nucleus group would be responsible officers French Military Mission assisted by US, British and Australian Military Attaches. We would assume such group would have no formal organizational status and would be particularly sensitive to French nervousness re possible compromises to their special status. Therefore, we leave entirely to your judgment manner in which you attempt create this grouping or form which it will take.

We would naturally assume that French, through their military mission status, could have direct access to and influence on Kong Le and [Page 1012] his commanders. However, it is imperative that Souvanna be fully informed on US, UK and Australian advice or comment on military matters affecting Plaine des Jarres and fully aware of political consequences resulting from any military moves so that he would not repudiate any Kong Le actions.

For London, Paris: In order not compromise Unger’s efforts this matter, Embassies London and Paris should take no initiatives this juncture, but should be prepared support Unger’s moves or respond to his requests for support in capitals.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 Laos. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Cross and Sullivan; cleared by Hilsman, Koren, Johannes V. Imhof of WE, Alf E. Bergesen of BNA, and in draft by Forrestal; and approved by Harriman. Repeated to Paris, London, Bangkok, and CINCPAC.