272. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State1

Secto 27. 1. Major feature of Secretaryʼs call on Prime Minister Thanom May 30 was restrained, frequently indirect but persistent Thai probing for indication of future US course of action in Southeast Asia; Thai questions ranged for significance of Sino-Soviet rift to possibility of diversionary activities against ChiComs elsewhere in Asia.

2. Secretary explained that over past few weeks we have been seeking by various means get clear message to Peiping and Hanoi US takes very serious view of Communist military advances SEA and that issue of peace or war in balance. He noted that while Sino-Soviet rift bitter and deep, both still have same ultimate goal; said diversionary tactics elsewhere not likely be effective.

3. Thanomʼs first direct question dealt with US intentions if Communists continued advance toward Mekong and threatened such strategic points as Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Paksane, Thakhek and Savannakhet. Secretary said he could reply in generalities but that specific concrete answer, to which Thai entitled, could, under US constitutional system, come only from the President. He said purpose of Honolulu Conference was make recommendations on such questions to President and he expected there to be communication between President and Prime Minister very soon afterwards. Secretary added, however, there no limit on what US would do if necessary to defend Thailand and pointed to heavy casualties US had suffered since World War Two as earnest of our determination.

4. Later en route FonMinʼs residence Thanat again alluded to Secretaryʼs comments on necessity for communication at chief of government level and asked how this would be accomplished. Secretary said through Amb Martin, adding that communication facilities American Embassy enabled instantaneous contact with Washington.

5. Prime Minister alluded to military defense measures being planned and Thai made it clear several times they would feel compelled move across border if Communist advances threatened key points in Laos such as Vang Vieng, Paksane, etc. DepDefMin Dawee elaborated in sense Thai would strike first with artillery and air, following with such forces as necessary. He added that he expected of course if such steps necessary US and Thai would act together.

[Page 588]

6. Secretary said he very encouraged to hear Thai laying plans for defense measures and suggested desirability of advance consultation. Secretary several times in course of discussion expressed approval of this line of planning by Thai.

7. In context Thai troop deployments already made to border and possible need for additional measures of this nature, Thanom asked Secretary to review decision to phase out US assistance on consumables. Secretary agreed take a look.

8. In discussion before and after FonMinʼs dinner, Secretary and Thanat discussed preconditions Geneva Conference on Laos. Secretary made clear we absolutely firm in not attending conference unless preconditions satisfied, and Thanat concurred completely. Thanat mentioned that Article Four consultations not likely to be very productive but concurred in our urging that most be made of them. We mentioned that we were giving serious consideration to Polish proposal as possible alternate or supplement, and that it had some advantages including absence of French. Thanat did not demur nor argue that acceptance Polish proposal would impair our basic position, which we made clear would be maintained as to preconditions at any such meeting.

Comment: Thai attitude in discussions, particularly on part Thanon, marked by keen and appraising interest in Secretaryʼs comments, especially replies to their questions, which apparently designed to elicit expression of US thinking on broader implications as well as immediate requirements of situation. Thai made no specific demands for action by US, but concurred strongly in desirability of closest advance consultations. Question of deploying US forces to Thailand was not explicitly discussed. Secretary will raise at Honolulu question of bilateral planning with Thai to indicate our capabilities and possible deployment, particularly of air units, in event of Communist push in Laos along lines paragraph three above.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 ASIA SE–US. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to Vientiane, Saigon, CINCPAC for POLAD, London, Paris, and New Delhi. Passed to the White House. Rusk was in Bangkok for less than a day on May 30 en route from New Delhi and Saigon to the Honolulu Conference.