172. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State1
1278. Deptel 738 to Vientiane;2 Vientiane’s 1408 to Dept.3 Probably greatest difficulty seen from here in courses of action suggested reftels is that they would appear from standpoint Thai reactions to treat Laos in [Page 349] isolation and fail adequately to take into account fact that this is only one element of larger Communist campaign in Indochinese peninsula of which Communist pressures on Laos, SVN and Thailand are inseparable parts. Thai accordingly would not be able to see how new initiatives now for multi-nation conference on Laos could avoid encouraging demand for similar conferences on VN with all its disadvantages or, even more importantly, how talk of conference could avoid undermining position of strength we are now painstakingly building up step by step in SVN and Laos.
We recognize risks French and Communists will attempt to shake faith in US on part of Souvanna and other RLG leaders by suggesting US interested in Laos only in relation to VN. We are not persuaded, however, that only way to convince Souvanna otherwise is to arrange separate negotiations on Laos. Without publicly subscribing to French view, we find considerable validity in Millet’s statement to Sullivan (Vientiane’s 1397 to Dept)4 that Laos could be discussed only as aspect of global conference on Indo-China focusing primary attention on fighting in VN.
Thai position has been made known to us whenever question of conference has come up in connection with Laos, Vietnam or Cambodia and was recently made explicit in authoritative article by diplomatic correspondent close to FonMin (Emb A–668).5 In discussing US SEA policy this juncture and possibility negotiations, article declared that Communists only go to conferences to consolidate gains already made or to obtain from free nations greater concessions. Although Thanat and other RTG leaders have frequently indicated their receptivity to conference at proper time, they have also indicated that they do not believe that this time is at hand. They have made abundantly clear in relation to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam that premature conference or talk of conference on any one of these countries will have adverse repercussions on our position in others. News article did not even recognize any possibility of negotiation at present.
Although we believe we are today completely on same wave length with Thai, should we encourage Souvanna to press for resumption of talks or associate ourselves with co-chairmen dialogue, we are likely once again to undermine Thai confidence. Top Thai officials have regretted damage in this regard caused by columnists and others critical of our present policy. Thanat has also expressed concern about ability of Souvanna to continue to maintain his position in much narrowed political framework of Vientiane; but we defer to Amb Sullivan’s judgment (Vientiane’s 1408) as to possibility of greater internal pressures on Souvanna should he now attempt to promote further negotiations.[Page 350]
Re last para ref Deptel, we are frankly puzzled. We have worked hard here to get Thai to support Souvanna’s authority as PriMin and as head of coalition government. We had thought Souvanna also saw importance of consistency in maintenance this position. If this is so, do not understand what more we expect Souvanna to do in handling this problem should Communists insist on right of PL to speak independently or should they challenge Souvanna’s right to speak for RLG without tripartite agreement.
We had thought from our reading on traffic re UK approach on Article 19, that we were disinclined to see British press ahead in absence indication something substantial would be achieved vis-à-vis Soviets and that we would take position ICC remains operative with or without consultation. Unless there is more to it than meets the eye, strongly urge we do not sacrifice vital store of confidence in us built up at considerable cost in VN and Thailand for what appear here to be only dubious tactical gains in Laos. Amb Sullivan has indicated PL likely to take lead from DRV and Lao Dong. It would seem to us that when time is ripe for negotiations on Vietnam, serious talks on Laos will fall into place.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 LAOS. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London, Paris, Saigon, Vientiane, and CINCPAC for POLAD.↩
- Document 169.↩
- See footnotes 4–12 to Document 169.↩
- Dated March 3. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 LAOS)↩
- Dated March 5. (Ibid., POL 1 ASIA SE–US)↩