210. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Chinese Road Construction in Laos

A MACV assessment of Chinese Communist road construction in northern Laos makes the following key points:

  • —Peking is using a 1961 agreement with Souvanna Phouma to justify its present road construction. By the end of the current dry season in mid-May, a motorable road connecting southern China and Thailand should be completed via two routes: one completely by-passing North Vietnam and the other transiting North Vietnam.
  • —The Laos government has never exercised effective control over the areas through which either of the routes pass.
  • —There is evidence that the Chinese are consolidating their position along the road network and are determined to protect and expand their road system. While it is not yet clear if the Chinese and Pathet Lao are formally cooperating in the venture, it is certain that the Pathet Lao are trying to bring the road building area under Communist control.
  • —Chinese objectives appear to be both tactical and strategic in nature: in the short term, to demonstrate support for North Vietnam’s war effort in Laos; and over the long haul, counter US and Soviet influence in Laos.
  • —In summation, the road construction represents a determined Chinese effort to consolidate and extend her influence in a traditional area of Chinese interest. (See map at Tab A)2

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 546, Country Files, Far East, Laos, Vol. IV, 1 February 1970–31 March 1970. Top Secret; Sensitive; [code word not declassified]. On March 19 Kissinger sent Rogers and Laird a memorandum informing them that plans to use Lao guerrilla units, Lao T–28 aircraft, and U.S. tactical aircraft as necessary to disrupt and forestall Chinese road construction south of Muong Houn should be “held in abeyance” and the two cabinet officers should notify the President when they believed conditions had changed so as to justify taking such action. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 LAOS) In an undated memorandum to the President, which was not sent, Kissinger justified the decision on the grounds that the Lao Government seemed less concerned about the threat, Chinese road construction was not progressing rapidly, airlift resources were needed for the defense and possible evacuation of Long Tieng, and the public was much more aware of events in Laos. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 546, Country Files, Far East, Laos, Vol. IV, 1 February 1970–31 March 1970)
  2. Attached but not reproduced here.