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234. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1

SUBJECT

  • Laos

participation

  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Marshall Green
  • Jonathan Moore
  • Defense
  • G. Warren Nutter
  • Lt. Col. Gerald H. Britten
[Page 820]
  • JCS
  • Admiral Nels C. Johnson
  • CIA
  • Lt. Gen. Robert E. Cushman
  • Thomas H. Karamessines
  • William Nelson
  • NSC Staff
  • Gen. Alexander M. Haig
  • John Holdridge
  • Col. Richard Kennedy
  • Col. Robert M. Behr
  • D. Keith Guthrie

SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS

The WSAG was informed of the President's decision to go forward with moving a second Thai battalion to Laos in response to the request received from Prime Minister Souvanna. The movement will be arranged on the same basis and according to the same procedures as were set forth at the WSAG meeting of March 26, 19702 to govern movement of the first Thai battalion. Press guidance will remain the same as for the previous movement. A contingency plan for orderly withdrawal of the Thai battalion will be prepared.

Kissinger: The memorandum which Alex Johnson cleared regarding the second Thai battalion for Laos was sent to the President.3 He has decided to go ahead with moving the battalion. I suppose the arrangements should be the same as for the previous battalion. What diplomatic moves are needed?

Green: We should have formal requests from the Lao and Thai Governments. The guidelines for our diplomatic approaches will be the same as last time. We will ask the Lao and Thai Governments to take a position of no comment in response to inquiries. We will emphasize that our assistance with movement of the Thai battalion implies no further or broader commitment on our part.

Kissinger: Do we say anything more than we did last time?

Green: We will refer to our previous understandings [regarding the first Thai battalion].4 Of course, we still do not have a formal request for the second battalion.

Kissinger: Can we generate one?

Moore: Yes.

[Page 821]

Kissinger: How quickly can we move?

Nelson: We are ready to go. It should be possible to move faster than last time.

Kissinger: [to Moore and Green] You should take care of informing Embassies Vientiane and Bangkok.5 The scenario will be the same as last time, with the same qualifications. Our press position will also be the same.

Nelson: Last time we moved without having received a formal note from the Thais and Lao. Should we wait this time?

Kissinger: No, proceed just as we did last time. Will we have to provide any additional equipment for the battalion?

Holdridge: Two more howitzers will be required as well as some fire control equipment.

Nelson: We have enough already in Thailand to take care of these needs.

Kissinger: Planning should also be the same as last time. A contingency plan will be prepared for an orderly retreat.

Green: It is more likely that this time the Thais will come to us with a request that we equip a battalion to replace the one being sent to Laos.

Kissinger: On Cambodia, we will hold off an analysis of possible assistance until we receive our study of Cambodian needs.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–114, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1969–1970. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. Robert Behr sent these minutes plus those of the April 14 and 15 meetings (Documents 230 and 233) to Kissinger on April 21. Kissinger initialed and wrote, “OK” on Behr's memorandum.
  2. See Document 212.
  3. Document 231.
  4. All brackets in the source text.
  5. Ambassadors Unger and Godley were informed of the decision in telegram 057059 to Vientiane and Bangkok, April 17, and told to obtain a formal request from Laos to Thailand formally concurred by Thailand. If the two governments did not wish to confirm the presence of Thai troops in Laos, they should adopt a “public posture of ‘no comment.'” The Embassies should initiate plans for an orderly retreat of the Thai forces in case of defeat by the North Vietnamese. The U.S. commitment was only to the support of the additional Thai battalion and “carried no implication of any decision to commit U.S. ground forces either to Laos or Thailand.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files, Far East, Laos, Vol. V, 1 April 1970–11 August 1970) In telegram 2708 from Vientiane, April 17, Godley reported that when he informed Souvanna of the decision, the Prime Minister “was visibly relieved.” Souvanna and Godley noted that the original Lao request of May 24 for a “regiment of combat forces” covered more than one battalion. Both agreed that there was no need for another letter to the Thais. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 LAOS) When Unger informed Thanat of the decision, the Thai Foreign Minister stated that Thailand was “operating on the basis of a formal request from the RLG.” (Telegram 4620 from Bangkok, April 17; ibid., DEF 19 THAI–LAOS)