10. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Laos (Godley) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

682. Ref: White House 30262 and White House 30267.2

Saw Souvanna 1100 today. Told him of your plans and he suggested dinner 8:15 for you, Sullivan, notetaker and myself. I asked who would be there on the Lao side and he said he did not repeat not yet know but agreed with my suggestion that Sisouk be among those present.
I then raised the question of unconditional immediate ceasefire and he said what worried him was whether the North Vietnamese would stop fighting, which was what he planned to ask you to obtain for him in Hanoi. I told him I thought that had already been obtained by you in Paris with the North Vietnamese promise to withdraw plus the fact that since the North Vietnamese do not admit they have troops [Page 38] in Laos a Pathet Lao agreement to an immediate ceasefire is all that is required. I then read carefully to the Prime Minister your White House 30267. I elaborated on the military situation, pointing out that in practically every area of Laos the enemy was either advancing or was poised to destroy friendly forces. I told Souvanna that he had to risk the North Vietnamese not repeat not continuing to fight, for his only other alternative was losing additional territory.
Souvanna accepted this and said he would convoke [contact] Phoumi Vongvichit first thing tomorrow morning and try to arrange for a ceasefire that would occur February 11 or 12. I requested that he inform me as to the details of the discussion tomorrow with Phoumi and he said he would.
I then asked him what were the points that he rejected in Phoumi’s piece of paper that they discussed yesterday morning. Souvanna said there were four points, the first being the role of the Communist neutralists in future governments. Souvanna said that he would not recognize the Communist neutralists and that they either had to be considered real neutralists or Pathet Lao. The second point was the withdrawal of Thai and American forces. Specific references to Thai and Americans was unacceptable to Souvanna in that there was no mention of North Vietnamese forces. He therefore proposed the withdrawal of all “foreign” forces. The third point was a reference in the PL draft to cessation of American bombing. The Prime Minister proposed cessation of all bombing. The final point was the overflight of Pathet Lao territory, which was prohibited in the PL draft but which Souvanna said was essential in order that the RLG could resupply its civilian and/or military enclaves in Pathet Lao territory. Souvanna also said that whereas previous drafts had mentioned the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Laos in 90 days he told Phoumi he thought this period should be reduced to 60 days.
I reiterated the necessity for an early ceasefire and he said I could assure you that he would do his utmost in this domain. I left with him a copy of the piece of paper that DCM Dean left yesterday with Pheng Phongsavan, which was reported in Vientiane 0907.3
Comment: You mention in paragraph 1 your concern over reports emanating from Vientiane that the RLG negotiators are spurning the Pathet Lao offer of an immediate unconditional ceasefire. To the best of my knowledge, the Pathet Lao have continued to link military considerations to a political framework to be implemented after a cease-fire. [Page 39] Hence, every indication points to the Pathet Lao so far not having separated the broad political considerations from the strictly military aspects of the ceasefire. If the North Vietnamese negotiators in Paris told us that they would tell the Pathet Lao to sign a strictly military ceasefire with the RLG, this line was not yet been clearly reflected in the LPF negotiation tactics with the RLG. You will note from FOV 26,7714 that the RLG draft agreement to be tabled at a secret negotiating session does not repeat not deal with political considerations. Hence, the line we have urged RLG to accept is reflected in their negotiating posture.

Rereading the reports on Souvanna’s conversation with the President, we agreed with Souvanna that there should not be a lengthy gap between the effective date of the ceasefire in Vietnam and those of ceasefires in Laos and Cambodia. This requires, however, that the Pathet Lao disassociate the political aspects of a ceasefire from a strictly military ceasefire agreement.

You will note from Vientiane 0907 that we conveyed in strong terms the points made in State 022116,5 specifically urging the RLG to negotiate on a basis of a ceasefire in place rather than insisting on a withdrawal to the June 1962 position within a specified period after the signing of a ceasefire.

I should add that even a strictly military ceasefire agreement raises some basic political problems such as what parties will be represented in the Joint Lao Military Commission. The Pathet Lao are pushing the pro-Communist Deuanist neutralists as the representatives of the neutralist side and this position is completely unacceptable to Souvanna. To some extent the composition of the Joint Lao Military Commission will determine the status of the Deuanists in a future political settlement and this is one of the reasons for the difficulties the RLG and LPF are experiencing in coming to terms on a military ceasefire.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 411, Backchannel Messages, Southeast Asia, 1973. Secret; Immediate; Eyes Only.
  2. In backchannel message WH30262 to Vientiane, February 5, Kissinger relayed to Godley details of his forthcoming trip to Southeast Asia. Kissinger urged the Ambassador to encourage the Lao Government to negotiate a cease-fire agreement in backchannel message WH30267 to Vientiane, February 6. (Both ibid.)
  3. Godley reported on his meeting with Pheng Phongsavan in telegram 907 from Vientiane, February 6. (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 30, HAK Trip Files, February 7–20, 1973)
  4. Not found.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 9.