19. Message From the Ambassador to Laos (Godley) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Beijing1

710/Tohak 225. You asked me to give you my frank assessment of the status of the ceasefire talks and their prospects, so that you could perhaps protest to the North Vietnamese on their failure to live up to commitments made to you in Hanoi (White House 30569).2

The only message we received from you on your discussions in Hanoi is White House 304143 in which you report that the “DRV agreed to separate the ceasefire from a political settlement if Souvanna formally [Page 125] proposes such separation.” As we have reported in several previous messages, the RLG formally proposed to the Pathet Lao negotiator in Vientiane such a course but was rebuffed every time.

This morning, February 17, Dean again asked Pheng Phongsavan whether Pheng had suggested to Phoumi divorcing military from political aspects in the ceasefire, as Pheng had been instructed to do by the Cabinet on February 16. Pheng replied that in compliance with the Cabinet’s instruction, he had formally submitted this proposal again on February 16 but that Phoumi had categorically refused to separate political settlement from ceasefire agreement.

In view of the North Vietnamese commitments to us on this subject, I can only conclude that (A) the North Vietnamese have failed to make their position known to the Pathet Lao, or (B) their influence is insufficient to persuade Pathet Lao to accept this position, or (C) that Phoumi Vongvichit is not faithfully implementing instructions from Sam Neua. In any case, the end result remains the same—the LPF have not separated these two issues in the secret negotiations in Vientiane.

The second point in your message from Hanoi reported on Le Duc Tho’s statement to you that the time-frames for the troop withdrawals should be linked to a political settlement. You suggested 30 days as an appropriate maximum delay for troop withdrawal and Le Duc Tho said the Pathet Lao prefer 90 days, presumably for both the troop withdrawal and the political settlement. Again, the Pathet Lao position taken in the secret negotiations in Vientiane late this week does not rpt not reflect the North Vietnamese position as set forth above. In the draft agreement Pheng and Phoumi negotiated earlier this week, foreign troop withdrawal and the establishment of a coalition government were both to occur within 60 days after the signing of the ceasefire. Since then, the Pathet Lao have withdrawn their commitment and are now asking for the formation of the coalition government 30 days after the signing of a ceasefire and withdrawal of foreign troops 90 days after signing ceasefire agreement. Again I do not see that the purported North Vietnamese influence is reflected in the Pathet Lao position.

Dean saw Pheng one-half hour before Pheng and Phoumi were to see Prime Minister this morning in an effort to iron out differences holding up agreement. Pheng said he briefed Phoumi on the severe criticism Souvanna has come under from the right (reported my 708)4 and Pheng thought that perhaps this will make Phoumi a little more conciliatory. As Souvanna and Pheng go into meeting with Phoumi this [Page 126] morning, following is status of some of the outstanding differences dividing the two sides:

LPF categorically refused to separate the military aspects from a political settlement in the ceasefire agreement.
Phoumi is still insisting that Pheng sign on behalf of “Government of Vientiane” while RLG wants its representative to sign either for “The Royal Government” or “The Lao Government.”
Pathet Lao want formation of new coalition government no later than 30 days after ceasefire and foreign troop withdrawal 90 days after ceasefire. RLG wants to link these two by having both occur within 60 days after signing of ceasefire.
On formula for the new coalition government, Pathet Lao want Prime Minister’s position to be included in the total number of seats from which Pathet Lao and its allies are to receive their 50 percent. RLG is adamant that Prime Minister’s position must be in addition to the other Cabinet members, which, on the assumption that Souvanna would lead the next government, would in fact give non-Communist elements more than 50 percent in a future government.

On other issues, the PRG has won some points while on others the RLG has made concessions. (A) Pheng said that the Prime Minister is no longer blocking a reference to the U.S. and Thailand in the agreement along lines of paragraph 1(b) of draft agreement (Vientiane 699).5 (B) Phoumi has agreed to delete paragraph 3(d) in draft agreement which specifically requires unanimous approval by the two parties for acceptance of arms by RLG. This is an improvement, because the last portion of paragraph 3(c) in the draft agreement permits the RLG to accept weapons as foreseen by the Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962. (C) On aerial surveillance, the provision will be typically Lao and somewhat ambiguous. We understand that “armed flights and espionage will be prohibited” but that “overflight of LPF territory for resupply purposes will be authorized.” Finally, (D) the problem of a Vice President in a future coalition government, which is so objectionable to the rightists, does not appear to be an insurmountable obstacle according to Pheng. He thinks the LPF will drop its demand for this position.

Dean will meet with Pheng later in the day, to get an insight into what happened at the meeting with Souvanna and we will report on it ASAP.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 30, HAK Trip Files, February 7–20, 1973, TOHAK 201–250. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent to the White House for transmittal to Kissinger. Also sent Eyes Only to Green and Sullivan.
  2. Dated February 16; ibid., Box 411, Backchannel Messages, Southeast Asia, 1973.
  3. Document 14.
  4. Dated February 15; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 411, Backchannel Messages, Southeast Asia, 1973.
  5. Dated February 13; ibid.