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

719/Tohak 284. Summary: Unless there is a last-minute hitch, a “global ceasefire” covering both the military and political aspects of a Lao settlement will be signed in Vientiane tomorrow afternoon, February 21. If this timetable is kept, the ceasefire will become effective noon, February 22. End summary.

Following is scenario of what happened in Vientiane February 20 as reported to Dean by Pheng and confirmed to me over the telephone by Prime Minister.
At this morning’s Cabinet meeting at 1000, Cabinet rejected Souphanouvong’s offer of an unsigned strictly military ceasefire proclaimed unilaterally by each side to its own combatants and its allies. Cabinet instructed Pheng to propose written ceasefire agreement calling for (1) end to fighting on the ground, on water and in the air; (2) an end to hostile military action; (3) withdrawal of foreign troops; and (4) an exchange of prisoners of all nationalities.
At 1130 this morning, Pheng met with Phoumi to present RLG reply to Souphanouvong’s offer and also to discuss RLG counter offer. Phoumi rejected RLG proposal and Pheng rejected Souphanouvong’s offer. The two negotiators then agreed to discuss the three remaining outstanding issues holding up the signing of a global accord. Pheng and Phoumi settled the outstanding differences as follows:
The RLG would sign for “The Government Vientiane” (in the Lao language there is no preposition between “Government” and “Vientiane” and it will be interesting to see how this will be translated into French).
The position of Prime Minister will not be included in the overall complement of Cabinet portfolios, from which the Pathet Lao and their allies will receive fifty percent of the seats. No repeat no Vice Prime Minister will be named.
On the time frames, the two negotiators agreed to form the new provisional Government of National Union within thirty days after the signing of the ceasefire agreement. Within sixty days after the formation of that government, all foreign forces will have to be withdrawn [Page 128] from Laos. Thus, for example if the new government is formed within ten days after the signing of the ceasefire agreement, foreign forces would have to be withdrawn within seventy days after the signing of the ceasefire. The exchange of prisoners would also be completed within sixty days of the formation of the new Government of National Union.
The Prime Minister has given his approval to this compromise and Phoumi and Pheng will see Prime Minister at 1600 this afternoon to initial draft agreement. A special Cabinet meeting has been called for 1700 to discuss the terms of the ceasefire agreement. Pheng said that if everything goes smoothly, the two negotiators would meet tomorrow morning to prepare the final text of the agreement in Lao which would be formally signed by the two negotiators in presence of a number of dignitaries tomorrow, February 21, probably in the afternoon. If this timetable is kept, ceasefire would enter into force at 1200 hours local time Thursday, February 22.
Prime Minister has promised to keep me informed and Dean has appointment with Pheng later in the evening.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 411, Backchannel Messages, Southeast Asia, 1973. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Flash. Sent to the White House for transmittal to Kissinger. Repeated Flash to Ambassador Green.