Table of Contents
Message from Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom to Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET [London], January 3, 1961
I am hoping for a message from the Government of Prince Boun Oum in Laos during the next 24 hours to say that they are prepared to accept back the International Control Commission. If that is so I feel sure you will agree that it is important that we should do everything in our power to get the Commission working as soon as possible. The situation is now extremely grave. I think it is clear that the rebels are trying to take over the whole northern part of Laos and set up a separate régime as they did in the early stages when splitting Vietnam and Korea. In this they are receiving considerable assistance from outside. I fear that if we do not act very quickly we may find a war developing. I have been doing everything in my power to find a way out of this and have come to the conclusion that the International Commission is the only practical solution and the only one on which we are likely to get wide international agreement.
The reactivation of the Commission depends in a very special degree on Canadian willingness to shoulder again the joint responsibilities of what I realize will be an unwelcome task, but I know that in this tight corner I can count on your personal help and understanding.
There is one special point which may cause difficulty. Your people have told us that you may be very reluctant to see the Commission go to Laos until a cease-fire has become effective. Frankly I do not see how this is to be done by simply appealing to the two sides who are now locked in combat. Do you not think that the first step should be for the Chairman of the Commission with a small advance staff to go to Laos and call the leaders of the fighting factions together? This authority would of course be backed up by myself and Mr. Gromyko as co-Chairman and I would hope that the Russians would exert very strong pressure on their people to accept a cease-fire as we certainly should on the Boun Oum Government.
I would be most grateful to have your thoughts about this very urgently as there will only be a short time in which to seize this opportunity.
Ambassador in United Statesto Secretary of State for External Affairs
TELEGRAM 10 Washington, January 3, 1961
Reference: Our Tel 2 Jan 2.†
Repeat for Information: NATO Paris (OpImmediate), London, Paris, Candel New York, Permis New York (Priority).
By Bag Phnom Penh, Saigon, Delhi, Jakarta, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Canberra, Wellington, Moscow, Warsaw from London.
Laos – International Commission
You will have seen in press reports that the RLG has informed UK that it agrees to the revival of the ICC under certain conditions. UK Ambassador informed me this morning that UK Government has been promised a reply to its representations, and that there had been encouraging interim indications as to the nature of the reply. By way of background to this development you may wish to have the following texts of an aide mémoire given December 31, 1960 by the British Embassy to State Department and the State Department reply, copies of both of which were made available this morning to us by the State Department with the consent of the British Embassy. Texts Begin:
British Embassy Aide Mémoire
As USA Government will be aware, Her Majesty’s Ambassador in Vientiane has been instructed to seek the agreement of the provisional government of Laos to the proposal of the Indian Government for a return of the International Commission. The provisional government of Laos have not repeat not so far made a formal reply.
- Her Majesty’s Ambassador is to point out that the proposal has found wide support in the foreign press of all shades of opinion. If the Laotian Government is to enjoy support in its struggle against the Pathet Lao it will have to convince international opinion that it is adopting reasonable policies and in these circumstances UK Government do not repeat not see how the Laotian Government could justify a refusal to accept the return of the Commission at a time when there is heavy fighting and a risk of it spreading. UK Government have little doubt that if there were any discussion in UN there would be an overwhelming majority in favour of the return of the Commission.
- Her Majesty’s Ambassador is to say further that the UK Government do not repeat not accept the assumption that the presence of the Commission would be entirely to the benefit of the Communists. They are doubtful whether the Russians and the Chinese really wish to see it return. Both Mr. Gromyko’s note of December 22Footnote 1 and the Chinese Government’s communication of December 28Footnote 2 state that the Commission must return by arrangement with Prince Souvanna Phouma’s so-called government, and the Chinese note goes on to say that its return in any other circumstances would be a violation of the Geneva Agreement and quite unacceptable. Both the Russian and Chinese Governments know that UK Government consider Prince Souvanna Phouma as having no repeat no further governmental authority and their conditions therefore can only be interpreted as an impediment to the return of the Commission, either because they consider that the present fighting is bound to turn to their advantage in the long run, or because they do not repeat not wish to give the Boun Oum Government the degree of international recognition which would follow from its having relations with the International Commission.
- In the view of the UK Government, the proper course of action for the Laotian Government would be to reply to Her Majesty’s Ambassador’s representations in the following terms. They should say that they have noted the proposal made by Mr. Nehru for the return of the Commission. Their experience of the Commission in the past would not repeat not lead them to think that the Commission could serve a very useful purpose at this juncture, and they could here add such criticisms as they might feel bound to make. They would go on to say, however, that in view of the representations of the Indian and UK Governments they would not repeat not wish to prevent the Commission returning if that were the wish of the other signatories of the Geneva Agreements. They would suggest the best thing would be for the Commission to go back for a set period of three or six months. As a first step, the Chairman of the Commission should get in touch with the Foreign Secretary of the Royal Government of Laos.
- The Laotian Government would then be in a strong position and it would be for the Russians to make technical difficulties about the proposed conditions.
- If USA Government agrees with the analysis of the situation on which Her Majesty’s Ambassador’s instructions are based, UK Government hope that they will be prepared to urge strongly upon the Laotian Government the advantages of the course proposed. British Embassy Washington.
State Department Aide Mémoire
In the light of the considerations set forth in the British Embassy’s aide mémoire of December 31, the USA Government agrees that the course proposed therein offers certain advantages under present circumstances of which the Royal Laotian Government should avail itself.
It must of course be borne in mind that successive Lao governments have taken the position that Laos has fulfilled its commitments under the Geneva Agreement. It is also pertinent to recall that on November 2, 1957 the Prime Minister of Laos and Prince Souphanouvong, as representative of the Pathet Lao, issued a joint communiqué in which it was stated that the integration of the Pathet Lao into the national community as envisioned by the political and military settlements then still under negotiation “will entail the de facto and de jure disappearance of the fighting units of the Pathet Lao.”
In a series of subsequent statements all the interested parties indicated that they considered the Pathet Lao to have been fully integrated into the Laotian national community as a result of the conclusion and implementation of the Vientiane agreements of 1957.
The Government of USA would support a reply by the Royal Laotian Government to Her Majesty’s Ambassador’s representation along the lines suggested in the Embassy’s aide mémoire. However, if the Royal Laotian Government proves unwilling to make such a reply USA would be prepared to suggest a less inclusive reply which would cover most of the points suggested in the aide mémoire, but instead of saying that they would not repeat not wish to prevent the Commission returning, the Laotian Government would express a willingness to discuss the matter with the Indian Chairman of the Commission.
In such a discussion the Foreign Minister of the Laotian Government would seek the Chairman’s acceptance of the following points:
- The Laotian Government’s long-standing position that it has fulfilled its commitments under the Geneva Agreement.
- The Pathet Lao organization as such, having once been integrated into the Laotian national community, no repeat no longer has any legal standing under the agreement, and its members are to be considered as rebels.
- The Government of Laos is now under military attack by the Pathet Lao.
- The Laotian Government is determined to defend itself militarily against this threat to its security and integrity and to receive such quantity of armaments as are necessary for the defence of the kingdom.
- The Government of Laos would be prepared to request the Commission to return to Laos for a set period of three to six months on the understanding that the Commission would take immediate steps to end the Pathet Lao military operations against the Royal Government, obtain a cessation of the illegal supply of military assistance to the Pathet Lao by the DRV, Communist China and the Soviet Union and the compliance of the latter three with the provisions of the Geneva Agreement.
Department of State, Washington. Ends.
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs to Secretary of State for External Affairs
CONFIDENTIAL [Ottawa], January 4, 1961
Reconvening of Laos Commission
The background to Lord Home’s message of January 3 appears to be as follows.
On the basis of conversations with the King and General Phoumi, it was clear by the end of last week that the reply to the United Kingdom representations about the return of the Commission to Laos was likely to be negative. On Sunday, therefore, the United Kingdom Ambassador in Vientiane was instructed to make further representations in Vientiane pointing out
- that the proposal was not Communist but Indian in origin,
- it had wide support in the foreign press; and
- acceptance of the Commission would strengthen the government’s position internationally and would not entirely benefit the Communist side,
The United Kingdom Ambassador suggested that the RLG might reply that in view of the representations of the Indian and British Governments, they would not wish to prevent the Commission returning if that were the wish of the other Geneva signatories and that the Chairman of the Commission should approach the Foreign Secretary of the RLG about the Commission’s return. At about the same time, Lord Home approached Mr. Herter arguing that the immediate practical choices were a fact-finding commission sent by the Security Council or the International Commission and urging the latter as being more useful and causing less international fuss. The State Department replied on January 3 that the United States would support United Kingdom representation in Vientiane for return of the Commission along the lines suggested. In the event that the RLG were unwilling to make the reply suggested by the United Kingdom, but were prepared to discuss the Commission’s return with the Indian Chairman, the Americans thought the Laotians would insist on the following conditions
- Acceptance that the RLG has fulfilled its commitments under the Geneva Agreements;
- The Pathet Lao, having once been reintegrated into the national community, no longer has any standing under the agreement and must be considered as rebels;
- The RLG is now under military attack by the Pathet Lao;
- The RLG is entitled to defend itself against the attack of rebels and to receive such armaments as necessary for the defence of the Kingdom;
- The RLG would request the Commission to return for a period of three to six months on the understanding that the Commission would take immediate steps to end the Pathet Lao military operations against the government, to obtain a cessation of the illegal supply of military assistance to the Pathet Lao by North Vietnam, China and the USSR, and the compliance of the latter three with the provisions of the Geneva Agreement.
These conditions, if made by the RLG, would obviously make the Commission’s task impossible. There is no indication that in their discussions with the Laotians, the United Kingdom have taken these conditions into account.
On January 3, the United Kingdom Ambassador in Moscow was instructed to see Mr. Gromyko pointing out the danger of the Russians continuing to assist and encourage the rebels, that it was a waste of time to argue about what is the legal Government of Laos, that the only permanent constitutional authorities are the King and the Assembly, and that the important thing was to try and stop the fighting and to restrain foreign intervention. The United Kingdom Ambassador saw Mr. Kuznetsov on January 4 who said he was convinced that the British-French attitude differed from the American position, and that the former were not prepared to differ from the Americans even when they were wrong. It was left that each would report the conversation to their governments.
The RLG note about the return of the Commission was received on January 4. The note makes the following points:
- Past experience does not lead the RLG to believe that the Commission could accomplish very useful results at present;
- The Commission had fully completed its task once and had decided freely to adjourn and leave Laos;
- “Nevertheless in view of the representations made by India and Great Britain, and if the other signatories of the Geneva Agreements desire the return of the Commission, the RLG would wish the two Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference to address themselves firstly to the RLG through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
The United Kingdom regard the specification of the Co-Chairmen as unsatisfactory (because the Russians presumably would not agree) and are seeking clarification. The United Kingdom wants the Commission Chairman (India) to approach the RLG. Lord Home has sent a message to Mr. Nehru suggesting that if the Russians insist on having no dealings with Boun Oum, the easiest way out would be to avoid all mention of governments when issuing instructions to the Commission. The United Kingdom does not think that the USSR will insist that the Commission should deal only with Souvanna Phouma. The first task of the Commission would be to secure a ceasefire; until this is done, it will not be able to stop the entry of arms and to work for reintegration of the country. Since every day is vital, the Indians are asked to consider whether they should now select a Chairman and be ready to move into Laos if agreement is reached with Mr. Gromyko.
The areas of uncertainty are
- In Washington. In view of the American thoughts about Laotian conditions to the return of the Commission, it is by no means clear that the United States would be prepared to go along with the imprecise and vague arrangements envisaged by the British.
- In Moscow. The Soviet views are not yet known and the United Kingdom may be optimistic in thinking they will be favourable.
- In New Delhi. Mr. Nehru’s views on which Laotian government the Commission ought to deal with or whether there should be no mention of any government, are unknown, and will be important. In particular, the United Kingdom appears to envisage that the first task of the Commission will be to arrange a cease-fire in a civil war, then to stop the introduction of arms contrary to the Geneva Agreement, and subsequently to work for the political reintegration of the country presumably on the basis of the present Cease-Fire Agreement. There is no suggestion as to how the Commission might get new terms of reference to fit the altered circumstances.
Secretary of State for External Affairs to Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom
SECRET Ottawa, January 4, 1961
I wish to thank you for the message received through your High Commissioner about Laos. I would say immediately that the efforts of the United Kingdom Government to reach a political solution of the situation in Laos are welcomed by us here and that your specific proposals are being studied carefully.
You will appreciate that pending clarification as to whether the Government of Prince Boun Oum is in fact prepared to accept back the International Supervisory Commission and under what conditions, we are still not in a position to know whether the Commission would be permitted to function in Laos. As I understand it, you are seeking to clarify through your representative in Vientiane whether proposals on the return of the Commission should come from the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference or from the Indian Chairman of the Commission. I am sure you will also agree that in addition to having the return of the Commission agreed to by the Governments most directly concerned, its terms of reference would have to be quite clear to enable it to operate effectively. We will be in touch with you further about these matters and hope that you will be able to reach satisfactory understandings.
In the meantime, I have received a personal suggestion from Chief Justice Sherwood Lett of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, who was our first Commissioner in Indo-China, that he might undertake in company with his colleagues on the original Commission, Messrs. Desai and Ogradzinski, on a personal basis an exploratory mission in Laos which could suggest to the Governments concerned the terms of reference and conditions which would enable the International Supervisory Commission to do a useful job. I must emphasize that this has been put to me as a personal suggestion by the Chief Justice but in view of his own qualifications and the reputation and influence which he and his colleagues established in Indo-China, and the contacts which they had made there, I thought that I should pass on this suggestion to you for your consideration.
High Commissioner of United Kingdom to Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET Ottawa, January 5, 1961
Dear Mr. Green,
Mr. Robertson gave me last night your message to Lord Home about Laos and I telegraphed it at once to my Government. I am sure they would be most interested in your helpful suggestion. In the meantime I had reported to London my conversation with you and they have asked me to stress to you that their view is that our first and most urgent objective must be to stop the flow of arms to the Communist rebels and to put an end to the fighting in Laos. In considering what political action might be taken to achieve this they considered inter alia the possibility of reconvening the Geneva Conference. They decided, however, that this would be a far too slow and cumbersome instrument to help us to attain our immediate objective.
There would also be great difficulty in getting the agreement of all parties. As I mentioned in our talk, the Americans would be unlikely to find the proposal acceptable. Apart from the complications arising for them from Chinese participation, they were not signatories of the 1954 settlement and have never been very much in sympathy with its aims. Moreover, if the Conference were to be reconvened, the Communist representative would be likely to use it as a sounding board for unhelpful propaganda and there would be a real danger that the Conference would result in a modification of the present settlement in a sense less favourable to the West. You will recall that, even in the Soviet note of the 22nd December, a Conference was only contemplated at a later stage.
My Government are in favour of the return of the Commission since it seems to them to provide the quickest and most effective solution and would probably produce the least problems. Nevertheless, they do not altogether dismiss the idea of some eventual Conference which might or might not be confined to the signatories of the Geneva Agreements, but they feel that this would need more consideration and that the Conference would be designed to deal with different problems. In their view, the first step must be to put an end to the fighting and they feel that only the International Commission can see that this is done. After that, they will be very ready to consider the next stage.
Secretary of State for External Affairs to High Commissioner in United Kingdom, Ambassador in United States, High Commissioner in India
TELEGRAM Y-4 Ottawa, January 5, 1961
Repeat for Information: Paris, NATO Paris, Permis New York, Moscow, Warsaw, Canberra, Wellington, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Djakarta, Saigon, Phnom Penh (OpImmediate).
We have followed closely the negotiations now in progress to arrive at a political settlement of crisis in Laos. It might be helpful at this stage if we explained somewhat more fully the principal considerations which we have had in mind. We are fully in sympathy with the desire to take action quickly in a situation which is critical. In regard to the suggestion that the International Supervisory Commission should be used for this purpose, we are concerned that it should operate under conditions which would allow it to perform its duties.
- Following from this are a number of particular points:
- In the Canadian view, the reconvening of the ISC without assurance of positive cooperation of the Laotian authorities, would leave it unable to operate effectively and its position would be untenable.
- Because of the Poles, representing the Sino-Soviet block, the Commission could not perform any function unless the Poles were prepared to cooperate. This in turn assumes the agreement of the Soviet Union, and, at one step removed, of China. From this we conclude that there is need for basic agreement between the UK and the USSR, the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference, with the concurrence of the other powers directly interested on the following
- that the Commission should return to Laos, and
- its basic duties.
We have no definite ideas on what the Commission’s precise terms of reference should be, and would be sympathetic to the suggestion in paragraph two of London telegram No. 45 of January 5,† i.e. paragraph twelve of the final declaration of the Geneva Conference of 1954.Footnote3 This at least would represent a minimum of agreement on the immediate purposes for which the Commission would return. However, if it were to remain in Laos for a longer period, it might prove necessary to provide more exact terms of reference.
- London/Washington/Delhi: Please draw these views to the immediate attention of the Foreign Office/State Department/External Affairs.
- All other addressees: This telegram is for your information only.
Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom to Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET [London], January 6, 1961
I am most grateful for your message of January 4th and for the sympathetic consideration which you are giving to our proposals. I am most concerned to get some action going quickly. The fighting in Laos is continuing and any turn in the situation to the disadvantage of the Laotian Government may at any moment produce an appeal to SEATO for help. I think that we are very much on the water-shed and must set things running towards a peaceful solution if they are not to turn towards a widening of the conflict.
As regards the attitude of the Laotian Government I think that we have probably got about as far as we can at this stage. They have agreed to receive a formal approach from the Chairman of the International Commission about its return and to examine it sympathetically. My Department have given your people here a copy of the draft message which I propose to try to get the Russians to agree to send to Mr. Nehru. As you will see, it suggests that the Chairman of the International Commission make arrangements with the Government of Laos. We have explained to your people that if the Russians refuse this there is a possible fall-back arrangement whereby the Chairman would go first to the King, but in the end he would inevitably have to approach the Government. If at that stage the Government of Laos were to return a negative answer we should all have to think again. I believe, however, that the pressure of international opinion will be too great for them.
As regards the terms of reference, I do not think that we can hope to elaborate new ones. As you will see I propose, therefore, simply to suggest that the object should be to restore peace in Laos and to bring about compliance with paragraph 12 of the final declaration of the Geneva Conference. I believe your Department already feel that this should give the International Commission sufficient guidance, at least in the first stage of the operation.
Finally there is the most interesting idea which you put forward in the last paragraph of your message. In logic I think that there is a great deal to be said for it, and I think that it may well prove helpful at a later stage if it turns out that the Commission then need new terms of reference. In view of the urgency of taking some action, I am, however, reluctant to inject this new idea into the discussion at the moment. I very much fear that the Communists would make difficulties and there is no doubt that the question of which is the legitimate Government of Laos would bedevil the work of the three Commissioners even if the Communists were ready to allow them to go to Laos. I very much hope, therefore, that you will agree not to press this idea which might, I fear, result in delay and thus inaction, at this crucial stage.
All the above is without prejudice to what may be required at some later stage. It is possible that at some later stage all parties will be agreed that some conference will have to meet but the immediate need is to get the Commission working.
Ambassador in United States to Secretary of State for External Affairs
TELEGRAM 59 Washington, January 6, 1961
Reference: UrTel Y4 Jan 5.
Repeat for Information: London (OpImmediate), NATO Paris, Paris (Priority), Delhi (Priority) from Ottawa.
Laos – International Commission
As indicated in telephone conversation with the Under-Secretary, we will inform the State Department of the views in your reference telegram but before we do so, I feel strongly that we should be in a position to spell out the “minimum of agreement on the immediate purposes for which the Commission would return.”
- The reason for our concern on this point arises from the fact to which you explicitly refer that there is need for basic agreement between UK and USSR (with the concurrence of the other directly-interested powers) on the purposes for which the Commission should return to Laos. That is to say, the central and fundamental assumption justifying the return of the ICC is that both the western allies and the Sino-Soviet bloc agree that the present East-West confrontation within and outside Laos presents extremely dangerous prospects if it is allowed to continue, and that, therefore, the ICC being still legally in existence, although adjourned, provides the most rapid means of “freezing” the present situation. On the other hand it would, we think, be short sighted (and for Canada as an interested party, a matter of considerable potential embarrassment) if the ICC were to return to Laos with terms of reference so vague as to permit the Sino-Soviet side (including the Poles) to insist upon reading into the Commission’s terms of reference those aspects of the Geneva and subsequent internal Laotian agreements of 1956 and 1957 which they consider favourable to the position of the Pathet Lao.
- Perhaps the foregoing analysis might be illuminated by describing the various objectives that have been set for resumed Commission activity, some of which are mutually contradictory:
- To act as an “international presence” in Laos, with virtually no repeat no practical functions to perform, but, by the very fact of its existence in Laos, contributing to a dampening of international tempers: it seems possible to assume that everyone could agree to this, although it presents some difficult aspects pending a resolution of the legality of the present Laotian Government, and as noted above, the legal basis for the Commission’s terms of reference would have to be examined;
- To assist all factions (government and rebel) in Laos to reconstitute the political situation as it obtained at the time of the adjournment of the Commission: this, which is the Sino-Soviet position, would mean the reexecution of the provision of the Geneva Agreements and the subsequent internal Laotian settlements of 1956 and 1957. The RLG and the USA would strenuously oppose such a role for the Commission;
- To assist the RLG in preventing outside interference in Laos, contrary to the wishes of the RLG: obviously the RLG and USA desire this, but equally obviously the Sino-Soviet bloc would veto any such explicit terms of reference;
- To assist all factions (i.e. the RLG and the rebels, as well as their supporters) to find a new basis for restoring governmental authority throughout a unified Laos. This is, in effect, an investigatory and mediatory role and approximates, we would think, to the proposal which Sherwood Lett has advanced.
- The emphasis, we suggest, therefore, is that the roles described in 3(b) and (c) above, should be avoided as likely to frustrate any attempt to achieve a return of the Commission: and that, especially from a strictly Canadian point of view, the terms of reference of the Commission must be limited in advance so as to prevent Sino-Soviet exploitation of the legal basis for the continued existence of the Commission and the terms of reference which pertained to its operations prior to adjournment, but which are no repeat no longer relevant to the changed conditions in Laos. In other words, it seems to us that in a reactivated Commission, the Canadian and Indian delegates must be in a position to argue that because of changed conditions the Commission need no repeat no longer consider itself bound by the canons of behaviour appropriate to the situation prior to adjournment.
- It seems to us, therefore, that at the expense of a short delay, it would be wise to see whether the Soviet co-chairman is prepared to agree to definite but limited terms of reference for a reactivated Commission. If he is not repeat not, then the fundamental assumption justifying a return of the Commission (i.e., that the Sino-Soviet side is satisfied with gains already registered and is prepared to see the Laotian status quo frozen for the time being) falls to the ground.
- We would tentatively suggest that the definition and limitation of the new role might best be accomplished by having the Co-Chairmen agree that the terms of reference would include the following:
- to investigate and report to the Co-Chairmen on the situation in Laos;
- to lend its good offices to assist the RLG and rebel forces to bring about a ceasefire;
- to assist in ending the illegal introduction of arms into Laos; and
- to prepare adequate and more detailed terms of reference to permit teams to undertake any necessary inspection which may be agreed. In addition, the terms of reference would presumably refer, as you note in your message, to the principle enunciated in paragraph 12 of the final declaration of the Geneva Conference.
- You will recognize that the foregoing formulation is intended to accommodate the idea, which your message implies, that the return of the Commission should be envisaged as a two stage operation, the first to get the civil war and outside intervention halted, the second to discover some viable formula for a political solution in Laos.
- If you agree, I would strongly recommend that you authorize me to expand our views to the State Department on lines similar to those set out above. Otherwise, I fear that we will either run into serious USA opposition, or find ourselves facing involvement in a situation where the two non-Communist Commission members will be unable to defend themselves against charges of failure to resume the implementation of specific provisions of the Geneva and subsequent agreements. In view of the urgency I hope you will be able to instruct us by phone.
Secretary of State for External Affairs to High Commissioner in India
TELEGRAM Y-105 Ottawa, January 7, 1961
Reference: Your 13 Jan 7.†
Repeat for Action: London, Washington, Paris (Emergency), Canberra, Wellington (OpImmediate).
Repeat for Information: Permis New York, Moscow, Warsaw, Saigon.
By Bag Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Djakarta (OpImmediate), CCOS, CGS, DM/DND.
Reconvening the Laos Commission
I note from the new proposal put to you by Coelho that the Indian Government now proposes that the Commission should proceed to Laos at the invitation of the Co-Chairmen with the consent of the King and while remaining in contact with the King, should deal with the “parties concerned” to secure the cessation of hostilities. We also note that this proposal has been put to the Soviet Government as a basis for reconvening the Laos Commission.
- You should take the earliest possible opportunity to explain to the Indian Government that while we appreciate their continued effort to find a peaceful solution of the situation in Laos, we cannot agree that the above is an acceptable basis for formally reconvening the Commission.
- If the Commission were to be formally reconvened, we assume that it would be bound by the Geneva Agreements. Article 25 of the Cease Fire Agreement governing the Commission for Laos says that the Commission “shall be responsible for control and supervision of the provisions of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Laos.” Both this and the preceding article place the responsibility for carrying out the agreement squarely on the parties to the agreement and make it clear that the ISC was intended to supervise and control an existing cease fire, not repeat not to negotiate one.
- Moreover, the ISC was set up to control and supervise the implementation of other parts of the agreement reached at Geneva, some of which are not repeat not now applicable and others are fiercely in dispute between the interested powers.
- While in full sympathy with the efforts being made by the UK and Indian Governments to try to arrive at a basis for a peaceful settlement, we have not repeat not found in the Indian proposals or the other proposals so far put forward for the reconvening of the Commission the basis upon which the Commission would have a reasonable prospect of functioning effectively or avoiding becoming frozen by these unresolved issues.
- It was to meet these difficulties that I put forward the idea that it would be better to start with an informal exploratory mission preferably composed of the original members of the Indochina Commission. It is regrettable that Desai is not repeat not available but I still think that this approach is more likely than any other to enable immediate action to be taken. The kernel is that the members of the ISC, namely Canada, India and Poland, should meet their responsibilities in regard to the Laotian situation by each appointing a representative to go to Laos with the endorsement of the Co-Chairmen and the consent of the Laotian King with terms of reference such as:
- to ascertain the facts of the present situation;
- to consult with all authorities and parties in Indochina involved in the Laotian conflict, and
- to recommend to the Co-Chairmen and to the governments represented on the International Supervisory Commission the terms of reference under which the International Supervisory Commission could return to Laos and function effectively.
- This proposal should meet the immediate urgency of the situation by enabling representatives to go out to Laos at once without being held up on the question of recognition. Also by their presence and their availability for consultation with all parties they could, if the necessary cooperation is forthcoming contribute to bringing about a cessation of hostilities.
- If the above proposals were accepted the responsibilities of these representatives would be clearly within the scope of what can be achieved in the present circumstances and in the spirit of the Geneva Agreements.
For London: Please put the above views to the Foreign Office explaining that since Lord Home’s last message (of January 6) was received, we had this further approach from the Indian Government direct contained in Delhi’s No. 13, which was obviously intended to move matters further, and that the above comments should be taken as reflecting my views. For Washington and Paris: Please make above views known to State Department and Quai d’Orsay with reference to Delhi’s No. 13 of January 7.
Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom to Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET [London], January 10, 1961
I greatly appreciate your help in trying to find a way through the many difficulties and have been considering the proposal which the Acting High Commissioner put to the Foreign Office yesterday for sending a preparatory Commission to Laos before the return of the ICC.
- My first thought is that the need for the early return of the International Commission has in no way diminished. Indeed I am concerned about the outcome of the present battle for the Plaine de Jarres and fear that at any moment a defeat for General Phoumi’s forces could bring the rebels to the gates of Luang Prabang and Vientiane. It is almost impossible to see how intervention by SEATO could be avoided at that stage.
- I understand that you also feel that we should act urgently and I agree that your proposal would enable an early stop to be put to the fighting. But there are some difficulties about it. The Co-Chairmen are not strictly entitled to send any body to operate in Laos other than what is envisaged in the Geneva Settlement, i.e. the International Commission itself. The preparatory group as at present envisaged in the Canadian proposal would not be within the scope of the Geneva Agreement and some other body than the Co-Chairmen would have to send them there. Furthermore, it is difficult to see that we should gain from trying to negotiate about the terms of reference for the return of the Commission. The Canadian proposal suggests that the preparatory Commission should do this. But any new terms will shape the whole course of things to come and I fear that the Commission would find itself substantially working out a new Geneva Settlement, a development which I am sure you wish to avoid. And if we do re-open the question, it is certain that the Russians will see to it that we do not obtain anything as good as Article 12 of the final declaration of the Geneva Conference. It also appears that the Indians do not like this suggestion and feel that it would be asking them to act without proper authority.
- Could not your plan be slightly more closely linked to the Geneva Settlement by being presented in the following way? The Co-Chairmen might ask Mr. Nehru to appoint a new Chairman of the Commission and to send him out to Laos. He would be accompanied only by two fellow members of the Commission to be appointed by the Canadian and Polish Governments. They would operate under the terms envisaged by you, except that instead of evolving new terms of reference for the full Commission, they would simply be asked to report whether they could usefully continue to function in order to maintain the sovereignty, the independence, the unity and the territorial integrity of Laos and to prevent any interference in its internal affairs as envisaged in paragraph 12 of the final declaration of the Geneva Conference. The advantage of this from the Canadian point of view would be that, having put a stop to hostilities and had a look round the country, the Commission would not be committed to further difficult activities without further direction and the agreement of all the Governments concerned.
- There would still be the difficulty, however, as to whether the Commission should contact the King or the Boun Oum Government in the first place, and we shall have to argue this out with the Americans, the Indians and the Boun Oum Government itself. Even if we all reach agreement between ourselves, there is no guarantee that Mr. Gromyko will accept. However, the United Kingdom Government see no alternative at the moment for which there is any chance of reaching general acceptance. I profoundly hope therefore that you can agree to this version of your plan which I think is consistent with your own intention. I am very worried by the dangers in the present military situation and the trouble for the Western allies which will arise if the United Nations or Geneva Conference solutions have to be adopted. Although we may be driven to the latter if the preparatory group reports that there is no scope for useful work, I would very much like to give this plan an opportunity to succeed.
Ambassador in United States to Secretary of State for External Affairs
TELEGRAM 131 Washington, January 12, 1961
SECRET. CANADIAN EYES ONLY. OPIMMEDIATE.
Reference: Telecon with Under-Secretary Jan 11.
Repeat for Information: London (OpImmediate), Delhi (OpImmediate) from Ottawa, NATO Paris, Paris (Priority).
As I reported last evening to the Under-Secretary by phone, I saw Livingston Merchant, Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, at some length yesterday afternoon. Parsons, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs, his Deputy, Steeves, and others were with him. Rae and Rettie were with me.
- I began by referring again to Indian and UK pressure for the immediate return of the Commission to Laos, and to the several suggestions from various quarters as to how a practical approach might best be made toward a political solution. We were under an increasingly urgent obligation to respond to messages from Delhi and London. In doing so, we were anxious to have the views of USA authorities in particular as to the suggestion for an exploratory mission which he had communicated to the State Department on Sunday January 8. We understood the State Department was still studying all the proposals put forward from various sources for an internationalization of the situation. What kind of procedure would USA support? It was important to know because of USA interest in the area and because of USA influence with the RLG. The attitude of USA was obviously of great importance in relation to the effectiveness of any international machinery that might be evolved.
- Merchant said that as yet there had been no repeat no final conclusions reached by the State Department on any of the proposals that had been advanced. Nevertheless, as to the return of the Commission, his own firm view was that recent developments, especially in the attitude of the Indian Government made it highly unlikely that the Commission in any form would achieve any acceptable solution for Laos. This would also be true, he believed, of the Canadian suggestion for an exploratory mission which ICC membership.
- Merchant enumerated the following aspects of the Indian attitude:
- Their unwillingness to recognize the Boun Oum Government. This had been confirmed today by the USA representative in Delhi. (Merchant was aware of, but obviously did not repeat not accept the explanation given to USA representative that the Indian Government did not repeat not want to recognize the Boun Oum Government for fear of prejudicing its impartiality in any role it might play in bringing the two sides together in Laos.);
- From all that the State Department could gather about the activities of the International Commission in Vietnam, there was a “firm Polish-Indian axis” operating there. This could be taken to imply a similar development in Laos;
- Although not repeat not a controlling element, the fact that, while Indian consultations regarding Laos with the State Department were actually in progress, Delhi failed to inform USA of their approach to Moscow over the weekend. This tended to confirm Merchant’s assessment of the Indian attitude.
- These developments, Merchant went on, led him to conclude that the return of the Commission to Laos would be unacceptable and play into the hands of the Communists. The Indians insisted on equating first the Boun Oum Government and the Pathet Lao (and Kong Lae), and second USA and the Sino-Soviet side. He feared that the consequence of Commission activity would be the ultimate “loss of Laos to the Communists” by a takeover or by gradual submergence; this in turn would lead to a serious deterioration of the situation in the Far East as a whole. USA had earlier supported UK approach to the RLG about a return of the Commission, but the RLG’s attitude had since shifted from being receptive to a hardening against the Commission in any form.
- I told Merchant that we could not repeat not accept his dark assessment of the Indian role in the situation in Laos. It was our belief that the Indians themselves did not repeat not want to see a Communist takeover there. In any event it seemed to us hard to visualize any political solution in Laos without Indian participation. If USA were not repeat not to be budged in their conclusion about action through the Commission what possibilities of internationalization did they foresee?
- In reply, Merchant referred briefly to the suggestion which had been mooted of a group of neutral Asian neighbours performing some pacifying function, an idea which seemed to find some favour with the RLG. Parsons mentioned the possibility that Prince Sihanouk might be brought into contact with the Laotian King in an endeavour to internationalize the situation, perhaps through the medium of a neutral Asian group. Within a day or so, Parsons thought, the State Department would be able to indicate “a posture” on the various proposals. At this point Merchant interjected that although he held firmly to the views he had expressed, he wanted us to be clear that none of the outstanding proposals had been discussed finally with the Secretary of State. For the moment he was expressing only his own opinions. The return of the Commission might be acceptable to USA but only under conditions which on present indications the Indians would not repeat not agree to. (We confirmed that these were in fact the conditions specified in USA aide mémoire of December 31).Footnote 4
- While the other State Department representatives present expressed no repeat no dissent from Merchant’s views as set out above, Merchant did tell me privately immediately after our meeting that we should realize that no repeat no avenues of possible solution would be closed by USA until the new administration took office.
- I then raised two other points with Merchant, Soviet Ambassador Menshikov’s call on Secretary Herter January 10 and the question of the Harvard T6 Trainers.Footnote 5 Merchant said that Menshikov had simply restated the Soviet Government position on Laos, including the fact that USSR regarded Souvanna Phouma as the Head of the legal Government; reiterated the familiar charges of USA interference in Laos; noted the Soviet agreement to the concurrent reconvening of the Geneva Conference and the return of the Commission to Laos; complained that no repeat no reply had been given by USA to the Soviet approach on the reactivation of the Commission and the recall of the Geneva Conference (Herter clarified for Menshikov that USA had not repeat not received any Soviet note on this question); and flatly denied that there had ever been any Soviet airlift to the Pathet Lao.
- As regards the supply of aircraft to the RLG, Merchant agreed that this had been largely symbolic but he thought it would be salutary in relation to the RLG itself and also in relation to the restive, and indeed, querulous attitude of other USA allies in the area. Also it should not repeat not be provocative to USSR since he agreed the performance characteristics of the aircraft were not repeat not very high. Indeed on practical grounds the planes could not repeat not have been much more sophisticated because of the inexperience of the Laotian pilots.
- Merchant concluded his expression of views by pointing out that some of those concerned, specifically UK and France, appeared to believe that USA was in a position to tell the RLG what to do. This was not repeat not the case. The RLG could be expected to hold their own views and act as they saw fit.
- Our final point concerned the apparent differences in UK and USA appreciation of the military situation in Laos. Merchant conceded that there was a distinct difference on this point. UK appeared to think that the RLG might suffer a serious military collapse within a matter of days. USA on the other hand did not repeat not take such an “alarmist view.” Parsons agreed with this and characterized the military situation as “serious but not repeat not fragile.” Merchant added that he doubted if USSR wanted any major crisis in Laos at this time. There was a measurable difference in pitch in the propaganda on Laos emanating from Moscow on the one hand and Peking and Hanoi on the other.
- To sum up our conversation, I said to Merchant that I could really take no repeat no encouragement from his remarks. In deciding how to reply to UK and Indian approaches, Canadian authorities would have to make their own decision with no repeat no assurances as to whether or not repeat not USA was prepared to see any given solution proceed and give it support. Merchant did not repeat not demur. The State Department, he repeated, had not repeat not yet come to any final conclusions on the course which should be followed.
- The outstanding conclusion to be drawn from Merchant’s remarks is, in my judgment, that the State Department, perhaps barring a sudden, and in their view, unexpected deterioration in the military situation, will not repeat not adopt any firm position on internationalization until the new administration takes office. There may well be delay even after January 20. However, unfortunate this may be, it is nevertheless a real obstacle to immediate progress. If the Indians and UK authorities share our view that the cooperation of USA is necessary to ensure the success of any internationalization proposals for Laos, they should understand that an affirmative attitude on the part of USA can be expected to emerge only after the new administration takes office. Apart from expressing this view, you will agree I am sure that we should be most careful to protect the other opinions given us with such frankness by Merchant yesterday.
- Since dictating the foregoing, we have received your telegram to London Y11 January 11.† If UK authorities accept the procedure outlined in paragraph 6 of that message they will presumably be approaching the Indians, and if agreement can be reached with Indians and ourselves, they would presumably approach Soviet Co-Chairman. In view of the nature of the State Department position reflected in the foregoing report, and the importance of ensuring at least USA acquiescence in any move in the direction of reactivating the Commission, I think the UK authorities should be encouraged to notify USA authorities of whatever proposition may be agreed before a formal communication is made to Soviet Co-Chairman. It might also be advisable to impress the same view on the Indians.
Memorandum from Secretary of State for External Affairs to Prime Minister
SECRET [Ottawa], January 14, 1961
During the past ten days, there have been intensive diplomatic exchanges between the United Kingdom, India, Canada and the United States aimed at reaching agreement on how best the Co-Chairmen and the Commission powers might discharge their responsibilities for restoring and preserving peace in Laos. While there has been a good deal of common ground between the United Kingdom, the Indians and ourselves that the first task to be performed in Laos is limited in scope and time, there have been differences on some fundamental issues, and also on procedures. The aim of these negotiations therefore has been to discover a formula which would be acceptable to the Laotians, the Co-Chairmen, the Governments represented on the Commission and to the interested powers. Throughout these negotiations, we have been careful to keep the French, the Australians and the New Zealanders informed of our views.
- You will recall that in a message to Lord Home on January 4 (our Telegram Y-3 of January 5) I put forward Chief Justice Sherwood Lett’s suggestion that he, in company with his colleagues on the original Indochina Commission might undertake on a personal basis an exploratory mission in Laos which could suggest to the Governments concerned the terms of reference and conditions which would enable the International Supervisory Commission to do a useful job in the present circumstances.
- Lord Home’s message of January 6 (see London Telegram 61 of January 6) describes the United Kingdom proposal. In essence, the United Kingdom proposed that the Co-Chairmen should invite Mr. Nehru to reconvene the International Supervisory Commission in order (a) to restore peace in Laos, and (b) to take steps to maintain the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity and to prevent any interference in its internal affairs, by appointing a Chairman who would be instructed to make arrangements with the Laotian Government for the immediate return of the Commission and its operations. Concurrently message were to be sent to India and Canada expressing the hope that they would cooperate in the steps necessary to reactivate the Commission.
- The Indian proposal (already communicated to the Russians when we were informed of it) is contained in Delhi’s Telegram No. 13 of January 7.† The major elements are as follows:
- The Commission should proceed to Laos at the invitation of the Co-Chairmen and with the consent of the King of Laos;
- the Commission should remain in contact with the King as Head of State and deal with “parties concerned” (thus avoiding the problem of recognition as India and presumably Poland do not recognize the Boun Oum Government);
- the Commission should have as its first object to secure a cessation of hostilities.
We have seen difficulties in both the United Kingdom and Indian proposals, first that if reconvened immediately, the Commission would be bound by its existing terms of reference, some of which are no longer relevant while others are in dispute between the powers, and secondly, because the Commission was set up to supervise an existing cease-fire, not to negotiate one.
- We have pressed on the United Kingdom and Indian Governments the advantages of an informal exploratory mission including the following:
- the reputation, influence and contacts of Chief Justice Lett and his colleagues in Indochina;
- they could get to Laos quickly and by their presence might relieve tensions and produce a calmer atmosphere;
- there would be no need to reactivate the Commission which was set up to supervise a cease-fire not to negotiate one;
- they could report on the facts and recommend new terms of reference under which the Commission could return to Laos and function effectively; (Our telegrams Y-105 of January 7 and G-5 of January 8†).
Unfortunately the first Chairman, Mr. Desai of India, is ill and is unavailable. The United Kingdom and Indian Governments also raised objections that an informal exploratory mission would have no legal standing under the Geneva Agreements and that the Co-Chairmen have no authority to invite such a mission to go out. Additionally the Laotian Government might refuse to receive an informal mission as a whole or one or more of its members; this would be less likely if the Commission as set up under the Geneva Agreements were reconstituted.
- Throughout we have been careful to keep the Americans informed of our proposals and have repeatedly sought their views. At first the State Department thought the idea of an exploratory mission “more realistic than some other proposals” and “nearer the more hopeful end of the political spectrum” (Washington Telegram 78 of January 8†). Latterly, however, it has become clear that the Americans could only command the return of the Commission on certain conditions;
- recognition that the Boun Oum Government is the only legally constituted authority;
- the Pathet Lao, having once been integrated into the national community, were now rebels without legal standing who are attacking the Laotian Government;
- the Laotian Government is entitled to receive armaments as necessary for the defence of the Kingdom; and
- the Commission should return for a period of three to six months to take immediate steps to end Pathet Lao military operations and to stop the illegal supply of military assistance by North Vietnam, China and the Soviet Union to the Pathet Lao. (Washington telegrams 10 of January 3, paragraph 6, and 131 of January 12).
It seems probable that there will be no modification of the American position at the end of the Eisenhower Administration and there may be some delay before the new administration can review the position. American support for the return of the Commission will not, therefore, be forthcoming at least for some time. Discussions with the Americans are, however, continuing.
- In view of the common ground between the British, Indian and our own proposals, we have suggested a compromise procedure (our telegram Y-11 of January 11).† Under our formula, the Co-Chairmen would request India to name a senior representative bearing in mind that such a man would, under certain circumstances, become Chairman of the Commission. He would be asked to go to Laos and consult the King on whether a Commission with the following terms of reference would be acceptable:
- to ascertain through appropriate consultation the facts of the present situation;
- to contribute by consultation and advice to the achievement of a cessation of hostilities; and,
- to recommend to the Co-Chairmen and to the Commission Governments whether the International Commission can usefully continue to function in order to help to maintain the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Laos and to prevent any interference in its international affairs as envisaged in paragraph 12 of the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference.
If the answer were in the affirmative Canada and Poland would then immediately name their representatives on the Commission.
- The United Kingdom have accepted this proposal and it has been put before the Americans and Indians. Urgent attempts are now being made to establish agreement between the Americans, British and ourselves as to the text of a letter to be addressed by the Co-Chairmen to Mr. Nehru. If agreement is reached among these three, the draft would then be submitted to the Indians for their comments before being put by the United Kingdom to the Soviet Co-Chairman.
Ambassador in United States to Secretary of State for External Affairs
TELEGRAM 162 Washington, January 14, 1961
Reference: Our Tel 158 Jan 13.†
Repeat for Information: London (OpImmediate), Delhi (OpImmediate) from Ottawa, Paris, NATO Paris (Priority).
At Secretary of State Herter’s request, Lord Hood, Minister of UK Embassy and in charge in Ambassador’s absence, (accompanied by Ledward) and I (accompanied by Rettie) met yesterday p.m. with him, Livingston Merchant and Jeff Parsons to discuss the present state of the proposals for the revival of the ICC in Laos in the light of the USA response (contained in our reference telegram) to Lord Home’s message of January 11 (delivered to the State Department on January 12).Footnote 6 The response was also intended, Herter said, to include consideration of Canadian views I transmitted to Merchant by letter January 12.† The meeting lasted a full two hours and, though by no repeat no means producing a consensus, was useful in clarifying the similarities and differences between our positions.
- The cardinal fact emerging from the discussion is that USA remain reluctant to have the Commission return to Laos because they fear that it would facilitate a communist takeover, unless subjected to strict limitations. For this reason, their stated willingness to see it return is made contingent on the acceptance by Soviet Co-Chairman of a condition (in effect that RLG should participate in setting the terms of reference) that he could not repeat not be expected to accept. Due to an oversight, UK Embassy had failed to specify that UK Government wanted to obtain the Soviet Co-Chairman’s Agreement that the Commission should “assist in restoring peace” (this corresponds to our proposed term of reference that the Commission should contribute by consultation and advice to the cessation of hostilities). When, at our meeting, UK position was clarified in this respect, the State Department representatives immediately argued (as indeed Secretary Herter argues in his message to Lord Home) that this implied an equation between the RLG and the rebels and hence was unacceptable. Possibly they might accept some such phrase as “cessation of insurgency,” but the final position of the State Department on the question of a cease-fire is not repeat not clear.
- Hood tackled Herter on the question why the terms of reference should provide for contact by the Commission solely with the RLG when there were other interested parties. His object was, I take it, to see whether the State Department would be prepared to bury this condition in a multilateral context. Herter simply stated that ultimately the RLG’s consent was necessary. On a slightly different tack, I suggested that what we really wanted was to test Soviet willingness to have a détente in Laos. In doing so, we really should not repeat not invite rejection so long as the RLG’s position was protected. This we had had in mind in making our procedural proposals. Herter’s response was that he did not repeat not believe it wise to give Gromyko a document to sign that was ambiguous: he would much prefer to “be frank than finagle” with Gromyko, throwing the onus of a rejection on him immediately rather than on the Boun Oum Government at a later stage. Parsons added his view that the type of détente the USSR wanted in Laos would be all in favour of the Pathet Lao and implied doubt whether the Commission could prevent this. There was thus no repeat no resolution of this central point. There was, however, a good deal of discussion of procedural points.
- Three questions, in essence, were considered:
- Who should approach the Laotians about the return of the Commission?
USA draft of the Co-Chairmen’s message (our reference telegram) specifies an Indian Chairman. So does UK draft. At some length, I pointed out proposal specified only “an Indian,” a senior representative who would get things moving (e.g. towards a détente) without committing any one on specific terms of reference or even on a revival of the Commission (which might automatically imply the applicability of the terms of the old agreements).
- Who should be approached?
Initially, in all our views, the King should be approached (UK Embassy representatives did not repeat not orally raise the question of omitting the reference to the King as described in London’s telegram 139).†
- Who should give the effective response?
- Who should approach the Laotians about the return of the Commission?
- Finally, after a good deal more talk, it became evident that all of us required more time to consider the various suggestions put forward. Herter therefore suggested that perhaps we should meet again after there had been further word from London (and Delhi, for the Indian attitude was not repeat not yet known) after the State Department had had an opportunity to get Ambassador Brown in Vientiane to sound out the acceptability to the RLG of some of the suggestions we had discussed. We might meet today or Sunday or more likely Monday.
- I am not repeat not sure that we have made any real progress on the central problem worrying USA, namely whether a Commission in any form would be useful, but I believe that we did make some impression with our procedural suggestions. Merchant certainly seemed to think that our proposal, working in what was really three stages (exploration, revival of Commission under general but limited terms of reference, and finally unanimous Commission recommendations as to specific terms of reference) could contain enough safeguards to prevent unacceptable risks for the RLG. The present State Department position on the question of the Commission working for a cease fire, however, seems likely to prove a stumbling block.
- I should also mention that Hood and Herter differed sharply on the question of whether the Indian Government recognized the Boun Oum Government or at any rate would work with it. Hood said UK information was definitely affirmative (as Lord Home said in his message), Herter quite the contrary.
- With discussion and drafting of proposals going on in several places, consultation between USA, UK and ourselves has become confused and confusing. If this process is to be focussed effectively upon essentials with prospects of useful and early composition of the views of the three governments, we must obviously concentrate our discussions in one place. I suggested by phone to the Under-Secretary this morning that because of the key role of USA that place should be Washington. Do you agree? We now expect that UK and ourselves will be meeting State Department again within a day or so, probably Monday.
663. CEW/Vol. 3175
Aide Mémoire by Embassy of United Kingdom in United States
SECRET Washington, January 14, 1961
Following the discussion about Laos between Mr. Secretary Herter, the Canadian Ambassador and Lord Hood on January 13, the Foreign Secretary has proposed a revised text of the draft communication from the co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference to the Prime Minister of India. In it an attempt has been made to meet as many as possible of the points made in the discussion. The text is as follows:
“The co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference of 1954 have studied Your Excellency’s letter of December 15 in which you suggested to the co-Chairmen that the International Commission for Laos should be reconvened. They share your concern at the present dangerous situation in Laos.
- In these circumstances the two co-Chairmen are agreed in recommending that the International Commission should reconvene for the following purposes:
- to ascertain through appropriate consultations the facts of the present situation and to contribute, by consultation and advice, to the restoration of peace in Laos; and
- to recommend to the co-Chairmen and to the governments represented on the International Commission whether the International Commission can usefully continue to function in order to help to maintain the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Laos and to prevent any interference in the internal affairs of Laos, as envisaged in paragraph 12 of the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference.
The co-Chairmen request you to appoint a representative to go to Laos as soon as possible to explore with the King of Laos whether the return of the International Commission with the duties described above would be acceptable.
- The two co-Chairmen are sending a copy of this message to the Governments of Canada and Poland and are expressing the hope that, if the answer to the above approach is affirmative, they will immediately name representatives to the International Commission which would then reconvene.”
664. CEW/Vol. 3175
SECRET [Washington], January 16, 1961
Comparison of Usa, United Kingdom and Canadian Drafts of Co-chairmen’s LetterFootnote 7
- Co-chairmen agree “that it might now be desirable” to reconvene Commission.
- Co-chairmen request Indians to “appoint a Chairman … to explore …”
- Chairman should explore “in first instance with the King of Laos” the question of terms of reference.
- The purpose of the exploration is phrased in two ways:
- “to explore … whether terms of reference could be developed under which the Commission could perform a useful function in accordance with such provisions of the Geneva Agreement as the Indian Chairman and the Royal Lao Government may mutually consider still applicable.”;
- “the purpose of the exploration would be to determine the basis upon which” the ICC could help to maintain the sovereignty, etc., and prevent interference, etc.
- Canada and Poland are told of Co-chairmen’s hope that they will co-operate to reactivate the Commission “in order to achieve the above objective.”
- The Co-chairmen “are agreed in recommending that the Commission should reconvene.
- The Co-chairmen request Indians “to appoint a representative to go to Laos as soon as possible to explore …”
- The exploration is “in the first instance with the King of Laos.”
- The purpose of the exploration is to ascertain whether the return of the Commission would be acceptable with following duties:
- Ascertain facts;
- Contribute to restoration of peace;
- “to recommend to the Co-chairmen to the Governments represented on the ICC whether the International Commission can usefully continue to function in order to help to maintain the sovereignty, etc. …”
- The hope is expressed to Canada and Poland that “if the answer to the above approach is affirmative, they will immediately name representatives to the International Commission which would then reconvene.”
- (No corresponding term)
- (As in UK draft)
- The exploration is “with the King of Laos”
- (As in UK draft)
- (As in UK draft)
Memorandum from Soviet Union to Secretary of State for External Affairs
- The Government of the Soviet Union fully understands the anxiety which the Canadian Government shows towards the aggravation of the situation in Laos.
- As is known the crisis in Laos was caused by direct US interference into domestic affairs of this small peace-loving state. The decisions of the 1954 Geneva Conference on Indochina were rudely violated by the United States. The interruption in the activity of the International Supervision and Control Commission for Laos was used by US aggressive circles for direct interference into domestic affairs of this country – they have inspired rebellion of General Phoumi Nosavan against the legitimate government of Laos headed by Souvana Phouma. The USA is supporting rebels with armaments, ammunition, its military advisers are guiding battle actions of the units of Boun Oum – Nosavan against the forces of the legitimate government of Laos.
- The rebel group of Boun Oum – Nosavan having used the king and members of the Laos National Assembly, who were taken prisoners by this group, proclaimed itself as “the government of Laos.” This step is justly considered by peace-loving states of Asia as one more measure leading to the aggravation of the crisis and spreading the civil war in Laos.
- Resigning in a few days, the Eisenhower’s government is taking new steps to spread the hotbed of fire in Laos. In accordance with the foreign press large navy forces of the USA are concentrated in the South-Chinese sea; three aircraft-carriers, some 30 destroyers, more than ten submarines and other ships. A considerable number of aircrafts of the US striking air forces and a group of the American descent troops are thrown into military preparedness. Special military units located at Okinawa island, armed with atomic weapons, are ready, in accordance with the statements of American officials, for military actions in Laos.
- These actions of the USA, threatening to the peace throughout all the South-Eastern Asia provoke concern and alarms of peace-loving states of Asia, and statements made by state figures of these countries prove that.
- The Soviet Government fully understands the anxiety of these countries. As co-chairman of the Geneva Conference of 1954, the Soviet Government is taking steps aimed at settling the situation in Laos and restoring peace and calmness in this area.
- To this effect it would be desirable to refer to the Soviet Government note to the Government of Great Britain, co-chairman of the Geneva Conference, in which the Soviet Government has spoken out for convening a conference of countries similar to the Geneva Conference of 1954, as well as for resuming activities of the International Supervision and Control Commission for Laos.
- The peace-loving states of Asia share the views of the Soviet Union as it is seen from the statements and proposals by the Governments of India, Indonesia, the Chinese People’s Republic and the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam.
- The other day the Soviet Government received a message from the head of the state of Cambodia, Prince Norodom Sihanouk. In this message Prince Sihanouk expressed a deep anxiety concerning the aggravation of the situation in Laos and proposes to convene without delay a conference of all the states concerned in one of the neutral states of Asia, namely: states participants of the Geneva Conference of 1954, including the USA, states members of the International Supervision and Control Commission for Laos (India, Poland, Canada), as well as Laos-neighbouring countries (Burma, Thailand).
- The Soviet Government supports this proposal by the head of the state of Cambodia and considers that carrying out such a conference in the nearest future would contribute to settling the crisis in Laos and to restoring peace in this country.
- The Soviet Government reckons that the government of Canada, which is a member of the International Commission for Laos and which is interested in restoration of peace in Laos, will positively regard the proposal for holding the above mentioned conference and will render its assistance to calling such a conference in the shortest possible time.
Memorandum from Special Assistant, Office of Secretary of State for External Affairs, to Assistant Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET. CANADIAN EYES ONLY. [Ottawa], January 17, 1961
Reference: London telegram 169 of Jan. 16, 1961†
The Minister does not wish to discourage Rogers, whom he thinks has shown very commendable initiative throughout this Laos affair, but he believes that Rogers was misguided in urging upon the U.K. Foreign Office the view that it would be preferable to obtain Indian approval for the draft letter from the Co-Chairmen before having it put to the Soviet Union. The Minister felt that the U.K. view was sounder, viz. that it is necessary and desirable in the interests of speed for the U.K. to approach the Russians with an agreed tripartite draft without approaching the Indians again. The Minister has asked that a telegram in that sense be sent to Rogers, so phrased as to avoid giving him any impression that he is being criticized. Perhaps the telegram could indicate some sympathy with the view that we would be on sounder ground if we had prior Indian approval, but that we support the U.K. view in the interests of both speed and getting U.S.A. agreement to the text.
Deputy High Commissioner of United Kingdom to Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET [Ottawa], January 20, 1961
In the absence of the High Commissioner I have been instructed to give you the following personal message from Lord Home: “I am very glad we have been able to agree a text which I can send to Mr. Gromyko. I think he is certain to object that this is a poor substitute for the full return of the Commission but at any rate we can represent it as a start. I hope that the mere fact that we have now entered into negotiation with the Russians will have a calming influence on the situation and will help to deter the latter from stepping up their aggressive actions. We shall do our best to try and get the agreed text accepted by Mr. Gromyko but if he insists on amendments I shall, of course, let you know and we can then decide whether to accept whatever is proposed.
“I feel sure that Gromyko will press us very hard to agree to reconvene the Geneva Conference, presumably in the extended form proposed by Prince Sihanouk. This is a much wider issue on which we here have not yet made up our minds. Our reply to Gromyko will be that we do not dismiss the suggestion but we would prefer to see what the International Commission have to say before coming to any final conclusion. This will give use a little breathing space and in the meanwhile I shall be in touch with you again on the subject.”
Secretary of State for External Affairs to Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom
PERSONAL AND SECRET. [Ottawa], January 21, 1961
Thank you for your personal message of January 20. I am glad to note that you will do your best to try and get the agreed text accepted by Mr. Gromyko but that if he insists on amendments you will let me know and that we can then together decide whether to accept what is proposed.
On reading the text of Foreign Office telegram 183 of January 19 to Moscow,† I am seriously concerned about the wording of paragraph 3 of that message. In the oral reply which you have instructed the Ambassador to make to Gromyko’s message of December 22, there is a reference to the great difficulties you have had in allaying Canadian anxieties lest an impossible task be placed on the Commission. You also go on to say that it was only by suggesting an operation by stages that you succeeded in bringing us round and that the draft represents the most that we would agree to. You will I am sure recall that the proposal for stages originated with us and that difficulties in arriving at an agreed draft were not primarily of our making.
This explanation, if given by your Ambassador, could be both misleading and dangerous. It seems to me it would be tactically unwise to adopt a defensive attitude in regard to a proposal which was in fact jointly agreed and is moreover fully justified by the facts. Furthermore, if for their own reasons the Soviet Government should decide to reject our proposal, the direct references to a Canadian position could be exploited by them publicly both in driving a wedge between us and in finding a scapegoat.
If Roberts has not yet seen Gromyko, I very much hope that you will find it possible to amend your instructions to him on this point. If he has already spoken along the lines of the instructions sent to him on January 19, and if the Soviet Government reacts in the way I fear, I will have no alternative but to make a clarifying statement of the Canadian position along the lines I have already set forth in my statement to the House of Commons on January 16.
Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom to Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET [London], January 23, 1961
I am so sorry that our instructions to Sir Frank Roberts should have caused you some anxiety. I thought that they reflected fairly accurately your thinking as you explained it to your House of Commons on January 16th. But you are of course perfectly right in saying that it was you who first thought of the proposal for the return of the Commission in stages and I am sorry if our instructions to the Ambassador on this point were somewhat misleading. I am glad to say that in the event the question did not come up in this form with Mr. Kuznetsov. Sir Frank Roberts pressed our proposal on him as being the maximum on which joint agreement could now be reached: he did not relate this specifically to Canadian views but to the problem of obtaining agreement amongst the many Governments directly concerned. He mentioned the natural desire to pay particular attention to the views of the two Commonwealth members of the International Commission, India and Canada, but only seems to have made use of Canadian views in order to make the point (with which the Russians agree) that the circumstances in 1961 are rather different from those in 1954. I hope you will feel that this was perfectly all right.
I have just seen George Drew. I told him that so far we have had no official response from Mr. Gromyko, but the early indications are that the Russians will make difficulties about the proposal that the Commission should go to the King. I will of course let you know at once directly I hear and consult on further moves.
High Commissioner of United Kingdom to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET Ottawa, January 23, 1961
Dear Mr. Robertson,
I think you and the Secretary of State for External Affairs will be interested to know the result of our approach in Moscow about Laos.
I therefore enclose for your information a report by Sir Frank Roberts on his talk with Mr. Kuznetsov which he has forwarded by telegram and supplemented in a further message.
Summary Report by Ambassador of United Kingdom in Soviet Union
I carried out your instructions this afternoon with the Acting Foreign Minister who apologised for not having been able to see me sooner. This delay may have been partly connected with the United States Ambassador’s call on Mr. Khrushchev at the latter’s request this morning. I spoke on the lines of paragraph 2 and the first sentence of paragraph 3 of your telegram under reference before handing over suggested text of joint message to Mr. Nehru. After Mr. Kuznetsov had read it I explained that we had not been able to reply sooner because many other Governments were concerned and that we naturally had to pay particular attention to the views of the two Commonwealth members of the International Commission, India and Canada. As regards Canada, I concentrated upon the Canadian Government’s anxiety that an impossible task should not be put upon the Commission and mentioned the Canadian argument (which is also that of the Russians) that the 1961 circumstances are very different from those of 1954. I then dealt with the problems of the legitimate Government of Laos and aid from outside on the lines of paragraphs 3 and 4 of your telegram 184, and paragraph 4 of your telegram under reference. I then explained our position in regard to the proposed Geneva-type Conference and covered the points about a communication to the Polish and Canadian Governments and publicity (paragraphs 9 and 11 of your telegram under reference).
- Mr. Kuznetsov said his Government would study our proposed message and prepare their reply. He appreciated the additional clarifications I had given him which would help his Government to understand what we proposed. They recognised that the United Kingdom was exerting great efforts in seeking a solution to the Laotian crisis.
- Mr. Kuznetsov said that the Soviet position had not changed since their Note of 22nd December. Subsequent developments had been Prince Sihanouk’s proposal for an enlarged Geneva-type Conference to which the Soviet Government had agreed, and Mr. Nehru’s message to Mr. Khrushchev on 10th January proposing a return of the International Commission. Mr. Khrushchev had now sent a reply to Mr. Nehru and had yesterday also sent a personal message to the Prime Minister in the context of this exchange with Mr. Nehru. He gave me a copy of the Russian text.
- Mr. Kuznetsov described Mr. Khrushchev’s message to the Prime Minister as setting out the Soviet understanding of the position in Laos, and as suggesting urgent measures to prevent a widening of the conflict to safeguard the interests of the Laotian people and to preserve peace throughout the whole area. It confirmed the Soviet Government’s support for reconvening the International Commission, but suggested conditions in which the Commission could work effectively to achieve its goals. These were in the Soviet view approximately the same as the objectives stated in our proposed message to Mr. Nehru. But while we might be agreed on the goals, a first reading of our message left him with the impression that the ways and means we suggested would not lead to liquidating the present strained situation. We seemed to be supporting the United States’ contention that only the rebel group under Prince Boun Oum should be recognised and that Prince Souvanna Phouma and in Laos others who represented the majority, should be ignored. The King was in fact a prisoner and consultation with him meant recognition of the rebels instead of the progressive forces. This Kuznetsov could not accept. He urged us to see the situation as it really was and to recognise Prince Souvanna Phouma’s Government as the only legal one. Could I explain to him how under our proposal the International Commission could achieve its task of stopping the fighting? How could it visit the various areas most of which were not under “rebel” control, and with whom should it in our view consult?
- I said that we did not of course accept that the King was a prisoner and I hoped that Mr. Kuznetsov would not expect us to go over yet again our respective arguments in favour of this or that Government. We were convinced that our view was constitutionally sound but we were not pressing the Russians to accept it; nor should they expect us to accept their view. The only way we could make progress, and I thought this was also the Indian view, was for the Indian representative to make his proposal to the King. This would not in our view preclude the Commission dealing with other authorities as well as with the Laotian Government, and it clearly could not perform its task unless it got into touch with all the major parties concerned, whatever our own and Soviet views might be on their legal authority. If he did not think this could be done the Indian representative would presumably recommend against reconvening the Commission and the two co-Chairmen would have to reconsider the situation. We thought, however, that the mere presence first of the Indian representative and then as we hoped of the full Commission would itself have an immediate stabilising effect. In any case we were convinced that this was the only way in which early stabilising action could be taken. We should not make rapid progress if we now tried to work out terms of reference more detailed than those suggested in our draft message, and we could see no way in which general agreement could be reached between all the parties concerned for the return of the Commission except through an approach to the King.
- Mr. Kuznetsov said that the Soviet Government could not regard the King as an objective or independent authority since he was in the hands of Prince Boun Oum. Our proposal therefore amounted to inviting the Russians to address themselves to those whom they regarded as rebels through the King. I reminded him that the Indians were themselves in favour of an approach to the King, and they would hardly have taken this position if the result would be as stated by Mr. Kuznetsov. Nor should he assume that the procedure we were suggesting would necessarily be favoured by the Laotian Government.
- Mr. Kuznetsov then changed his ground and said that it was surely clear even on our own showing that it was taking a considerable time to get the Commission back and that it might take still longer to reach agreement upon the ways and means of doing this. Our conversation had already shown that it was necessary to have some discussion of the terms of reference of the International Commission since the problems were different from those which had existed when the Commission was first set up in 1954. While the Soviet Government were very happy to discuss these matters with the United Kingdom co-Chairman, they in fact required a wider consultation going beyond the two co-Chairmen and even the three members of the International Commission. He doubted therefore whether it would necessarily prove the quickest method to concentrate first upon the Commission. The procedure proposed in Mr. Khrushchev’s letter to the Prime Minister under which a Geneva-type Conference on the composition of which we might have suggestions to make would meet and direct the International Commission might prove the quicker and more practical course.
- I replied that I had not had time to study Mr. Khrushchev’s letter but that I still could not understand how the Soviet Union proposed to get such a Conference quickly together. Laos must be represented but our two Governments and no doubt many other Governments would be in complete disagreement as to who should represent Laos. There were other important countries whose presence was essential but who were unlikely to reach such a decision quickly. I urged Mr. Kuznetsov therefore to consider our proposal as the most if not the only practical way of taking early action which we both agreed was necessary, and not to regard it as limiting the contacts of the Commission to the Government of Prince Boun Oum; and I emphasised that this proposal was, in our view, the maximum upon which general agreement among the various Governments concerned could now be reached.
Memorandum from Secretary of State for External Affairs to Prime Minister
SECRET [Ottawa], January 26, 1961
I am attaching the text of a message to you from Prince Sihanouk, the Chief of State of Cambodia, in which he urges the convening of a conference “to determine the means of restoring peace in Laos and give the Laotian people the possibility of clearly and freely expressing its choice as to the political road it wishes to follow.” Prince Sihanouk proposes that the conference should include, in addition to the countries represented at the Geneva Conference in 1954, the other countries bordering on Laos and the members (including Canada) of the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Laos. Similar messages were addressed to the thirteen other heads of government directly interested.
- Also attached for your consideration is a draft message in reply, together with a telegram instructing our Acting Commissioner in Phnom Penh to convey the message to Prince Sihanouk and to make certain oral observations. The text of the reply is likely to be made public wholly or in part in Phnom Penh.
- As you know, the proposal for a conference, whether with the original Geneva composition or in the expanded form proposed by Prince Sihanouk, has been pressed with increasing insistence by the Communist powers. It is not clear, and may not be clear until the Soviet Government has replied to the United Kingdom proposals concerning the reconvening of the International Commission, whether it is the firm intention of the Communist powers to insist on a conference as a condition of their agreement to the reconvening of the Commission.
- The reaction of the Western powers, and of the Indian Government, to the proposal for a conference has been cautious. In the replies to Prince Sihanouk of which we have knowledge so far (which include those of Mr. Macmillan,Footnote 8 General de Gaulle, President Eisenhower and Mr. Nehru) there is neither acceptance nor rejection, but rather the expression of conviction that more urgent action is required to deal with the immediate dangers. The draft reply which I am recommending to you, while sympathetic in tone and moderately forthcoming in content, is not, I think, out of line with these other replies.
- The texts of the other replies referred to in the preceding paragraph are in Mr. Robinson’s hands, should you care to see them.Footnote 9
Chief of State of Cambodia to Prime Minister
Phnom Penh, January 1, 1961
Cambodia makes it a policy not to intervene in the internal affairs of other States and has always complied scrupulously with this requirement of its neutrality. But it cannot remain indifferent to the situation created on its boundaries by the civil war that is raging in Laos and threatens to degenerate into an international conflict.
In my capacity of Chief of State of a country directly affected by the consequences of the recent events in Laos, may I explain to Your Excellency the problems resulting for Cambodia from the tragic evolution of the Laotian crisis and may I set forth the measures which I think would contribute to bring about a solution.
The most direct and most tangible consequence of the civil war in Laos is the influx of Laotian refugees into our country. Already South Vietnamese have been entering Cambodia for many years and their number is ever increasing.
Now Cambodia is a poor country that is working hard to come out of its state of under-development and it cannot care for a greater number of inactive refugees without seriously jeopardizing its Five Year Plan and its very future.
Several eminent leaders of friendly countries, from the Western as well as the socialist worlds, have told me of their apprehensions in the face of the serious happenings in Laos which have developed into a show of strength between opposing parties. Moreover, Western and Socialist powers are now accusing each other of interfering in Laotian internal affairs, of secretly supplying armed support to rebel groups and of effectively participating in civil war. This new motive for antagonism between the two rival blocs contributes to the increase of international tension and delays the easing up firmly hoped for by all peoples.
Finally Cambodia deems it its duty to raise its voice in defence of its sister nation of Laos, whose existence is greatly menaced. It would be in conformity with the United Nations Charter, both as to letter and spirit, and with the principle of the right of people to choose their own form of government and policy if the Laotian people were allowed to express their will through free elections, without foreign pressure and influence.
No nation, no people in the world can remain indifferent to the sufferings of a peaceful people who recovered their independence a few years ago and wishes to obtain recognition of its sovereign right to decide its own future.
It must be realized that Laos is in a dead-lock today and that force cannot solve the problem resulting rather artificially by a division of this unfortunate country into several rival clans. The conflicts of foreign ideological interests, and even foreign interference in the present problems in Laos lead us to believe that it would be advisable and urgent to call a conference of all countries who have shown their interest in the future of Laos and the Laotian people. The object of this conference would be to determine the means of restoring peace in Laos and give the Laotian people the possibility of clearly and freely expressing its choice as to the political road it wishes to follow. Any partition of Laotian territory would be strictly excluded.
Such a conference, I believe, could bring together:
– The signatories of the Geneva Agreements of 1954, that is France, Great Britain, the USSR, the Popular Republic of China, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Laos.
– Those nations that have taken part in the International Supervisory Commissions established under the said Geneva Agreements, namely the Republic of India, the Polish People’s Republic and Canada. It is evident, in fact, that the present situation in Laos is a direct result of the situation created in Indo-China by the Geneva Agreements of 1954. However, it is no less evident that the signatories of the Geneva Agreements and the guarantors of the observance of those Agreements cannot be considered the only parties responsible for the civil war in Laos.
I deem it essential that all countries having a common border with Laos should take part also in the conference planned, that is: Thailand, the Republic of Vietnam, the Union of Burmah. Finally, the United States of America, who have unceasingly shown their interest in the Kingdom of Laos, must imperatively be invited to take full part in this conference.
It is with a wholly unselfish purpose that I take the liberty of submitting this ‘round table’ proposal to Your Excellency, asking you kindly to let me know of your views on the subject, including any objections, criticism or eventual suggestions, and of any action you may decide to take on the matter.
I shall carefully avoid any prejudging of what may come out of this plan, but I do believe that any nation refusing the proposed meeting would lose much of its moral prestige and the confidence placed in it by the small Asian and African nations.
As a last point, I should like to stress that such a conference ought to meet in a territory internationally recognized as neutral. Switzerland, assuredly, would fit in with this requirement, but it is so far distant from the heart of the problem that it would appear desirable that an equally neutral Asian nation be selected.
Accept, Excellence, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Draft Reply from Prime Minister to Chief of State of Cambodia
[Ottawa], January 28, 1961
I have given careful thought to the proposals which Your Royal Highness made in your message to me of January 1st. Recent grave developments in Laos have been a source of serious concern to all governments interested in the peace and stability of southeast Asia. I know that these developments must have caused particular anxiety to you, not only because of the common border between your country and Laos but also because of the efforts which you personally have made, in the United Nations and elsewhere, to promote a restoration of tranquility with the fullest international recognition of the territorial integrity and political independence of Laos.
The general position of the Canadian Government is, I think, known to you. We are fully in sympathy with the desire that some appropriate international action be taken urgently in a critical situation. It has seemed to us that in present circumstances the quickest and most generally acceptable means of alleviating the tension would be to make use of existing machinery, the adjourned International Commission for Supervision and Control in Laos. We have accordingly expressed our willingness, if the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference so request, and if an exploratory approach to the King of Laos, as the only generally recognized constitutional authority of that country, indicates that the proposal would be acceptable, to participate immediately in efforts by a reconvened Commission to contribute to the restoration of peace and to the maintenance of the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Laos. We very much hope that discussions between the Co-Chairmen will result in an early agreement to this end, and that accordingly it will be possible to take the quick action which the situation requires.
In the event that the Commission does return, I can assure you that we shall do our best, in a complex and very difficult situation, to work towards the broad objectives which I have indicated and which I know we hold in common.
I fully recognize, however, that in view of the extraordinary complexity of the present situation in Laos, real stabilization depends ultimately upon general agreement on the principles which should govern a permanent settlement, and that the attainment of such an agreement is likely to require discussion between the principally interested countries. For a long-term settlement we think that some form of conference might well be desirable. The suggestions you have made regarding the membership and objectives of such a conference are, in my view, an important contribution, and I am sure that they will be given the full and careful consideration which they deserve.
Memorandum from Special Assistant to Secretary of State for External Affairs to Prime Minister
SECRET [Ottawa], February 19, 1961
There have been two important developments this weekend.
The Soviet reply to the United Kingdom proposals about re-convening the International Commission was received here today. It proposed:
- that the Co-Chairmen (U.K. and U.S.S.R.) convene a conference with the membership suggested by Prince Sihanouk (U.S.S.R., United Kingdom, United States, France, China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, India, Canada, Poland); this conference would formulate new directives on the basis of which the I.C.S.C. could work to achieve the objectives set out in paragraph 12 of the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference;
- that the Co-Chairmen invite the Government of India to reconvene the I.C.S.C. in Delhi or some other convenient place, perhaps before the conference met; the Commission would then discuss how to resume its activities and what further powers it would require, and would report to the Co-Chairmen.
This United Kingdom letter carried Canadian support and we shall how have to decide what to do about the Soviet reaction.
The other important thing was a declaration by the King of Laos. He announced that he had invited Cambodia, Burma and we believe Malaya to form a Neutral Nations Commission to oversee the neutrality of Laos and stabilize the situation.
The Laotian King’s announcement is really an American plan. It gives the appearance of being a genuine move towards neutrality for Laos. In fact it does not go far in that direction and will not be acceptable to the Indians, much less to the Russians or Chinese. Canada did not offer formal comment on the plan when it was put to us by the Americans because it was an alternative to the proposal for re-convening the International Commission to which we were already committed.
If Laos comes up in your talks with the President the following points are suggested:
- Canada remains prepared to serve on a re-convened International Commission if this is generally agreed;
- We doubt the usefulness of a meeting of the International Commission outside Laos. It would not meet the urgency of the situation and it would be confusing if a Geneva-type conference were being held simultaneously;
- What are U.S. views as to what should now be done in the light of this weekend’s developments.
Message from Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom to Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET [London], February 20, 1961
You will have had from Canada House news of the reply which the Russians have finally returned to our proposals of January 21st. It is quite clear that the return of the International Commission to Laos is linked firmly with the holding of a conference. The Russians are also insisting, like the Chinese, that both the International Commission and the conference should deal only with Prince Souvanna Phouma. I suspect that their reply was timed to come shortly before the King of Laos broadcast his new plan of which they will undoubtedly have heard. I fear that they will make it clear to the Indians, Cambodians and Burmese that they are unwilling to accept the King’s plan as it stands and that a conference must be held to discuss the situation.
Pressure for a conference is, therefore, likely to grow. I have instructed our Ambassador in Washington to suggest to Mr. Rusk that we should be doing some preliminary thinking about the conditions under which we should be prepared to agree to a conference. The two main difficulties are who should represent Laos and how to avoid the conference turning into a slanging match. The only really satisfactory solution to the first problem would be to get a new Laotian Government including Prince Souvanna Phouma before any conference takes place. I am asking the Americans to consider putting sufficient pressure on General Phoumi to get him to propose terms which Prince Souvanna Phouma might accept. As regards the second difficulty I think that the problem would be diminished if the Soviet Government could be convinced that the United States administration have really taken a new look at the problem. We could then try to extract from the Soviet Government some assurance that the conference would not be used, particularly by the Chinese for recriminations about the past but to try to produce something constructive for the future.
Meanwhile, I propose to take the line with the Russians that the King of Laos’s proposal and the new United States attitude give them the substance of everything for which they have been asking. I shall ask them to consider the new proposal very carefully. At the same time I think that it is important not to give the impression that we are brushing off the Soviet reply. I propose, therefore, to ask the Russians some questions about how they think the difficulties in the preceding paragraph could be overcome and to tell them that we shall be giving their reply very careful study.
I should welcome your thoughts on how we can best proceed in the new situation.
Message from Secretary of State for External Affairs to Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom
SECRET Ottawa, February 22, 1961
Thank you for your message of February 20 about Laos. I am sure you are right in seeking at the present stage to keep the doors open on both the proposal about the International Supervisory Commission and the King’s proposal for a neutral nations commission. I agree that it is important to avoid if possible a situation in which the Russians and the Americans have taken opposing positions publicly, and am in general sympathy with the action suggested in paragraph four of your message.
While the King’s message is an advance towards the concept of genuine neutrality for Laos, and the United States support for this concept is important and encouraging, it seems to me unfortunate that the King’s declaration gave the impression that there would be no broadening of the Royal Laotian Government. The composition of the Royal Laotian Government seems to me of crucial importance, and our Ambassador in Washington spoke to the State Department on this matter last week.
As you know, I have consistently taken the stand that subject to agreement by the Co-Chairmen and with the approval of the King of Laos, Canada is prepared to serve on a reactivated Commission in Laos. We remain so prepared if there is general agreement that the reconvening of the International Supervisory Commission would be useful.
As to a possible international conference on Laos, you may recall that in replying to Prince Sihanouk’s message, the Prime Minister recognized that real stabilization would depend ultimately upon general agreement on the principles which should govern a permanent settlement, and that the attainment of such agreement was likely to require discussion between the principally interested powers. It is clear that the communist countries and many of the non-aligned countries now consider that such discussions are likely to be inconclusive in the absence of a conference. I would certainly hope that, if there were to be agreement on a conference, it could be preceded, as you suggest, by some understanding about keeping recriminations to a minimum.
The Soviet Ambassador this morning handed me copies of the Aide Mémoire and the two draft messages, and asked for our views on them. I told him that we would study these documents and would be in touch with him later.
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs to Secretary of State for External Affairs
CONFIDENTIAL [Ottawa], February 23, 1961
Except for very minor differences at two points, the documents left with you by the Soviet Ambassador on February 22 are identical with the texts of the Aide Mémoire and draft messages given to Sir Frank Roberts in Moscow on February 18 and already received from the United Kingdom. The texts in English are in London telegram No. 661 of February 20. (Copy attached).†
- You will recall that on Wednesday morning, Mr. Aroutunian asked when he could have a further talk with you about Laos. You said that after the documents had been studied, you would be in touch with him. To ensure that views which the Soviet Ambassador transmits to Moscow are precisely those which you wish him to transmit, you may think it desirable to hand him an Aide Mémoire. A draft is attached for your consideration.Footnote 10
Ottawa, March 2, 1961
The Canadian Government has the following comments on the views of the Soviet Government about Laos as set out in the proposals left by the Soviet Ambassador on February 22.
- For many years, Canada has been anxious that the sovereignty, independence, unity and integrity of Laos and peace and stability in Southeast Asia should be maintained. Canada regards the present situation in Laos as serious, and is therefore pleased to note that the Soviet Government considers that steps should be taken towards the preservation and strengthening of the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Laos and the prevention of any interference in the internal affairs of Laos as stipulated in Article 12 of the final declaration of the Geneva Conference.
- The Canadian Government considers the emphasis placed by the King of Laos in his declaration of February 19 on neutrality, and his appeal to all countries to respect the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and neutrality of Laos and to renounce all interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom, even in the form of aid, if not sanctioned by international agreements, to be a helpful contribution towards the achievement of peace and stability in Southeast Asia.
- With regard to the suggestion that the International Supervisory Commission for Laos should reconvene, Canada would be prepared to serve on the Commission if there were general agreement that it could do useful work in the present circumstances.
- It is noted that the Soviet Government is of the opinion that an international conference should be summoned without delay to work our measures for the normalization of the situation in Laos on the basis of the Geneva Agreements and to work out additional instructions for the Commission. In his reply to Prince Sihanouk’s message about a possible international conference, the Canadian Prime Minister recognized that real stabilization would depend ultimately upon general agreement on the principles which should govern a permanent settlement, and that the attainment of such agreement was likely to require discussion among the principally interested powers. The text of the Prime Minister’s reply to the Cambodian Head of State is attached.Footnote 11
Memorandum from Head, Far Eastern Division, to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
TOP SECRET [Ottawa], March 23, 1961
The following is a summary of what United States Ambassador Livingstone Merchant said to the Prime Minister this afternoon based on an oral report by Mr. H.B. Robinson.
- Mr. Merchant’s main purpose was to impress on the Prime Minister the seriousness of United States intentions. He said that unless the Russians accepted the proposals in the United Kingdom approach, United States forces would move into Laos possibly by paratroop operation. The Americans apparently thought the “job” could be done in forty-eight hours.
- Mr. Merchant was not specific about what the “job” entailed but said that an important element would be to stop the flow of Soviet supplies to the Pathet Lao. Operations to disorganize the Pathet Lao offensive might also be involved. Nothing was said about how many forces would be used but Mr. Merchant mentioned that there is an American Air Division in Okinawa. The Americans do not expect to use nuclear weapons.
- The Ambassador said that they thought they had the United Kingdom firmly with them; the language Sir Frank Roberts had been instructed to use when presenting the United Kingdom proposals to the Soviet representative was cited as an example of the degree to which the United Kingdom had lined up with the Americans. Mr. Merchant stressed the need for Western unity and resoluteness which he thought would impress the Russians in the present crisis. There was no request for Canadian approval or endorsement of actions contemplated by the United States.
- The Prime Minister apparently indicated that the United States could not go on indefinitely giving ground because the will to resist of its partners would thereby be weakened.Footnote 12
Memorandum from Head, Far Eastern Division, to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET [Ottawa], March 24, 1961
Mr. Rufus Smith of the United States Embassy called on Mr. Glazebrook on the afternoon of March 23 as a follow up to Ambassador Merchant’s call on the Prime Minister.
- He gave orally a general statement of the President’s views as of March 22 stating that Mr. Kennedy regarded the crisis as very urgent and serious which could deteriorate rapidly to the point of disaster. There were two courses open, one political and the other military. On the political side, and with the Geneva Agreements in mind, the United States had thought that the British should reply to the Soviet proposals of February 18 and he outlined the steps in the agreed message to the Soviet Co-Chairman, namely a joint request by the Co-Chairmen for a cease fire, the reconvening of the Commission in New Delhi, a resumption of talks by the Laotian leaders looking to a government of national union, and a fourteen nation conference. He commented that the United States would regard the cease fire as a test or indicator of Soviet intentions which should be apparent very shortly. The conference might take place either after or simultaneously with the resumption of negotiations between the political leaders, but would, of course, be preceded by the cease fire and the reconvening of the Commission.
- On the military side, the United States would be having consultations in SEATO at Bangkok to see how the Royal Laotian Government might be assisted militarily. An important aspect of these consultations would be to let the SEATO partners and the Russians know that the United States was not prepared to let Laos go by default.
- Mr. Smith then outlined certain clarifications given by Mr. Rusk in answer to questions as follows:
- It was the hope that prior to the conference, the Laotians might form a broad government which might represent Laos. If no government had been formed by conference time, a committee of neutrals (Cambodia, Burma and India) might assist the process by lending good offices.
- The Americans do not envisage the International Supervisory Commission having any role in bringing about a cessation of arms deliveries.
- The International Supervisory Commission should not convene until it was known that hostilities had ceased. No great time interval is expected to be involved.
- The International Supervisory Commission should not help the Laotians in the formation of a government of national union.
- If military action were necessary, it should be of a kind which would best support a political settlement. The provision of helicopters based in Thailand was cited as an example.
American representatives, on instructions, were stressing United States determination to support the military alternative if this should prove necessary. A number of preliminary steps were being taken. If military action were required, it might be on the direct request of the Royal Laotian Government to SEATO. If there were such a request, the United States would hope that SEATO would agree on a “prompt, effective and appropriate response.”
- In response to a question, Mr. Smith said he understood that only military moves of a preparatory nature were being made before SEATO consultations took place. When asked what forces would intervene under the SEATO “umbrella,” Mr. Smith said he could not say, but mentioned Thai and Philippine troops as being available in the area, in addition to United States forces with the Seventh Fleet. A recent New York Times editorial under the heading “While America Slept” was mentioned as an example of responsible criticism in the United States about the administration’s handling of the Laotian crisis to date. Mr. Smith thought the President must let Americans know what is at stake in Laos and would do so at his press conference. The United States was not prepared to back down on fundamentals. Mr. Smith said he understood from his Ambassador that the Prime Minister had voiced no objections or disagreement during the conversation earlier in the afternoon.Footnote 13
678. J.G.D./MG01/XII/A/330 (Vol.9)
Message from Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (United Kingdom) to Prime Minister
TOP SECRET [London, n.d.]
As you know there has been a most serious deterioration in the military position in Laos. It is clear that the Russians are continuing to pour into the country massive quantities of military material and key personnel for the forces of the Pathet Lao. This is far in excess of the aid provided by the Americans to the King’s army which is now weak and demoralised.
This is a most grave and anxious situation. You know from our talks in London how strongly it is our wish as it has always been to achieve a settlement by political means which will restore the unity and neutrality of Laos. We are in close touch with the American administration and we know that they fully share our views. President Kennedy made this clear at his press conference last night. But we cannot ignore the possibility that Laos may be completely overrun by the communist forces unless either there is an immediate cease-fire or something is done to redress the military balance.
The United States fully realise the dangers and grave implications of active intervention. We have explained to them our assessment that any direct military action might provoke counter-intervention by the Russians or the Chinese and even if the intervening forces were restricted to a narrow perimeter, this could provoke retaliation and increase the risk of the rest of the country falling completely under communist control. If a military forces were to occupy the perimeter around Vientiane, we doubt whether the Russians would easily be brought to the conference table so long as it remained there. We do not believe that the Russians want a full scale war but military intervention on our side would give them an excuse for holding off from any form of negotiation. The result might be a stalemate.
But we do not expect that the Americans would feel able to stand aside and watch the complete subjugation of Laos with the probability that the other protocol states would subsequently fall into the hands of the communists one after the other. It might not be long before Thailand, Burma and Malaya were similarly threatened.
Everything now depends on a speedy and favourable response from the Russians to our proposal for a cease-fire coupled with a return of the Commission and followed by an international conference. We were moderately encouraged by the preliminary report from Moscow of their reaction to our message. It may be that they do not mean to press this to a dangerous issue. On the other hand they may intend to play for time until the military situation is irretrievable.
We consider that the Russians must be given every chance to respond to our approach and Kennedy fully agrees with this. However, I must tell you that should the efforts we are all of us making fail to stop the fighting we think it not unlikely that the Americans will feel reluctantly obliged to intervene to present the complete overrunning of Laos followed by the extension of communist control over the whole of South-East Asia.
We held two Cabinet meetings yesterday to consider what we should do in that eventuality and after carefully weighing all the consequences we came to the grave conclusion that it would undoubtedly be our duty to support the Americans should they decide to make a stand on this issue.
If intervention is forced upon us it would be important to do everything possible to avoid hostile reactions elsewhere particularly in the United Nations. We have suggested to the Americans that if SEATO is brought in in a formal way as the organiser of a military expedition, the dangers will be much increased. If on the other hand the Americans were to act themselves with the goodwill and support of the SEATO countries, these difficulties might be reduced.
We have to consider India and our relations with Malaya where our Commonwealth brigade is stationed (though from preliminary enquiries of the Tunku yesterday in London, we think he would be helpful).
Mr. Nehru has today made a most encouraging statement in his Parliament expressing unequivocal support for the proposals we have made to the Russians. I have sent a message to him urging him to exert all his influence with the Russians to secure their acceptance of our proposals.
679. J.G.D./MG01/XII/B/152.2 (Vol. 35)
Message from Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (United Kingdom) to Prime Minister
SECRET [London], April 2, 1961
- I think you may like to have some account of the talks we have been having with Prince Souvanna Phouma who has been in London for the last two days.
- We found him appreciative of our proposals to the Russians which he said would be entirely acceptable to him with one or two small amendments. In particular he thought that the International Control Commission would have to supervise the cease-fire from the start.
- Souvanna Phouma struck us as realistic over the problems of co-operation with the communists. He thought that any interim Government should be under his leadership with representatives of Pathet Lao and Vientiane. He means to keep close control of the key portfolios.
- We asked him if he thought that the Pathet Lao would accept a cease-fire. He replied that he had sent a message to Xieng Khouang saying that in his view it would be perfectly reasonable to accept a cease-fire before the International Conference was called. He claimed that Kong Lae’s troops would do what he told them.
- He urged that the International Conference should be given terms of reference which would exclude topics other than Laos e.g., Vietnam. A Supervisory Commission would be required to supervise elections in Laos, and its composition would have to be settled by the International Conference.
- He rather discounted the idea of any formal guarantees for the neutrality of Laos, and seemed to think it would be better if there could be a general understanding about Laotian neutrality just as there is for Cambodia.
- Macmillan and Home will be in Washington on Tuesday and will have further talks with Kennedy.
We were much encouraged to have Green’s assurance that Canada is prepared to play its part in the International Control Commission.Footnote 14
680. J.G.D./MG01/XII/B/152.2 (Vol.35)
Message from Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (United Kingdom) to Prime Minister
[London], April 3, 1961
You will have had from our High Commissioner the full text of the Russian noteFootnote 15 which reached us yesterday. We regard this reply as highly encouraging and are glad to note that Kennedy has welcomed it.
Our Ambassador in Moscow has been instructed to thank the Russians for their prompt reply and to express appreciation of its generally helpful tone.
Home will discuss with the Americans in Washington on Tuesday the terms of the reply to be sent to the Russian note particularly on arrangements for the International Conference.
Meanwhile we are seeking one clarification from the Russians. Our Ambassador in Moscow has been instructed to speak to them as follows: “The Soviet Government should be in no doubt of the sincerity of our desire for a conference at the earliest date. We have only one reservation about this; we would not be prepared and would find it difficult to persuade some of our friends to come to the conference table in circumstances where military action on the ground could be used as an instrument of pressure in the negotiations. For this reason we think it essential that the cease-fire should be confirmed before the conference begins. We would, however, be prepared to agree that the co-Chairmen should issue invitations to the conference immediately after their appeal for a cease-fire and before the International Control Commission has reported to them that it was effective. However, invitations issued in this way would be on the clear understanding that the conference would not convene until the Control Commission had so reported. In short the order of proceedings in our view could be as follows
- the co-Chairmen call for a cease-fire and invite the Indian Government to reconvene the International Commission in New Delhi
- immediately thereafter the co-Chairmen issue invitations for a 14 nation conference
- the International Commission reports to the co-Chairmen that the cease-fire is effective and
- the conference assembles as soon as practicable thereafter.”
Our Ambassador in Moscow will also ask Russians whether the Soviet Government had considered the practical difficulties (accommodation, communications etc.) of holding an International Conference of this size in Phnom Penh.
I am leaving on a short visit to Nigeria tomorrow, but my colleagues will keep in close touch with you.
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs to Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET [Ottawa], April 6, 1961
In anticipation of the reconvening of the Laos Commission, on which agreement may be reached between the Co-Chairmen very shortly, certain plans have been made and preparatory arrangements put in hand. Since the precise scope and probable duration of the Commission’s activities are still in some doubt, it has seemed sensible to plan provisionally for the largest contribution that we seem likely to be called upon to make: any part of the planned contribution which is not required can then be cancelled.
- Mr. Mayrand and Mr. Fortier are standing by to proceed to Delhi at short notice. National Defence is making ready an advance party of four officers to proceed to Delhi when required from the evening of April 7. The senior officer, Brigadier Cooper, will act as military adviser to the Canadian representative on the Commission, while the others will be available for liaison with the Indians about the size of the Commission, administrative and logistic arrangements and various other matters which may arise.
- Recent messages and statements indicate that there may be a requirement for personnel in Laos very soon to verify the cease fire and to ensure that it is maintained while the conference assembles and deliberates. National Defence are making ready a party of 26, including 20 officers, to be prepared to proceed to Laos if required from April 12. The RCAF would fly them out via Edmonton, Japan and Hong Kong to Saigon, from whence they would proceed to Laos. We have been offered space on this airlift for External Affairs personnel and supplies proceeding from Ottawa. Canada House is being instructed to remind the United Kingdom of the importance of proper logistic support for the Commission, including transportation (jeeps and helicopters), accommodation and food, and to suggest that these questions might properly be discussed in general terms with the Soviet Co-Chairman.
- Until such time as the place, date and level of representation are decided, not much progress can be made in planning for the conference. It would however seem reasonable to expect that Mr. Ronning, who was present at Geneva in 1954 and who has wide knowledge of Indochina questions, would be a senior member of the Canadian Delegation. We assume that our main contribution to the conference deliberations would be related to our experience on the Commission and for this reason we would think it desirable that the Canadian Delegation should contain a senior military representative with experience in Indochina. In preparation for the conference, National Defence, in consultation with this Department, are undertaking a review of the work of the Indochina Commissions in order to establish clearly the lessons to be drawn from our six and a half years’ experience.Footnote16
for Under-Secretary of State
for External Affairs
SECRET [Ottawa], April 17, 1961
The Soviet reply to the United Kingdom request for clarification of the procedural aspects of the three stage programme proposed by the United Kingdom was given in Moscow Sunday evening. The highlights are as follows:
- The three stages, cease fire, reconvening of Commission and conference to start at Geneva on May 5 are one package and must be agreed by the Co-Chairmen at the same time. The requirement that the opening of the conference be conditional on the existence of a de facto cease fire, to be verified by the Commission, is not mentioned in the Soviet note.
- Cease Fire
The Co-Chairmen are to call on all military authorities, parties and organizations in Laos “to cease fire before the convening of the conference” and representatives of the above are to begin negotiations for an agreement on questions connected with a cease fire. The people of Laos are asked to cooperate with the Commission when it proceeds to Laos on instructions of the Co-Chairmen to supervise and control the cease fire. The Commission’s task of verifying the cease fire is not mentioned; there is no reference to an emissary getting in touch with the cease fire negotiators in Laos; and it is clear that the Commission can only return to Laos when the Co-Chairmen agree that it should go and give it appropriate instructions.
- The Commission
The International Supervisory Commission is to convene in Delhi at the call of the Government of India to
- discuss its tasks and functions in supervising and controlling a cease fire;
- report to the Co-Chairmen.
On receipt of instructions from the Co-Chairmen it will proceed to Laos to control the cease fire.
- The Conference
The Soviet note accepts:
- attendance by 14 nations (Geneva powers, Commission powers and Burma and Thailand);
- Geneva as the site;
- May 5 as opening date.
- The main difficulty in the Soviet reply is the insistence on May 5 as the opening date for the conference without any provision for verifying that a cease fire has in fact occurred. If the Soviet proposals were accepted, the West would be committed to negotiation without any guarantee that this would take place free from military pressure, a position which is unacceptable to the United States and to the United Kingdom. As yet, we have no United Kingdom or United States reaction to the Soviet proposals.
- The role of the Commission would be similar to that discussed earlier. The Commission would in fact discuss how it should go about supervising a cease fire to be negotiated by the parties in Laos and would prepare a report for the Co-Chairmen. Only after the Co-Chairmen agreed on its role and gave it instructions would the Commission proceed to Laos. This would presumably take some time.
Secretary of State for External Affairs to Ambassador in Italy
TELEGRAM Y-228 Ottawa, April 18, 1961
Reference: London’s Tels 1438-1442 of Apr 17.†
Repeat for Information: London, Washington, Paris, NATO Paris, Delhi, Permis New York (for the Minister), (OpImmediate).
By Bag from London: Ankara, DGPO, DMOP/DND.
With USA agreement, Roberts has now been instructed to propose to Gromyko that Co-Chairmen issue appeal for cease fire on April 20 and make it clear that both sides in Laos should act on it at once.
- Roberts is also to clarify with Russians the Commission’s role in verifying cease fire before conference and to propose that message to Mr. Nehru inviting him to reconvene the Commission be sent on April 20. As soon as Commission had met in Delhi, Co-Chairmen would instruct it to proceed to Laos to verify cease fire. (If, however, Russians do not agree to this UK would as second best agree to Co-Chairmen themselves determining when cease fire effective.)
- Americans have suggested that meeting of emissaries of two sides under a flag of truce should take place on April 22 at Luang Prabang and would hope to see at least a representative of Chairman of ISC present at this meeting. Mr. Rusk is anxious that functions of Commission should not extend beyond “observing and verifying the cease fire.”
- Roberts will also propose drafting amendments as necessary to clarify that cease fire will take place “immediately” and that conference should meet “as soon as possible after cease fire has become effective.”
- Presume you are now ready to fly to Delhi as soon as confirmation is received that Co-Chairmen’s message to Mr. Nehru has been sent.
684. CEW/Vol. 3175
Memorandum by Ambassador in United States
SECRET [Washington], April 20, 1961
The Under-Secretary telephoned me this afternoon. He told me that he had been asked by the Minister to tell me that he (Mr. Green) had taken “a tough line” with the U.K. High Commissioner on the British attitude in their negotiations with Moscow on the conditions for the cease-fire and conference. Mr. Green thought that we should let the Americans know of the line we had taken which had been confirmed in conversation with the Prime Minister.
- Garner had reported that the U.K. were accepting the date of May 5 for the conference at Geneva and at the Foreign Ministers level. This despite the conflict with the NATO meeting at Oslo fixed for May 8. The Foreign Secretary would go to Geneva and the Minister of State (Heath) to Oslo; Home would expect to fit in a later attendance at the NATO Ministers’ conference.
- Mr. Green had told Garner that he personally was not planning to go to Geneva on May 5. His mind and his plans were fixed on Oslo and the very important meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers which would be taking place there (incidentally, Home’s going to Geneva May 5 would interfere with his arranged reception of the Minister in London in early May).
- Mr. Green had also criticized what he regarded as the softness of the United Kingdom with regard to the prerequisite of an effective cease-fire. The U.K. should not, he thought, have agreed to the conference until the cease-fire had been satisfactorily settled with the Russians. Now the Russians were going to get their conference; and the Commission and the cease-fire were in limbo.
- One concrete suggestion did emerge from the Green-Garner conversation. The Minister wondered whether it would not be possible to propose to the Soviets that the first stage of a Geneva conference from May 5 should not be preparatory and at the working level. There had been little or no diplomatic preparation for the conference and such a preliminary period could be constructive as well as avoiding the clash with the Oslo dates.
- Robertson is not putting any message to us on this nor does he wish any formal communication to be made to the U.S. Government concerning this conversation. We should simply let the appropriate U.S. officials know, when next we discuss Laos, that we have these reservations along the lines indicated.
Message from Prime Minister of India
[New Delhi], April 24, 1961
I have today received a joint message from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Great Britain and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R. in their capacity as Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference suggesting that the Government of India should convene in Delhi the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Laos.Footnote 17 The Chairmen have in view that the Commission will discuss the question of the tasks and functions which should be allotted to it after the cease-fire in Laos and present an appropriate report to the Co-Chairmen who will consider the Commission’s report and give it directions on going to Laos to carry out the work of controlling the cease-fire.
- I accordingly have the honour on behalf of the Government of India as Chairman of the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Laos to request you to be so good as to nominate your representative on the Commission. The Government of India have nominated as their delegate and chairman of the Commission Shri S.SEN.
- Since convening of the Commission I am sure you will agree is a matter of considerable urgency I feel that the first meeting should be held in New Delhi on Friday April 28. I will be grateful for confirmation whether your representative will be able to reach Delhi by this date.
- It is a matter of great satisfaction to me that a way has been found to put an end to the recent conflict in Laos and steps are now being taken to bring about an understanding between parties to the conflict. I am confident that the united efforts of the members of the International Commission in particular will advance the course of the re-establishment of a stable peace in Laos.
Memorandum from Secretary of State for External Affairs to Cabinet
CABINET DOCUMENT NO. 167-61 [Ottawa], April 25, 1961
Canada participated in the work of the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Laos from August 1954, when it was set up as a result of a decision by the Geneva Conference of that year, until July 1958, when it was adjourned sine die. The adjournment took place by majority vote of the Indian and Canadian representatives over Polish dissent and followed two requests by the Royal Laotian Government for the Commission’s departure on the ground that the tasks prescribed for it by the Geneva Conference had been fulfilled.
The agreements between the Royal Laotian Government and the Pathet Lao dissidents which constituted the political settlement in 1956-58 proved less durable than had been expected. Since the latter part of 1959 the situation has deteriorated steadily. It has become particularly grave in the past four months, when there has been no general international agreement on which of the two rival Laotian factions is the legitimate Government of Laos.
Negotiations between the United Kingdom and Soviet Governments, which have continuing responsibilities as the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference of 1954, have been conducted with a view to arriving at some agreement, generally acceptable to the parties in Laos and to the countries principally interested, which might put an end to the fighting, restore more normal political conditions, and hence remove a potentially dangerous source of international conflict.
Agreement has now been reached between the United Kingdom and Soviet Governments on the immediate steps required. On April 24, joint action was taken by the Foreign Ministers of those two Governments
- to call for a cease fire in Laos;
- to invite the Government of India, as Chairman of all three Commissions in Indochina (those in Vietnam and Cambodia have continued in being) to reconvene the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Laos;
- to invite governments which were represented at the Geneva Conference of 1954, (Cambodia, North Vietnam, France, Laos, Communist China, South Vietnam, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States), governments of other countries bordering on Laos (Burma, Thailand) and governments represented on the International Commission for Laos (India, Canada, Poland) to attend a conference on the settlement of the Laotian problem.
The Government of Canada has been invited by the Co-Chairmen to send a delegation to this conference, which will be held at Geneva and is expected to begin its work on May 12. It has also been requested by the Government of India to appoint representatives to the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Laos which will hold its first meeting at New Delhi on April 28. The undersigned has the honour to recommend that the invitation to a conference be accepted, that the request to designate representatives to the Commission be met, and that appointments be approved as follows:
Secretary of State for External Affairs, Head of Delegation,
Mr. C.A. Ronning, at present High Commissioner in India, Alternate Head,
Mr. P.A. Bridle, at present Ambassador to Turkey, Commissioner in Laos 1955-56, Senior Political Adviser,
A Senior Military Adviser,
assisted by civilian and military staff as required.
Mr. Leon Mayrand, at present Ambassador to Italy, Canadian Commissioner in Laos, 1954-1955, Head of Delegation,
Mr. D’Iberville Fortier, at present Acting Commissioner in Cambodia, Alternate and Senior Political Adviser,
assisted by civilian and military staff as required.Footnote 18
Secretary of State for External Affairs to High Commissioner in India
TELEGRAM Y-244 Ottawa, April 27, 1961
Reference: London Tel 1515 Apr. 22† and Rome Tel 151 Apr. 24.†
Repeat for Information: London, Washington, Paris, NATO Paris, Canberra, Permis New York, Saigon, Geneva, Wellington (OpImmediate).
By Bag Ankara, Moscow, Warsaw, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta from London, Phnom Penh from Saigon, CCOS, CGS, DM/DND from Ottawa (OpImmediate).
Laos ICSC – Initial Tasks
Following for Mayrand
- Terms of reference agreed by Co-Chairmen state that Commission will (a) discuss tasks and functions to be allotted to it after cease fire in Laos; (b) present a report to Co-Chairmen; (c) on receipt of further directions from Co-Chairmen (who will have been informed by parties that a cease fire has been arranged) go to Laos to supervise and control cease fire.
- The three agreed documents were, as you know, drafted by USSR. They are less precise than earlier UK drafts on several important points, notably (a) timing of cease fire and need for it to be effective before opening of conference; (b) date and procedure for discussions between parties in Laos on detailed arrangements for cease-fire; (c) conditions under which ICSC could proceed to Laos; (d) responsibility of ICSC to verify cease fire and report on its effectiveness to co-Chairmen.
- UK accepted these Soviet texts (after consultation with USA) only after specific though unwritten assurances had been given by Gromyko and Pushkin on some of these questions. General assurance was given in categorical terms that texts had been drafted to take full account of UK views and that cease fire should be effective before conference met. No Soviet objection was raised to explicit UK statement of understanding that ICSC would be able to check effectiveness of cease fire once parties in Laos had agreed on cease fire (which in his personal view would not be long delayed after appeal had been issued) ICSC should be instructed by Co-Chairmen to proceed immediately to Laos to verify and supervise it. This, he added, should be completed as quickly as possible.
- UK understanding was referred to in statement made in UK House of Commons on April 24 as follows “Mr. Gromyko has assured H.M. Ambassador in Moscow of desire of Soviet Government for an immediate cease fire to precede international conference.” Parliamentary Under-Secretary added: “We also have to arrange for ICSC to verify that cease fire is being observed. Any substantial violation of cease fire would put all these arrangements in jeopardy. We must of course be satisfied of effectiveness of cease fire before conference meets.” In reply to question he said that ICSC “as soon as it is informed that cease fire has taken place will proceed to Laos to verify it in accordance with instructions it will have received from Co-Chairmen.”
- Mr. Rusk has also firmly and publicly taken the position that USA will not attend a conference unless an effective de facto cease fire demonstrably exists. It is not yet clear how much importance should be attached to statement of Chinese Vice-Minister to UK Chargé in Peking that UK understanding is inconsistent with letter and spirit of agreed documents, but coupled with Chinese propaganda insistence on necessity for immediate withdrawal of USA personnel and equipment it is clearly not encouraging.
- From the agreed texts it seems clear that move to Laos will not be possible until Co-Chairmen have informed ICSC that they concur, presumably after consultation with and consent of parties in Laos. Meanwhile ICSC is asked to discuss its tasks and functions. It is not clear however from documents whether in Co-Chairmen’s view this study should be limited to those tasks which could be carried out following a cease fire until such time as ICSC (or some other supervisory body) is given new terms of reference by conference. Because Communists have always insisted that a Laotian settlement should be found within Geneva framework, our impression is that Soviet Co-Chairman, and presumably therefore Pole, have in mind not only immediate but also continuing tasks that ICSC might be called on to assume. Recent messages from Ronning, particularly his 260 of April 4† and 319 of April 21,† make it clear that Indians are not disposed to view tasks of ICSC as restricted in time. Our own view has been that some form of supervisory machinery will probably be required in Laos for a period which cannot now be foreseen, that any major departure from type of machinery created in 1954 will probably not be generally acceptable and might in any case not be desirable, and that one of tasks of conference at Geneva is therefore likely to be a review of Commission’s tasks, functions and powers.
- During pre-conference period, however, we do not think that ICSC should get itself involved in these longer term problems, which will have to be decided by the conference where all three supervisory powers will be represented and able to express their views. We believe that for the present it should devote its attention primarily to immediate task of ensuring, so far as it is able, that cease fire is being observed by parties in Laos so that conference may take place as planned.
- It follows from this that we would expect ICSC to give early attention to a plan for its return to Laos as soon as possible after parties have agreed on cease fire. Possibly this move might be in two or more stages. ICSC might recommend size and location of advance headquarters staff, number of teams and personnel required initially and where they should be located, and signals equipment necessary to maintain essential communications. Presumably such administration matters as transport facilities, accommodation and food will require immediate consideration and might appropriately be brought to attention of Co-Chairmen at this stage. Having in mind confused conditions which are likely to prevail in Laos following a cease fire, and probable absence of transport and communications facilities, we do not repeat not foresee that a full-scale deployment will be possible at once. Perhaps two or three teams at Vientiane, Xieng Khouang, and perhaps Luang Prabang or Thakhek would do for a start. As we see it, task of verifying and observing cease fire will be restricted by human and material means at disposal of ICSC, and during first weeks task in Laos will amount to a holding operation until conference gets under way.
- While it would probably be unrealistic to expect ICSC to confine itself entirely to immediate task in Laos, we would expect that organizational and administrative matters would take up most of its time in initial stage. If time permits any serious consideration of broader question of future tasks and functions, emphasis should in our opinion be on strengthening of Commission’s powers. It would be desirable, for instance, to ensure that members of Commission have complete freedom of movement within Laos while on duty and that parties undertake specifically to enforce, in all areas under their control, respect for members of Commission and to punish in accordance with Laotian laws and customs any person guilty of hindering or obstructing members in performance of their duties.
- In respect of Article 26 of present CFA, we consider that naming of points at which fixed teams are to be located is unduly restrictive and would prefer to see Commission with power to establish fixed and mobile inspection teams wherever it so decided within Laotian territory. Reference to zones of action in paragraph 3 of same article is unduly restrictive and should be eliminated as well as final clause in that article.
- As you know, separation of parties into concentration areas in Northern provinces pending a political settlement as provided in Article 14 led to prolonged argument and much difficulty over period 1954-57. If same principle were followed now, area under Pathet Lao control would be much greater and subsequent difficulties more acute. It seems to us that much would be gained towards a speedy settlement if it could be agreed that forces of parties were disarmed and troops concentrated in suitable barracks or camps rather than geographical areas. Internal security would then become responsibility of police. It might be arranged that heavy weapons and mines should be destroyed and disarmed troops employed on reconstruction and works projects.
- While nothing has so far been said about controlling entry of military personnel and war material, it can be anticipated that this will be one of tasks assigned to Commission by conference. Our previous experience in Laos points to extreme difficulty of effectively controlling entry of war material from North Vietnam by means of fixed and mobile teams since opportunity for successful evasion using jungle tracks is very great. In our view essential requirement for effective arms control are (a) right of access to all airports; (b) right to establish fixed teams where and when required and to send teams freely throughout Laotian territory and (c) right of access to military installations within Laos to check on level of armament and evidence of any build-up. If troops were disarmed initially, subsequent control of agreed level of armament would be correspondingly simplified.
- While ideas outlined above must be regarded as tentative at this stage and may have to be abandoned or modified following conference, they will indicate trend of our present thinking about continuing role of Commission in Laos.
Ambassador in United States to Secretary of State for External Affairs
TELEGRAM 1360 Washington, April 27, 1961
Reference: Our Tel 1286 Apr 21.†
Repeat for Information: London (Priority), Paris, NATO Paris, Permis New York, Geneva (Priority), Delhi deferred Rome from Ottawa, CCOS, CGS, DND, Ottawa from Ottawa.
By Bag Canberra, Wellington, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Moscow, Warsaw, Tokyo, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Ankara from London.
On April 26 Usher, Deputy Director Office Southeast Asian Affairs, gave us, in company with two representatives from UK Embassy, some further indication of official level thinking in the State Department on the 14-Nation Conference on Laos. It was apparent from our discussions that UK Embassy representatives had previously been briefed by the State Department along the lines of our reference telegram.
- Usher began by outlining the following points, which were simply “ideas” to be circulated as a basis for discussion and to elicit the views of others. Final positions had not repeat not yet been formulated.
- State Department officials anticipated a long and difficult conference;
- They felt that the conference should not repeat not get into any subject other than Laos. It was noted in the discussion that Far East Communists had indicated a desire to deal with situation in Vietnam. Souvanna Phouma might want decisions taken about the establishment of a neutral zone for Burma, Cambodia and Laos. State Department officials thought that Souvanna Phouma’s idea, which was a development of Prince Sihanouk’s suggestion for a neutral zone comprising Cambodia and Laos, might merit discussion apart from the conference and probably after the conference was finished.
- The objectives of the conference were envisaged as preventing a Communist takeover in Laos and ensuring its neutralization. The Western countries should, therefore, during the conference make a patient determined effort to get a unified Laos which would seek to achieve a neutral position in international affairs, but which would be able to preserve itself from subversive efforts directed at a Communist takeover. In the view of State Department officials these objectives might be realized if certain conditions could be met;
- a Lao government of capable leaders willing and able to protect Lao interests;
- an internal security force which alone would have the responsibility for maintaining law and order;
- continued provision of economic aid and assistance through appropriate machinery; and
- some international supervisory machinery.
- Turning to the likely position of the Communists at the conference, Usher said that USA officials foresaw the following developments:
- There would be a sharp dispute over the composition of the Lao delegation;
- They expected that the upshot would be that there would be no repeat no Lao delegation seated at the conference but that there might be agreement on “observers” from each side, that is to say, the RLG and the Xieng Khouang régime. (See discussion of this point below in our paragraph 3(a), particularly with relation to whether there might be just two or possibly three Laotian “sides” represented.)
- On the assumption that there were two (or possibly three) Lao factions represented at the conference, then there would be no repeat no universally recognized government of Laos represented. The Communist representatives would then press the view that the first order of business for the conference should be to consider the problem of forming a Lao Government.
- The best Western reply to this, in the view of officials, would be to resist a conference decision to assign priority to this question on the grounds that it was essentially an internal Lao matter for the Lao themselves to decide; and that there was not repeat no need for the conference to delay discussing the best means of assuring the future neutrality of Laos until an all-Lao government could be formed. It would be argued that the conference participants, excluding Laos, could probably proceed to set forth their views on the machinery necessary in their view to preserve the neutrality of Laos;
- The Western side would at the same time argue as necessary that the Lao negotiate concurrently with the continuation of conference discussions, with a view to achieving internal agreement. If necessary, the West might agree that the conference should extend its good offices in these internal negotiations, possibly by suggesting that Cambodia make its services available. (Usher noted that Sihanouk might, for instance, be able to induce some realism in Souvanna Phouma’s thinking.)
- Western strategy at the conference should, in the view of officials, aim at exploiting to the maximum what the State Department was inclined to regard as a fairly firm desire on the part of the Asian neutrals to prevent Communist encroachments on Laos. Usher said that the possibility of a renewal of military activities in Laos during the conference could not repeat not be ruled out. We gathered that he may have had it in mind that the possibility of such action by the Communists might affect Asian neutral firmness. Also Usher noted that in general terms Asian neutral positions at the conference would be inhibited by a desire not repeat not to go too far in opposing the Communist delegations. On the other hand the Communist delegations equally would not repeat not wish to go too far in irritating the Asian neutrals. Hence the best strategy seemed to be for the West to put forward inherently reasonable proposals which would commend themselves to the Asian neutrals, not repeat not only as reasonable in themselves, but also as serving the self interest of these neutrals in contributing to stability in the Southeast Asian area. While on the one hand the Asian neutrals could be expected to argue privately with some force that the military position of the pro-communist Lao factions (Pathet Lao and Kong Lae) was strong, on the other hand they would wish to do nothing publicly at the conference to assist the Communist objective of consolidating military gains.
- Usher then outlined the various suggestions put forward by State Department officials for the machinery that might contribute to preserving a unified neutral Laos. The broad scope of these was roughly similar to those described in our reference telegram. Usher’s exposition April 26 however introduced some changes and, because of lack of time, dwelt in considerably less detail on the question by the international control mechanism that might be necessary. The following four points summarize his review of the machinery envisaged:
- Internal Security Force – The conference might ultimately agree that an internal security force of perhaps 20 thousand men should be established by the Government of Laos, consequent upon the disarming and elimination of all other armed forces in the country. The command of this force should, however, rest with the Government of Laos (the earlier suggestion mentioned in our reference telegram for a neutral commander had been dropped).
- Neutral Military Affairs Commission – The terms of reference of such a Commission seemed still to be vague in State Department thinking. It emerged however that the Commission was thought of as being comprised of representatives of neutral countries of the area. It had been assumed that a single individual representing a single neutral country would not repeat not like to take on the functions assigned previously to a neutral commander of an internal security force, and furthermore, that even without actual command of the internal security force, no repeat no single neutral nation would wish to assume sole responsibility. Usher incidentally made it quite clear that if this concept were ever to get off the ground, Indian views and suggestions would have to be fully taken into account. Under questioning Usher said that the functions of the Military Affairs Commission might include the following: the initial demobilization of fighting personnel; the phasing out of military personnel in excess of those required for the internal security force; and the provision of training and logistic support to the internal security force. Usher noted that the Commission would presumably be responsible to some conference body, possibly the Co-Chairmen or to the international supervisory mechanism mentioned below. Usher went on to say that the Military Affairs Commission might see to it that the internal security force, as well as the Commission itself, had access to all areas of the country and for this purpose would have to have its own means of transportation and facilities for reporting to headquarters. (It was evident that the characteristics of the Military Affairs Commission had not repeat not been fully delineated in State Department thinking. See our paragraph 3(c) below for some of the discussion that ensued.)
- Development Assistance Agency – Since some external economic aid and technical assistance was essential in Laos, the Western countries should attempt to have the conference adopt reasonable provisions on this question. Initially, State Department officials would wish to continue to support the UN as the appropriate body to undertake this task, not repeat not just because the Tuomioja MissionFootnote 19 had already made a start in this direction in Laos, but also because it was a recognized general responsibility of the UN. Furthermore, the establishment of aid and assistance machinery involved many complex operations which the UN was already fitted to perform, both in terms of expertise and organization. The creation of a new agency would probably be more expensive and less efficient. Nevertheless it was recognized that the neutral Asians might not repeat not, in view of the current USSR attitude towards the UN Secretary-General, be prepared to give strong support to the UN as the appropriate organization for aid to Laos. Also the People’s Republic of China and the DRVN would not repeat not be able to make their influence felt if the UN were appointed to this function. Hence State Department officials were inclined to have in reserve a fallback position involving a development assistance agency for Laos which would be operated by the neutral countries of the area and which would obtain competent staff, planners and technicians on a contract basis. Presumably the agency would negotiate loans and the provision of staff, etc. from outside the area. (Here again the ideas concerning the development assistance agency were obviously at a rudimentary stage. See our paragraph 3(c) below.)
- International Supervisory Mechanism – State Department officials recognize that some form of international control machinery would be necessary, perhaps along the lines of the ICSC under the Geneva Agreements. Usher was no repeat no more specific than in our April 20 conversation as to the exact identity of this machinery and whether it would, in fact, be a modification of the ICSC for Laos. We had the impression however that he was thinking in this latter direction. In positive terms he indicated that it would have to be more effective than the ICSC had been between 1954-1958, perhaps through the adoption of procedures promoting individual as opposed to group inspections of violations of whatever agreements emerged from the International Conference; that its facilities for moving about and reporting on internal conditions would have to be considerably increased; and that its capacity to assess internal situations in Laos involving the possible renewal of military or subversive activity would have to be increased. In this connection he mentioned approvingly a suggestion which we had mentioned to him on a personal basis some time earlier that the task of the ICSC for Laos would have been much facilitated in 1954 to 1958 if it had had an accurate or reasonably accurate census of the arms and other equipment held by the then contending military forces.
- The following were the main points which emerged in discussion of the points put forward by Usher (who was incidentally accompanied by Miss Byrne, a former Laotian Desk Officer in the State Department, now engaged upon task force studies for the International Conference; and Mr. Lewis Purnell, on temporary duty for the same purpose from USA Embassy in London).
- Lao Representation at International Conference – Ledward of UK Embassy referred to a UK suggestion that the conference would have to arrange for the various factions in Laos “to be heard.” He indicated that UK authorities had not repeat not decided whether this meant that Lao representatives could address plenary sessions of the conference or just committees thereof; or whether their views would have to be “heard” through the submission of written presentations to the conference. He noted that a possible precedent for the presence before a conference of a country not repeat not actually participating with voting rights was to be found in the procedures of the UN Security Council, e.g. the appearance of the Communist Chinese was perhaps a case in point. Whatever the arrangements for hearing the Lao representatives might be, he thought that there might be merit in having three Lao factions represented, the RLG (recognized by the West), the Pathet Lao faction, and Souvanna Phouma’s “government.” The objective would be to attempt to encourage Souvanna Phouma to avoid wishing or having to identify himself with the pro-communist elements. Usher agreed that if attainable, this would be an advantage and would also tend to remove Souvanna Phouma from the “atmosphere” of hostility engendered by the Pathet Lao. On the other hand Usher thought that to have all three designated factions represented would confer an advantage on the Pathet Lao in that they could openly urge Souvanna Phouma to bear witness to the justice of the positions they adopted and his inclination might be to fall in with their views because of his distaste for the Boun Oum Government. Usher implied that it might be more advantageous to discourage Souvanna Phouma from easy acceptance of Pathet Lao positions within a delegation under his leadership by including in the RLG delegation neutralist figures such as Phoui and Nouy Abhay. On the whole, however, Usher thought these arguments might be academic and that Souvanna Phouma would continue to insist on the legitimacy of his “government” and on forcing the Boun Oum Government to accept his leadership by joining his “government.”
- Communist Tactics on Lao Representation – Ledward suggested that it would perhaps be possible to arrange Laotian representation at the conference by means of a provisional government. Alternatively the conference might formally decide that whatever agreements emerged from the conference should be accepted by “all parties” in Laos. It was urged that either of these alternatives might reduce the impact of the demands of Communist delegations that the first order of business of the conference ought to be to arrange for an all Laos Government. We suggested that there might indeed be considerable advantage in having Laos represented by a provisional government rather than presenting Laos, subsequent to the conference, with an international agreement in which they had taken little or no repeat no direct part in the formulating. State Department representatives did not repeat not rule out such a possibility completely but argued that there was nothing wrong in the conference appearing to dictate to Laos a régime for its neutralization because it was recognized that Laos presented both Communist and Western countries with peculiar and major problems directly involving their interests. Miss Byrne said quite categorically that in any event the Laotians would not repeat not form any kind of a government, provisional or otherwise, until they perceived what kind of a solution to the problem of Laos the great powers were prepared to decide upon. It was clearly recognized by all present however that the likely Communist position about Laotian representation, no repeat no doubt accompanied by demands for immediate or at least early elections in Laos, would be productive of considerable difficulty.
- International Machinery for Laos – The discussions on this question consisted principally of questions about how State Department officials conceived of this machinery.
- For example it was asked how the neutral Military Affairs Commission was to be related to the international control mechanism. In particular was the Military Affairs Commission to fulfill a largely advisory role or was it to have executive functions as well? Futhermore was it intended to take over any of the investigatory functions of the international control machinery of the kind heretofore carried out by the ICSC? Usher, beyond conceding that it did seem as though the Military Affairs Commission ought to have largely advisory functions, said that these questions had not repeat not been worked out and that he would be glad to have these and any further suggestions in order to round out State Department thinking.
- Regarding the Development Assistance Agency (or even the possible assumption of this role by the UN) it was asked whether it was desired that conference decisions on this question should be aimed at buttressing directly the other machinery for neutralizing Laos; or whether the intention was simply to attempt through multilateralizing the provision of economic aid and assistance to Laos to reduce cold war friction over Laos and at the same time indirectly encourage economic and social conditions conducive to a neutral status? If the former were the case it was suggested that the development assistance agency might better be conceived of as an exclusive agency for the extension of aid to Laos, and possibly also an exclusive agency for advising on Laotian development planning. If the latter were the case, then the development assistance agency would not repeat not be an essential piece of machinery for maintaining Laotian neutrality, although it would be no repeat no doubt a valuable indirect mechanism to the same end. In further discussion of these points Usher said that so far there had been no repeat no suggestion in the State Department that bilateral aid arrangements were to be excluded. He said, however, that some thought had been given to the establishment of an aid fund for Laos, although the nature of USA congressional aid appropriations, being both annual and subject to stringent legal provisions regarding recipients, rendered the fund concept difficult for USA.
- Relatively little was said on the question of the international control mechanism because of lack of time. We pointed out however that Canada as a member of the present ICSC had a particular interest in this question and that we should be most grateful for a fuller explanation of State Department thinking, especially if it was envisaged that there should be any change in the composition of the present Commission. It was also pointed out that while the more elaborate concepts advanced by State Department officials as to a wider range of international machinery in Laos might eventually be found acceptable, it seemed doubtful how far progress could be made in gaining acceptance of these concepts at the conference unless the Western delegations were prepared to take a good deal of the original Geneva Accords as a point of departure. Furthermore, having regard to the important position played by India in the execution of the Geneva Accords and India’s inevitable interest and concern in the area. It seemed likely that some considerable degree of continuity would be unavoidable, at least as far as India was concerned. Usher indicated personal sympathy with these points and enquired how best to relate the forthcoming conference to the results of the earlier Geneva Conference and the subsequent Laotian internal agreements. It was suggested that perhaps a first order of concern should be to have precise ideas about what could be salvaged from the earlier accords and agreements. We had the impression that while State Department officials might prefer to leave it to others to make the running insofar as the Geneva Accords were concerned, since the USA had not repeat not been a party thereto, nevertheless Usher would try to see what could be done about developing a more forthcoming analysis of, and approach to, this question.
- It was explicitly understood that the views expressed above were exploratory on the part of all concerned. Usher made it very clear, however that the State Department would be grateful to have the views of UK and Canadian authorities on the question raised. For their part, UK Embassy representatives said that they understood a draft treaty such as might be adopted by the International Conference was in the course of preparation in the Foreign Office. It was agreed that a draft of this nature would assist in further discussions.
- On the whole our impression from these discussions with State Department and UK Embassy officers is that a good deal of hard thought and work will have to be applied to the various questions raised. In addition, so far as Canada is concerned, it is conceivable that the work now being undertaken in Delhi will have a direct bearing on at least some of the aspects of the broader range of problems raised by Usher. Furthermore, the apparent desire of State Department officials to avoid consideration of anything but Laotian problems in the International Conference may in turn have considerable bearing on the prospects for fruitful Canadian participation, for even a limited period, in a reactivated ICSC for Laos. While we have, of course, made no repeat no commitment in these exploratory conversations in the State Department as to either official Canadian views on the questions raised or on our agreement to preconference discussions in Washington (as opposed to, for instance, Geneva or elsewhere) it does seem to us that an early expression of Canadian views would be most helpful to the State Department and would moreover add much to remedy the lack, up to the present time, of adequate diplomat preparation for the International Conference. We should, of course, be grateful for any guidance you can send to us.
- We apologize for length this message. In view of timetable however, you will wish to have these current views promptly.
Secretary of State for External Affairs to High Commissioner in India
TELEGRAM Y-247 Ottawa, April 28, 1961
Repeat for Information: London, Washington, Geneva, NATO Paris, Paris, Saigon, Permis New York (Priority).
Following for your information is message from Mr. Green to Prime Minister Nehru about the Laos Commission transmitted through Indian High Commissioner on April 26. Text Begins: “Thank you for your message of April 24 informing me of the joint communication received from the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference on Indochina suggesting that the Government of India should convene in Delhi the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Laos, and inviting me to name a representative to the Commission.
- “I share your view that the convening of the Commission is a matter of urgent importance and I have accordingly appointed Mr. Leon Mayrand as Canadian member of the Commission. Mr. Mayrand is at present en route to Delhi and should arrive in time for the first meeting on Friday, April 28.
- “In my opinion the arrangements worked out between the Co-Chairmen, including the call for an immediate cease fire to be effective before the International Conference begins its work, constitute an important step toward the restoration of peace in Laos. I welcome the steps now being taken to bring about an understanding between the parties to the conflict. I hope that in considering the question of its tasks and functions the Commission will pay primary attention to the importance of proceeding as soon as possible to Laos in order to ensure that the cease fire is being effectively observed.” Text ends.
Message from Prime Minister of United Kingdom to Prime Minister
SECRET [London], April 28, 1961
I thought you would like to know how we are getting on with our attempts to bring about a cease-fire in Laos.
You will no doubt have seen that the Royal Laotian Government, the Souvanna Phouma group, and the Pathet Lao, have all made broadcasts welcoming the co-Chairmen’s appeal for a cease-fire and saying that they are prepared to co-operate. The usual way to arrange a cease-fire is for military representatives of both sides to meet under a flag of truce somewhere between the lines or in a neutral place, and there to agree on a stop to the fighting. This is what we have been trying to arrange, but we have run into certain difficulties. General Phoumi has insisted on an odd sort of proposal whereby his side will stop shooting today and rely on the other side to do the same. I do not think that this will get us anywhere because the communists have made it clear that they want the normal procedure of a meeting beforehand. Prince Souvanna Phouma has suggested that this should be in Xieng Khouang and General Phoumi that it should be in Luang Prabang. I am doing my best to get General Phoumi now to offer a meeting in no man’s land and I have asked President Kennedy to do the same.
A difficulty about all this has been that the Russians were unwilling that the co-Chairmen should be used as a channel of communication between both sides, so that everything has had to be done by public broadcast, and this has led to typical Laotian confusion.
You will also have learnt that the Americans have been greatly worried by the fact that the Pathet Lao have continued to advance and the Government troops have put up no kind of resistance. There is little doubt that the Pathet Lao are in a position to seize Luang Prabang and Vientiane between now and the 12th May if they really push ahead. The Americans fear that they will do this, but we ourselves have no evidence at all that this is their intention. Indeed, the Russians have assured our Ambassador in Moscow that they consider that there should be no major military moves between now and the declaration of the cease-fire. I have spoken to President Kennedy about this on the telephone. He was most helpful and promised that he would get into touch with me if there were any changes in the situation unless it improved or unless a cease-fire were brought about.
Another bad factor has been the Chinese broadcast saying that American and Thai forces and arms must be removed from Laos before there can be a cease-fire. It is possible that when the two sides meet for truce talks the communists will put forward some such suggestion. In that case, we must make it clear that this is a matter for Governments and for the Conference and goes far beyond the scope of organising an immediate end to the fighting. I am by no means convinced, however, that we shall be faced with such a demand; the Russians have never mentioned it at any stage, nor has it appeared in any of the broadcasts by Prince Souvanna Phouma or the Pathet Lao.
You will no doubt have heard that the Americans are thinking of summoning the Security Council: we consider this premature and there is an obvious danger of a most damaging debate. We are therefore recommending postponement for a few days.
Everything now depends on getting the cease-fire before the Americans feel that they have been pushed too far. You may be sure that we are doing everything possible to bring this about. I will let you know of any further developments.
Chairman, Delegation on Laos, to Secretary of State for External Affairs
TELEGRAM 346 Delhi, April 28, 1961
Reference: Our Tel 345 Apr 28.†
Repeat for Information: Geneva, Washington, London, Paris, Rome, Canberra, Wellington, Permis New York (Priority) from Ottawa, Saigon (Priority).
By Bag Phnom Penh from Saigon.
Commission Report to Co-chairmen
Immediately after its ceremonial opening session the Commission held its first formal meeting to consider the nature of its report to the Co-Chairman on “tasks and functions” and to give first look at administrative questions. These matters had already been discussed informally at a meeting of the three commissioners earlier in the day.
- The Commission started its work on the basis of a Polish proposal. After some discussion it was agreed that the Chairman was to submit a draft to the Commission at its meeting tomorrow incorporating the following points. My Indian and Polish colleagues expressed the hope that the Commission might despatch its report April 29. In its preamble the report would express the readiness of the Commission to be of service, its satisfaction that the Co-Chairmen have seen fit to reconvene the Commission and its concern for the cessation of hostilities in Laos.
- The following points would then be made.
- The Commission hopes the parties in Laos will decide without delay on a date for cease fire and invite Commission to Laos.
- It would plan to establish itself in Laos on the day of the proclaimed cease fire.
- Its first task will then be to assist the joint committee representing the two sides in the Laotian dispute in the committee’s effort to work out details of a military truce agreement.
- It will then decide on the number of teams required for location and other related matters.
- It will report to the Co-Chairmen before May 12 on the effectiveness of the cease fire.
- It will start observing implementation of the truce agreement on the day of its coming into force and the Commission will then expect further instructions from the Conference at Geneva as to its future role.
- The difficulty of problem of location of headquarters for resumed Commission was recognized and it was thought best at present stage to refer only to initial task and not repeat not to location in hope problem may be solved a few days hence. We propose to insist that for practical reasons Vientiane be selected as base of operation.
- With regard to organizational matters, the Chairman suggested that the Commission might wish to ask India initially to advance funds to Commission, pending permanent arrangements are made. Sen believes that India will be prepared to provide some stores, light vehicles and their maintenance, and generally the services provided by the Indians in the other commissions i.e. signals, medical care, commissariat, accounting etc. The Polish and Indian delegates appeared to be in agreement that in as much as possible equipment and maintenance should be secured from locally uncommitted countries; Cambodia was mentioned in that connection and Polish delegate indicated clearly that they would not repeat not object to use of French personnel if necessary. We proposed, and it was agreed, that a military adviser committee should be set up at once to consider urgent administrative matters. Military committee is expected to give Commission its estimate of immediate requirements tomorrow morning so that those may be mentioned in report to Co-Chairmen.
Chairman, Delegation on Laos, to Secretary of State for External Affairs
TELEGRAM 349 Delhi, April 29, 1961
Reference: Your Tel Y-244 Apr 27† our Tel 346 Apr 28.
Repeat for Information: London (Emergency) from Ottawa, Washington, Geneva, Paris, Canberra, Wellington, Permis New York (Priority) from Ottawa, Saigon (Priority).
By Bag Ankara, Moscow, Warsaw, Tokyo, Colombo, Jakarta from London, Phnom Penh from Saigon.
Laos Commission: Report to Co-chairmen
After considerable give and take Commission reached tentative agreement this evening on text of report embodying all points set out in my reference telegram. Polish delegation worked towards making Commission report coincide as closely as possible with text of Co-Chairmen’s letters. I advanced but could not repeat not press to acceptance proposals that Commission should be based administratively at Vientiane and that Co-Chairmen should draw specifically attention of parties in Laos to need for complete freedom of movement for Commission. Report in its present form is inelegant but it seems to us not repeat not seriously objectionable and unless I hear from you to the contrary I therefore propose to sign it at meeting called for that purpose on Monday morning May 1. Text of report follows, Begins:
“International Commission for Supervision and Control in Laos reconvened at Delhi on April 28, 1961, in response to message dated April 24, 1961 from Co-Chairmen of Geneva Conference on Indochina.Footnote 20 Commission share great concern of Co-Chairmen on situation which has developed in Laos. They consider that reconvening of Commission at present within framework of 1954 Geneva Agreements and on instruction of Co-Chairmen, after suspension which has lasted for nearly 3 years, should contribute effectively to peace in Laos. During this period there have been many instances of disregard of Geneva Agreement and situation deteriorated to such an extent that it became a serious threat to peace and security in South East Asia.
Commission equally share anxiety of Co-Chairmen that all steps should be taken to bring about and ensure cessation of hostilities in Laos. They express hope that effective cease fire in Laos should be achieved with minimum of delay, and their readiness, as soon as it is achieved, to do all in their power to supervise and control it with cooperation of all parties to present hostilities. It is also hope of Commission that all military authorities, parties and organisations in Laos will heed appeal of Co-Chairmen for a cease fire and will fix an early and specific date for carrying it out. The Commission would expect to be informed of such cease fire as soon as it has been declared and of willingness of parties to cooperate with them.
Once date for an agreed cease fire has been announced, Commission intend to proceed to Laos to be present there, about time cessation of hostilities is due to take place.
On arrival in Laos primary and most important responsibility of Commission will be to establish close and cooperative relations with parties, particularly with such joint committees as may be set up for effective implementation of cease fire. Commission will be prepared to proceed immediately to any place where such committee may function.
Commission in close cooperation with parties to cease fire agreement will consider measures such as establishment of inspection teams, which would enable Commission to supervise and control effectiveness of cease fire agreement. For this purpose, Commission should be authorized to request and receive all relevant military information from parties. Commission would welcome assurances from parties that they will extend all facilities for proper discharge of such responsibilities as may devolve on Commission or their teams, as a result of any agreement on cease fire to be entered into by parties.
Next task of Commission would be to supervise and control any agreement parties may reach among themselves on questions connected with cease fire.
Commission are confident that foregoing will provide adequate basis for formulating immediate instructions by Co-Chairmen. Commission further hope that conference convened at Geneva on May 12, 1961, will produce fruitful results enabling Laos to follow policy of neutrality in peace, unity and sovereignty.
In view of urgency of problem confronting Commission, they request that instructions of Co-Chairmen along lines indicated above be communicated to them with the least possible delay.
In this connection Commission have given thought to problem in changed circumstances, for effective administration and financing of their activities. The Commission would be prepared to request Government of India to advance USA 200,000 to Commission to meet their immediate minimum requirements, on understanding that each of contributing powers, under arrangements made at Geneva in 1954, will speedily reimburse Government of India. With this amount and with help of Indian army, Commission should be able to set up an effective machinery provided that Co-Chairmen were willing to supply Commission with an adequate number of aeroplanes and helicopters together with facilities for their maintenance. Commission realize that greatest measure of economy must be maintained in administration and state that, to a large measure, this would depend on extent and nature of facilities to be made available by parties.” Ends
Secretary of State for External Affairs to Chairman, Delegation on Laos
TELEGRAM Y-120 Ottawa, April 29, 1961
Reference: Your Tels 346 Apr 28 and 349 Apr 29.
Repeat for Information: London, Washington, Paris, NATO Paris, Canberra, Wellington, Permis New York, Saigon, Geneva (OpImmediate).
By Bag Ankara, Moscow, Warsaw, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo, Jakarta from London, Phnom Penh from Saigon.
Laos Commission: Report to Co-chairmen
Following for Candel Laos.
It is clear from your reference telegrams that you have secured best text likely to be acceptable to all three delegations. We would not wish to be placed in position of delaying or obstructing agreement on steps immediately necessary for verification of ceasefire. You are therefore authorized to sign text in your telegram 349.
Deputy High Commissioner of United Kingdom to Prime Minister
SECRET Ottawa, May 1, 1961
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Since Mr. Harold Macmillan sent you his message of the 28th April about the difficulties over arranging a cease-fire in Laos, matters have become even more critical. I have today been instructed to transmit to you a further message from Mr. Macmillan which I enclose, together with the text of the message to Mr. Nehru to which Mr. Macmillan refers.
Message from Prime Minister of United Kingdom to Prime Minister
SECRET [London], May 1, 1961
I am asking our High Commissioner to show you a secret personal message which I have sent today to Mr. Nehru asking him to try and arrange for the International Commission to be sent back to Laos at once in order to help the Laotians to reach agreement on a cease-fire. I know this is what you and Howard Green have wanted to avoid, and that the agreement reached between ourselves and subsequently with the Russians was that the Commission would only start work in Laos when the cease-fire came into force. But the last few days have shown that the Laotians do not seem capable of reaching agreement amongst themselves speedily, and delay has placed us in an increasingly dangerous position. We have done everything possible to reach a peaceful solution of the problem, but I am afraid that the sands are running out and that if we cannot clinch the matter within the next few days events will get out of our control with the obvious results which we all so much dread. I do hope, therefore, that you will forgive me for putting you in this rather difficult position and placing an extra burden on your officers who will be serving with the Commission.
Message from Prime Minister of United Kingdom to Prime Minister of India
SECRET [London], May 1, 1961
I am afraid that there is a real danger that the cease-fire negotiations in Laos may break down in the next 48 hours. Most unfortunately Gromyko has refused to permit the establishment of a channel of communication between both sides through the Co-Chairmen. We are also in difficulty because the communists are trying to push their advantage in the present state of confusion before a cease-fire can be arranged.
The Vientiane Government have now made very reasonable proposals for a truce meeting in between the opposing lines on Monday morning. This is obviously the way in which negotiations to put a stop to the fighting ought to be held, and we have sent a message to Souvanna Phouma in Hanoi urging him to try and get his friends to attend the rendez-vous. If they fail to do so or if, when they arrive, they put forward too difficult conditions which will require lengthy further negotiation, I am afraid that things will get out of hand.
I have therefore been wondering whether the time has not come for a new initiative. I know that the International Commission have said that they intend to proceed to Laos as soon as a cease-fire has been agreed so as to be on the spot at the moment it comes into force. I think however we ought now to try once again to get the Commission to help the Laotians to reach their agreement. As this goes beyond what was agreed between Lord Home and Mr. Gromyko I think that the Russians are only likely to accept it if the suggestion comes from yourself. I wonder therefore if you would be prepared to send an immediate message to Mr. Gromyko and Lord Home asking them to authorise the Chairman to send the Commission to Laos at once in order to offer its services in helping to arrange the cease-fire. I believe that this may be the only way now to avoid the fighting breaking out again in a much more serious form and leading to the most dangerous consequences.
Memorandum from Special Assistant, Office of Secretary of State for External Affairs, to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
SECRET [Ottawa], May 1, 1961
Mr. Macmillan’s Message to the Prime Minister on Laos, of May 1, 1961
Having read the copy of Mr. Macmillan’s Note to the Prime Minister enclosing the text of the former’s communication to Mr. Nehru, the Minister saw no need to hasten to make a reply. In a situation changing as rapidly as that in Laos, he was reluctant to advise the Prime Minister to commit Canada to such an entirely new function for the I.S.C., as assisting in the negotiation of a cease-fire, without full and up-to-date knowledge of the circumstances. I understand from Mr. Robinson that the Prime Minister, too, felt in no hurry to endorse the action which the United Kingdom Government had already seen fit to take.
- For similar reasons, the Minister did not wish to send Mayrand contingent authorization to agree, if he should be faced with, on short notice, a request for the Commission to proceed immediately to Laos to help negotiate a cease-fire.Footnote 21
Secretary of State for External Affairs to Ambassador in United States
TELEGRAM G-201 Ottawa, May 2, 1961
Reference: Your 1360 Apr 27.
Repeat for Information: Paris, London, Delhi, Ankara, Permis New York (Priority), Canberra, Wellington.
By Bag Saigon, Phnom Penh, Moscow, Warsaw, Tokyo, Djakarta, Kuala Lumpur.
We were glad to have the thinking of the State Department on various aspects of the Laotian question. We are not attempting to comment on every detail but the following paragraphs convey our present views on some of the main points:
- Objects of the Conference. We would see these as:
- A united and peaceful Laos;
- Neutral status on conditions conforming to the wishes and needs of the Laotian people. This presumably involves:
- absence of foreign bases and foreign military formations;
- Such agreements or declarations as would ensure the recognition of neutrality;
- Such contributions as the conference could properly make toward political stability and economic well-being;
- Establishment, renewal or modification of international agencies required to implement and maintain the above objectives.
- Laotian Government. While it is not clear what exact action the conference could properly take or would need to take in respect of a new government, it is obvious that the existence of a generally accepted government would be a necessary element in the progress of the conference and – we assume – required for participation in resulting agreements. But should not the public position be that the Laotians themselves form a new government? At present it appears to us that the only personality who might be generally acceptable as Prime Minister is Souvanna Phouma, and we cannot conceive of agreement on a coalition which did not include representation of Pathet Lao. We would envisage complicated and protracted bargaining aimed at securing the key positions, i.e. foreign affairs and internal security.
- Internal Security. We agree that some internal security force will be required and that it must be wholly Laotian. Presumably it would be a military or para-military force with the tasks of maintaining order within the country and policing the frontiers. It would require light weapons and equipment and perhaps outside technical experts for training. Obviously these needs could not repeat not be met except under some international understanding. The tasks which the State Department was considering for a Military Affairs Commission of Asian neutrals appear to combine these long-term tasks (which were assigned essentially to the French in the 1954 Agreement) with short-term tasks of disentanglement and integration of existing forces which were assigned in 1954 to the Joint Commission of the parties under the supervision of the ICSC. We think these 1954 arrangements represent the best starting point. If the Communists were agreeable to the French having some continuing responsibilities in the field of training, we believe this might be a more satisfactory arrangement from the western point of view than attempting to set up an entirely new arrangement, although we see some advantages in the idea of associating Asian neutrals with the task and would be interested in any State Department development of the idea. For the short-term tasks we see no alternative to the ICSC as a generally acceptable means for supervising the dispositions made by the parties, although we would wish to see the Commission’s powers, independence and freedom of movement strengthened by the conference.
- Development Assistance Agency. In general we do not repeat not differ from the line of thinking of the State Department, but it is a subject that needs, obviously, further exploration.
- International Supervisory Mechanism. Our position is that we are prepared to continue on the ISC should that be desired. We doubt that any alternative body would find general acceptance at the Conference but recognize that changes in terms of reference are needed. With reference to your paragraph 4 it is easy to say that the Commission would have to be more effective than in 1954-58, but the means of achieving this are not so simple. Our first reaction to the suggestion of individual inspections is not favourable. The ISC, like the American constitution, is based on checks and balances, and so is constituted in such a way as to prevent any one element from acting unilaterally. The objections to this are as obvious as the reasons for setting it up in that way. We wonder, too, whether the State Department has thought of individual inspections by a Polish representative. The position of a neutral Chairman is unenviable and we note the apparent criticisms of Indian performance (your 1286).† We would not, however, be receptive to a suggestion that India be replaced.
- General Comment. In contemplating such a conference, the theme of “how to defeat the Communists” is inevitable; but it has always, we think, been hoped that it would as far as practicable be kept in the background. For our part, as a member of the ISC, we believe that our future usefulness depends in part on conveying an impression of moderation and readiness to apply ourselves to our role. This, of course, contradicts in no way close consultation with the western powers before and at the conference.
For London: You should convey our views to the Foreign Office on the assumption that they are aware of the State Department thinking but not directly phrased as comments on USA views.
For Delhi (Ronning) and Ankara (Bridle): We would welcome your comments.
For Paris, Canberra and Wellington: You may convey in general these views to officials without an indication of their connection with discussions in Washington.
Secretary of State for External Affairs to Chairman, Delegation to Conference on Laos, Geneva
TELEGRAM Y-268 Ottawa, May 10, 1961
Reference: London’s Tels 1662 of May 4† and 1718 and 1719 of May 9.†
Repeat for Information: Washington, Paris, NATO Paris, Delhi, London, Permis New York, Saigon, Vientiane (Priority).
By Bag from London: Phnom Penh, Djakarta, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Canberra, Wellington, Moscow, Warsaw.
From London’s reference telegrams, it is evident that USA, UK and France plan to have Cambodia and Burma accept maximum responsibility for supervision and control of a Laotian settlement. Paragraph 6 of London’s 1718 suggests that the major western powers might seek to have Cambodia and Burma added to the ICSC which, in certain circumstances, might be asked to examine the future of Laos with political leaders in that country and report its recommendations to the conference.
- Paper on Supervisory Commission, tasks, powers, and functions included in commentary for delegations sets out our views on an enlarged Commission in a general way. Delegation may wish to keep in mind following additional reasons why we have tentatively concluded there would be little gained by adding additional Asian neutrals to present Commission. We think the Indians would react sharply to a departure from the Geneva structure to which they attach great importance, and which would tend to diminish their influence as Chairman. It is possible that the Communist powers might react against any weakening of Poland’s position by putting forward their own Asian nominee. If this were the DRVN, the result would be most unhappy. Moreover any change in the Laos Commission might reopen the question of membership in the Cambodian and Vietnam Commissions.
- In view of India’s strong desire to achieve unanimity within the Commission on major issues, we think that addition of Cambodia and Burma would only complicate matters and render the Commission more unwieldy. Cambodia, for instance, might be tempted to use Commission to further its own regional interests which might lead to complications with South Vietnam and Thailand. Addition of two members would also raise formidable administrative and logistic problems and make Commission more costly.
Ambassador in United States to Secretary of State for External Affairs
TELEGRAM 1502 Washington, May 10, 1961
SECRET. CANADIAN EYES ONLY. OPIMMEDIATE.
Repeat for Information: London, Paris, NATO Paris (OpImmediate), Permis New York (Priority), Geneva, Delhi (OpImmediate), Bonn (Priority), Rome, Canberra, Wellington from Ottawa.
By Bag Moscow, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Tokyo, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Ankara from London.
Geneva Conference on Laos
We have been viewing with increasing concern the indications here and in Delhi that the Geneva Conference on Laos to convene on Friday may turn out to be less an accommodation between USA and the Communist countries and more an altercation between USA and India. This would be inconsistent with the broader and increasingly fruitful relationships being developed between USA and India, especially in the context of USA sympathy and practical cooperation with Indian development plans. Moreover in our view it would be wholly at variance with what we believe are the fundamental objectives of both countries in regard to Laos. It seems to us of primary importance that Canada as a close friend of both countries and also because of the direct relationship with the future of Laos that stems from our participation, present and prospective, in the ICSC should seek to bring them closer together. At all costs we should attempt to avoid a recurrence of the unfortunate situation after the 1954 Geneva Conference when USA apart from agreeing not repeat not to disturb the Geneva Accords by force in effect washed its hands of the régime for Southeast Asia.
- We would not repeat not wish to attempt any detailed assessment of responsibility for the breakdown of the 1954 arrangements. The Communist side has sought both indirectly and by military means to dominate Laos. At the same time the role played by USA in the area in succeeding years did not repeat not advance the objectives sought by USA let alone those desired by India and other like minded states in Asia. It has seemed to us that this lesson may have been learned during the course of the past administration, has been accepted by the present administration, and indeed is in the process of being applied in desirable directions and at an increasing pace by President Kennedy and Secretary Rusk. It would be a calamity if this process were set in reverse by essentially irrelevant arguments about the past. It is true that all the powers concerned including USA must be mindful of past mistakes and benefit from them in the formulation of future policies. But surely the task of the moment is to see whether, at any rate on the non Communist side, there is sufficient agreement on objectives and means to ensure that minimum national objectives are achieved, and that the results of the conference do not repeat not lead irrevocably toward a Communist victory in Laos.
- It seems clear that India and USA share the objectives of a neutral peaceful unified and independent Laos. USA views this primarily as a question of preventing Communist domination of Laos but there is no repeat no dispute between them about the end result. Both governments also share the view that these objectives must be sought through:
- Public international adherence to the concept of a neutral Laos and the adoption of corresponding policies;
- International supervision and control of agreements aimed at achieving a neutral Laos; and
- The emergence of a Laotian Government able and willing to work for the preservation of its neutrality.
- The differences between India and USA in relation to these means seem to be as follows:
- Judging from recent telegrams from Delhi it seems that the Indians do not repeat not think USA is prepared publicly to accept a neutral Laos or to work for it. We have no repeat no reason to believe that this is the case. On the contrary USA policy as lately and categorically expressed by the President and the Secretary of State, espousing the concept of a neutral Laos without reservations. This USA position is nevertheless dependent on Sino-Soviet observance of the same principle. Since neutrality for Laos is not repeat not yet an established fact, USA can do little more than it has done namely reaffirm its desire to achieve this objective. It would be wrong for the Indians to assume that precautionary USA activities pursued against the possibility of a failure to establish a neutral Laos lessen in any way the genuine desire of USA to achieve this result. In particular we have no repeat no reason to doubt that USA would be only too glad to achieve, under conditions of true neutrality, the removal of foreign bases and foreign military formations from Laos.
- As for international supervision and control machinery the Indian position appears to be that the present ICSC for Laos should simply continue business as usual. It seems to us that USA will ultimately accept the continuation of Communist participation. It will also, like the Indians, wish to see greater cooperation between the machinery in Laos and the similar machinery in Vietnam and Cambodia. It will however, as we do, wish to see the control machinery given powers, mobility, access and facilities substantially greater than that formerly exercised by the ICSC for Laos. USA will also wish to see these points carefully spelled out in some international document. Finally it is possible and perhaps probable that with such a document available USA would be prepared to accept a return of and offer full cooperation to the ICSC for Laos with its present composition.
- As to a truly neutral government in Laos it seems clear that the Indians do not repeat not accept the Boun Oum government’s protestations of a desire for a neutral status. USA authorities on the other hand accept Souvanna Phouma’s protestations, but are dubious about his ability to distinguish between his desires and intentions and those of the Pathet Lao and its associates.
- In regard to 4(a) above, it would be very useful if the Indians were prepared to suspend judgment on the ultimate USA position until it is seen how the Geneva Conference proceeds. As to 4(b) above, there is a real difficulty because it seems likely that the Indians may take as a reflection upon themselves any serious attempt to improve the effectiveness of the ICSC in Laos. On the other hand it would seem to us that the Indians would be sensitive to the fact that agreement to some such increase of powers would be the minimum price they would have to pay in order to ensure positive USA cooperation. If they really believe that USA sabotaged the 1954 agreements, this would be one form of insurance against a recurrence. The Canadian interest would clearly lie in clarifying the Commission’s tasks and making it as effective an instrument as possible.
- With regard to 4(c) the Indians have consistently regarded Souvanna Phouma as the only man in Laos who can hold the balance. USA authorities on the other hand are deeply suspicious of Souvanna. They believe that he was never sufficiently alert to the dangers of the Pathet Lao offensive, and that he has moved dangerously far from a neutralist position in recent months. Nevertheless there does not repeat not appear to be any effective alternative. Our own view would be therefore that while USA representatives at Geneva will be initially reserved toward Souvanna and his claims, they share with India the desire to see established a broadly based coalition, although they would not repeat not wish to be faced with a “fait accompli” on the eve of the conference. Souvanna’s role in such a coalition and its composition is apt to weigh as less important to guarantee the adherence to genuine neutrality of a broader Laos Government. Here perhaps the Indians could contribute by participating in a determined effort to improve the effectiveness of the international guarantees and control machinery within which the post conference Laotian government would operate. This would greatly assist in committing USA to full support of the results of the conference.
- There is one question which we have not repeat not discussed above and that is the Indian contention that the solution to the question of Laos must be “based” on the Geneva Agreements. USA not repeat not being parties to these agreements are somewhat at a loss how to tackle this question. We think they would be disposed to regard the agreements as a point of departure. USA, we ourselves and reportedly the Soviet and Chinese Communists all agree (though not repeat not perhaps intending quite the same thing) that the terms of reference of the ICSC are no repeat no longer adequate. If this be so, then the Geneva Agreements, particularly as they affect the operations of the ICSC may provide a minimum below which the forthcoming conference should not repeat not fall. USA might be prepared to go this far as well. On the other hand simply to attempt to revive unchanged the Geneva Agreements, despite their at least partial inapplicability to present circumstances, would seem to be beyond the realm of possibility, and USA could hardly be expected to agree to such a proposition. We are not repeat not sure exactly what the Indian position would be on this question. In some of Delhi’s telegrams there have been indications that the Indians would be prepared to see the Geneva Accords “suitably modified” but it is not repeat not clear whether this is simply related to the familiar Indian thesis that the three Indochina Commissions should work more closely together.
- On the whole we expect that any progress along the lines suggested above will be very difficult. But Canada appears to us to have a clear and direct interest in trying to bring USA and Indian positions more closely together. USA positions on many aspects have not repeat not yet been determined at a high level and there is some disposition in Washington to see how matters shape up at the conference. Perhaps in this light the Indians for their part would also be prepared to take a fresh look at the problem without too many preconceived ideas or recriminations over the past.
- We have not repeat not in this message dealt with the problem of Vietnam, which is not repeat not specifically on the conference agenda, but whose future is directly related to events in Laos and at the conference. We have noted in messages from Delhi reference to the view of some Indian officials that the time is now ripe for moves towards unification in Vietnam. This is poles apart from USA assessment, and the deep concern felt at the highest levels here at the massive subversion efforts of the Viet Cong particularly in the past year and the ineffectiveness of the ISC. The prospect of a divergence of USA and Indian view on Vietnam is again very real. It may be that outside the formal Geneva sessions dealing with Laos, private efforts can be made by USA and Indian representatives, and perhaps with our help, to consult on the future of Vietnam within the context of a possible Laotian settlement.
Secretary of State for External Affairs to Chairman, Delegation to Conference on Laos, Geneva
TELEGRAM Y-274 Ottawa, May 16, 1961
SECRET. CANADIAN EYES ONLY. OPIMMEDIATE.
Reference: Washington Tel 1502 of May 10.
Repeat for Information: Washington, London, Paris, NATO Paris, Permis New York, Delhi, Rome, Canberra, Wellington (OpImmediate).
By Bag Moscow, Warsaw, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Djakarta
Geneva Conference on Laos
We have been grateful for the analysis in recent weeks made by London, Delhi and Washington of the developments of the Laos question and national policies toward it. The present telegram is particularly directed to Washington reference telegram though bearing in mind the other reports indicated.
- We fully agree on the seriousness of the difficulties that have developed between USA and India and which may exist to a lesser extent between USA and some Western powers. Certainly it is as Washington suggests not fruitful to assign responsibility for this apparent rift but it is obvious from recent comments made by Indians in relation to talks with Harriman and Maffit Delhi telegram 378† and 381† of May 8, that the Indians are disturbed and irritated. Perhaps USA conversations and public utterances give to them as they do to some extent to us an impression of old and new approaches patched together like a badly edited film. At the same time the Cuban affair may give in Delhi the impression of a reversion to themes unattractive to the Indians. No doubt the unskilful handling of the neutral nations plan and perhaps some reflection of the American attitude toward Indian performance in the Vietnam Commission have added to Indian distrust.
- In general we agree with Washington’s assessment of the difficulties as outlined in their paragraph 4. State Department lack of confidence in the International Commissions is one of the root difficulties. To some degree delegation may be able to remove this American concern by improvement in the powers and functions of the Commission designed to enable it to operate more effectively. In final analysis, however, the effectiveness of any control machinery depends to a large extent on the cooperation of the parties and not solely on the language of an agreement. We fully recognize that a Commission with a built-in conflict must inevitably move slowly but on the other hand we have no reason to believe that any acceptable alternative exists. (Our telegram Y-268 of May 10 to Geneva).
- As to Washington paragraph 4(c), it seems to us that the real problem in a coalition government is not whether it is headed by Souvanna Phouma or includes Pathet Lao representatives for under present circumstances both seem inevitable. If the Conference sets up a neutral Laos free to manage its own affairs, the risk must be accepted that the Laotian Government may in future move far to the left and become in effect more sympathetic to the Communists than to the Western group without technically compromising its legal neutrality. No doubt the Indians would regret a heavy slant to the left but to the USA this must be a seriously alarming prospect. For the immediate future attempts could be made to forestall such a development by influencing the membership of the coalition but is there in the background the possibility of saving part of Laos by a division of the country, the Southern section defended on the ground by the USA. Neither of these expedients would fit what we know of Indian thinking but we must add our doubt that any kind of control machinery could indefinitely guarantee the adherence of a Laotian Government to a policy of real neutrality.
- We agree not only with Washington’s assessments of the seriousness of this situation but also with the desirability of doing what we can to narrow the Delhi-Washington gap. The delegation will be best placed to see the possibilities in this respect but here we suggest two possible approaches:
- to emphasize as opportunities arise that the real objectives of India and the USA are much more similar than they may appear on the surface. It might be wise too to indicate that while the American administration has moved a long way from its policy of last autumn it has real difficulties (in relation to Congress, public opinion, SEATO and its world wide responsibilities) in exposing itself to accusations of weakness.
- Despite its traditional distaste for the Geneva Agreement the USA has now accepted that Agreement as a starting point and a set of principles thus moving nearer to the Indian position. Similarly, it has developed a more friendly attitude toward the Commissions. We do not share the USA view that it would be wise to add further neutrals to the Commission but we are as fully aware as they are of the difficulties of the Commission in operation. In our understanding, the Indians would agree on this latter point. Perhaps if the American delegation informally explored attitudes toward a reconstructed Commission they might end up close to our position that it needs improved terms of reference but must otherwise remain unchanged. Perhaps the defensive stand of the Indians on the Vietnam Commission gives a false impression that it cannot be improved. As we understand it Delhi would like to see the whole Commission structure more effective but one element in achieving this is to emphasize the responsibility of India rather than criticize unduly its cautious approach in practice.
Message from Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (United Kingdom) to Prime Minister
SECRET [London], May 26, 1961
Now that Alec Home is back from Geneva I thought you would like to know how we view likely developments there.
There seems to be general agreement that Laos should be a genuinely non-aligned state insulated from the cold war.
There are however signs of serious disagreement about the machinery for ensuring this. In fact it looks as though the communist powers will try to prevent the Control Commission from dealing effectively with breaches of the cease-fire while the Conference is sitting and also from developing into an effective instrument for impartially controlling the level of arms imported into Laos once an agreement is signed. When there are alleged breaches of the cease-fire the I.C.C. must have the authority to investigate them and stop them. Otherwise forces can advance and make large tactical gains under cover of the Conference. Gromyko has proposed that the Commission should act only if all its members are agreed and this obviously would give the communists a veto. Another bad sign is the categorical denial by the Pathet Lao representative that there were any Viet Minh troops in Laos.
The possibility of an agreement really hangs on our securing effective and impartial control of the cease-fire in Laos and on this being seen by all to be effective, when that is certain, confidence will grow. This is going to be the crux of the problem.
SECRET [Ottawa], May 26, 1961
Terms of Reference for Laos Commission
As you know, the general policy statements by the delegations at the Geneva Conference have been completed, and attention is now turning to more detailed consideration of specific problems. The problem which is of most direct concern to us, of course, is that of the terms of reference for the Supervisory Commission. Consideration of these terms of reference has already reached the drafting stage: indeed, it seems probable that over the weekend a draft will be worked out by the United States, United Kingdom and French delegations for tabling in the conference early next week. It is therefore important at this crucial stage that our delegation should be in a position to influence as directly and effectively as possible the draft which will be tabled as a basis for discussion. We have already supplied our delegation with detailed comments, and the delegation has, of course, been in frequent individual contact with the other western delegations. The delegation believes, however, that its ability to influence the terms of reference would be greater if it were able to participate directly in the drafting process (Geneva telegram 654 of May 25).† I agree with their judgment on this matter. As you indicated in your telegram No. M-34 to Washington,† our position as regards non-involvement in the general western policy planning has been made clear to all concerned and is fully understood. The detailed drafting of terms of reference under which Canadian representatives will be required to work, however, raises quite different considerations; and I think it would be inconsistent with our insistence on this aspect of the problem as our primary concern if we were not to do all we can to influence the outcome. I attach for your signature if you agree a telegram to our delegation in Geneva† authorizing them to participate in the drafting of the terms of reference.Footnote 22
Commissioner, International Commission for Supervision and Control for Laos, to Secretary of State for External Affairs
LETTER NO. 12 Vientiane, June 14, 1961
Our First Month in Laos
Because of the urgent character of our mission in this country we have so far reported mostly by wire and almost exclusively on the immediate aspects of our work. The Commission’s several reports to the Co-Chairmen have also reflected day to day developments. I propose, in this letter, to take a somewhat broader view of the first activities of the Commission and of the role of our Delegation in it.
- Until today the role of our Commission has been that of an official witness of the ceasefire who, because of the attitude of one of the parties, has had to base his reports on hearsay evidence. Cast in that unusual role for a supervision and control commission, the ICSC could satisfy fully neither its audience at Geneva nor its own members. If, however, we felt frustrated on several occasions because of our inability to exercise real control, at no point could we forget that our return to Laos had been the fruit of a difficult compromise and that, after all, our mere presence here was bound to act to some extent as a check on the military activities of the side which was winning the battles before we arrived. The check proved insufficient to prevent the fall of Ban Padong. Precisely because of that grim episode, which caused a temporary interruption in the work of the Geneva Conference, we now seem to be entering the second phase of our activity: one in which the Commission, we hope, may begin to act in a manner justifying its name.
- Since its arrival in Laos on May 8, the Commission has established itself at Vientiane and Xieng Khouang. It has discussed the situation of the ceasefire and its own role with the principals at the two “capitals” and has made recommendations to them. It has attended the thrice-weekly meetings of the parties at Ban Namone. It has reported eight times to the Co-Chairmen.Footnote 23 Finally, it has set up its Military Committee to advise the Commission on the military situation and on the control machinery and also, as of today, to negotiate with the military representatives of the parties at the ceasefire talks in Ban Namone.
- The military situation is that, although there is a general observance of the ceasefire, there are some notable violations apart from those which might be ascribed to accidental and unpremeditated causes. In the first place, the Xieng Khouang party has made it clear that they refuse to recognize the existence of legitimate forces of the Vientiane party in the provinces of Xieng Khouang and Sam Neua. Since, notwithstanding, these forces exist (comprising largely the Vientiane party’s Meo volunteer battalions), the Xieng Khouang party has clearly embarked upon a campaign to liquidate them by military action. Ban Padong was the first major effort in this campaign and was directed against the headquarters which controls the operations of the Vientiane forces’ volunteer battalions in these two provinces. We may expect similar operations against the Vientiane forces to the east of Xieng Khouang and in Sam Neua province and there are already indications of this in the complaints being filed by the Vientiane party.
- Notwithstanding their own outraged feelings at finding forces of the opposing party operating deep in territory over which they claim control, the Xieng Khouang party shows with apparent pride, on a specially printed map depicting the extent of their military control of Laos, very considerable activity by their own guerrilla forces in territory under control of the Vientiane party. This indicates a campaign of guerrilla activity which is attested to by the complaints of the Vientiane party, particularly at present in the country around Vientiane.
- In addition, there appears to be some building up of opposing forces in the Thaket and Muong-Phalane/Muong-Phine areas. This is indicated chiefly by complaints of the Vientiane party, but also to some extent by complaints made by the Xieng Khouang party affecting the same areas. Breaches of the ceasefire in those areas by actual attacks and firing are so far few in number. However, the possibility of trouble breaking out in this area which controls General Phoumi’s communications to South Viet Nam and is also a potential route through Laos to South Viet Nam for the North Vietnamese, certainly cannot be overlooked.
- At Saigon, on May 8, the Commission had decided that the Commissioners and the bulk of the delegations should proceed at once to Vientiane, while a group composed of senior political advisers and military aides would go directly to Xieng-Khouang. This sub-Commission tried in vain to reach Xieng Khouang through Hanoi, but when it became apparent that the DRVN authorities were not prepared to assist in making arrangements for their move to Xieng Khouang, they flew to Vientiane on May 11 and from here to Xieng Khouang on the following day. After being held virtually under house arrest for three days, the sub-Commission saw the two Princes on May 15. As from that date our representatives with the Neutralist/Pathet Lao side were given nothing more than casual attention by Princes Souvanna Phouma and Souphanouvong but were at least authorized to move freely within the town of Xieng Khouang. Individual members of the three delegations made some calls (on which we are reporting separately) at Khang Khay on “government officials” and “diplomatic representatives” there. They also acted as a post office between the Commission and the local authorities. While it would seem that, for political reasons, the sub-Commission has to be kept where it is and immobilize valuable civilian and military personnel, it is unlikely that it will be able to achieve much work as a group. One reason why the sub-Commission is in fact ineffectual is that the Commissioners themselves have maintained a weekly contact with the Xieng Khouang Princes prior to their departure for Geneva. The Polish Political Adviser, Marek Thee, who has the rank of Minister and who was Commissioner in his own right in 1957, appears to have fallen back, as soon as he reached Xieng Khouang, on his past role of counsel to the Pathet Lao. As the “tough man” of his delegation, he has also become a self-appointed critic of the Commission whenever it attempts to discharge its supervisory functions, and even of his own Commissioner whom he apparently considers as too soft for the job.
- Our meeting with the two Princes showed that they are working in close unison at Khang Khay. For outward purposes Souvanna Phouma is the undisputed leader. He is the one who states the position of the Xieng Khouang side. Souphannouvong listens and nods assent, but very seldom intervenes. Yet I have found that Souvanna Phouma is far more amenable when I can speak to him alone. While we formed the impression that neutralist troops are predominant in the town of Xieng Khouang, it is well-known that Pathet Lao forces are generally by far the stronger. Souvanna Phouma has to depend on them and, to that extent, is not free. As long as a coalition government has not been formed, he cannot indulge in the luxury of dissociating himself from the theses of his military ally. I have no doubt that he is often unhappy about it; but to act differently would result in his non-splendid isolation. Thus, like Souphannouvong, he has had to profess that the Commission should be prepared to wait for an agreement between the parties before assuming responsibilities for the control of the ceasefire. Perhaps he will now facilitate such agreement of the parties; but again, when he does so, it will be because the Pathet Lao will have given him the green light. Like Souphannouvong, he will no doubt remain adamant in his refusal to allow military negotiations to proceed more rapidly than negotiations for the political settlement.
- On the Vientiane side, Prince Boun Oum is a pure figurehead and General Phoumi Nosavan the admitted chief. I found the latter more able and responsible than when I knew him in 1954. Financially and to a large extent militarily he is, however, dependent upon the United States. Mr. Brown is his constant adviser and I have already witnessed examples of changes of mind following the U.S. Ambassador’s calls. Phoumi, not unlike Souvanna Phouma, is probably not happy at this, but he cannot ignore it either. Moreover, he stands on delicate ground in regard to Souvanna Phouma. I have ascertained that many in his entourage are in agreement with Souvanna Phouma’s past policies and cannot escape the conclusion that the main protagonist of those policies one day will resume the leadership of the country. The point on which Phoumists differ among themselves is rather the extent to which Souvanna Phouma may still be trusted as a result of his forced association with the Pathet Lao and their North Vietnamese, Chinese and Soviet protectors.
- The meetings at Ban Namone reflect the above currents. Nouhac, the Neo Lao Haksat (Pathet Lao) representative, is the most caustic. He uses Chinese terminology when addressing the “Savannakhet” group who, he frequently says, are the mouthpiece of the United States. Pheng Phongsavan, the Neutralist representative, does not dare not to follow suit. Only once have I heard Pheng Phongsavan suggest something slightly different from Nouhac’s proposals, slightly closer to Vientiane’s point of view, and I presume that it was a pre-arranged show. Like Souvanna Phouma, however, Pheng Phongsavan is less rigid in private. In this context, the Vientiane representatives at Ban Namone (and there is no outstanding personality among them) appear somewhat on the defensive. Their claim to be the sole constitutional government, because of the National Assembly, sounds rather artificial when one remembers how that Assembly ratified coup after coup. They are themselves so uncertain of it that they do avoid mentioning that the King is on their side, out of fear of compromising him too.
- Our substantive task, as you know, has consisted so far in pressing the parties in favour of negotiations toward a full ceasefire agreement and in putting forward, in our letters of May 21 and June 8 to the parties, specific proposals for stricter observance of the ceasefire and for the participation of the Commission in controlling air supply. Being fully aware of the views of the Communist world that the role of the Commission should be limited to the strict minimum so long as the parties have not reached a full ceasefire agreement, I was somewhat surprised that my Polish colleague, Mr. Morski, agreed to make specific recommendations in our letter of May 21. According to Mr. Thee, he should never have agreed on behalf of the Polish Delegation. When the reply of Xieng Khouang to that letter came on May 28, both Mr. Morski and Mr. Sen became quite firm in their refusal to apply pressure on the parties. Moreover, both of them wanted to indicate clearly in a report to the Co-Chairmen that the Commission did have to submit to the wishes of the parties. As I have explained by wire, I maintained that we had every right and duty to insist on a more active role, but my more limited objective became to prevent the Commission as such from withdrawing from its earlier proposals. The fall of Ban Padong caused such a commotion at Geneva that apparently both Delhi and Warsaw instructed their local representatives to be more positive in their proposals to the parties. The line followed by Mr. Morski is obvious. The Indian policy for its part appears so far to have been dictated more by long-term considerations than by the pressure of either principles or circumstances. The main consideration appears to have been that the Commission should avoid embarrassing any of the great powers or antagonizing any of the parties. This not too courageous line, added to Mr. Sen’s well-known inability to write articulate English, have made each of our discussions on reports to the Co-Chairmen a rather difficult task.
- In line with our emphasis on the ceasefire, I may recall that our Delegation has been responsible for the setting up of the Commission’s Military Committee, whose duty it is to report to the Commission at once on complaints and to make recommendations. Its first report, dated June 5, contained the useful mention (inserted at Brigadier Cooper’s suggestion) that “only by investigation of incidents immediately they are reported can the Committee make any specific findings.” As you know, we have also played a predominant role in preparing for the Co-Chairmen, a list of the future material requirements of the Commission.
- On the material side, the Commission’s three delegations have established themselves at Vientiane, where they have found standards of accommodation higher than those prevailing in 1954-58. Here too our Delegation has taken the lead in organizing itself and even helping the two others. The authorities in Vientiane have cooperated with us to the extent that we sometimes thought it necessary to share what they gave us with the other two delegations.
- I might also mention that our Delegation has established excellent and close relationships with the British, French and United States embassies, as well as with the French Military Mission.
Chairman, Delegation to Conference on Laos, Geneva, to Secretary of State for External Affairs
TELEGRAM 873 Geneva, June 16, 1961
Reference: Our Tel 827 Jun 10.†
Repeat for Information: Washington, London, NATO Paris, Paris, Permis New York, Delhi (Priority), CCOS, CGS, DM/DND, DGPO (Priority) from Ottawa.
By Bag Phnom Penh, Jakarta, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Canberra, Wellington, Moscow, Warsaw from London.
Further Conversation with Souphanouvong
On June 14 Souphanouvong returned my call. He was accompanied by Phoumy Vongvichit.
- We attempted to draw Souphanouvong on the political aspect of a settlement. He sees the conference, the talks at Ban Namone and the forthcoming talks in Zurich as proceeding in parallel. He hopes a coalition government will be established at least by the time the conference is near agreement so that the new government of Laos can participate in approval of the settlement. He regards the Ban Namone discussions as important chiefly as a means of working out in detail agreements reached in principle at Zurich and as a vehicle by means of which the forces and populations under the control of the parties may be brought to accept and implement the agreements reached. He seemed to have little interest in the Ban Namone talks as a means of working a detailed cease-fire agreement; on the contrary, he thought that the talks should be concentrating on reaching a political settlement which would bring the three contending forces under the unified command of a single government. Once this happens the problem of maintaining a cease-fire would disappear and the process of moving toward the conditions of a unified state could commence.
- Souphanouvong saw little hope of reaching agreement at Zurich on unified representation at the conference in advance of the formation of a coalition government. He considered that the practical difficulties of deciding who should be the leader of the single delegation, and of ensuring that it would be with one voice at the conference would be too great.
- Souphanouvong thought that it would take some time to reach agreement at Zurich on a coalition government and related questions. At the same time he stated in familiar terms the Pathet Lao theme that agreement can be reached provided the other side negotiates in good faith. This undoubtedly means in part that the other side must be prepared to accept something close to the terms to be demanded by Souvanna Phouma and Souphanouvong. At the same time, in the light of the concluding part of his statement at the conference, it seems to reflect a genuine apprehension that the Vientiane side, with USA backing, is still endeavouring to obstruct a political settlement.
- Souphanouvong did not repeat not minimize the complexity of the problem which will have to be faced once a settlement has been reached. He realized that there will be a great deal to be sorted out on the military side, and at the same time he seems to have well developed plans for speedy evolution on the political side. He spoke of need to organize elections and to restore and develop municipal administrations. More generally he warned that the process of persuading people on both sides (particularly those who have participated in the fighting) to act in a spirit of reconciliation is considerable.
- We once again drew Souphanouvong’s attention to the problem of maintaining peace in the Padong area but were unable to make any impression on him. He seemed reasonably satisfied with the present situation in which the forces of the Vientiane side are fairly scattered. He would like to see them find their way back to their own area outside Xieng Khouang province. This was really the only solution he had to offer to the problem of supplying them with food, and he said he had already warned Vientiane side of the risk involved in further paradropping. He clearly considers that paradrops in present circumstances are likely to include a supply of arms, and he said that he will regard any attempt on the part of the Vientiane forces to penetrate other areas on the Xieng Khouang side or to infiltrate into the rear of his forces as a hostile act. He was unable to see how, in the circumstances, a team could be usefully stationed at Padong and he repeated his earlier doubts about the ability of the Commission effectively to control air flights.
- It is our impression that Souphanouvong is concentrating on obtaining a political settlement that would suit his side and that his apparent unwillingness to facilitate a detailed and fully effective cease-fire stands partly from a genuine belief that the opposing side has not repeat not given up its efforts to press a military advantage wherever possible and partly from a desire to maintain a lever against apprehended intransigence by the Vientiane side in the political talks. The governing time factor in all this would appear to be the time which the Conference takes or is prepared to take in its efforts to reach agreement on the international issues.
Chairman, Delegation to Conference on Laos, Geneva, to Secretary of State for External Affairs
TELEGRAM 875 Geneva, June 16, 1961
Reference: Our Tel 828 Jun 10.†
Repeat for Information: Washington, London, NATO Paris, Paris, Permis New York, Delhi (Priority), CCOS, CGS, DM/DND, DGPO (Priority) from Ottawa.
By Bag Phnom Penh, Jakarta, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Canberra, Wellington, Moscow, Warsaw from London.
Minister’s Meeting with Souvanna Phouma
Souvanna Phouma visited the delegation this morning to call on the Minister and return Ronning’s call.
- The Minister said he was dissatisfied with the conditions affecting the work of the Commission. There had not repeat not been a fully effective cease-fire, the Commission is prevented from examining the situation in troubled areas, and it lacks proper equipment particularly air transport.
- On the cease-fire the Minister referred particularly to Padong and expressed his disquiet about the fighting which had occurred there and about the existing situation. Souvanna Phouma gave the same account of the Padong affair which he had given to Ronning, stressing that the paradropping of reinforcements in the Padong area close to Xieng Khouang had indicated a probable intention on the part of the Vientiane side to launch a further attack on the Plaine des Jarres in due course. He was still afraid that the Vientiane side had this intention. In his view parachuting and movement of troops, which he does not repeat not believe have stopped, constitutes a violation of the spirit of the cease-fire which makes it difficult for the Xieng Khouang side to observe it in the letter. The Minister stressed that an end to the fighting is the essential thing and that this could be more easily ensured and at the same time the apprehension of the Xieng Khouang side could more easily be set at rest if the Commission were able to keep troubled areas under observation.
- Souvanna thought that the Commission would be in a better position to control the present situation if, at the outset, it had asked the partner to indicate on maps the location of their respective forces. The Minister showed Souvanna Vientiane telegram 68 June 15† drawing his attention particularly to paragraph 3 in which it was reported that the Pathet Lao side said they would not repeat not agree to the Commission visiting Padong. Souvanna reflected on this and said he would send instructions to his representatives.
- Souvanna said he understood the Commission had the use of one Beechcraft and one other civilian airplane. He agreed with the Minister however that the Commission should have adequate transport of its own and, when the Minister suggested that his representatives either inside or outside of the conference might use their influence in this regard, he said he would see what he could do.
- The Minister informed Souvanna that, at yesterday’s session, Harriman had referred to press reports of an attack on a government position near Paksane. Souvanna did not repeat not seem to have heard of this attack and asked exactly where it had taken place. We ascertained from the American delegation that it is reported to have taken place at Hat Bo and Pak Lat. Souvanna thought, from the location of these places, that any Vientiane post there must be new ones (he evidently meant occupied subsequent to the cease-fire) because these places lie in the area which had been liberated by the Xieng Khouang side by the time of the cease-fire. Souvanna thought that the Commission ought to investigate this latest incident without delay and he hoped that it would address itself to the parties with this in view.
- Souvanna is still very mistrustful of American intentions. He opened the interview by asking the Minister if he considered that USA Government sincerely desire a settlement. The Minister replied in the affirmative, underlining the desire of the new administration to reach negotiated settlements and citing the President, Harriman and Stevenson as among those pursuing this policy. It was true that, on Laos, the administration is being criticized by opposition groups who believe that a settlement would be a sell-out but such opposition is normal in a democratic country and would be of no repeat no significance once a settlement is reached. Souvanna replied that it is the attitude of these groups, as well as of the American military personnel in Laos, which prevents him from having confidence in USA policy. He mentioned incidentally that he knows that two Thai battalions are in Laos. He wondered if the President and the State Department can effectively control policy on Laos. The Minister said he believes they can.
- The interview ended with Souvanna assuring the Minister that the problems affecting the cease-fire would be among the first to be discussed when he meets the other two Princes at Zurich.
Secretary of State for External Affairs to Chairman, Delegation to Conference on Laos, Geneva
TELEGRAM Y-377 Ottawa, June 22, 1961
Reference: Your Tels. 644 of May 23,† 780 of June 3,† and 787 of June 5.†
Repeat for Information: Washington, London, NATO Paris, Paris, Permis New York, Delhi, DGPO (Priority).
By Bag Saigon, Vientiane, Phnom Penh from London.
Protocol to 1954 Agreement on Laos
Clearly, the central issues to be resolved in respect of Laos are political and the main purpose of the conference is to reach agreement on a new political settlement. In our view, legal considerations affecting the form of an amending instrument are of secondary importance and should not be allowed to interfere with the conclusion of a satisfactory political agreement.
- It has been suggested that the use of the protocol form might be open to objection on one or more of the following grounds:
- The present belligerents are not the same as those in 1954 agreement.
- Protocols are normally used to add minor points to or to clarify the interpretation of formal treaties or conventions and should not be used to amend cease-fire agreements which are essentially provisional in character.
- It would be without precedent.
In our view, none of the above objections, which are general or theoretical in character, is overriding, and provided the parties to the 1954 agreement or their successors also sign the proposed protocol, we see no fundamental objection to amending the 1954 agreement by means of a protocol.
- In view of the Minister’s decision not repeat not to table the Canadian draft immediately but to use portions of it when opportunity arose in restricted negotiations (our telegram Y-323 of May 31),† question of putting our document into correct legal form appeared less urgent. Following amendments to Canadian draft would appear to be required: Article 20. Final sentence to read “It shall be responsible for control and supervision of the application of the provisions of the Cease-Fire Agreement dated ______ (to be concluded between parties at Ban Namone), the declarations dated ______ on the neutrality of Laos, the provisions of the Geneva Agreement of 1954 and of this Protocol.” Article 22. First paragraph to read “The International Commission shall fulfill the functions of control, observation, inspection and investigation connected with the implementation of the provisions of the Cease-Fire Agreement dated ______, the declarations dated ______ on the neutrality of Laos, the provisions of the Geneva Agreement of 1954 and of this Protocol, and shall in particular.”
- We agree it would be preferable to avoid saddling the Commission with responsibility for interpreting an article stating that protocol would take precedence over 1954 agreement whenever the two were in conflict (paragraph 6 of your telegram 787). Until pattern becomes clearer as a result of negotiations, it might also be wise not to spell out just what portions of 1954 agreement would be superseded. If Canadian draft were accepted in toto, theoretically it would be possible to supersede whole of 1954 agreement except Article I. However, since complete acceptance is unlikely, precise statement of articles to be superseded would have to be left until later. Among articles which appear to be rendered unnecessary by our draft in present form are following, Articles 2-5, whole of Chapter II, III and IV, Articles 19, 21, 21, 23 and the whole of Chapter VI.
Memorandum from Secretary of State for External Affairs to Prime Minister
SECRET [Ottawa], June 23, 1961
Conversation with Mr. Averell Harriman
Before I left Geneva I had a visit from Averell Harriman who is leading the United States Delegation at the Laos Conference. After thanking me for the proposals I had put forward in my statement for terms of reference for the Commission and working methods, as well as for pressing that the necessary equipment should be given to the Commission to enable it to do its job, Mr. Harriman told me in confidence the position he was taking at the Geneva Conference and his concerns about the outcome of the Conference between the Princes at Zurich.
As regards United States objectives, he made it quite clear to me that the United States intended to work patiently for a negotiated settlement which would provide for a neutral, independent, united Laos. He did not exclude the possibility that some anti-communist force might try to retain control over part of the south of Laos and withdraw the remnants of the RLG troops there, preferring partition to being subjected to communist domination. Harriman, however, said that the United States would not like partition and that it was still premature to give up hope for an acceptable settlement.
Harriman made it clear, however, that he would have to stand out for a reasonable settlement, particularly as regards the powers of supervision to be granted the International Commission. This was important not only for South-East Asia, but also in dealing with other East-West issues, including Berlin. If the United States accepted what Harriman described as a “phoney” solution in Laos, it would make it all the more difficult to negotiate with the Russians over Berlin.
Harriman gave me in strictest confidence some of his misgivings about the outline of the political agreement which seemed to be emerging from the meeting of the Princes in Zurich. The Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs, Mr. Steeves, had visited Zurich to have talks with General Phoumi and Prince Boun Oum, and Harriman’s views were mainly based upon the report he had received. The general picture which Harriman had of these talks was a confident and almost triumphant Souvanna Phouma dominating the talks and treating the RLG representatives as a defeated party. Boun Oum, on the other hand, was demoralized and seemed only too anxious to quit politics. (Harriman, however, said that Boun Oum might have made a worse impression on Steeves on first meeting than might have been justified since Boun Oum was always apt to be less decisive than Phoumi.)
Souvanna Phouma apparently was laying down the law even more than his half-brother Souphanouvong, the leader of the Pathet Lao. He had told Phoumi that he intended to dissolve parliament and have an election within 90 days, and was already forming a cabinet in which he might find a place for General Phoumi, if the latter took off his uniform. He would not be given the Ministry of Defence. Moreover, Souvanna Phouma said that he was not prepared to discuss the formation of the cabinet with Phoumi or anyone else but the King.
Harriman said that the United States was concerned that Phoumi was over-confident about his ability to handle communist countries, particularly Russia, as well as the communists in Laos. The Pathet Lao and some of his own troops were riddled with communist infiltration, according to United States information. They also had some doubts as to whether Souvanna Phouma could, in fact, get election results that would not give the Pathet Lao the chance to take over the country. Souvanna Phouma was more dependent on Russia than he was on China and he seemed at the moment to be willing to trust Russia to help make Laos neutral.
Harriman’s own personal assessment of Souvanna Phouma was that, to put it politely, he was “self-assured”; more frankly, he was probably “very conceited.” Consequently, Harriman was worried that Souvanna Phouma might in fact be deluded by the communists into accepting assurances which would in the end bring Laos under communist control.
There were, in effect, two props for Laotian neutrality: (a) the form of the Laotian Government itself; and, (b) the International Commission. Since it was becoming increasingly unlikely that the Laotian right-wing parties would find any significant representation in a coalition cabinet, it was all the more important that the International Commission should be an effective instrument for supervising the cease-fire and the neutrality in Laos.
Consequently, the terms of reference of the International Commission were of utmost importance as a test of whether the settlement would be a true one or simply a cover for a communist take-over. Harriman said that, if Souvanna Phouma could speak out in favour of strong terms of reference for the Commission, it would be the best proof that he was in favour of a true settlement. Since the United States admittedly had little influence with him, Harriman was asking the French and British to bring influence to bear, particularly the former, so that Souvanna Phouma might be induced to support an effective Commission.
In particularly strict confidence, Harriman told me that, while he saw no alternative to Souvanna Phouma as Prime Minister since the King of Laos was unwilling to act as head of government, he had not yet been authorized by the President to support Souvanna Phouma openly. He got the impression that some outright sign of intent on the part of Souvanna Phouma to stand up to the communists would help the United States in throwing its support behind Souvanna Phouma as, for example, his endorsement of effective powers for the International Commission.
Harriman also was a little concerned about the role of Prince Sihanouk in his self-assumed role of helping set up a Laotian government. He emphasized that the United States Government was not against the Conference and was being careful to do nothing which would interfere with it in any way. But Sihanouk seemed to be competing with Krishna Menon to play a mediatory role, thereby running the risk of creating a government which would lean too heavily in the direction of the communists. In conclusion, Harriman told me emphatically again that he was not too pessimistic about the prospects of a Laotian settlement and that we must go on talking anyway. He was obviously counting on the United Kingdom and particularly France to do more about trying to prevent a disguised communist take-over in Laos through a quickly patched-up political settlement around Souvanna Phouma.
I have put these views in the form of a memorandum since Harriman told me that he had not spoken as frankly of his fears as well as his hopes to anyone else.
CONFIDENTIAL [Ottawa], June 29, 1961
Laos: Work of Conference
In view of the difficulty of getting the Conference started on a study of detailed terms of reference for the Commission, it seems desirable to make representations in Paris, London, Washington and New Delhi along lines suggested in your statement of June 19. Attached telegrams to Paris and to Geneva are for your signature if you agree. referrer
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