President Kennedy's News Conference, Question on the Cease-Fire in Laos, May 9, 1962


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, pp. 810-811


President Kennedy's News Conference, May 9, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents, Kennedy, 1962, p. 377:

Q: "Mr. President, last February at a news conference you told us that the cease-fire was becoming frayed in Laos and in the event that it was broken, it could lead to a very serious decision. I wonder, Mr. President, now that the cease-fire has been broken, if efforts should fail to re-establish it, would it cause a re-examination on the part of the United States towards its policy there?"

THE PRESIDENT: "Well, we are concerned about the break in the cease-fire. As you know, the State Department, the Acting Secretary of State, and the Assistant Secretary of State, met today with Ambassador Dobrynin, this afternoon. We have already indicated to one of the co-chairmen, the British government, our great concern about it. Our ambassador in Moscow met with the foreign secretary of the Soviet Union, Mr. Gromyko.

"We do believe, and have said from the beginning, that the negotiations should move much more quickly than they have. The longer this rather frayed cease-fire continues, the more chance we will have of the kind of incidents we have had in the past few days. That is why we were hopeful, after the meetings
at Geneva last summer and fall, that the negotiations between the parties involved would take place last fall, and we could organize a government, rather than trying to continue to hold lines which in some cases are exposed, and which are subject to this kind of pressure. So that has been our view.

"So that has been our view, and the longer it goes on, and the longer there is not an agreement on a government, the longer some groups stand out from these kinds of conversations, then the more hazardous the situation becomes.

"Now, on the particular incident, it is a clear breach of the cease-fire. We have indicated and we hope that the Soviet Union, which is committed to a policy based on the statement at Vienna, in regard to Laos, we are hopeful that we can bring about a restoration of the cease-fire. But we have got to use the time to try to move ahead in our political negotiations.

"I agree it is a very hazardous course, but introducing American forces is the other one-let's not think there is some great third course. That also is a hazardous course and we want to attempt to see if we can work out a peaceful solution, which has been our object for many months. I believe that these negotiations should take place quickly. This is not a satisfactory situation today."

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