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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

December 13, 1960: 'Russia Threatens Indochina'

"Russia Threatens Indochina" is the headline of an editorial in the New York Times on this day in 1960. "The fate of Indochina again hangs in the balance as a result of direct Soviet military intervention in the three-cornered civil war in Laos, the strategic gateway to South Vietnam and Cambodia. Within hours after a turnover of four Governments in four days had put the Leftist in power in the administrative capital of Vientiane, Soviet planes began to fly in arms and ammunition to them, including artillery. Having thus openly engaged themselves, the Soviets must be expected to go further, unless the Rightist forces surrounding the capital quickly turn the scale.

"The Soviet intervention in an area long preempted by the Chinese Communist follows the latter's more militant interpretation of the new Communist manifesto calling for an intensified international 'class war' as part of 'peaceful coexistence.' But it is in flagrant violation of the Geneva armistice agreement of 1954, which forbids the introduction of foreign troops or arms into Laos beyond those specified. It is in equally flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter under which a United Nations 'presence' has already been established in Laos to check on Communist aggression.

"But this intervention is above all, and is obviously intended to be, an open challenge to the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, which extends its protection to three of the Indochinese states, even if the armistice agreement keeps them from being members of it. The Organization's Council of Ministers, meeting in special session in Bangkok denounces the Soviet action as 'outside interference' which can only prolong the conflict. But it is handicapped by the fact that even if it declared the Soviet action a threat to Laos' political independence it can take action only with the consent of the government concerned, and there is no legal government in Laos at the moment. The Government of Premier Prince Souvanna -- whose ill-fated attempt to unite the country and end the Communist revolt 'en famille' in Laotian style has failed -- has been ousted by the National Assembly and has disintegrated. The Leftists now ruling in Vientiane have no legal mandate. The one legal authority left is the King, who is revered by the whole population. He has kept himself thus far in reserve, but time is running out."

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