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Toasts of the President and Prince Souvanna Phouma, Prime Minister of Laos

July 27, 1962

We want to express our very warm welcome, Prime Minister, and Mr. Foreign Minister and members of your party. I know that the Prime Minister may occasionally feel, having been at Geneva with a number of countries involving themselves in a sense in the affairs of his country, that he has a natural desire, which I am sure is shared by a great many of his people, for Laos to be permitted to manage its own destiny without quite so much interest and attention from so many parts of the world.

I think that either fortunately or unfortunately, Mr. Prime Minister, you, like us, have been caught up in the stage of history, and the agreement which has been signed at Geneva, in a sense, and its effect upon world peace, goes far beyond your borders and, in fact, involves the whole relations between many powers whose interests in other parts may be in conflict.

So our concern, Prime Minister, for your future is very real, because it involves really the future of the United States. The Soviet Union and the United States and other countries came to an accord over Austria and that accord has been maintained.

Chairman Khrushchev and I, at Vienna, and other countries have committed themselves to the goal of the maintenance of a neutral and independent Laos.

If this goal cannot only be achieved as the treaty suggests but the treaty can be successfully implemented, then, of course, the chances of a peaceful relationship between great powers with great military capacities will be substantially increased so that the destiny of Laos, as I have said, ties up with the relations between the great powers at a very critical time in history. In other words, if we can succeed in Laos, it makes the future brighter. If our common efforts and commitments in Laos fail, then the future not only of Laos but of a good deal of the rest of the world becomes darker. I think that explains the concern which all of us have with what will now be carried forward in your country.

We are greatly concerned with the success of your efforts. The peace of your country, its security, the security of the countries which are neighboring on your borders are very much tied up with the success of your own personal efforts. And that is why we are particularly gratified that you came to Washington and permitted us to have an exchange of views. Your success means not only a strong addition to the security of Southeast Asia but, as I've said, it can mean a good deal to the relations between other countries in other parts of the world. If you should fail, if the accord at Geneva should turn out to be merely paper, then, of course, relations all over the world would become more difficult, and the belief in negotiation would be subjected to a serious attack.

If I may say so, Mr. Prime Minister, you carry with you not only the well-being of your own country and people but also, I think, will have an important influence on the peace of a good part of the world.

I can assure you, Mr. Prime Minister, that this country will do everything that is within its power to implement the commitment that it made in signing the Geneva accord.

Mr. Prime Minister, you and your company are most welcome here, and I hope all will join me in drinking to His Majesty, the King.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a luncheon in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his response Prince Souvanna Phouma stated that he would do everything in his power "to insure the respect on our part of the commitments we have taken in Geneva," adding that this was necessary "to insure the life of our people, to insure the existence of our country, and . . . to insure the success of this test on which, as you have said, rests the peace of the world .... "

"I can say on the basis of the contacts I have had in Moscow, Peking, and Hanoi," he continued, "that all of the signatories to the Geneva Agreement have a sincere desire to see a neutral Laos. And I can say for myself that I hope that Laos will be able to follow in the footsteps of Austria, and in a few years we will see a neutral Laos especially, and we will see it with the help of all of the friendly powers--a Laos which will be neutral and ready to do its bit for the peace of the world."

In his opening remarks, the President referred to the Laotian Minister of foreign Affairs, Quinim Pholsena.

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and Prince Souvanna Phouma, Prime Minister of Laos Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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