President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union, meeting in Vienna, strike a bargain to support a neutral and independent Laos.
Laos had been the scene of an ongoing communist insurgency by the Pathet Lao guerrillas. In July 1959, the North Vietnamese Politburo had formed Group 959 to furnish weapons and supplies to the Pathet Lao. By 1960, the Pathet Lao was threatening the survival of the Royal Lao government. On January 19, 1961, when President Eisenhower was about to leave office, he told Kennedy that Laos “was the key to the entire area of Southeast Asia.” Kennedy considered intervening in Laos with U.S. combat troops, but decided against it.
Nevertheless, the American president did not want to lose Laos to the communists. Kennedy was prepared to accept neutrality for Laos as a solution. Eventually a 14-nation conference would convene in Geneva and an agreement was signed in July 1962, proclaiming Laos neutral. This took care of the situation in Laos for the time being, but both the communists and the United States soon ignored the declared neutrality of the area.