This article discusses the sovereignty concerns of the government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) ahead of a 1985 joint cooperation agreement with the United States to account for US Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) lost in Laos during the Vietnam War. It attempts to demonstrate that from the Laotian side, domestic security concerns and diplomatic factors were the main drivers of cooperation with the United States. The domestic security factor was the perceived threat of violence arising from American-supported subversive activities conducted by Thailand-based anti-LPDR resistance groups as well as private groups searching for alleged live POWs inside Laos. The diplomatic factor stemmed from Laos’ desire for the United States to respect the country’s independent foreign policymaking vis-a-vis its ally Vietnam. Drawing on primary sources, this article posits two arguments: first, the LPDR wanted to use the 1985 joint cooperation agreement to obtain compliance from the United States to end its support for both anti-LPDR resistance groups and private POW searchers; and second, to utilize POW/MIA negotiations with Washington to reaffirm Laos’ sovereignty vis-à-vis Vietnam.


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pp. 463-482
Launched on MUSE
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