BANGKOK, Thailand — An explosion believed caused by a bomb shook a Soviet cultural center in Laos that the Soviet foreign minister had been scheduled to visit later in the day, diplomats and news reports said Tuesday.
The explosion occurred at about 6 a.m. Monday in Vientiane, capital of Laos, but Japan's Kyodo News Service quoted unnamed Laotian sources as saying the device that caused it was timed to go off during Eduard A. Shevardnadze's visit 12 hours later.
Officials of embassies in Bangkok and Vientiane said a Laotian guard was killed and another wounded by the explosion outside the center. They reported only minor damage to the three-story building.
'But Who Knows?'
"There was a blast in front of the Soviet cultural center, apparently a bomb," a Western embassy official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "You can suppose it was related to Shevardnadze's visit, but who knows?"
Whether Shevardnadze actually visited the center as planned was not known.
No claim of responsibility was reported, but diplomats speculated that the explosion was intended to embarrass either the Soviets or the Laotian authorities during Shevardnadze's visit. Several groups are fighting the Communist government in Vientiane, but they are not considered threats to security.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov told a regularly scheduled news briefing: "We only have quite preliminary information that there was an explosion in the center of the city. We have no information as to causes and results."
Shevardnadze arrived in Vientiane on Sunday for his first visit to Laos and other Communist allies in Indochina--Cambodia and Vietnam.
He met on Monday with Foreign Minister Phoun Sipaseut and Premier Kaysone Phomvihan and flew to Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, on Tuesday morning, official Indochinese media reported.
The Soviet foreign minister is on an Asian tour that also has taken him to Thailand, Australia and Indonesia in what is seen as an attempt by the Kremlin to increase its influence in the region.
A Thai Embassy official in Vientiane said privately that the explosion awakened nearby residents, several of whom "thought it was thunder," and shattered some windows.
Official Laotian media did not mention the explosion. A Foreign Ministry official in Vientiane, who would not give his name, said he had no information about it.
A joint communique issued before Shevardnadze left for Cambodia said that Laos and the Soviet Union "reaffirmed their readiness along with other socialist countries in Asia to strengthen their cooperation with all the states in the (Asia-Pacific) region."
To consolidate peace in Asia, it said, "the most important thing is to observe various measures on non-stockpiling and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in this region . . . to find ways to reduce the land forces, military activities, and to scale down naval activities."
The Soviet Union and its Indochinese allies frequently accuse the United States, China and Japan of increasing military activity in the Pacific. Those countries make the same charge against Moscow, which has military advisers in Indochina and maintains two military bases in Vietnam.