751G.94/38: Telegram

The Chargé in France (Matthews) to the Secretary of State

438. Department’s telegram No. 379, August 26, 6 p.m. I discussed with Chauvel this afternoon the questions raised in your telegram. He said that no agreement has yet been reached with the Japanese and that Wellington Koo’s reports to that effect are premature. Exchanges views are still continuing with the Japanese and he promised that, if and when agreement is reached, we shall be immediately informed. The Japanese demands he said concern solely the passage of military forces through Indo-China and do not involve the use of military bases or any military installations. Tongking Bay would be used as a port of debarkation. He denied emphatically that there has been any discussion either “directly or indirectly” of expulsion of officials of the Chinese Government. The French have taken the position that before accepting a request for troop passage they must have definite guarantees that these will be in no sense an occupation of Indo-China; that the Government of Indo-China will continue to [Page 87] administer the territory and that there will be no attempted political penetration. The Japanese have not as yet agreed to grant these guarantees though their attitude according to Chauvel is “softening”. He said that by prolonging these discussions the French have in reality kept the Japanese out of Indo-China since the menace first came up around June 20 (please see telegram No. 47, June 20, 7 p.m., from Bordeaux) immediately following the French armistice demand; but these tactics of delay he said cannot be prolonged indefinitely. If and when an agreement is reached the French will request the Japanese to delegate some officials to discuss the details of troop passage with appropriate officials of the Indo-Chinese Government.

He seemed somewhat surprised at the Department’s inquiry and read me Baudoin’s memorandum of his conversation with Murphy on August 17. The memorandum stated that Murphy had been informed of the Japanese demand and the attitude of the French Government and that he was read the instructions to Arsene-Henry at Tokyo. (Please see in this connection the antepenultimate paragraph of the Embassy’s telegram No. 362, August 17, 4 p.m.) He also read me portions of a telegram from Saint-Quentin dated August 21 which he stated was the last received from him. In it the French Ambassador reported a conversation with Acting Secretary Welles: he referred to a suggestion of Baudoin that our Government instruct Ambassador Grew to urge the Japanese that if French Indochina were “occupied” the occupation should only be temporary and reported the Acting Secretary’s very definite reply that if such a request were received it would be rejected as quite inconsistent with our general policy of nonrecognition of the conquests of aggression.

Chauvel expressed his complete personal accord with this point of view. He added, however, that he hoped we would make a vigorous protest when the Japanese passage through French Indo-China actually takes place.

It is quite clear to me that the French, as indicated in the Embassy’s No. 362, feel it quite impossible to put up any military resistance in Indo-China; their policy is clearly one of delay and to endeavor to obtain the best possible bargain.

I asked whether Wiesbaden46 had come into the picture and he replied only in the sense of asking for information. The Germans, he said, have not as yet indicated any position on the question.

  1. Location of the German commission to supervise carrying out of terms of the French-German armistice.