Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Wallner)26

Participants: Mr. Acheson, Under Secretary of State
Mr. Bonnet, French Ambassador
Mr. Wallner, WE

The French Ambassador called at his request on the Under Secretary at 3 p.m. today.

He said that although without instructions from his Government he wanted to have a preliminary exchange of views on the situation arising out of Siam’s action in presenting her troubles with France to the Security Council. He had just returned from Paris and indicated that the French Government had not yet made up its mind what action to take. He then reviewed the familiar French thesis concerning the disputed provinces: that they were the fruits of aggression sanctified by the convention signed by the Vichy Government under pressure from Japan and that they should be returned to the Indo-Chinese Union.

[Page 1035]

Mr. Acheson said we were in general agreement with the French position on this point and had urged the Siamese Government to return the territories.

Mr. Bonnet went on to say that he entertained great doubts as to Siam’s right, in French eyes, to bring the question before UN. France considered herself still to be at war with Siam and he wondered if a dangerous precedent would not be set by allowing enemy states to bring their territorial problems to UN. He mentioned Italy, Germany and the Balkan states. Mr. Acheson indicated that we, the British and others, were not at war with Siam and that this complicated the problem. There followed some discussion of Article 107 of the Charter,27 Mr. Bonnet indicating that he believed it applied to Siam. Mr. Wallner suggested that it might be difficult for us to accept this interpretation and that in any case it was a highly controversial point.28

Mr. Acheson asked Mr. Bonnet what plans the French had. Mr. Bonnet was quite vague, admitted that he did not know his Government’s position but nonetheless indicated France would and should use every method to prevent the matter from becoming a subject of settlement by UN and to keep the Siamese, as enemies of France, away from the Council table. He did not know how his Government felt about submitting the matter to the Court.

Mr. Acheson made it quite clear that he was opposed to endless disputes on procedural questions and to the use of the veto or other blocking tactics in questions of this kind. He said that this sort of thing was reducing the prestige of the United Nations and solving no problems. He thought there was a problem here to be solved and that it was better to solve it than to talk about it. The 1907 border could not be perfect and probably needed rectification.

Mr. Bonnet said the French had got nowhere in their talks with the Siamese because the Siamese refused to restore the territories first.

Mr. Acheson pointed out that there seemed to be an impasse at the present moment between the two Governments but that it could perhaps [Page 1036] be resolved if both of them took a less rigid attitude and made up their minds to arrive at a global settlement, all in one piece, involving both restitution of the disputed provinces and the necessary border rectification. He added that this Government would be glad to be helpful in bringing the two parties together and stated that he would welcome a concrete suggestion from the French Government along these lines. Mr. Bonnet leaped at this suggestion and said he would immediately communicate it to his Government. It was apparent that he was most anxious to prevent open discussion of this matter by the UN, where he feared that the French representative would be instructed to employ obstructionist tactics which would be badly received by certain sections of world opinion.

After the Ambassador’s departure Mr. Acheson indicated to Mr. Wallner that he hoped that his suggestion would bear fruit and that the two parties could be got together with this Government bringing pressure to bear on both to effect a bilateral settlement. While the responsibility was great, he felt it was a better risk than letting the matter get out of hand in the Council. He indicated that he would not relish the idea of our relations with France being embittered by our voting against France in the Council concurrently with the Peace Conference and the forthcoming discussions on Germany.

  1. Initialed by Mr. Acheson.
  2. Article 107 of the Charter of the United Nations reads: “Nothing in the present Charter shall invalidate or preclude action in relation to any state which during the Second World War has been an enemy of any signatory to the present Charter, taken or authorized as a result of that war by the Governments having responsibility for such action.”
  3. The Assistant Chief of the Division of Southeast Asian Affairs (Landon), in a memorandum of July 13 recording a conversation with the Siamese Chargé, stated: “… it seemed to me that the key clause in that Article was ‘… the governments having responsibility for such action.’ In my understanding this meant that an enemy state such as Germany or Japan could not raise the question of a dispute before the Security Council with one of the Allies having certain responsibilities in that state. As France had no responsibilities in Siam growing out of the war, it was difficult for me to see how Article 107 applied.” (892.014/7–1346)