851g.01/7–948: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Caffery ) to the Secretary of State

top secret

3621. From Wallner: ReDeptel 2466, July 3. Officials with whom we have talked in the Foreign Office and Ministry of Colonies recognize (intellectually but without fire) the necessity of immediate and unqualified approval by the French Govt and Assembly of the Baie d’Along agreement, but appear to regard the methods for achieving this an internal political matter between Bollaert and the Schuman Govt. Chauvel1 seemed most deeply convinced. Imperfect liaison and traditional rivalry between the two shops make common action by the civil servants with the freewheeling high commissariat infrequent and ineffective.

Bollaert is only dynamic element in Indochina picture here. He told us that he not only regarded Assembly debate and approval of his entire policy and of the Baie d’Along agreement essential, but had made it a condition of his return to Indochina. He has demanded action before end of July and is now engaged in trying to persuade the govt to present the matter in one package to the Assembly. He bravely maintains that he will succeed and that the govt will obtain a slim majority. Technically he envisages a full-scale debate on Indochina concluding with the presentation by the govt of an order of the day approving his policy in Indochina in general and the Baie d’Along agreement in particular. This order of the day, he affirms, would have the force of law and would, juridically speaking, annul the treaty of 1862 by which Cochin-China became French territory. This would not mean, however, juridical incorporation of Cochin-China in Indochinese union since French Government is on record as making this conditional upon expression of will of Cochin-Chinese people. No referendum being possible in Cochin-China under present circumstances, territory would be governed by Central Viet Government without legal obstacles mentioned Saigon’s 155, July 6 and eventual referendum would actually, [Page 32] if not juridically, before [be for] secession from rather than incorporation in Indochinese union.

Thus Bollaert is staking his whole pile on immediate parliamentary approval. He is also staking the Bao Dai solution for the ex-Emperor cannot return if Assembly rejects the Baie d’Along agreement. Asked whether Bao Dai would return if the votes were favorable, Bollaert was mildly optimistic. At lunch with Bollaert today Bao Dai acted part of impassive Asiatic prince clearly playing hard-to-get. Asked point-blank same question, he replied everything depended on circumstances. Undoubtedly he plans extract every ounce advantage from French before agreeing return Indochina which is as necessary to French as it is dangerous for him.

Bollaert said definitely that the technical agreements, which he envisages being negotiated in France in the autumn by French and Viet technical experts, would not require Assembly approval. (Embassy believes such approval may nonetheless be politically if not constitutionally necessary.) He was evasive concerning the scope and detail of these agreements, but asserted that “except for a few points” they would be concluded promptly and without difficulty. There is mystery as to just how far Bollaert and Bao Dai have got in preliminary conversations on this subject. Officials offer contradictory surmises. Messmer told me in Saigon that agreement in principle had been reached on the main points. Foreign and Colonial Ministries here are just as positive that no real understanding exists. Incidentally, Foreign Office is striving for controlling voice in these negotiations and claims to have Bollaert’s backing. Thus unable as yet to answer paragraph 5 reference telegram. Sine qua non at this juncture is favorable Assembly action.

Turning to arena of practical politics, Schuman Government faced with necessity of presenting several most controversial issues to Assembly before adjournment (in addition to issues mentioned Embtel 3237, June 18 and 3310, June 232 questions of military credits and financing of economic subsidies are currently threatening govt) is naturally reluctant to toss in Indochinese dynamite stick. (Cudenet, RGR, Assembly chief, likening govt to overloaded ship incapable accommodating one more passenger without capsizing, says “Indochina is that passenger”.) Communist, Gaullist and PRL opposition is certain. Possibility Socialist defection not serious despite Congress resolution re negotiation with Ho Chi Minh (Embtel 3560, July 63) parliamentary pattern might well follow that of debate on London German accords with victory for govt at most by tiny margin. Presumably Schuman will not present issue at all unless there is reasonable chance [Page 33] such slim victory, but Bollaert’s present determination to force vote or quit places him in now familiar dilemma. He has taken no decision as yet and presumably will not do so before Assembly reconvenes July 15. Debate could hardly occur before week July 19.

Dept may wish instruct Embassy inform Schuman Govt from top level down of US conviction that France is faced with alternatives of unequivocally and promptly approving principle Viet independence within French union and union three kys or losing Indochina. While immediate Assembly debate seems only solution, Embassy should be given discretion in applying pressure to avoid charge giving tactical advice on political maneuvers or becoming identified with maneuvers that may imperil govt.

Ambassador concurs.

Sent Dept; Department pass Saigon as Paris 27.4

  1. Jean Chauvel, Secretary General of the French Foreign Office.
  2. Neither printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. This was done the same day.