851G.01/3–1649: Telegram

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


1066. We are told by influential member Bao Dai entourage who participated recent negotiations that Bao Dai and entourage are well pleased with outcome debates on Indochina. Overwhelming vote in favor of Cochinchina assembly bill will he says be well received in Indochina and Capitant’s motion of censure will be attributed to pre-election political manoeuvering in France and will soon be forgotten.

Bao Dai–Auriol agreement “while not including everything we would like to have” is considered “a very favorable point of departure launched under better circumstances than we had hoped for in view domestic French political situation” and “affords workable basis for fulfillment Vietnam aspirations.”

Our source states that while elements of agreement so far made public naturally emphasize advantages to France, other side of coin is quite favorable to Vietnam and it is now up to Bao Dai’s supporters to see that this aspect gets wide publicity in Vietnam. (“Very fact government hasn’t dared publish agreement shows how favorable it is to us.”) On economic matters there is agreement on relationship between France and Vietnam which does not infringe on latter’s internal sovereignty (one example given was that Vietnam can negotiate commercial agreements with foreign countries).

Certain matters involving common services such as customs, transportation and communications will have to be regulated in conference in which Cambodians and Laotians as well as French and Vietnamese [Page 13] will participate. Source does not believe agreement on technical details in this regard will prove either difficult or onerous to Vietnam.

Cochinchina Territorial Assembly will be convoked about April 7 and after union with other two ky ’s approved, French National Assembly will be asked give urgent approval. Bao Dai and French both in agreement this must transpire prior to former’s arrival Indochina which is scheduled for April 25. Time permitting, Bao Dai will return on French warship ceded to Vietnam flying Vietnamese flag and carrying Vietnamese crew.

Source expressed opinion work in Paris on Bao Dai solution has now been satisfactorily completed and major future developments will take place in Indochina. He stated Bao Dai and entourage place great confidence in Pignon and are satisfied he will proceed honestly in implementation of agreement.

Bao Dai’s two principal tasks were described as forming government capable of really governing (which we were told is well under way) and bringing about pacification of country.

Source informed us Bao Dai hoped US would make some public statement supporting principles of agreement (which would have most important effect on Vietnamese population) that we would seriously consider some form of recognition of Vietnam and would assist in making arms available.

Source was told we could not comment on any of these points until we had received and studied text of agreement. Under no circumstances, however, could we envisage Department’s approval furnishing arms directly to Vietnam. (Bao Dai is of course aware substance my talk with Chauvel1Embtels 5129, September 30 and 5405, October 16, 1948.)2 From information so far available it appears to us that with signature agreement and Assembly vote on Cochinchina Bao Dai solution has been favorably launched from French end. Period which will elapse prior his arrival Saigon and formal ratification agreement will afford Department opportunity make serious evaluation his chances success. Upon his return Indochina, Bao Dai will be faced with primary tasks forming government including influential Vietnamese nationalist leaders who have so far remained on sidelines, of attracting maximum popular support and of reducing and eventually eliminating Viet-Minh; At present his tools are largely limited to his personal prestige, the Paris agreements and such military economic and financial assistance as he will receive in Indochina from French.

As Bao Dai represents only foreseeable opportunity for anti-Communist nationalist solution Indochina, I recommend that Department in light our declared policy preventing spread of communism in [Page 14] SEA and of supporting truly nationalist movements in that area, study agreement when received with view to possibility extending to Bao Dai solution as calculated risk moral and perhaps some economic support in difficult initial period following his return, support which if given will increase its possibilities success and if withheld will constitute negative rather than neutral factor.

I appreciate of course that if Bao Dai fails after receiving such support from US it will be interpreted as further blow to our own position in Asia. On other hand in view of fact that only alternative to Bao Dai solution would involve dealing with Ho Chi Minh (to whom I assume we remain unalterably opposed), I believe we should take this risk.3

Sent Department as 1066; repeated Saigon as 38.

  1. Jean Chauvel, Secretary-General of the French Foreign Ministry.
  2. Neither printed.
  3. In telegram 955, March 25, 9 p. m., to Paris, the Department stated its position in telegram 598, February 25, p. 8, “remains unchanged for the present.” (851G.01/3–1849)