851G.01/1–2049: Telegram

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

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260. Pignon informed us today in utmost confidence govt has made important decision to request Assembly approval outcome present negotiations.

He stated Cannes conversations had resulted in agreement on fundamentals and the parties were well along in drafting stage. Bao Dai had insisted and Pignon had agreed that because of present status of Cochin China previous parliamentary approval was essential if agreements were effectively to confer on Vietnam the attributes of unity and independence which are heart of Baie d’Along accord and represent minimum to insure acceptance of Bao Dai solution by people. While measures might be taken in Saigon to transfer administrative functions to Vietnamese, the administration of justice can only be transferred by a positive legislative act. Sovereignty, he said, has two aspects—external and internal, for internal sovereignty it is justice. Under Cochin China treaty justice is in hands of French. It cannot be transferred to Vietnamese without formal change in status of Cochin China which necessitates parliamentary approval.

Govt is now studying timing of Bao Dai’s return and form of submission to Parliament. Pignon (who professes no competence in politics) stated any debate would have to take place before cantonal elections, i.e. before March 15, and implied Bao Dai would not return before then. He recognized political difficulties which faced govt, but did not consider either Gaullist or Socialist leadership would actively oppose agreements. He thought however that there would undoubtedly be large number of abstentions. He was reservedly optimistic of favorable vote but said if govt should reverse decision to present matter squarely to Parliament or if vote was negative he would resign.

Embassy will watch carefully and report political evolution this decision to grasp nettle which, however sound in conception, will present govt with series very tricky political problems. Pignon leaves for Saigon January 24.

Repeated Saigon 10.

Caffery