896.1 LO/5–150: Telegram

The United States Delegation at the Tripartite Preparatory Meetings to the Secretary of State


Secto 73. Third French-US bilateral May 1 on Indochina.

Baeyens1 opened with review of French policy toward Indochina along following lines: Present problem was implementation of agreements but France politically hampered by existing state of war and could not do all that it wanted to, to pass on responsibilities to Vietnam Government. Ultimate aim was to turn over all principal services and administrations. He listed following fields in which Vietnam Government has been given authority: (1) administration of justice, police and security; (2) National Vietnam Army had been constituted and is under the control of Vietnam Government. Conventions between the French and Vietnam resemble military alliance in that neither one had give up sovereignty; (3) under March 8 agreements2 right to appoint and receive diplomatic and consular representatives recognized and requests made by Vietnam to send missions abroad have been granted. Vietnam Government entitled to negotiate and sign agreements bearing on its particular interests; (4) France recommended membership in specialized agencies such as EC[A]FE and WHO, thus indicating French intention to give full sovereignty to Vietnam. Vietnam would be consulted in formulation of French Union policy but that would have to await convening of High Council of French Union for which provision made in constitution of French Union. French still retain administration of communications, immigration, customs, foreign trade and treasury pending convocation interstate conference at early date. Intention is to give March agreements “most liberal implementation possible.” However Vietnam Government is new, there is lack of experienced men and therefore extensive help necessary. France would like to turn over wider functions, even pacification of the country which would permit the withdrawal of French troops. However, obligation of France is to continue with pacification and protection of borders of the French Union which is constitutional duty of France.
Baeyens summary included following on military aspect of situation. Regular troops in Indochina 150,000 of whom 50,000 French [Page 900] the rest foreign legion, North African and Vietnamese; 9,000 French Navy and 6,000 French Air Force. Armies of Associated States: Vietnam 26–27,000 troops, Cambodian 9,000, Laotian 1,500, grand total about 20,000. Vietminh Army made up as follows: Ho Chi Minh’s forces 90,000 plus 30,000 guerrillas, Cambodian regulars 3,000, guerrillas 2,000, Laotian 2,000 regulars. Since signature of military convention December 1949 French military mission is attempting to help with organization and development of Vietnam Army. Four additional battalions contemplated within next year. (Figures for increases to be checked.) Great need is for additional Vietnam NCOs and COs.
Baeyens indicated development of Vietnam Army had required great financial effort of French. (He gave figures which will be obtained from French as it was not possible to record them accurately at speed given.) French will have to continue support on large scale and for that reason alone outside assistance will be needed.
In reply to question Alphand stated delegation had no document on economic aspects of problem but that one could be obtained within few days. He referred to 15 million dollar program presented to US but not yet accepted. French also stated not possible give schedule or numbers of French troops to be released as result of development Vietnam Army, as contributing factors would be developments of next months including help from outside for Ho Chi Minh.
Jessup indicated as fundamental points in US position (1) that Indochina regarded primarily as French responsibility and (2) importance of development of local support for military and political programs.
In light of US aide-mémoire received a few days ago3 Massigli stated he would like to ask three questions: (1) size of military aid, (2) size of economic aid and how it would be given, and (3) to what extent development of a political program would be linked with the delivery of aid which US prepared give. Merchant4 indicated US delegation not in position to give definite figures at this time but gave following indications US thinking: US looked at Indochina problem as French do in that aim was to make it possible for the Associated States and their leaders to attract the nationalists and those who at heart are not Communists although they have been following Ho Chi Minh. Aid should be given so that it would support [Page 901] and re-enforce following of Bao Dai government. At present time no funds are available for economic aid in Indochina or SEA and what can be done in future will depend on availability funds. As to military aid some section 303 MDAP funds will be available. Requests for equipment are being reviewed by military authorities and there may be some indication within a matter of days or weeks of what may be available.
Baeyens and Massigli indicated concern over long delay since submission French list and Baeyens pointed out great psychological effect “even if you bring only few shiploads.” Agreement on formula of “haut conseil militaire” to draft program and mixed commission made up of representatives of all four states to receive and distribute aid was noted.
Question of issuance of statement discussed next, Massigli stated time would be saved if Schuman could know as soon as possible points to be covered. Jessup mentioned US doubts about issuance of statement by “three colonial powers.” Massigli countered energetically that any statement should emphasize solidarity of US with France and UK and should not deal with problem piecemeal. He urged necessity of giving impression that the three countries had a joint problem, responsibility and interest for as long as there is division Russians will continue to press and try to create difficulties in French-US relations. He indicated statement applying to all SEA and not Indochina alone would be preferable. He mentioned need for integration of aid to Indochina with all SEA, just as cultivation of rice in Indochina was matter of importance to whole area. Jessup agreed on “rice bowl approach” but expressed doubts as to wisdom and utility of statement by three governments. Massigli with great emphasis then urged joint statement as indicative solidarity of three governments which he alleged would have a “big effect locally.” West was faced with reality and must appreciate significance of loss of that area: position of India would be difficult, all Asia might well fall to Communism and there would be tremendous repercussions in Africa. Subject of statement will be further considered in tripartite discussion.
French proposal of joint staff talks and US note indicating they were considered unnecessary and that they would serve no useful purpose5 was briefly referred to by Massigli. Merchant in reply mentioned possibility of US sending small military mission to Saigon which would be representatives of JCS.
Last point discussed was question of recognition of Chinese Communist regime, Massigli indicated France caught in dilemma: she [Page 902] desired maintain diplomatic relations with all states. Furthermore present UN situation was dangerous and it would be advantageous to resolve it; on other hand recognition of Communist China would be almost impossible to explain to public opinion in France and Indochina. It was stated Pignon6 was strongly opposed and Jessup indicated US thought Pignon probably right. In connection with French relations with China Baeyens made following observations. If Communist regime not recognized France would have to face complete eviction from China. Canton Consul had recommended closing office and evacuation of southern provinces on ground that all French there could be held as hostages in event “incident” on Tonkin border. It had been decided to close Consulate in Nanking. If difficulty is placed in way of removal of archives it would be necessary to leave one or two persons as custodians. In any event French have decided to reduce all their staff sin China.
Jessup mentioned point 1–a in paper C–3/17 and Massigli stated they had no hint any country intended to bring case of Indochina before UN. La Tournelle indicated that if Russians returned to UN they might raise question for as long as year ago Manuilsky8 had stated that it was “only in order not to embarrass France” that USSR had not raised question in UN.
  1. Jacques Baeyens, Director for Asia of the French Foreign Office.
  2. For the text of the agreement, embodied in an exchange of letters between Vincent Auriol, President of the French Republic, and His Majesty Bao Dai, Emperor of Viet-Nam, of March 8, 1949, regulating relations between France and Viet-Nam, see Documents on International Affairs, 1949–1950, Margaret Carlyle, ed. (London, Oxford University Press, 1953), pp. 596–606.
  3. For the text of the United States aide-mémoire, delivered to the French Embassy in Washington on April 28, see vol. vi, p. 789.
  4. Livingston T. Merchant, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs.
  5. Made in the aide-mémoire referred to in footnote 3 above.
  6. Léon Pignon, French High Commissioner for Indochina.
  7. Point 1a of paper FM D C–3/1, “Indochina and the United Nations,” dated April 27, not printed, read as follows:

    “Recommendations. 1.… a) We should inform the French that we do not intend to raise the matter ourselves in the United Nations and that we believe it would be undesirable for any Western power to raise it at this time.” (CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 149: May FM Meeting C, D Series)

    A second draft of this paper, FM D C–3/1a, dated May 4, not printed, has the same recommendation. (CFM Files, ibid.)

  8. Dmitri Manuilsky, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Ukrainian SSR and Permanent Ukrainian Representative at the United Nations Security Council in 1948.