396.1 LO/5–150: Telegram

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

Secto 74. From Jessup. First trilateral subcommittee SEA.1 Massigli opened by stating preference that we should first agree on our general attitudes toward Southeast Asia then take up countries one by one with assignment particular responsibility for each. He then made three points.

Southeast Asia be regarded as a whole. While Indochina important, its problems differ more in degree than in essence from other SEA countries since repercussions from one are felt in all.
Economic reconstruction of area is all important if native peoples are to be wooed away from Communism and they should coordinate on program of reconstruction.
Difficulties facing area have common origin. International Communism directed by Kremlin increased by CP successes in China. French delegate therefore suggests statement emerging from conference by three ministers showing tripartite solidarity in area. That such solidarity exists is proved by French-UK exchange views in Singapore and in US willingness consider US military economic aid. [Page 936] Public statement thereof would vastly strengthen resistance of area to Communism.

Dalton Murray for UK (Dening had not yet arrived) tried to switch French on to Indochina but Massigli demurred saying he would be more prepared to discuss it tomorrow after Du Gardier’s2 arrival.

Merchant then briefly outlined US views on SEA as per B–243 paper paragraph on general objectives, stressing that legitimate interests of UK and France could only be preserved by accommodation with local nationalism, otherwise this nationalism would be swallowed up by Communism.

Lloyd4 for UK agreed in general that if nationalism is not dealt with in first instance whole area will pass to Communism. The question was how best to channel nationalist sentiment so that natives would no longer be attracted by Communist mirage.

Massigli then asked British to outline their views on Malaya. Paskin for Colonial Office obliged at considerable length, stressing fact that nationalism as such was not chief UK problem in Malaya, aspirations of non-Communist Malay and Chinese population thoroughly satisfied with British federation plans and did not wish British to depart. Trouble comes from small militant Chinese Communist groups receiving orders from outside. Acknowledged that Chinese community contained many fence-sitters.

Massigli then asked if pure nationalism was a sufficient antidote to Communism, questioning whether it did not lead to isolationism and xenophobia and whether it could be relied on alone. Suggested economic recovery was a necessary concomitant to satisfaction nationalist desires. Dalton Murray agreed but stressed that one must avert the danger of suppressed nationalism turning to Communism for help.

Massigli started discussion on question of arms smuggling into Malaya and Indochina from Siam. British and French agreeing that [Page 937] while Siamese central government promised to halt it, implementation was very faulty. Baeyens stated that even some elements of Siamese army and navy were involved in smuggling to Cambodia. Jessup asked if coordinated action by three governments in Siam and perhaps the Philippines on smuggling both of arms and Communist agents might not be desirable. Dening (who had just come in) suggested three Ambassadors in Bangkok might be instructed to concert on this problem. There was agreement on this proposal, Baeyens adding that after arrival new US arms in Thailand problem might become more acute.

Dening then raised question of Chinese communities in SEA. He foresaw four possibilities of developments in China: (1) Chinese Communist governments developing under Russian domination; (2) Russian attempts at such domination would so antagonize Chinese that Mao would become second Tito; (3) collapse of Mao government through inefficiency and incapacity to govern; or (4) a successful Chinese Communist state. None of these four developments would become apparent for some time and meanwhile Chinese influence in Southeast Asia would be bad and its seriousness should not be underestimated. He suggested a survey of Chinese communities in SEA to assess this danger. Jessup agreed and established connection between this idea and our proposal for coordinated information programs in area.

Massigli returned to tripartite declaration idea for Dening’s benefit, suggesting statement might contain following elements: (1) joint interest of three countries in area; (2) disaster in area would have serious repercussions elsewhere; and (3) three countries have decided to cooperate to maintain stability in that area. Massigli would welcome being joined by Commonwealth governments. Dening prefaced his reply by saying he did not have Bevin’s views. He then outlined idea advanced in bipartite talk this morning Secto 665 re declaration by Asian states which we might support. Added would be difficult for UK to agree to tripartite statement as suggested by French without consulting Commonwealth governments and important consideration would be that Commonwealth must not divide between east and west on such statement.

Jessup stated that, while US had no settled views, most important element for US would be that any declaration must make clear that west is with east in this matter and not against east. He suggested that if idea had merit we must make haste and suggested French and UK delegations prepare drafts of their idea of statement which could be discussed tomorrow.

[Page 938]

Meeting most disjointed due British unpreparedness and Dening’s partial absence. Although Jessup pressed French, they offered no comment on Merchant’s assessment of situation as per B–24.

Sent Department Secto 74; repeated Paris 701.

  1. Held at the Foreign Office at 4:30 p. m.
  2. Roger Robert du Gardier, diplomatic adviser to the French High Commissioner for Indochina.
  3. The general objectives of FM D B–24, “Cold War Round-up,” dated April 20, not printed, stated that since Southeast Asia was politically and economically important to the United States, its loss to Communist control would be a major defeat. If the nationalist movements in the area did not find reasonable accommodation in the West, they would inevitably gravitate to the East. Except for Thailand, “where direct US military assistance” was necessary, “primary responsibility for these areas” lay with the British and French. A second draft of this paper, FM D B–24a, dated May 2, not printed, contained the same general objectives with respect to Southeast Asia. (CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 149: May FM Meeting B Series)
  4. It is unclear whether this is a reference to Sir Thomas Lloyd, Permanent Under-Secretary in the Colonial Office, or John O. Lloyd, former member of His Majesty’s Special Commission in Singapore.
  5. Dated May 1, p. 990.