Memorandum by Mr. Edmund A. Gullion 1


Subject: Form of Recognition of Viet Nam

Since it is the policy of this government to support a program of Franco-Vietnamese collaboration leading toward full Vietnamese independence within the French Union, it seems to me that the selection of a form of recognition for the Vietnamese government should be governed by three principal considerations: what form of recognition would (a) most strengthen Bao Dai, (b) be best coordinated with the British and other friendly powers, and (c) be more likely to encourage other South Asian nations to recognize.

[Page 701]

I submit that de jure recognition should be preferred for the following reasons:

De facto recognition would damage Bao Dai’s standing and prejudice his chances of success. As the French have pointed out to us in their request that we give de jure recognition to Viet Nam, the subtle legal distinctions between de facto and de jure recognition would not be apparent in Southeast Asia and our action would be taken as a grudging acceptance at best. The effect might be gauged from the view of the Indian Consul General in Saigon who has reported that the GOI, which has steadily opposed the Bao Dai solution, could never be expected to go beyond de facto recognition, which he says would probably do Bao Dai more harm than good.
De facto recognition, in the popular understanding of the term, would mean that Bao Dai was in fact in control of certain areas and that we recognized him to that extent only. The question would certainly arise, and not only in Communist propaganda, as to whether, in fact, Ho Chi Minh was not in control of a greater area and a greater number of souls than Bao Dai.
What we are witnessing in the transfer of power from the French to the state of Viet Nam is in truth a de jure solution—perhaps one which is yet to be fully established in fact. With due observance of legal form the French are handing over sovereignty to an associated state of the French Union. De jure recognition is therefore more consistent with the existing triangular relationship among ourselves, Viet Nam and the French.
While the British have not yet indicated finally which form of recognition they propose to extend, they will probably come to the de jure solution. It will be recalled that they had thought of de facto recognition purely in terms of an interim action following the Ceylon Conference but prior to ratification by the French of the March 8 Agreements. We are informed that they intended to give de jure recognition eventually and that they hope to “facilitate” this by urging the French toward rapid ratification and further concessions to Viet Nam. It is understood that all the Asiatic delegations at the Ceylon Conference, with the exception of the Indians, had accepted this position.
The British recognize the Chinese Communists de jure. I don’t know what form we will eventually use. I do not believe we would want to see Bao Dai receive any lesser recognition than the Chinese Communists and de facto recognition would be considered a lesser recognition.
Technically, I suppose that the case for de jure recognition might be better if all the supplementary accords had been ratified and if there had been some form of ratification by the Vietnamese; but to wait upon these formalities would be to lose much of the advantage of our early recognition and might hurt Bao Dai’s chances at this crucial time. There is also the question of the French Constitution which appears to limit the exercise of sovereignty in international relations by States within the French Union. It is true that this new state becomes something less independent than a dominion in the Commonwealth or than the Republic of Indonesia, but I do not see [Page 702]why de jure recognition can not be extended to an evolving state at any stage in its evolution, when it is clearly in our interests to do so.

  1. Mr. Gullion, designated Counsel at Saigon on December 7, 1949, left the United States for Viet-Nam in early February, stopping in Paris en route. On February 13, he was appointed Consul General at Saigon, With United States recognition of the Governments of Viet-Nam, Laos, and Cambodia on February 7, Mr. Gullion became Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

    This memorandum was directed to William S. B. Lacy, Acting Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs, and Elim O’Shaughnessy, Officer in Charge of French-Iberian Affairs.