Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

top secret
limited distribution only

General Romulo1 called on me, off-the-record, at his request. The subject about which he wished to talk was the long letter he had [Page 753] written me about Indo China.2 Most of this letter complained of our recognition of Bao Dai on the grounds that he was and is regarded throughout Asia as a French puppet. One paragraph of the letter urged that we ask the French to make a declaration that the present agreements were merely part of an evolutionary process.

Summarizing our conversation, the following points came out:

I told the General that we believe that the present agreements were only a step along a longer route; that we had so expressed ourselves to the French, and that we agreed with him that some further statement would be desirable. I told him we have to be careful here that the French did not get discouraged by internal difficulties at home and withdraw from Indo China. If their troops were withdrawn there would be a real danger of the first magnitude, The General did not disagree with this.
I asked him whether, as a practical matter, he advocated our recognition of Ho Chi Minh. He denied any such idea and thought that it would be most disastrous. He said that he had known Ho before World War Two and, although he was a Communist and a Moscow-trained Communist, he thought that he was a patriot and that his overtures to Tito3 indicate a desire to let both Stalin and Mao know that he was not a mere tool of theirs. I asked the General whether this meant that he thought Bao Dai should come to terms with Ho and whether he was thinking of a coalition government. He hastily denied either suggestion.
I then asked the General just what he would propose that we should do. The only suggestion that he put forth was that we should find some way of determining whether Ho was being backed into a corner and whether he could not be induced to give up the struggle against Bao Dai if both France and the United States assured Viet Nam that it would ultimately have its independence. Under some cross examination, he did not put much reliance in this suggestion. I told him that I would think it over.
General Romulo then turned to the subject of the Pacific Pact.4 He told me that New Zealand had declined the invitation but that he still hoped New Zealand would send observers. He was not sure about the attitude of Australia. He asked whether we could help the Philippine Government with both New Zealand and Australia. He said that he was most anxious that the Pact should not have a racial foundation but should gather in as many of the countries of Southeast Asia as possible, I said that we had already done a great deal to help in both cases he mentioned, but that I would take this up with my associates to see if we could be of any further assistance.
The General made some complimentary observations about myself and the work of the Department, and I responded about his conduct at the General Assembly and urged him to get in touch with me whenever he desired.

D[ean] A[cheson]
  1. Brig. Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, Permanent Representative of the Philippines at the United Nations; President of the Fourth Session of the General Assembly, 1949.
  2. Letter not found in Department of State files.
  3. In telegram 228 from Belgrade, February 21, Ambassador George V. Allen reported that the Yugoslav Government had just recognized the government of Ho Chi Minh in response to a formal request for recognition from the latter (751G.02/2–2150).
  4. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 1 ff.