751G.00/11–350: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Secretary of State

top secret

2436. Deptel 2257, October 28 (sent Saigon 460).1 With reference French intentions re Vietnam independence as set forth by Letourneau, Juin, Pignon and Carpentier reported in Saigon telegram 657, October 25 to Department (repeated Paris 319),2 Embassy does not believe French Government would consider it wise make public statement [Page 918] along these lines at this time, nor does Embassy believe US Government should take steps encourage them to do so. Various suggestions have frequently been made, for example by Melby mission, that French establish timetable for Vietnam independence and make public statement to that effect. British Government, as reported London telegram 2138, October 12 (repeated Paris 610, Saigon 8),3 appears to take same view that ultimate aim must be full independence Associated States and also considers desirable French Government issue formal statement re Vietnam independence under fixed timetable. It is possible that this would be helpful in persuading Nehru and other non-Communist Asiatics of sincerity French aims. On the other hand, consideration must be given to oft-expressed concern of the French Government re morale its troops IC and French public reaction in face expenditure French lives and money solely to insure Vietnam independence and French withdrawal.

Although French have on several occasions made clear their unwillingness to make “evolutionary statement”, it is possible that given present weakness of French military position and possibility of further reverses, coupled with increased need for outside assistance, French could now be persuaded to make such evolutionary statement provided it did not include promise eventual independence and did not have immediate adverse effect on French ability meet present situation IC. If such a statement were made at this time, it would, of course, being made from “weakness” rather than “strength,” be far less beneficial than might have been the case at the time of French ratification of the March 8 accords. In order, however, to leave no stone unturned, Embassy believes such an effort should be made to persuade the French Government to consider advantages of making a statement re evolutionary character March 8 accords. Statement might refer to French concern over misunderstanding and misinterpretation proceeding Pau conference and might point out that French Government has been concerned to insure rights three Associated States within French Union and appropriate transfer authority necessary in internal matters Associated States in accordance March 8 accords and within framework French Union. French might further refer to French efforts and intentions re creation national armies for three Associated States and French readiness to proceed with formation such armies with all possible speed. It might also point out evolutionary character March 8 accords and French intention proceed grant full autonomy within French Union to Associated States by progressive steps and should make clear steps already taken by French Government which go beyond March 8 accords. It might further emphasize French desire deal on basis full equality within French Union with three Associated States as well as French desire have Associated States exchange [Page 919] diplomatic representatives with those nations which have accorded recognition and French willingness to support Associated States membership in UN.

It is believed that simultaneous approaches re this matter should be made by Department to French Ambassador to Washington and by me to Schuman in order that French Government may realize our serious concern and interest. Embassy believes matter of timing of importance since it would obviously be unwise make such statement coincidental with French withdrawals or further military reverses. It would seem desirable to make such statement at time important French military success or some change in high French military or civil command in IC, if such change is actually to be made. Or, timing might be connected with some stage of formation Vietnam National Army which would serve to give added emphasis to French statement. Consideration might also be given to possibility of having the Associated States make some statement simultaneously which would have effect of showing they realized that struggle against Viet Minh was their struggle and that joint effort with French necessary to realization their nationalist aspirations in face of threat to Associated States from outside. This could be worked out in discussion of matter with French Government. It is further suggested that matter first be discussed with British Government with view to having British make parallel approach to French Government along same lines. In making approach we should draw attention to harm done by prolonged stay France during Pau conference Bao Dai, Prime Minister Huu and other ranking Vietnam officials and should point out desirability of taking some political action which might have some dramatic effect and might influence fence-sitting elements in IC to throw their support to Bao Dai Government. It could be pointed out that French should as minimum, in light Letourneau-Juin statement re French intentions as reported Saigon telegram 657, October 25 [24] to Department, be willing make statement re evolutionary character relations between France and Associated States. We should emphasize that our interest lies in strengthening IC against Communist aggression, for which US is contributing both economic and military aid, and that we are suggesting French Government take action which in long run will in our opinion be designed not to weaken but to strengthen position both of French and of Associated States. We should refer to our previous suggestions along these lines and the further deterioration of situation and thus present increased desirability of steps which carry with them the possibility of improving political atmosphere, which is vital to overall improvement in IC.

Department pass Saigon; sent Department 2436, repeated Saigon 163.

  1. Not printed.
  2. For extract, see p. 906.
  3. Not printed.