607.1151/11–1150: Telegram

The Minister at Saigon (Heath) to the Secretary of State

top secret

869. Liaison in strict military aspects between this mission and French authorities has considerably improved in recent weeks as regards frankness and promptness of communication. I am most appreciative Department’s instruction to Paris (Deptel 2561, November 12)1 because with tradition French secretiveness and exclusiveness, present relatively satisfactory liaison in military matters may not otherwise improve to the degree which we consider necessary.

Greatest defect situation here at present time is uncertainty liaison on political matters which immediately affects military situation. Pignon, despite complete frankness and openness with which I have dealt with him re our own relationship and discussions with Bao Dai and Vietnam Government, is candid, and informative only intermittently and occasionally and then only in response to specific questions. In absence specific instructions from Paris, he gives every indication maintaining his reserve.

[Page 922]

Although hypothesis of Legation’s earlier recommendations for consultative relationship, namely US consideration direct financing Vietnam army not now at issue, US involvement and investment directly and indirectly in IC is increasing in the measure of whether or not IC will be held, and whether we like it or not, is causing us to be associated public aspects success or failure French policy IC. By even Western European comparison US role in IC is not negligible. Yet nowhere else in world have we been willing to spend the sums and make effort now required IC without substantial and continuing opportunities to influence directions and course of national enterprises we are supplementing. In Europe where forms of relationship and liaison have long been established an ECA formula far different from that of STEM in IC was devised to contribute constant subtle and effective influence on investment, fiscal and production fields. For new Western armies, NATO and its sub-committees provide means of influencing both their development and their employment.

Here in IC although we have pressed for acknowledgement by French of facts of post-1949 FE situation French have not responded with that full and prompt cooperation which would permit timely effective arrival of American aid. While they may do so in time, urgency threat to IC hardly allows us to await process of nature. Neither we nor Embassy Paris know with any precision course of discussions on foreign trade, exchange controls or investment policy under negotiation between French and Associated States at Pau. Neither we nor Embassy Paris know with any certainty current French plans for Tonkin operations or defense of Western IC approaches through Laos and Cambodia. Nor have French been as yet fully forthcoming re actual lines their national army project. Additionally at point is fact that information French have given us at highest IC levels has occasionally been at variance with facts as they subsequently became known to us. These circumstances have added unnecessarily to problems we face in backing French Union formula. Nor can we claim that present French management has been attended by dramatic political or military success. Not only must many elements in French administration of their policy here be changed but French have not even succeeded in deriving benefits they should have received from their many real concessions to legitimate Viets nationalism.

I believe therefore that Deptel 2561 to Paris should be amended include US insistence on better political liaison as well. We do not seek decision or veto in IC. There is middle ground between consultation involving full US responsibility and routine diplomatic contacts; it is this middle ground we are trying develop.

Paris will recall we have to contend with traditionally far more exclusive attitude on part French in this ex-colony than we would [Page 923] encounter in Metropolitan France. US opinion on IC affairs will of course be expressed directly French Government by Department and Paris Embassy, but US influence must be applied in IC where policy becomes administrative frequently changing in the process. With all respect only Legation Saigon can do this with guidance and advice Department and Paris.

In political field we would expect and believe Department expects us to be taken thoroughly into French confidence and to be able express US views on important decisions while they are still in project stage; we would expect to be represented as observers on intelligence and psychological warfare committees; we should maintain that close contact with higher French military staff which Legation has previously urged. Form of this collaboration is not as important as its substance, but to achieve this substance within time left, assistance of Department and Embassy Paris is needed.

If Department authorizes Paris Embassy make this amended request for improved liaison it should not be presented with criticism present or past defective liaison on part French authorities here. It is simply that new and critical situation has arisen here where frank, timely, even advance local liaison on military-political developments becomes essential. French policy combatting Communist aggression and assisting evolutionary advance Associated States to independence within French Union is our program and our policy as well. We heartily endorse high aims this policy although we differ as to timing and manner implementation and as to sanctity certain agreements and will certainly in future at least demur or comment on French subsidiary policy aims securing privileged or even monopolistic status for their economic interests in IC (i.e., secret aviation agreement between Pignon and Huu (see Legtel 870)).2 The latter issue is not so much an immediate problem at this moment when IC finances, exchanges and trade are heavily subsidized by France. On the Legation side, the High Commissioner may expect be informed in advance our ECA program and in general of the tenor our relations with AS Government officials. We of course welcome his comments on our plans, operations and contacts.

With definite instruction from Paris to Pignon that new era has dawned, I believe we can work out locally very satisfactory liaison but there must be quite definite instructions issued to Pignon and General Carpentier.

Department pass Tokyo. Sent Department 869; repeated info Paris 426, London 18, Tokyo 23.

  1. In telegram 2561 to Paris, November 12, not printed, the Department instructed the Embassy to request the French Government to inform French military authorities in Saigon of the need for improved liaison (751G.00/10–3050).
  2. Not printed.