Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 158

United States Delegation Minutes 1

Foreign Minister Bidault opened with a welcome to the representatives of the Associated States and said he wished to repeat the assurances [Page 1666] which had already been given to them regarding the full independence of their countries within the framework of (“au sein de”) the French Union. He said that an outstanding career diplomat who was also an expert on Far Eastern questions and noted for his liberal spirit had been appointed as High Commissioner in Indochina. He added there should be no delay in getting the talks underway, and that the three Associated States are free to indicate exactly what they want in the economic, financial, administrative, judicial, and even military fields. He noted that no French civil servants would remain in any of the Associated States unless requested to remain by one of the States.

He declared that the French Union and Associated States troops now fighting in Indochina form the principal effective barrier to Communism in Southeast Asia already, and that efforts would certainly be made to raise additional French Union forces. He stressed that the entente among the four nations must be harmonious and they must also work closely with the US which has furnished such important military and moral assistance. M. Bidault stated that the French desire is for the full independence of the three States, and that the purpose of the July 3 statement2 was to remove the uncertainty which apparently existed in some minds as to French policy.

Secretary Dulles, after welcoming the Associated States representatives, said that the future of these three countries was symbolic in the world today. He stated that occasionally the three powers at this conference—the US, UK and France—had been accused of not being interested in promoting independence in the world. He said that no charge was so false and misleading, and cited the record of the past ten years during which political independence has been given by these three powers to former colonial and dependent areas, comprising about 600,000,000 people, and representing nearly 25 percent of the population of the world. He said these former dependent territories now formed nearly a score of free states, and stressed that all of this had occurred as a result of voluntary action by these three powers. He also mentioned that the history of all three had long been characterized by the belief in the rights of man and human dignity. All three also believed in the natural evolution of peoples in a non-self-governing status towards independence.

Secretary Dulles said that the impediment to independence today had nothing to do with the desires of the US, UK or France, but rather that the great danger in the world today to small weak states, relatively inexperienced in self-government, was the aggressive policy of the Soviet Union. He noted Stalin had stated that nationalism is a slogan which is to be used to break up the unity of the free world, and to obtain independence for various areas which the Soviet Union [Page 1667] would then try to absorb into its own orbit, where no freedom exists. The Secretary remarked that the Soviets have already grabbed almost twenty states and now control 800,000,000 people.

The problem is not one of theoretical independence, Secretary Dulles added, since the three governments represented at the conference have already made clear their position on this matter, but rather how much independence can be granted that won’t immediately be snatched away by the Communists, It was as a result of this situation, the Secretary noted, that a collective security policy had been started. Today no one country, even one of the so-called Big Three, is safe. Secretary Dulles noted that this was the doctrine he had preached to Congress, i.e. that it was not safe to stand alone, even for the US. He continued that this conclusion would apply even more to the Associated States.

Continuing, Secretary Dulles said no condition in the world was so dangerous today as to be totally independent. We must have associations and the responsibilities that such a cooperative effort entailed. Certainly he favored a high degree of autonomy but coupled with ties that bind and give strength. He said the evolution of such an arrangement, as in the case of the British Commonwealth or the French Union, was one of the signs of the genius of free peoples. He said that independence must be coupled with inter-dependence.

In closing Secretary Dulles expressed a high appreciation of the recent French proposal, which he regarded as essential. He said the peoples of the Associated States must have as much independence as possible to give them something to fight for. They should manage all the essentials of their own affairs, and accordingly we applauded most strongly the French effort which was made with great sincerity. He urged the Associated States and France to work out their destiny, giving independence to the three States and assuring sufficient cooperation among the four to preserve that independence.

The Cambodian Ambassador, after thanking Secretary Dulles for the invitation to attend the conference, said he was glad the French have invited the Associated States to negotiate. He noted the danger of Communism to independence, and Secretary Dulles’ statement that the three powers represented at the conference have always done their duty in the world and given independence freely to other states.

The Ambassador remarked that Franco-Cambodian relations had just passed through a rather bad phase, and expressed appreciation that the French Government, even though it has just been installed, had already attempted to solve the problem. French policy has certainly taken a step forward in the July 3 declaration which sought a solution agreeable to Cambodia. The Ambassador said he had been authorized by his Government to say that the Cambodian situation was a special one, and that, while France had stated the existing accords should form the basis for negotiations, this suggestion does not respond to the wishes of the Cambodian people. He added that a note had been [Page 1668] delivered on July 123 to the French High Commissioner in Phnom Penh giving the details as to how the Cambodian Government wished to conduct the talks. He said the details were secret but that in general what was required was an unequivocal declaration of independence by France and by Cambodia. Subsequently he said special concessions would be given to France.

The Ambassador stressed that the Communist danger was real and visible, and that Cambodia had never sought the French departure from Cambodia nor to leave the French Union. He said Cambodia had accepted French aid and was grateful to France for sacrificing the flower of her army and billions of francs in Indochina. He said his country had been devastated by seven years of war, and of course welcomed any initiative to end that war. He said Cambodia’s demand for full independence is primarily for the purpose of giving the people a reason and desire to fight Communism and thus to show the enemy the Cambodian determination to pursue the struggle. He continued that the King of Cambodia himself had been active in the campaign against Communism, and that the Viet-Minh had caused too much ruin in Cambodia not to be hated. He said Communism is the negation of the monarchy, religion and society of his country. Accordingly, the King of Cambodia had wished to mobilize the country fully to fight with the French against Communism. He concluded, indicating he thought a solution to the problems of his country was possible.

The Chargé d’Affaires of Vietnam thanked Secretary Dulles for his invitation, and stated that she had not had time to get a message from her Government for the conference, but wished to express gratitude for the military and moral aid of both the US and France to her country. She said that the French declaration of July 3 would assist in resolving the troubles in her country and in meeting its needs. She concluded stating she felt it was important to begin negotiations as soon as possible since they represented a vital step forward in the cause of independence and peers. The whole country of Vietnam was anxiously awaiting the results of these meetings, she said.

The Minister of Laos said that the Secretary’s advice regarding independence versus inter-dependence would be hard not to follow. He also said that it was important to give the Laotian people a feeling they were fighting for a cause, and he noted that his country had just given proof of its determination to fight. He thanked the US for aid given to his country and stated that since the war France had substituted friendship for colonialism. The Minister expressed thanks to France for the July 3 declaration, which he indicated was a proof that France was carrying out her promises. He said his Government greeted with satisfaction the declaration, and the King and most of the principal Laotian Ministers were already in France where they would hold a [Page 1669] cabinet meeting after which a note would be sent to the French Government, and the Laotian officials would be ready to begin the talks.

The Laotian Minister agreed that independence cannot be absolute today and that his country desired inter-dependence and was content with the steps which France had already taken. In conclusion he said that the important problem for his country was to consolidate the steps which had been taken and those which were about to take place.

In closing the meeting, Secretary Dulles said that he felt it was fortunate that the US happened to be the host at this conference so that we could participate in this meeting with the representatives of the other four states. He said he considered the negotiations which were about to take place as an historic event. He noted that we are only indirectly concerned of course but that these talks carry the hopes of millions of Americans, and we are sure that the negotiations will result in strengthening the citadel of freedom.

  1. The Department of State transmitted to Paris a summary of this meeting in telegram 153, July 14 (396.1 WA/7–1453). The telegram was repeated to London, Saigon, Phnom Penh, and Vientiane.
  2. See footnote 3, p. 1644.
  3. For the text of the Cambodian note of July 12, see Documents (R.I.I.A.) for 1953, pp. 472–474.