396.1 LO/10–1753: Telegram

No. 305
The United States Delegation at the Tripartite Foreign Ministers Conference to the Department of State 1

Secto 23. Subject: Indochina discussion at tripartite meeting October 17 morning. Re military picture Bidault reported Viet Minh preparing major effort in Tonkin delta with two divisions, two regiments and one “special division” grouped north of Hanoi and two divisions and one regiment assembled in south of delta. Does not expect new Viet Minh push into Laos, but this cannot be ruled out in view presence one division near Vinh.

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Re “Navarre Plan” nine battalions from France will be in Indochina by end of October.2 Aircraft carrier Arromanches has arrived, the additional Air Force personnel will be on hand by end of month and the additional US equipment is also arriving in quantity. Of the 54 commando battalions program 36 now activated with 18 to follow within next month thus completing ahead of schedule. Bidault report Navarre also succeeded in creating a mobile battle corps by withdrawing elements from static defense but did not give figures.

Re political aspects Bidault said talks have started in Indochina following French July 3 announcement.3 These, however, relate to transfer of certain limited powers and essential negotiations will be conducted soon in Paris.

Re Laos matters progressing smoothly with Laotians first to recognize need for continued presence western technicians. Talks Paris started October 15.

Re Cambodia difficulties common knowledge. Quick agreement was reached concerning transfer of police and judicial powers, but military has been stumbling block. French have now agreed transfer territorial command west of Mekong to Cambodia, also command five battalions on condition that three be returned to French command for operations. However, difficulties continue unresolved concerning date of return and use of these three battalions as well as re protection of French and other foreigners.

Re Vietnam talks have not yet started; no fault of French who appointed their delegation in August. Delay caused Bao Dai who wanted non-governmental representatives in his delegation also because difficulties with Tam, internal Vietnam politics and calling off National Congress. Latter not only disappointment but has caused unexpected great difficulties. Congress adjourned without designating panel of 20 from which 6 representatives to Paris talks were to be selected. Resolution denouncing French Union (Secto 12, repeated Paris 252, Saigon 34) could have disastrous effect both on Paris talks and French public opinion. Bao Dai has sent telegram calling for remedial action, but Bidault not optimistic in view demagogic climate Saigon. Bidault warned that because public opinion and parliamentary pressure French Government could not continue present effort if nothing subsists of French Union, for example, in military field so important to all interested in Southeast Asia. [Page 708] Bidault remarked parenthetically that Bao Dai also much better than his reputation (Eden later mentioned that he had recently received rather glowing report on Bao Dai from MacDonald 5).

Bidault then raised question action in support of French should Viet Minh Air Force appear. According “entirely reliable sources” pilot training school established Nanning [Nanking?] last April. Other sources report concentration jet equipment South China and completion air strip Langson. French have no jet planes Indochina as not best adapted for present operations, but French Air Force would become worthless day Viet Minh jets appear. While five-power staff agency at meeting June 19536 considered question military help in case Communist Chinese aggression Bidault wanted inquire at what point increasing Chinese aid would bring above support agreement into play.

Eden stated French report re Viet Minh planes communicated to British JCS and any information thereon will be given to French. While pointing out difficulties drawing up theoretical schedule of “percentages of intervention,” he recognized usefulness studying this important problem. UK fully understands link between Indochina and Malaya and improvement over past year would be wiped out if Navarre fails.

Secretary expressed great US appreciation French efforts Indochina which US sought to demonstrate in form very substantial financial and material aid.

Re possibility appearance Viet Minh planes US is studying this problem. Information given to US military who are checking their sources. The US is ready to consider what should be done if Communist China exceeds what could be considered a normal level of supplying military equipment.

  1. Repeated to Paris and Saigon.
  2. The plan of Gen. Henri Navarre, Commander in Chief of the French Forces in Indochina, was to strengthen the French Expeditionary Force in Indochina and expand the training of Vietnamese forces.
  3. On July 3 France had offered to conduct negotiations with the Associated States of Indochina for a review of their status in the French Union.
  4. Document 303.
  5. Malcolm J. MacDonald, British High Commissioner for Southeast Asia.
  6. Five-power talks on East and Southeast Asia were held periodically.