396.1 BE/1–2454: Telegram

No. 347
The United States Delegation at the Berlin Conference to the Department of State 1

Secto 12. Following is résumé second meeting today of three Foreign Ministers:2

(1) Austrian participation: Secretary said Austrians would be satisfied by reply to their note requesting participation3 in which we would indicate that we were prepared to raise their request for participation in the Berlin conference and to take a sympathetic attitude towards it. Messrs. Eden and Bidault agreed to this procedure.

(2) Prospective discussions with Blankenhorn re Adenauer latest proposals regarding free elections (see Secto 84).

(3) Position re Soviet proposal for five power meeting: Eden referred to latest French proposal for modification initial tripartite position (see BER D1/25) as transmitted Paris telegram 2707 to Department.6 French revisions as embodied that telegram were accepted by the three Foreign Ministers.

Bidault then stated that he recognizes objections to five-power conference but length of Indochinese war and state of French public opinion such it not possible exclude chance of “honorable” negotiations on Indochina; hence essential to hold out hope that should Chinese Communists proceed with Korean settlement and give signs good faith, some kind Indochina political settlement possible. Therefore French seek agreement on second position outlined reference telegram.

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Secretary stated we do not favor French proposal. US does not deny existence Chinese Communists and is negotiating with them on Korea. However, we do so not on basis of accepting Soviet proposal for five power conference which seems to depend on Soviet interpretation UN Charter (particularly Article 106). US cannot accept legal validity this Soviet position as applied Chinese Communists. Article 106 designed for immediate postwar situation now past. Secretary went on to say that if Potsdam Agreement basis for Soviet juridical position for five power conference, France would not be eligible. Furthermore, our interpretation Potsdam is that agreement pertained to European not Far Eastern affairs. Secretary did not exclude possibility that if at some future time conference was held to deal with Indochinese problem and US invited, we would accept regardless Chinese Communists factor. However, this should not be taken for granted nor would US participation be predicted upon five power thesis. Hence, US does not accept “principle” of five power conference as French proposal states. If Korean conference should go well and opportunities arose, Korean conference might be extended to cover Indochinese problem with appropriate modification of representation to include, for example, Associated States. This would obviously not be five power conference.

Bidault acknowledged that Soviet proposition for inclusion Communist China could not be based on any juridical right or on general power status. He thought it would be based more on prospect that participation Communist China could make practical contribution to settlement in Indochina. He stated that France was now procrastinating as to negotiations. Negotiations must be tackled some time. He asked us to consider the length of time required for the armistice negotiations in Korea. He remarked that France had already suffered a physical and moral attrition in Indochina which had gone on through seven years. He granted that the group which might be convened to negotiate on Indochina would not be limited to five. Communist China would, of course, have to participate as the aggressor but neutral countries in the area such as Thailand and Australia also might be invited. The motive in seeking negotiations would be to alleviate the serious plight of the French in Indochina. A line would have to be drawn somewhere as to the participants. Undoubtedly, Ho Chi Minh would wish to take part in the conference. If some other medium for negotiations should be used, Ho Chi Minh could hardly be excluded. Yet it was desirable that he be prevented from participating. Status of Viet Minh was quite different from that of North or South Korea and the participation of Viet Minh would not be acceptable to the French. If it were allowed the prestige of Ho Chi Minh would be increased to a serious [Page 792] extent, but Communist China would have to participate if the war were to be ended.

Eden said that he was glad the first position was acceptable to all three. If one went beyond the first position it was necessary to branch out into many hypotheses. It was not possible to anticipate them all and to reach agreed positions for each contingency. Undoubtedly Molotov would wish to embarrass the three foreign powers in every way possible. Hence, he did not see how we could now look beyond first stage. The UK is “in a legal doghouse” having already recognized Communist China and could not raise a political issue. The first point he saw was that we must not be diverted from the main issue (German). Second, it would be embarrassing for us to set conditions for a later conference. It would seem as if we were creating the difficulties rather than the Soviet Union. He did not see how we could now do more than agree on the initial position. He said that he would wish to consult his colleagues again if it seemed we could not hold the first position.

The Secretary indicated that he was in substantial agreement with Eden. He thought it was entirely possible that we might escape from the dilemma as a result of the Soviets taking a position so extreme that the tripartite differences would not have to be exposed. He thought that the Soviets would feel bound to be very emphatic in their pressing of the Communist Chinese cause. Their general line as to Communist China in the UN and elsewhere did not admit of any compromise. It was unlikely that they would agree to any form of limited Chinese Communist participation in a later conference. Therefore the first position might suffice as the final position. He remarked that an emergency tripartite session on this subject would always be possible if the need arose.

(4) Tripartite consultation with Austrian delegation: It was agreed that each delegation would name a representative to participate in a tripartite group through which our contacts with the Austrian delegates would be maintained. The Secretary designated Freund for US; Eden named Geoffrey Harrison while French designated Seydoux.

(5) Liaison with NATO countries re conference developments: It was agreed that NATO representatives of the three countries at Paris would be best channel. They could consult together and prepare agreed report which should be of brief and general nature. In order to minimize difficulties of three NATO representatives Paris it was agreed that it would be preferable to have tripartite liaison here on question, and the Secretary designated Page as US representative for this purpose; Roberts named for United Kingdom. Agreed Benelux should be informed through regular HICOMer channel.

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(6) Tripartite steering committee: Mr. Eden suggested it might be useful designate from each delegation representatives to maintain close general contact during conference since ministers might not have time handle some matters. It was agreed that those who represented governments during Paris preparations (MacArthur, Seydoux and Roberts) would perform this work with added understanding that on some subjects HICOMers would be more appropriate group.

(7) Hospitality and entertaining: Eden asked for any views on this subject. Secretary stated two basic reasons against undue or ostentatious entertaining: First, bad impression which would be created at home especially if conference unproductive; and second, Soviets might use entertainment gambit to make political impression especially in Soviet sector affairs which might bring us into contact with German Communists. Therefore inclined keep entertainment to minimum while being “correct” and “polite”. Bidault agreed stating that excessive entertainment would be tiring, [garble] possibly embarrassing. Eden stressed need avoid any tripartite formal entertainment of West Germans so Soviets would have no pretext for asking East Germans to official conference receptions.

(8) Further tripartite meeting referring to declaration of intent and question of opening statements: Eden asked whether it was desired to discuss these matters now whereupon Secretary asked whether it would be possible have draft of Bidault’s remarks in advance since that would be viewed as having tripartite character. Bidault agreed. Secretary then invited others to come to his house tomorrow 4:30 when it was agreed following matters would be discussed: (1) opening statements (2) declaration of intent (3) certain points on Austria including position on Article 35.7

  1. Repeated to London, Paris, Bonn, Moscow, and Vienna.
  2. For a record of the first meeting, see Secto 10, supra.
  3. On Jan. 22 the U.S. Delegation reported that it had that day received an Austrian note requesting that the Austrian question be placed on the agenda of the conference and that Austria be allowed direct participation in the proceedings. (Secto 3 from Berlin, Jan. 22, 396.1 BE/1–2254)
  4. Secto 8 reported that the Foreign Ministers had agreed to have their High Commissioners meet with Blankenhorn on Jan. 24 to explain why they could not accept Chancellor Adenauer’s position on elections and the reduction of the Volkspolizei. (396.1 BE/1–2354)
  5. A copy of this paper is in CFM files, lot M 88, box 168, “Four-Power Meeting in Berlin”.
  6. Telegram 2707 stressed that many of the problems likely to be discussed at a five-power conference were already under study by appropriate institutions, but that if a five-power conference were held it would have to meet certain preconditions. (396.1/1–2154)
  7. For a record of the Foreign Ministers meeting on Jan. 24, see Secto 15, Document 349.