Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 108

United States Minute of Tripartite Foreign Ministers Meeting With France and the United Kingdom1

top secret
SCEM MIN-2: Part One


  • Indochina


  • France:
    • M. Pinay
    • M. Queuille
    • M. Robert Schuman
    • M. Pleven
    • M. Letourneau
    • M. Maurice Schumann
    • M. Parodi
    • M. de la Tournelle
    • M. Gaillard
    • M. Sauvagnargues
  • UK:
    • Mr. Eden
    • Sir Oliver Harvey
    • Mr. Hayter
    • Mr. Roberts
    • Mr. Shuckburgh
  • U.S.:
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Dunn
    • Ambassador Gifford
    • Ambassador Jessup
    • Mr. Perkins
    • Mr. Achilles
    • Mr. Knight
    • Mr. Sprouse
    • Miss Kirkpatrick

[Here follows a portion of the minute printed in volume XIII, Part 1, page 157]

The Secretary: . …

The next question is what should be the attitude of the three powers if the situation becomes worse and the Chinese Communists take a more active part in the IC conflict. As I said to Mr. Schuman and Mr. Eden at Lisbon, the United States Government would work to clarify in its own mind its position preparatory to discussion with the UK and France. We are now prepared to go forward with discussions, politically, militarily or in any other way, for working out a joint position. Tentatively, it is the U.S. position—and we agree with the French and the British that the important thing is to prevent rather than act afterwards—to issue a joint warning to the Chinese Communists. We can later discuss whether it should be public or private. We think it important to talk about what we should do if the warning is disregarded and that it is dangerous to issue a warning without knowing what we would do if it were disregarded. We would agree that whatever conclusions are reached they should be kept secret in order to leave the enemy in doubt. I suggest in a preliminary way that what we do not be limited to resisting, for example, in Indo-China a Chinese Communist attack. Action should be taken against the Chinese Communists. We cannot necessarily agree on all action in all eventualities but initial action at the outset should be considered. For example, attacks on lines of communications contributing to the attack on Indo-China and naval action. We should first discuss these matters [Page 103] in political talks and then in military talks, perhaps at Paris. While not wishing to anticipate the military talks, the United States would not be able to contribute ground forces for Southeast Asia but would expect to bear a considerable share of the air and naval effort. It is essential that no leaks occur regarding the fact that we are considering such a warning.

Mr. Eden: As I stated at Columbia University, Chinese Communist aggression in Indo-China should be considered as comparable to that in Korea and the United Nations would take measures in that event. We could not be committed now regarding military action to be taken by the United Nations. I hope that no such aggression takes place and the question of issuing the warning needs further discussions. I reserve my position and would wish to discuss this matter with my colleagues.

Mr. Schuman: I thank Mr. Acheson for what he envisages in this connection and agree in the main. This problem is independent of things we have discussed in the past. Like Mr. Eden, I hope that no such aggression will occur but sudden aggression is not impossible. The Ad Hoc Military Committee at Washington studied this question but the other Governments’ views are not known to us. It is very wise to prevent action but the timing and form of the warning should be discussed as it might provoke an attack. It should not enable the enemy to use such a warning as a pretext to extend the conflict.

Mr. Letourneau: The French Government approved the conclusions of the Ad Hoc Committee about one month ago but we do not know the political views of the US and the UK. If the US and the UK could examine these conclusions and tell us, it would be useful to know their political conclusions. Mr. Eden referred to United Nations action, but as the Minister responsible for Indo-China I would like to note the permanent danger we face there—although not immediately probable. We must prepare our defense in the event of aggression. The United Nations procedure is lengthy and in the meantime we would face mortal danger to our troops and civilians. Therefore, the political and military talks should include immediate measures along the lines of the Ad Hoc Committee recommendations.

Mr. Eden: As I said at New York, United Nations action is envisaged. I cannot personally commit my Government now. But Mr. Acheson has suggested that all these matters be included in the talks.

Mr. Pinay: With respect to the principles set forth by Mr. Acheson, I am in agreement. Each of us—the United States in Korea, the UK in Malaya and France in Indo-China—has its individual problems and responsibilities but each is part of the overall and we [Page 104] must note the disparity of our means. France has fought in Indo-China for six years and we feel that we are justified in asking for aid.

The proposed warning to the Chinese Communists might start or extend the war. China is a huge country with hundreds of millions of people. As in the last war bombing did not end the conflict but only a massive landing rid us of the Germans. Air action is not enough and there seems no possibility of ending the war. Korea proves this. I should like to ask if the US and the UK have considered whether negotiations might possibly end the war.

Mr. Eden: I agree regarding the desirability of being ready to negotiate, but the example given by Korea is not promising. The US has been very patient and the concessions have all been made on the United Nations side. Mr. Acheson suggested the issuance of a warning for consideration and it is worth considering and examining the possibility.

The Secretary: Sudden large scale intervention is probably not likely, but increased US aid may be followed by increased Chinese Communist aid. It might, therefore, be advisable at some point to say to the Chinese Communists that this must stop.

Mr. Pleven: I wish to ask again regarding the US and UK views regarding the conclusions of the Ad Hoc Committee. These are extremely important if sudden aggression should take place. We have the problem of evacuation of civilians. There has been no Vietminh air force to date but an armistice in Korea might free the Chinese Communist air force. Creation of the national armies decreased the chances of Chinese aggression by lessening the propaganda value to them of having white Europeans to attack. It removes a weapon from them in terms of propaganda.

Mr. Eden: I cannot comment on the Ad Hoc Committee conclusions except to say that they have been examined.

The Secretary: The Ad Hoc Committee actually presented no recommendations but reached different conclusions. No political guidance was given to the military members of this Committee. We might give tentative guidance or suggestions under certain hypotheses to the Committee and then the Ministers could later examine these problems in their ensemble.

Mr. Schuman: The psychological point is very important—aid could be foreseen if aggression occurred—but it is important to know plans are being made.

Mr. Pleven: The constant preoccupation of the military in Tonkin is the possibility of a flood of Chinese across the border. The means of transportation and the evacuation of civilians are important and there are points in the Ad Hoc Committee’s conclusions [Page 105] regarding the use of ports useful in organization of evacuation.

Mr. Letourneau: I suggest that we reach agreement on those conclusions of the Ad Hoc Committee, which did not give rise to differences of opinion, and for further progress political guidance should be given and an exchange of views should take place to that end.

The Secretary: It is best to examine the Ad Hoc Committee conclusions again. We can pick out certain points and say proceed with these and on other parts we could prepare tentative guidance for the military and thus clear up the difficulties. We will get up something and submit it to London and Paris to serve as guidance for the military.

Mr. Pleven: We have the responsibility of defending the EDC Treaty before the National Assembly and, if we are not able to show increased French participation, we will have difficulty in obtaining ratification, in obtaining approval for the military budget and for continuation of the effort in Indo-China. It is essential that our friends know that we must have a reply with respect to increased aid for the National Armies as quickly and as generously as possible.

Mr. Pinay: The French Government is unanimously behind Mr. Pleven in this statement. You must realize that the French public is weary and tired of the Indo-China war.

Mr. Schuman: There is considerable apprehension regarding the EDC2 in France and Germany does not have the Indo-China burden, thus establishing a disequilibrium. Germany will receive US aid without having to apply it to Indo-China. These are questions which will be raised in the National Assembly.

Mr. Pinay: We have exposed our views very frankly and have explained our concern. Mr. Letourneau will be able to proceed further with these questions in Washington. I ask that you take into account the political difficulties that Messrs. Pleven and Schuman will have to face in the National Assembly.

  1. French participants not previously identified are Antoine Pinay, Premier; Henri Queuille, Vice-Premier; René Pleven, Minister of Defense; Maurice Schumann, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; Alexandre Parodi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Felix Gaillard, Secretary of State for Finance.

    The only British participant not previously identified is William Hayter, Minister at Paris.

    Previously unidentified participants for the United States are Theodore Achilles, Minister at Paris; Ridgway B. Knight, Acting Deputy Director of the Office of Western European Affairs; and Philip D. Sprouse, First Secretary at Paris.

  2. For documentation on efforts to establish a European Defense Community, see vol. v, Part 1, pp. 571 ff.