S/PNSC files, lot 61 D 167

Memorandum by the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay) to the Steering Committee on NSC 124 1

top secret


  • United States Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect to Communist Aggression in Southeast Asia


  • A. NSC 124; NSC Action No. 6142
  • B. Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated April 15 and April 30, 1952
  • C. Memo for Senior NSC Staff from Executive Secretary, subject, “United States Courses of Action in Southeast Asia in the Absence of Identifiable Communist Aggression,” dated April 30, 1952

The enclosed draft statement of policy on the subject, prepared by a drafting team of Staff Assistants, is transmitted herewith for consideration by the Steering Committee at an early meeting with a view to preparation of the report called for by NSC Action No. 614 b and c.

James S. Lay, Jr.




Statement of Policy on United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to Communist Aggression in Southeast Asia *


1. To prevent the countries of Southeast Asia from passing into the communist orbit, and to assist them to develop the will and ability to resist communism from within and without and to contribute to the strengthening of the free world.

[Here follows paragraphs 2–6 entitled “General Considerations”.]

[Page 108]

courses of action

Southeast Asia

7. With respect to Southeast Asia, the United States should:

Strengthen psychological activities in relation to the area to foster increased alignment of the people with the free world.
Continue, as appropriate, programs of economic and technical assistance designed to strengthen the indigenous non-communist governments of the area.
Encourage the countries of Southeast Asia to restore and expand their commerce with each other and with the rest of the free world, and stimulate the flow of the raw material resources of the area to the free world.
Seek agreement with other nations, including at least France, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, for a joint warning to Communist China regarding the grave consequences of Chinese aggression against Southeast Asia, the issuance of such a warning to be contingent upon the prior agreement of France and the UK to participate in the courses of action set forth in paragraphs 10 c, 12, 14 f, and 15 c,4 and such others as are determined as a result of prior trilateral consultation, in the event such a warning is ignored.
Continue to encourage and support closer cooperation among the countries of Southeast Asia, and between those countries and the United States, Great Britain, France, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, South Asia and Japan.
Strengthen covert operations designed to assist in the achievement of U.S. objectives in Southeast Asia.
Continue activities and operations designed to encourage the overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia to organize and activate anti-communist groups and activities within their own communities, resist the effect of parallel pro-communist groups and activities and, generally, increase their orientation toward the free world.
Take whatever measures may be practicable to promote the coordinated defense of the area, and encourage and support the spirit of resistance among the peoples of Southeast Asia to Chinese Communist aggression and to the encroachments of local communists.
Make clear to the American people the importance of Southeast Asia to the security of the United States so that the people may be prepared for any of the courses of action proposed herein.


8. With respect to Indochina the United States should:

Continue to promote international support for the three Associated States.
Continue to assure the French that the U.S. regards the French effort in Indochina as one of great strategic importance in [Page 109] the general international interest rather than in the purely French interest, and as essential to the security of the free world, not only in the Far East but in the Middle East and Europe as well.
Continue to assure the French that we are cognizant of the sacrifices entailed for France in carrying out her effort in Indochina and that, without overlooking the principle that France has the primary responsibility in Indochina, we will recommend to the Congress appropriate military, economic and financial aid to France and the Associated States.
Continue to cultivate friendly and increasingly cooperative relations with the Governments of France and the Associated States at all levels with a view to maintaining and, if possible, increasing the degree of influence the U.S. can bring to bear on the policies and actions of the French and Indochinese authorities to the end of directing the course of events towards the objectives we seek. Our influence with the French and Associated States should be designed to further those constructive political, economic and social measures which will tend to increase the stability of the Associated States and thus make it possible for the French to reduce the degree of their participation in the military, economic and political affairs of the Associated States.]
Seek agreement with France and the Associated States on a positive political, military, economic and social program designed, in combination with a joint warning to China, to terminate hostilities and establish the independence and security of the Associated States. The following are essential elements of such a program:
An explicit recognition by France of its primary responsibility for the defense of Indochina and its determination to continue such responsibility until the objectives of the program have been attained;
Further French statements regarding the evolutionary development of the Associated States;
Such reorganization of French administration and representation in Indochina as will be conducive to an increased feeling of responsibility on the part of the Associated States;
Further development of the March 85 and Pau accords;6
US-French cooperation in publicizing developments in Indochina;
A maximum effort to develop the armies of the Associated States, including independent logistical and administrative services;
An aggressive military, political, and psychological program to defeat or seriously reduce the Viet Minh forces;
The more effective development of the Indochinese Government;
The early formation of a national assembly and a gradual increase of its powers;
The promotion of land reform, agrarian and industrial credit, sound rice marketing systems, labor development, foreign trade and capital formation.]
For its part in this program, the United States should agree to undertake, with French and Indochinese cooperation:
An increased share of the financial burden of the war.
An increased and accelerated program of U.S. military assistance, especially to the armies of the Associated States.
A more active role in the training of the Associated States armies.
In order to assure that progress is made toward the achievement of the program’s objectives, the United States should continuously make known to France and the Associated States the importance which it attaches to the prompt and vigorous undertaking of the measures outlined in subparagraph d above.]7

9. In the absence of large scale Chinese Communist intervention in Indochina, the United States should:

Continue to furnish aid for the French Union forces without relieving French authorities of their basic military responsibility for the defense of the Associated States.
Provide military equipment and supplies on a high priority basis in order to:
Assist the French Union forces to maintain progress in the restoration of internal security against the Viet Minh.
Assist the forces of France and the Associated States to defend Indochina against Chinese Communist aggression.
Assist in developing indigenous armed forces which will eventually be capable of maintaining internal security without assistance from French units.
In view of the immediate urgency of the situation, involving possible large-scale Chinese Communist intervention, and in order that the United States may be prepared to take whatever action may be appropriate in such circumstances, make the plans necessary to carry out the courses of action indicated in paragraph 10 below.
In the event that information and circumstances point to the conclusion that France is no longer prepared to carry the burden in Indochina, or if France presses for a sharing of the responsibility for Indochina, whether in the UN or directly with the U.S. Government, oppose a French withdrawal and consult with the French and British concerning further measures to be taken to safeguard the area from communist domination.

10. In the event that it is determined, in consultation with France, that Chinese Communist forces (including volunteers) have overtly intervened in the conflict in Indochina, or are covertly participating to such an extent as to jeopardize retention of the Tonkin Delta area by French Union forces, the United States should take the following measures to assist these forces in preventing the loss of Indochina, to repel the aggression and to restore international peace and security in Indochina:

Support a request by France or the Associated States for immediate action by the United Nations which would include a UN resolution declaring that Communist China has committed an aggression, recommending that member states take whatever action may be necessary, without geographic limitation, to assist France and the Associated States in meeting the aggression.
Whether or not UN action is immediately forthcoming, seek the maximum possible international support for, and participation in, the minimum courses of military action agreed upon by the parties to the joint warning. These minimum courses of action are set forth in subparagraph c immediately below.
Carry out the following minimum courses of military action, either under the auspices of the UN or in conjunction with France and the United Kingdom and any other friendly governments:
A resolute defense of Indochina itself to which the United States would provide such air and naval assistance as might be practicable, but no ground forces.
Interdiction of Chinese Communist communication lines.
A naval blockade of Communist China.]
The United States would expect to provide the major forces for tasks (2) and (3) above, but would expect the UK and France to provide at least token forces therefor and to render such other assistance as is normal between allies.

[Page 112]

11. In addition to the courses of action set forth in paragraph 10 above, the United States should take the following military actions as appropriate to the situation:

Intensification of covert operations to aid anti-communist guerrilla forces operating against Communist China and to interfere with and disrupt Chinese Communist lines of communication and military supply areas.
Employment, as desirable and feasible, of anti-communist Chinese forces, including Chinese Nationalist forces in military operations in Southeast Asia, Korea, or China proper.
Assistance to the British to cover an evacuation from Hong Kong, if required.
Evacuation of French Union civil and military personnel from the Tonkin Delta, if required.

12. If, subsequent to aggression against Indochina and execution of the minimum necessary courses of action listed in paragraph 10 c above, the United States determines jointly with the UK and France that expanded military action against Communist China is rendered necessary by the situation, the United States should take air and naval action in conjunction with at least France and the U.K. against all suitable military targets in China, avoiding insofar as practicable those targets proximate to the boundaries of the USSR.

13. In the event the concurrence of the United Kingdom and France to expanded military action against Communist China is not obtained, the United States should consider taking unilateral action.8

[Here follow sections devoted to Burma, Thailand, Malaya, and Indonesia.]

  1. NSC 124 is dated Feb. 13, p. 45.
  2. See footnote 7, p. 75. None of the memoranda cited here is printed.
  3. The source text is marked “For NSC Staff Consideration Only (Steering Committee on NSC 124)”.
  4. Southeast Asia is used herein to mean the area embracing Burma, Thailand, Indochina, Malaya and Indonesia. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. Paragraphs 14f and 15c are not printed; they are identical to paragraphs 14f and 15c in NSC 124/2, June 25, p. 125.
  6. State proposal. [Footnote in the source text. All brackets in this document are in the source text.]
  7. Defense–MS proposal (subparagraphs d, e and f to replace State proposal for subparagraph d.) [Footnote in the source text.]
  8. Reference is to the agreement between France and Vietnam in an exchange of letters between Vincent Auriol, President of France, and Bao Dai, Emperor of Vietnam, Mar. 8, 1949. For text of this agreement regulating relations between the two states, see Margaret Carlyle, ed., Documents on International Affairs, 1949–1950 (London, Oxford University Press, 1953), pp. 596–606.
  9. The conference at Pau, France, attended by representatives of France and the Associated States, ended Nov. 27, 1950. For texts of ten agreements concluded at the conference, each signed by each of the four parties on Dec. 16, 1950, see France, Direction de la Documentation, Notes et Etudes Documentaires, No. 1425 (Jan. 24, 1951), pp. 1–38.
  10. Defense–MS proposal (subparagraphs d, e and f to replace State proposal for subparagraph d.) [Footnote in the source text.]
  11. Defense–MS proposal (subparagraphs d, e and f to replace State proposal for subparagraph d.) [Footnote in the source text.]
  12. In a memorandum to Allison, June 13, Bohlen stated with regard to paragraph 8: “The Defense version of paragraph 8d, e, and f, which the Office of Mutual Security agreed, apparently represents Mr. Foster’s own views and the Defense representative, Mr. Hoopes, stated that he had been instructed not to discuss any changes in their draft.” (S/PNSC files, lot 61 D 167) Townsend W. Hoopes was Assistant to the Defense Representative, Senior Staff, National Security Council.
  13. JCS proposal. [Footnote in the source text.]
  14. In his memorandum cited in footnote 7 above, Bohlen explained the purpose of paragraph 13 as follows: “Would provide us with freedom of action against Communist China in the dire circumstances which would follow upon a successful Communist Chinese intervention down to Malaya.”