790.5/1–252

The Secretary of Defense (Lovett) to the Secretary of State

top secret

Dear Mr. Secretary: Reference is made to Department of State draft negotiating paper TCT D–5/12b, dated 26 December 1951, entitled [Page 6] “Defense of Southeast Asia”,1 which discusses U.S. interests in the defense of that area.

In their comments on this paper, the Joint Chiefs of Staff oppose any statement, expressed or implied, that U.S. support will include the commitment or involvement of any United States armed forces to the Southeast Asian area; and they therefore recommend, in the interests of clarity, preciseness, and completeness, that the sections of the basic paper headed Position to be Presented and Discussion be revised as indicated in their comments. However, they do agree to a meeting with the British and French in Washington in early January on the subject of Southeast Asia, this conference to be without commitment on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Inclosed herewith are the detailed comments of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with which I concur.

Sincerely yours,

Robert A. Lovett

[Enclosure]

Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Lovett)

top secret

Subject:

  • Defense of Southeast Asia (TCT D–5/12b, dated 26 December 1951)
1.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed TCT D–5/12b, dated 26 December 1951, a draft negotiating paper prepared by the Department of State, to be used in the forthcoming Washington talks with the British Prime Minister in the event that the question of the defense of Southeast Asia is raised by Mr. Churchill.
2.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff concur generally with the views expressed in the subject paper. However, they oppose any statement, expressed or implied, that United States support will include the commitment or involvement of any United States armed forces to the Southeast Asian area. They recommend, therefore, in the interests of clarity, preciseness, and completeness that the sections of the basic paper headed Position to be Presented and Discussion be revised to include the substance of the following suggested changes (changes indicated in the usual manner):
a.
Change the final sentence of the first paragraph under Position to be Presented as follows: [Page 7]

“Furthermore, in the event that the Chinese Communists do attack the area, despite our every effort to prevent it, the U.S. will contribute everything make such contribution as is possible, in the light of its world commitments, to the defense of Southeast Asia except for the deployment to the area of American ground troops forces. It may, however, become necessary to take air and naval action directly against Communist China itself, such as blockade and attack against selected targets.”

b.
Change the first sentence of the second paragraph under the heading Position to be Presented to read in substance as follows:

“The US Government is agreeable to engaging in a military discussions with the British and French with regard to Southeast Asia, the conference, however, to be without commitment on the part of the United States, and would hope during the course of these talks to learn what plans you have been making for the defense of Southeast Asia in case the Chinese attack particularly if Indochina, Burma, or Thailand are the victims.

c.
Change the final sentence of the second paragraph under the heading of Discussion to read:

“However, the JCS have now modified their position and in the near future will notify the British and French they agree to a meeting in Washington at the earliest opportunity. in early January on the subject of Southeast Asia, this conference to be without commitment on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” 2

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Omar N. Bradley
Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Not printed. (CFM files, lot M 88) TCT D–5/12b was prepared by the Steering Group for the Truman–Churchill talks.
  2. All of the modifications suggested in this memorandum were incorporated in TCT D–5/12c, Jan. 2, not printed. (Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 99)

    In the minutes of the third formal session of the Truman–Churchill talks, held Jan. 8, Acheson’s remarks on Indochina are summarized as follows:

    “Turning to Indochina, Secretary Acheson stated that the United States Government had not decided upon its course of action in the case of new developments in the area, such as a Chinese invasion. However, the United States Government was currently giving fullest consideration to this matter and its views would shortly be presented to the President for his consideration. In the meanwhile we had agreed to staff talks with the UK and France concerning the military problems in that part of the world. The West is indeed faced with a dilemma: if we do nothing it would be most unfortunate yet it is most difficult to see how we can do something effective. In any event the western powers must work closely together.” (Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 100)

    Full text of this minute is printed in the compilation on relations of the United States and the United Kingdom in volume vi .