790.5/1–252: Telegram

The Minister at Saigon (Heath) to the Department of State1

top secret

1307. Rptd info Paris 503 eyes only Bruce,2 London 20 eyes only Gifford3 For personal attn Secy.

The French have now received assurances of increased US support for their operations in Indochina (re Paris 3796, December 26 on which I will comment in an early tel).4 They will before long request further assistance, and perhaps not distant when it may be necessary for us to use all our influence persuade them maintain their forces on Indochina.

I suggest before we go further with them and before making policy commitments in SEA we shld re-examine our principal policy aims in Far East. In our view, our local policies and operations in various states and areas shld not only be consistent; they must always be subordinate.

From here it wld seem that security of the US vitally dictates as the principal objective in Far East the upsetting and eventual elimination of militant Communist control of Chinese manpower and resources backed by Sov power. To us here a policy of mere containment of Chinese Communist march appears inadequate and impracticable. Likewise, possibility of Chi Communist regime breaking with Soviets appears utterly unlikely in next years to come. We realize that if it were possible publicly and suddenly to state this dynamic policy at present moment it wld probably frighten and deter our actual and potential allies; presumably neither public nor official opinion in the US may yet be prepared for or convinced of the national necessity of [Page 2] such a determined program. I believe that once knowledge and conviction clearly established at the center, however, Amer and fon opinion will rally to it, impelled by the march of events.

I believe, therefore, that future considerations re Indochina must be directed more towards its place in the Asian complex than in the French financial crisis.5 Policies for Indochina must be judged as much for their potential contribution to the resolution of the problem of China as for their effect on the Fr balance of payments problem.

I propose, therefore, that before the three powers meet, the policy forming organs of our govt and the chiefs of the mainland Far East missions together with reps from Formosa and Japan (perhaps accompanied by their principal mil assistants) shld meet in Wash. This first mtg shld conduct a brief but fundamental review of our China and Far East policy. (Incidentally there has been no Far East chiefs mission conf since Feb 1950.)6 This mtg cld attempt evolve a new frame of ref for the tripartite talks (re SEA) and a policy to which our allies will be invited to adhere.7

I say a new frame of ref because much has happened since the Singapore conf8 which make its recommendations less pertinent. That conf narrowly mil and the Dept has recognized the need for a basic review by suggesting that further talks be on the pol plane as well as the mil.

Since Churchill9 came to power the Brit seem to have decided to take a sterner line on China more consistent with our own.

Since Singapore the possibilities of a Far East mutual security pact have had increasing consideration in several capitals including Canberra, Wellington, Toronto [Ottawa], and Saigon.10

And as between the Allied and the Sino-Soviet worlds there may have been changes in relative strength warranting a reexamination of our policies. At the same time any hopes that we may have entertained at the time of Singapore of Viet-Minh and Chinese Titoism have become dimmer.

This consultation which I propose wld consider all of these things; it wld then perhaps set the bases for the answer to what will be the [Page 3] paramount question at the tripartite meeting on SEA: Whether and under what conditions, and in what relation to the UN, the US might use armed force in the case of Chinese intervention in Asiatic areas other than Korea and with what techniques, paths and partners. It might also consider what declaration might be made by the tripartite meeting as a deterrent to Chinese action in Tonkin.

The role of the Dept in the councils of the govt and the preservation of the confidence placed in it by the American people require that we give a lead to the forthcoming tripartite talks on SEA (Deptel 875, rptd Paris 3732, London 3108, Dec 29).11

The Singapore conference recommendations seem based on a pre-Korea US strategic concept rigidly rejecting the further use of any American armed force in Asia. The situation may require nothing less than a re-examination of that concept.

I believe we must never make any substantial commitment of aid to the separate countries without seeing whether it supports our overriding aim. Thus we have promised France additional arms and financial aid to IC without any attempt to explore with the Fr the possibility of their adopting a more realistic and less fearful attitude toward Chinese Communist intervention, as for example, in such matters as the internment of Chinese Nationalist troops and the denial of temporary haven to nationalist guerrilla detachments.

We are not unmindful that behind Communist China stands the Sov colossus and we do not claim a higher priority of attention for China than for Russia. Nothing cld be more fatal to the national interest than to concentrate on the one and disregard the other. We are here concerned with the sources of Soviet power. If the Chinese Communists are allowed the same full generation that was granted the Bolsheviks to consolidate their power, western influence and American friends in China will be as ruthlessly liquidated. If, during that generation, as by-products of their internal consolidation they are allowed to acquire the material surpluses and populations of SEA, the world power of communism wld be supremely difficult to dislodge or to contain. The preservation of India and Japan as democratic powers is precarious enough under present political and economic pressures; militant Chinese communism in undisputed control of the resources of the Far East mainland and armored by Soviet industry, wld make their denial the Soviet orbit well nigh impossible.

The future of Soviet power and fate of the west may well depend on our policy toward the Chinese Communists in the next few months and years.12

  1. Minister Donald R. Heath was accredited to the Kingdoms of Cambodia and Laos as well as to the State of Vietnam.

    This telegram was transmitted in two parts.

  2. David K. E. Bruce, Ambassador in France.
  3. Walter S. Gifford, Ambassador in the United Kingdom.
  4. For text of the reference telegram, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vi, Part 1, p. 573. For Minister Heath‘s comments on it, see telegram 1331 from Saigon, Jan. 6, p. 10.
  5. Documentation on the French financial situation is printed in volume vi.
  6. For documentation on the Bangkok chiefs of mission conference of February 1950, see Foreign Relations, 1950. vol. vi, pp. 18 ff.
  7. Regarding the tripartite military conversations held in Washington on Jan. 11, 1952, see telegram 974 to Saigon, Jan. 15, p. 14. In telegram 918 to Saigon, Jan. 7, the Department informed Ambassador Heath that it would not be possible to follow his suggestion for a chiefs of mission meeting prior to the military conversations. (790.5/1–752)
  8. For documentation on the tripartite military talks held in Singapore in May 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vi, Part 1, pp. 64 ff.
  9. Winston S. Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since Oct. 26, 1951.
  10. For documentation on U.S. attitudes toward a Far East mutual security pact, see volume xii.
  11. Not printed.
  12. For documentation on U.S. policy toward the People’s Republic of China, see volume xiv.