The Secretary of State to the Embassy in France1
3915. For your information, at tripartite conversations December 18 in Paris between Secretary, Schuman, Letourneau and Eden, Schuman raised question of additional equipment, arms and general assistance to enable French and Vietnamese to pursue current programs for additional increases in native armies in Indochina. Secretary [Page 352]stated that he could make no commitments but would be glad to send working party to Paris or to Saigon consisting of representatives of State, Defense and DMS to sit down with French and develop full information regarding situation in Indochina. Secretary expressed concern at absence of information on certain subjects stating that it was most important to have thorough and quick review so that we would know present situation and therefore establish firm basis for further steps. This proposal was accepted by Schuman, it being left that he would advise us further as to date and place.
Shortly thereafter French Government fell. On January 5 French Embassy here informed Department that French Government accepted offer of working level discussions and would communicate with us further.
On January 15 French Embassy informed Department that Letourneau is returning to Saigon end of January and would be able to receive proposed working group early in February. In reply Department representative stated that while there was no indication that incoming administration would not accept principle of working level examination of all the factors involved in Indochina situation, that administration would have to formulate own views regarding composition of group as well as timing, place and scope of discussions. Department representative concluded that we would communicate with French as soon as possible on subject.
For your further information, what Department has had in mind is working level putting together of information of major significance on situation and prospects in Indochina including military, political and economic factors. Previous reviews have concentrated on what needs to be done in case of identifiable Chinese aggression in Indochina but Department believes it now important to have complete survey of what possibilities exist for resolution of present situation without identifiable Chinese aggression. As soon as interdepartmental agreement is reached on scope of the proposed discussions, you will be advised and your comments requested. Department has had in mind very small group including, of course, representation of Paris and Saigon Embassies. We will keep you informed of further developments.
- Drafted by Philip W. Bonsal, Director of PSA. Also sent to Saigon as telegram 1479 and to London as telegram 4748.↩