790.00/4–754

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs (Bonsal)1

secret

Subject:

  • United Action in Southeast Asia

Participants:

  • The Ambassador of Viet-Nam2
  • The Ambassador of Cambodia3
  • The Minister of Laos4
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Robertson
  • Mr. Bonsal
  • Mr. Tyler

The Ambassadors of Viet-Nam and Cambodia and the Minister of Laos called on the Secretary at their request.

The Secretary told them that as they knew world attention is focused on the situation in Indochina and particularly on the siege of Dien Bien Phu, the gallant French and Vietnamese defenders of which have attracted universal admiration. The Secretary referred also to his own recent statements regarding the importance of Indochina to the free world.

The Secretary then went on to say that the French have now approached the US with a view to having the latter increase its cooperation and to participate in a more direct form in the struggle. The Secretary stated that the US was willing to do this on condition first, that whatever additional effort is made to insure the security of Indochina be made as a common effort by a large number of interested states including for example, France, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines. In reply to a question from the Cambodian Ambassador, the Secretary made it clear that he would expect the Cambodians, Vietnamese and Laotians to participate in the political aspects of such a coalition on exactly the same basis as the other participants.

The Secretary stated that a second condition for US participation directly in Indochina would be the establishment of the independence of the Associated States in a manner reflecting their complete sovereignty and independence. The Secretary stated that in his opinion the French Union offered a suitable framework for that independence and for the recognition of the mutuality of interests involved under present circumstances. He said, however, that the three states of Indochina [Page 1280]should be free to determine for themselves whether they would continue to adhere to the French Union. This expression was received with obvious gratification by the Ambassadors. The Cambodian Ambassador stated that he would hope that such a statement might be made publicly by the United States. The Secretary reserved his position on this point.

The Secretary made clear that he was referring not only to a possible future overt Chinese Communist aggression but also to measures which might be necessary in order to prevent the present Chinese Communist supported Viet Minh uprising from being successful and from imposing a Communist Government upon the entire area.

A question was raised by the Cambodian Ambassador regarding participation in the Geneva Conference. The Secretary confirmed that the matter of participation in the Indochina aspect of the conference is still unsettled. He agreed, however, with the Cambodian Ambassador that if Viet-Nam, Cambodia and Laos should be invited, they should be invited as full members rather than as observers or as participants with any different status from that of the “other interested states”.

The Cambodian Ambassador also raised the possibility that United States military assistance (presumably end items) could be made available directly to Cambodia instead of through the French as at present. The Secretary replied that this raised a number of considerations which he was not prepared to discuss at this time. He asked whether the Cambodians had raised this matter formally; the reply was in the negative.

The Secretary asked the representatives of Viet-Nam, Laos and Cambodia to secure the views of their Governments regarding the statement of the US position which he had made, stressing the desirability of creating a maximum of political solidarity prior to the Geneva meeting.

  1. This memorandum of conversation was summarized in telegram 1890 to Saigon, Apr. 8, repeated to Paris and London for information. (751G.00/4–854)
  2. Tran Van Kha.
  3. Nong Kimny.
  4. Ourot Souvannavong.