751G.00/8–654: Telegram

The Ambassador at Saigon (Heath) to the Department of State


460. Repeated information Paris 167, Hanoi unnumbered. I paid my first call yesterday on Tran Van Do, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

He said that one of his first duties had to do with internal rather than foreign affairs. He was negotiating for President with Cao Daists, Hoa Haos, and Binh Xuyen, and he thought he would succeed in obtaining their allegiance to Ngo Dinh Diem’s Government. He said it involved some compromise of nationalist principles to work with three sects but it was urgently necessary if order were to be established in south Vietnam.1
He was very anxious to have an American military training mission here and hoped the international supervisory commission would not consider it a violation of armistice if additional American training personnel were furnished. He was dubious about India’s stand, however, on this and other matters affecting armistice. He said he had had two talks with Krishna Menon and on both occasions Menon had asked him to have national elections within six months after ceasefire. He said he had patiently explained to Menon that under present disordered conditions, Communist terrorism and infiltration, this meant victory for Communist. But Menon had brushed that off by saying, after all Viet Minh were Vietnamese and they should be able to live and work together. To which Do replied that Vietnamese Communist was no longer Vietnamese, but Menon seemed unconvinced. Do remarked that he found Menon remarkably ill-informed.
Do said he thoroughly realized that until Vietnamese Army could be reorganized it was necessary for French Expeditionary Force to remain here. On other hand, as long as French were here in visible military force, it was very difficult for nationalist government to enlist support of people and make them believe that Vietnam was really independent. He said that at soonest possible date he wanted, by arrangement with French, get out schedule of progressive withdrawal of French Forces. Even if it took a matter of two or three years, he had to have some documents to show people that French were going to get out.
  1. On Aug. 7, Ambassador Heath and the Foreign Minister discussed the question of the sects in more detail. Heath summarized the conversation in telegram 491 from Saigon, Aug. 7. (751G.00/8–754)