751G.00/3–654: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Dillon) to the Department of State

3240. Repeated information Saigon 362, London unnumbered. Summary highlights Laniel statement Assembly March 5 follow:1

In recalling that the Assembly’s Ordre du Jour October 27 had called on Government to conclude by negotiation a general pacification in Asia, Laniel stated that “my government is the one that has publicly formulated the clearest statements on the French will to negotiate. I said it October 27, on November 12 at Tribune Council of Republic, I stated that, no more than the Americans in Korea, we did not demand an unconditional surrender of the adversary in order to speak with him and that France would be happy on the contrary to welcome a diplomatic solution of conflict. November 24 at Assembly Tribune I stated that we were ready to discuss tomorrow, in agreement with Associated States, reasonable ‘cease-fire’ proposals transmitted to us by adversary.” In labelling Ho’s responses as “propaganda gestures destined neutralize effect of statements French Government”, Laniel stated that “nothing since that date has given us reason to believe that any change in true intentions of Viet Minh has taken place.”

In stating that “happily the French effort looking toward negotiations was not especially oriented towards conversations with the adversary”, Laniel stated that he had indicated in each of his statements that “there were reasons for motives of hope on the Chinese Communist and Soviet side as well as on American side in view of a diplomatic solution.” Laniel then posed following questions “does not China have need of peace for internal consolidation? Can it not fear that concrete advantage from occidental powers in return for its contribution toward restoration of peace? Does not the search for an agreement with the occidental powers on pacification of Asia respond to wishes of Soviets in keeping with its desire for withdrawal of American troops from Korea and perhaps its apprehension regarding any independent initiative of China in FE and particularly SEA? As for great democracies, their presence at these negotiations would be not only valuable but essential, for it would multiply the chances for an agreement. Such has been the orientation of our diplomacy for some time. No occasion has been lost either at Washington or Bermuda2 to have our point of view prevail progressively. It is at Berlin that our prime [Page 436] objective has been attained, and under the best conditions, i.e., in full solidarity with our allies, thanks to effective action Foreign Minister”.

“Question of IC can be approached at same time as Korea at Geneva and we have the possibility, which we consider basic, of inviting the Associated States.”

Although stressing importance of Geneva in preparing for a general pacification in Asia, Laniel stated “we will not, however, have the right—when men die on the field of battle—of neglecting, if in the interval an occasion presents itself to put an end to hostilities in an honorable and effective manner. On this principle I am in perfect agreement with what has been said at this Tribune. It is not because the war has lasted seven years that we will have the right to neglect a chance to end it one day sooner.”

Although paying tribute laudable motives of Nehru in launching his cease-fire proposal, Laniel stated that Nehru’s proposal3 could not be considered an offer of mediation but that it did pose a question to which it was necessary to reply. “Our reply is dictated by a main preoccupation, that of the security of our Expeditionary Corps, the French and the friends of France during the perhaps long and [apparent omission] “we consider as unacceptable any proposal, which, under color of an immediate ‘cease-fire’ would begin by putting in peril our soldiers and our friends without our having obtained sufficient guarantees to assure the development of a normal negotiation and the chances for a durable peace.” These guarantees Laniel outlined as follows: “(1) The total evacuation of Laos by troops having infiltrated there; (2) although military situation in Cambodia different, analogous precautions would be required there; (3) in northern Vietnam a sort of no man’s land would have to be created around the periphery of the Tonkin Delta and the Viet Minh units that have infiltrated the Delta would have to withdraw under strictly controlled evacuation; (4) in central Vietnam the Viet Minh units would have to withdraw to delimited zones in such manner as to guarantee security of our troops and the people; (5) in southern Vietnam, the Viet Minh forces should be disarmed or evacuated. To all these guarantees ought to be added other measures of security and control designed to assure that with suspension of fighting our adversaries cannot carry out certain activities, or proceed to reinforcement or regroupment, as was the case in Korea during the long period of conversations.”

“A suspension of fighting then will only be the result of carefully conducted negotiations for which we will be ready very shortly when [Page 437] we will have carried out the necessary studies with the Associated States, negotiations which are presented at Geneva under the best conditions possible thanks to the efforts of our diplomacy. If before Geneva we receive a concrete proposal, it would be examined in the state of mind that I have just defined.”

In pointing out that he had responded to question giving rise to debate, Laniel stated he would like to add that “today, these polemics ought to cease. We are unanimous in effect in wishing henceforth to settle the conflict by way of [garbled group].

Laniel stated that “it goes without saying that our military effort ought not to be relaxed” prior to Geneva “since it is thanks to it that we have obliged the adversary to change his speech, if not his conduct, since it is thanks to it that we have adversary in a position where he cannot hope for a victory by force.”

In emphasizing that it would be necessary to maintain discretion in preparing for Geneva, Laniel concluded by stating that “a peace negotiated respecting national honor, the liberty of individuals and the security of the Expeditionary Corps, is our objective. We are at the hour of hope. In the name of France, I salute all the combatants, of the Associated States and the French army, who, by their sacrifices of yesterday and tomorrow, make possible this hope.”

  1. For the record of remarks by Laniel, see France, Journal Officiel, Assemblée Rationale, 1954, Debats, pp. 713–715.
  2. For documentation on the Tripartite Foreign Ministers meetings at Washington, July 10–14, 1953, and the Bermuda Conference of the Heads of Government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, Dec. 4–8, 1953, see volume v.
  3. Speaking before the Indian Parliament on Feb. 22, Prime Minister Nehru proposed a cease-fire in Indochina prior to the Geneva Conference. For the statement by the Prime Minister, see India, Parliamentary Debates, Official Report, House of the People, Part II, 6th, sess., vol. i, no. 6, cols. 415–416. See also telegram 3053 from Paris, Feb. 24, printed in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, volume xiii.