Memorandum of a Conversation Held on March 22, 1954 at 11:30 a.m.1



  • Arrangements for the Geneva Conference


  • The Secretary
  • C—Mr. MacArthur
  • PSA—Mr. Bonsal
  • NA—Mr. Young
  • UNP—Mr. Popper
  • EE—Mr. Thurston
  • WE—Mr. McBride
  • C—Mr. Galloway
  • IC—Mr. Eddy
  • S/S–O—Mr. Van Hollen
  • S/S–O—Mr. Trulock

1. Secretary-General

Mr. MacArthur said that, since the Soviets had not accepted our proposal regarding a Conference Secretariat, we propose that our side establish a secretariat of its own. The Secretary approved and said that this would help establish the two-sided nature of the Conference. It was agreed that it would be desirable for the British to provide the Secretary-General.

2. Languages*

It was agreed that there would be two advantages in having only three official languages (English, French and Russian), plus such working languages as might be required:

The use of Chinese and Korean as official languages would present grave technical difficulties.
The elimination of Chinese as an official language would remove any “Five-Power” stigma from the Indochina phase of the conference should there be no need for another language such as Annamese.

3. Soviet Statement in their Aide-Mémoire2 that they had consulted the Chinese Communists

Mr. Thurston said that the British Embassy had informed us orally that Eden did not believe we should mention in our reply the Soviet reference to consultation with the Chinese Communists. The Secretary stated that we should include in our draft aide-mémoire a statement which recognized the right of the Soviets to consult whoever they pleased, but emphasizing that we do not accept any special status for the Chinese Peoples’ Republic or any of the other invited powers.

[Page 48]

4. Seating

In discussing the difficulties involved in having 19 countries represented at the conference table, the Secretary said that while this would be a source of confusion during the first week or ten days, he expected that the conference would “shake down” so that following the opening speeches of the foreign ministers, the smaller countries would accept roles which would place them more in position of observers.

The Secretary stressed the importance of the representatives of the Republic of Korea sitting next to us. He said that we should take a strong line on this and should oppose any purely alphabetical seating arrangement which would make it impossible for us to sit next to them.

In reference to a paper3 outlining several alternatives for organizing the conference, the Secretary agreed that Mr. MacArthur might broach this problem with the British and French in order to obtain any views they might have.

In connection with three possible seating arrangements in the conference hall, the Secretary favored the alternative which would make it possible for each representative to have one adviser at the table with him with four advisers seated behind.

  1. This memorandum was drafted by Walter Trulock of the Executive Secretariat.
  2. Since this meeting, we have agreed with the British and French that 5 official languages should be used in the Korean phase. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. See telegram 1086, Mar. 17, from Moscow, p. 38.
  4. Not printed.