396.1 GE/3–1254: Despatch

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Aldrich ) to the Department of State

No. 3094


  • British Preparations for Geneva Conference

The following is a distillation of information obtained in a series of conversations with desk officers in the Foreign Office immediately concerned with planning for the Geneva Conference.

[Page 454]

[Here follows Section A, dealing with Korea, which is not printed.]

B. Indochina.

In conversations with the Foreign Office, the French Embassy has explained that French willingness to continue the struggle in Indochina depends on the following factors in the order of their importance: (a) Pleven’s report on his findings in Indochina, (b) the outcome of the conversations with Buu Loc in Paris, and (c) the trend of public opinion in Paris. If the military situation in Indochina is not too bad and if the probabilities are that the fighting qualities of the Vietnamese troops will soon show a marked improvement, then the French Government might be willing to brave an increasingly impatient and pessimistic public opinion and carry on at about the present scale for another year. Any indication that Buu Loc’s demands are reasonable and that he is not out to jettison the French Union will, of course, be helpful. The French are increasingly concerned over the new Communist propaganda attack on United States military assistance to the French and Vietnamese forces in Indochina, as it will make it difficult for the French at Geneva to call on the Chinese to stop military assistance to the Vietminh.
In replying to the French, the Foreign Office has taken the position that it is primarily up to them and to the Americans to decide on what position to adopt at Geneva, although the British will, of course, wish to be consulted. In the British view, it will be difficult to keep the participation down to the Five Powers. It would be expected that the Associated States would wish to be represented and if they send delegates it would be difficult to oppose Vietminh representation. If other than the Five Powers are to be present, Australia and New Zealand will wish to have representatives there.

C. Make-up of British Delegation to the Conference.

The Foreign Secretary will, of course, attend the opening sessions of the Conference, and other sessions as needed. In his absence, the Delegation will be headed by Lord Reading. Assistant UnderSecretary Denis Allen, with the experience gained from participation in the Berlin Conference behind him, will head the working party. John Addis, the assistant to the head of the Far Eastern Department and specialist on Korean and Sino-Soviet relations, will do the spade work on Korea; he will be assisted by Julian Bullard. John Tahourdin, in charge of the South-East Asia Department, will do the spade work on Indochina.
On March 5th, the Foreign Office telegraphed Humphrey Trevelyan, in charge of the British diplomatic mission in Peiping, asking him unless he perceived objection to make arrangements to be present [Page 455] at the Geneva Conference with the understanding that he would return to his post after the Conference was over. Having received no reply from Trevelyan, the Foreign Office assumes that he is prepared to go to Geneva and is conducting negotiations with the Chinese authorities to obtain the necessary exit and re-entry permits. It was the Foreign Office thought that Trevelyan’s experience in Peiping would be of value to the British Delegation, that he himself would be helped by a change of scene … and that the Foreign Office representatives could benefit by an opportunity to discuss at first hand problems confronting him in Peiping.
For the Ambassador:
Arthur R. Ringwalt

First Secretary of Embassy