396.1 GE/5–954: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State

top secret

Dulte 57. The Communist maneuver of yesterday, reported in Secto 154,1 could put us in a very difficult position if we allow the problem to boil down to whether the Big Four, as proposed by me, or the “Big Five”, as proposed by Molotov, consider the participation of Pathet Lao and Khmer. Should this occur, and thus delay or possibly prevent serious discussions leading to the end of bloodshed in Indochina, it will intensify and broaden the already critical attitude of segments of European and Asiatic political and public opinion, which consider our attitude on Communist China to be obstructive and intransigent. I should think that in France it would ultimately have a particularly bad effect, as it will seem to the French that we are protracting a procedural wrangle to maintain our position while French lives are being lost. This would give the Communists and anti-EDC protagonists a particularly powerful weapon.

We cannot possibly acquiesce in Molotov’s proposal, as to do so would really make this a Big Five conference in every sense and would immeasurably increase the position of Communist China.

I doubt that either Eden or I can persuade Molotov to drop his “Big Five” proposal and go along with us. He stands to gain too much even at the risk of broadening the war in Indochina and Asia.

The best way out to us seems to continue the debate in the plenary sessions, letting the issue “Big Four versus Big Five” fade out, and trying to concentrate the procedural issue on admission of the two phantom governments. At the same time we and our associates would continue to press discussion of the real question; i.e., ending the war in Indochina on a satisfactory basis of security in SEA. The advantage is that for the next few days at least it puts us in the superior position. The disadvantages are that the Chinese will assert themselves more and more, taking advantage of French weakness, lukewarm attitude of Britain, and support of Soviet Union. There is possibility of them emerging from this phase recognized as a really dominant factor, but this is likely to happen anyway.

We are trying today and tomorrow to develop British and French positions and will report. Meanwhile, grateful for any suggestions on [Page 739] above. I have just read Reston’s story in Friday Times2 and in view of his statements this message seems ex post facto.3

  1. Dated May 8, p. 734.
  2. In The New York Times of May 7, James Reston reported that the “United States, Britain, and France are now in substantial agreement on a compromise plan for a ‘protected armistice’ in Indo-China.” He said it was “understood that the Laniel Government in Paris has told Washington that it is prepared to fight on in Indo-China unless the Communists agree to evacuate Laos and Cambodia and withdraw to certain ‘fixed areas’ in the third independent state of Vietnam.” Reston reported that the “Eisenhower Administration, determined to block the Communist conquest of the whole peninsula, but unwilling to intervene at this time in the war with United States military power, is prepared to go along with Paris in its attempt to negotiate this compromise in Geneva.” He indicated that Secretary of State Dulles was reported to have discussed the compromise arrangement with members of the Senate and the House of Representatives and that the Secretary “also outlined to them his own plans for the negotiation of an ‘extended’ Southeast Asia security arrangement that would be designed to guarantee the terms of any honorable armistice that could be arranged.” (New York Times, May 7, 1954, p. 1)
  3. In a follow-up message (telegram Dulte 60, May 9), Under Secretary Smith reported that the “British and French concurred in tactics recommended.… British believe that Communists will drop two phantom governments after another day or two of discussion in plenary as they dropped East Germans at Berlin. French commented that all six non-Communist delegations were resolute against their admission and that continuation of Communist obstructionism during next two or three days would help Bidault in Paris, assuming Western delegations continue to press for substantive discussions and keep onus of obstructionism on Communists. French hoped that first day or two of substantive discussion would bring short statements from US and UK, giving general support for broad lines of French proposal, but with Associated States doing most of talking.” (110.11 DU/5–954)

    Secretary of State Dulles replied in telegram Tedul 45, May 9, that he agreed “best course is to keep discussion of additional participants in plenary and to stress sham character of Pathet Lao and Khmer regimes and relationship these regimes to basic Communist techniques for subversion and takeover. Above course seems best way to avoid getting bogged down in procedural discussion of Four versus Five with bad effects you describe.” (396.1 GE/5–954)