396.1 GE/5–1054: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State


Secto 164. Repeated information Paris niact 236, Saigon niact 55, London 148, Tokyo 42, Moscow 60, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Vientiane unnumbered. Tokyo for CINCFE. Department pass Defense. At beginning second Indochina plenary Viet Minh opened with offer return Dien Bien Phu wounded of which following is English text distributed at meeting:

“The delegation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on the instruction of its government considers it necessary to make the following declaration:

‘The Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, in conformity with its humanitarian policy, which has always been pursued by it during the war, particularly in regard to the wounded and prisoners of war, is prepared to authorize the evacuation of the seriously wounded of the French Expeditionary Corps who were taken prisoner in Dien Bien Phu.

If the French Government is disposed to evacuate these wounded, the representatives of both Commands will undertake on-the-spot practical measures necessary for carrying out this evacuation.’”

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Vietnamese delegation immediately asked Chairman Molotov what had happened to his letter asking conference take up this question, and regretted letter had not been brought to attention of conference before this time. Molotov replied letter just received and being translated.

Bidault replied proposals by Viet Minh and Vietnam corresponded to wish of his government. Hoped Commands in field could take measures he had asked for since beginning of conference, saying better late than never.

Just before end session, Vietnamese intervened to call attention that written text Viet Minh proposal provided only for evacuation French wounded, and asked that Vietnamese be included. Bidault supported intervention, claiming it contrary to international law for commander to make distinction between troops of opposing side. Molotov ended session with hope all present would take note.

In courtesy call on Molotov after session, I raised question interpretation Viet Minh proposal and urged that Vietnamese wounded, as well as members French Expeditionary Force, be evacuated. Molotov said that while he had not discussed matter directly with Viet Minh representative, he was sure that Viet Minh proposal was intended to cover seriously wounded of both French and Vietnamese forces. He said that after session he had discussed matter with Chou En-lai and that this was Chou’s understanding. He added that member of Soviet delegation had also discussed matter with Viet Minh delegation.

Molotov expressed hope possibility of misunderstanding would not be blown up by press in view expected clarification, and said he had so informed his press office. I did the same. Molotov and I agreed effort should be made keep press on both sides from building up issue if in fact no difference of interpretation exists on matter.