396.1 GE/5–1154: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State


Secto 174. Repeated information Paris 239, London 150, Saigon 56, Tokyo 46, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Moscow 62. Pass Defense Department; Tokyo pass CINCFE. Preliminary analysis Viet Minh proposal (Secto 162)1 confirms that it is totally unacceptable and its adoption would amount turnover Indochina to Communists.

Following are delegations comments:

Most obviously unacceptable element is clear indication Viet Minh (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) would determine question association with French Union (paragraph 4) and presumably handle other pertinent problems as well. For example, during discussion free elections it is specified Viet Minh will in meantime speak for country. From this it seems logically and obviously Viet Minh would organize elections, win them and quickly or gradually convert Vietnam into Communist state.
References to French Union may be serious and not purely for propaganda. Conceivably Communists might envisage Communist states in French Union. In any event tactic of not unfriendly references to French Union is interesting.
Insofar as Cambodia and Laos are concerned, it is apparent Communists have dropped invitations to Geneva for Khmer Issaraks and Pathet Lao as issue, and Viet Minh now simply speak in name all three peoples (though Cambodian and Laotian representatives challenged this sharply yesterday). Viet Minh objective for these countries is certainly same as for Vietnam though because central governments now have fuller control over these two countries process would probably be somewhat slower.
References in paragraphs 1 and 8 to unified governments three states Indochina obviously intended refer Viet Minh, Pathet Lao and Khmer Issarak and not any of three presently constituted governments.
Viet Minh launch appeal Asian nationalism by calling for elections which categorically reject any foreign intervention (paragraph 3), and thus follow pattern Communist elections proposals laid down by North Koreans.
Paragraph 8 of Viet Minh proposal which is to precede paragraphs 1–7 is in effect a cease-fire though it is ostensibly linked with certain other considerations. Proposal is furthermore tantamount rejection Bidault’s plan tabled Saturday.
Viet Minh program doubtless for French consumption has certain elements reminiscent some of Bidault’s proposal. For example:
Point two Viet Minh proposal calls for evacuation foreign troops all three states Indochina but also for agreement re stationing French troops in Vietnam, implying at least for foreseeable future there would not be demand for total withdrawal. On this point paragraph 8 (a) calls for “readjustment” territories which troops of two parties occupy. While actual meaning is doubtless deliberately vague, suggestion recalls paragraph I (1) Bidault proposal (Secto 143)2 calling for grouping regular units delimited zones. Viet Minh proposal appears even more detailed on surface providing each party shall give free access troops other party cross its territory to reach its assigned zones.
Paragraph 8 (c) Viet Minh proposal provides for establishment control assure execution cease-fire recalling paragraphs Bidault proposal providing for control mechanisms with major difference Bidault called for international controls while Viet Minh appeal to nationalism Indochinese people by calling for participation only of belligerents thus eliminating all non-Asians except French.
Paragraph 7 of Viet Minh proposal provides for exchange of prisoners of war recalling paragraph (3) Bidault proposal which also calls however, for exchange of civilian internees.
Bidault, of course, calls for signature armistice agreement before end hostilities, while Viet Minh proposal states general political measures (paragraphs 1 through 7) “should be preceded by cessation of hostilities in Indochina and the conclusion to that end of accords between French and each of the three countries”. These agreements should cover cease-fire, regrouping of troops, ban on admission of new troops (patterned after Korean armistice) and establishment of controls. While it is quite uncertain even these minimal arrangements are to be carried out before cease-fire occurs, Viets can presumably allege they like French are not calling for immediate cease-fire with no conditions.
Addition elements recalling some of Bidault’s points Viet Minh proposal contains other sections presumably designed appeal French. For example:
First, of course, are references French Union (paragraph 4). There is obviously no assurance whatever that the “single” government of Vietnam which is called for (nor the governments in the other two countries either for that matter) will join the French Union. However, fact concept is not rejected and indeed implication is free Vietnam may well “freely consent” joint union may furnish fuel for neutralists and others in France.
Provisions paragraph 5 recognizing special economic and cultural interests France in Indochina and proposing special reciprocal [Page 772] rights for ressortissants two parties are also unquestionably aimed at winning favor France even though references economic and cultural interests are reminiscent Soviet accords with Poland and Czechoslovakia.
In summarizing acceptance Viet Minh proposal would seem to us result in rapid turnover Indochina to Communists. In our opinion, however, it has enough propositions designed appeal French opinion in its present state and which seem reasonable on surface perhaps to cause difficulties for French Government especially in light present Assembly situation.3

  1. Dated May 10, p. 753.
  2. Dated May 8, p. 730.
  3. The U.S. Delegation reported in telegram Secto 175, May 11, that de Margerie of the French Delegation had outlined the tactics the French expected to follow on the Viet Minh proposal along the following lines: “While it is totally unacceptable, they cannot afford to turn it down cold but must rather go through the motions of trying to find something acceptable in it. They must expose it point by point beginning with immediate recognition of Viet Minh and establishing proposal means nothing but turnover. From French point of view, proposals put political cart before military horse and they will accordingly say such political questions should only be taken up after armistice, with satisfactory guarantees, has been concluded.” (396.1 GE/5–1154)