Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 308

The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs ( Eden ) to the Head of the United States Delegation ( Smith )1

top secret

My Dear Bedell : Thank you for your letter of May 102 giving me a summary of the messages which you had received from Washington yesterday and which we discussed at noon.3

[Page 775]

I enclose a copy of the text for the joint statement which we agreed would be suitable for use if it is found necessary to make a public statement.4 Meantime you may care to know that in reply to questions in the House yesterday, the Minister of State used the phrases which you and I agreed upon,5 and my feeling is that no further public statement is now necessary.

As regards the substance, I think you agreed with me that we should make a start with the Five Power Staff talks and should not commit ourselves, or appear to commit ourselves, at this stage to the exact composition of the wider group which we hope would eventually discuss South East Asia security arrangements.

My strong view remains that it would be fatal at this stage to begin discussions with a ten power group. To do this before the results of the Conference are known would destroy any prospect of bringing along the Asian powers who really matter.

What I do think will be useful is that we should inform and consult the Colombo Powers, Siam and the Philippines, and possibly others, about the progress of the work of the Five Power Staffs, in the hope that by the time we can see what prospects of Geneva are, they will be willing to take an interest in security arrangements of a wider character. We on our side shall also keep the Colombo Powers fully informed of the developments at Geneva and will do our best to bring them along.

This is, I am convinced, the best way of trying to bring Asian opinion along with us. As you personally are well aware, that has been one of my principal anxieties from the beginning. I do not understand how your Chiefs of Staff can have obtained a different idea of my purpose.

There is one further point. We discussed the question where the Five Power Staff Agency should have its first meeting. I had originally thought that Singapore would be the most suitable, but you thought it should start in Washington. I have now heard from our people in Singapore that they rather doubt whether Singapore is in fact suitable from the point of view of Asian opinion, and they throw doubt on Washington for this same reason. I wonder whether an alternative would be to have the first meeting in London?

I am available at any time in case you would like to discuss this further.

Yours ever,

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[Attachment 1]

Draft Joint Statement For Issue By The Five Powers

Pending wider discussions of measures to support a stable peace in South East Asia, the Governments of Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States have agreed that their military representatives should undertake an examination of the situation in South East Asia.

This examination will be undertaken by existing staff agencies formed some time ago for the study without commitment of problems of common concern.

The problems to be reviewed will be of interest to a number of other countries, notably the Powers represented at the Colombo Conference, Siam, the Philippines, etc. These countries have been informed of the intention to initiate this study and, during the progress of the work, will be consulted and kept informed.

[Attachment 2]

Mr. Warbey

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the proposed staff talks with the United States, France and other countries concerning Indo-China?

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The existing military agencies have been examining and will, of course, continue to examine jointly the various contingencies with which we may be faced. The Five Power Staff Agency is one such organisation. I must emphasise that any examinations undertaken are without commitment.

  1. Text of letter transmitted to the Department of State in telegram Dulte 67, May 13. (790.5/5–1354)

    For a summary of Eden’s reply and other related comments, see telegram Dulte 66, May 13, p. 791.

  2. Ante, p. 761.
  3. May 10. For a report of this discussion, see telegram Dulte 66, May 13, p. 791.
  4. Attachment 1 below.
  5. Attachment 2 below.