396.1 GE/5–1454: Telegram
Fourth Plenary Session on Indochina, Geneva, May 14, 3:03 p.m.:1 The United States Delegation to the Department of State
Secto 212. Repeated information Paris 266, London 163, Saigon 74, Moscow 71, Tokyo 62, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, unnumbered. Tokyo [Page 796]pass CINCFE. Department pass Defense, CINCPAC, COMSAC. Molotov chaired fourth plenary Indochina today and opened with 90 minute speech which on one hand attacked French colonial policies Indochina and on other was adroitly calculated to appeal to French public opinion. Asserted Bao Dai government established by French “occupation authorities” as compared with broad basis “Viet Minh regime,” and castigated “failure” of what has come to be known as “dirty” war which French are waging against Vietnamese people. Again attacked recent activities of Secretary Dulles leading toward establishment of defense community in Southeast Asia on grounds defense of US, France and UK not involved here, but rather extension of war to Southeast Asia.
Molotov endorsed substance Viet Minh proposals introduced at second plenary session May 10 (Secto 162),2 stating they were based upon justice and honor, should satisfy needs of both Indochinese and French people. He then criticized French proposals (Secto 143 as modified Secto 152)3 for failure to deal with “political elements.”
Molotov then noted criticism of Viet Minh proposal for not including international supervision of cessation hostilities and “since reaching agreement this question great importance” proposed addition that supervision of agreement be entrusted to “commissions composed representative neutral countries” stating “no insurmountable difficulties should arise in determination composition neutral nations supervisory commission”. Asserted France had choice between continuation of colonial war or negotiation.
Molotov observed that USSR would in future state its attitude toward all British proposals but considered that they also failed to cover all military and the political aspects of Indochinese war.
Bidault characterized Molotov statement as a propaganda diatribe which would not divert him from serious purpose of the conference. Turning to specific Viet Minh proposals (Secto 162) he noted they covered wide variety of subjects and therefore confused. Leaving aside such matters as fell outside purview of Geneva conference, Bidault supported position of Laos and Cambodia in their denial to Viet Minh of right to speak for those nations. He stated that any decision by Associated States to re-establish an Indochinese community should be taken by them in conformity with their own desires. France has recognized independence of Laos and Cambodia; problems mentioned in points 1, 3, 4 and 5 of Viet Minh proposal are therefore resolved for those nations and there remains only the invasion of their territories by Viet Minh foreign forces. Bidault noted that Viet Minh [Page 797]proposal evaded this problem except perhaps implicitly in point 2, referring to withdrawal of foreign forces.
In Bidault’s view, withdrawal of foreign forces would call for specific control measures such as are mentioned in points 2, 6, 7 and 8 of Viet Minh proposal. Although problems of Laos and Cambodia are independent of one another, they cannot be confused with those of Vietnam, which are quite different. For that reason French proposal separated out Vietnamese provisions from those pertaining other two nations or of general character. In order to deal with Laos and Cambodia promptly, Bidault stated that France, on advice of interested governments should be prepared to recall its own forces if invading forces also withdrawn.
As regards Vietnam, Bidault pointed out that existence and recognition of Bao Dai government by 35 nations demonstrated redundancy of point 1 of Viet Minh proposal and superfluity of point 4.
As to point 2, Bidault observed that movement of French troops is determined by operational requirements during hostilities; once peace is established France would not propose to maintain troops in Vietnam against wish of legal government of country. Since it would be up to that government to make or modify provisions of agreement, France would not make re-establishment of peace in Indochina dependent on any commitments whatever concerning this question.
Bidault stated that conclusion of agreements concerning economic and cultural interests of France in Vietnam would never be a condition to concluding hostilities (point 5). He vigorously attacked point 3 as designed to assure total domination of Viet Minh over Vietnam even before elections. In his view, no political agreement should precede or hold up military settlement. Bidault cited Vietnamese proposals as an interesting basis of discussion in this connection.
He stated that points 6 and 7 would not be objected to by France. Having agreed upon principles, however, he would reserve right of examining implementing provisions, although clear POWs and civilian internees4 should be immediately freed on cessation of hostilities.
Bidault inquired whether first line of point 8 of Viet Minh proposal meant that agreement on measures referred to in points 1 to 7 should precede cessation of hostilities. In the French view, solution of political problem should not be pre-condition to terminating hostilities. Moreover, no agreements between France and Laos or Cambodia necessary since France not at war with either.
Re subparagraph (a), point 8, concerning complete and simultaneous cease-fire, Bidault again considered that Cambodian and Laotian [Page 798]situations should be distinguished from Vietnamese, which involved a gradual process moving from one region to another. This should be studied by military commands. He felt that subparagraph (b) should be carefully clarified along lines of first section of French proposals, envisaging concentration areas and readjustment between such areas.
Bidault stated that Viet Minh proposals did not cover disarmament of irregular forces belonging neither to armed forces nor to police, and referred on this point to French proposal (Section I, paragraph 2).
Bidault considered provisions of point 8 (c) to be less desirable than French proposals which clearly envisaged international commissions as essential to correct implementation of agreement. He observed that guarantee of these agreements would be assured by Geneva participants and stated that UK, US, Vietnamese and Laotian delegations had already agreed to principle of international control.
Bidault, in conclusion, gave following answers to British questions (Secto 1835):
- Agree that forces in Vietnam should be concentrated in determined areas;
- Geneva conference should delineate areas of concentration in consultation with commanders-in-chief who would be responsible for working out details;
- Yes, when means of disarmament have been established taking into account conditions of regrouping of regular forces;
- France proposed international control and is ready to examine all suggestions for composition of control commissions. He noted that mixed commissions could have subordinate bodies under their control for full implementation of their tasks.
Following recess, Molotov called on Cambodian representative, Tep Phan, who again entered a formal denial of right of Viet Minh to speak in the name of Cambodian people. He observed that Cambodia had made its own independence with France and that reference to this subject in the Viet Minh proposal was harmful. If Viet Minh desired to enter into friendly relations with Cambodian people, it should cease its attacks against the country. Like Bidault, Tep Phan addessed himself to specific details of Viet Minh proposal, making these comments:
- Since French forces have already withdrawn from Cambodia, only Viet Minh and Royal Khmer forces remain. Absurd to consider latter as foreign forces;
- Cambodian Government has already been organized with general elections throughout country which could be repeated as soon as [Page 799]Viet Minh forces withdrawn. Second half of point 3 inapplicable to Cambodia;
- Cambodia does not desire an intermediary in establishing its own form of association with France;
- To be handled by Royal Khmer Government;
- and (7)—Cambodia has never contemplated prosecution of those collaborating with the French. It is prepared to exchange Viet Minh POWs if Viet Minh forces withdraw;
- Cambodia demands simple retreat by Viet Minh aggressor.
Since Cambodian solution is simple, Tep Phan proposed that conference adopt his suggestions without delay.
Molotov noted that no additional speakers were inscribed and stated that delegations had agreed between themselves that no meeting should be held Saturday, 15 May. He stated next meeting on Monday, 17 May, would be held in restricted session with participation limited to delegation chiefs and three advisors each—it being understood that each delegation would supply its own interpreters. Meeting adjourned at 1805.
- A set of minutes of this meeting (US Verb Min/4) is in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 276. The minutes indicate that the meeting convened at 3:03 p.m. and adjourned at 6:05 p.m. The minutes are also printed in Conference de Genève, pp. 80–100. The speeches of Molotov and Bidault and the proposal made by the Soviet Delegation are printed in Cmd. 9186, pp. 127–136. The speeches of Bidault and Molotov, Indochina Documents IC/10 and IC/13, May 14 and 15, and the proposal made by the Soviet Delegation, IC/12, May 15, are in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 279A.↩
- Dated May 10, p. 753.↩
- Dated May 8, p. 730.↩
- Handwritten marginal notation to “civilian internees” as follows: “not mentioned in VM proposals”.↩
- Dated May 12, p. 776.↩