396.1 GE/5–1754: Telegram

First Restricted Session on Indochina, Geneva, May 17, 3 p.m.: The United States Delegation to the Department of State1


Secto 240. Repeated information Paris 288, London 177, Saigon 86, Tokyo 68, Moscow 74. Department pass Defense, Tokyo pass CINCFE. At first restricted Indochina meeting today after discussion of Dien Bien Phu wounded,2 Bidault as first speaker stated that although he had answered Eden’s five questions,3 he thought they should be clarified and supplemented. He proposed (1) that if there were agreement with the French position that Laos and Cambodia should be dealt with separately, there should be appointed an ad hoc committee for this purpose, and (2) that if there were agreement with respect to Vietnam on relative priority of the military over the political aspect of the problem and necessity for immediate cessation of hostilities, that the commanders-in-chief should send representatives to Geneva to study technical aspects of termination of hostilities and put forward their recommendations to conference.

Molotov said there were two proposals before conference, one French4 and the other Viet Minh.5 He said that Soviet delegation attached great importance to both military and political aspects of question, believing them closely linked but since military aspect was dealt with in both draft proposals whereas only one dealt with political, [Page 832] he would suggest that military questions be taken up first. After that one could go on to consider political matters. He suggested that conference (1) consider point by point the proposals in French and Viet Minh drafts, (2) since there were military provisions in both drafts, begin by considering those military provisions, and (3) while doing this, also consider the relevant questions advanced by Eden and at same time recall proposal made by Soviet delegation.

Laotian delegate then spoke of Eden’s questions, all of which he answered in the affirmative and stressed importance of treating Laos and Cambodia separately by working sub-committee and achieving cease-fire as soon as possible.

Eden opined that there was not too much dissimilarity between Bidault’s second question and Molotov’s proposal. What was outstanding was question of how to deal with Laos and Cambodia. General Smith then suggested that Molotov amend his proposal so as to accept Bidault’s wish for establishment of working sub-committee to deal with Laos and Cambodia and made statement supporting separate and early consideration of problem of these countries pointing out relative simplicity and ease with which Geneva conference could make solid step toward restoring peace to Indochina by its resolution.

After Chou had supported Molotov’s proposal on procedure Molotov suggested that if conference accepted his proposal to use French and Viet Minh drafts as basis for discussion, this could be with understanding that substantive discussion would begin with question as to whether Laos and Cambodia should be dealt with separately. Vietnam delegate supported separate treatment for Laos and Cambodia and reminded conference that his delegation had also tabled proposal on Vietnam which it would expect to have considered as well.6

Viet Minh delegate in lengthy and somewhat confused statement eventually supported Molotov’s proposal on procedure but ended with somewhat querulous assertion that they saw no real reason for considering Khmer and Pathet Lao first. After further clarification resulting in clear understanding that Molotov proposal on procedure did not exclude consideration of substantive proposals already tabled in addition to French and Viet Minh, his proposal was accepted.

It was agreed to postpone substantive discussion to next meeting, tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. text of routine communiqué to be issued by delegations individually was agreed on. Eden reminded delegations they were not to exceed its terms.

  1. A set of minutes of this session (IC Restricted/1) is in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 278. The minutes indicate that the meeting convened at 3 p.m. and adjourned at 6:15 p.m. The minutes are also printed in Conférence de Genève, pp. 101–105.
  2. Discussion described in telegram Secto 241, May 17, infra.
  3. Reported in telegram Secto 183, May 12, p. 776.
  4. Reported in telegram Secto 143, as modified by Secto 152, May 8, p. 730.
  5. Reported in telegram Secto 162, May 10, p. 753.
  6. Reported in telegram Secto 190, May 12, p. 783.