396.1 GE/5–1854: Telegram

Second Restricted Session on Indochina, Geneva, May 18, 3 p.m.: The United States Delegation to the Department of State 1


Secto 251. Repeated information Paris 294, London 184, Saigon 90, Tokyo 71, Moscow 76. Department pass Defense. Tokyo pass CINCFE. Re Secto 240 repeated Paris 288 London 177 Saigon 86 Tokyo 68 Moscow 74.2 Restricted Indochina meeting May 18.

Molotov in chair referred to yesterday’s agreement to take up today question of separate consideration for Laotian and Cambodian problems.

Laotian delegate referred to widespread support of government since dissident movement had declared itself satisfied and made peace with government in 1949. Laotian problem was simple one of Viet Minh invasion of small areas near frontier and withdrawal of invading forces was sole requirement. Elections scheduled for 1955 would enable population freely to express political preferences.

Cambodian said their problem was simple one of foreign invasion aided by handful of rebels. Invaders were aliens by race, religion and ideology. French troops had already been withdrawn.

Viet Minh delegate held war and peace indivisible in Indochina and problem could only be settled as a whole. People of all three countries were fighting against foreign intervention. Leaders of Khmer and Pathet Lao controlled vast territories, enjoyed support of population and represented will of millions of people. There were same military and political problems throughout Indochina and only solution would be simultaneous cease-fire throughout Indochina followed by political settlement which would provide unification. He flatly rejected separation of their problems.

Bidault spoke briefly to Dong’s remarks and recalled Ho had sought to dissolve Indochina federation and achieve independence for each of three countries. Dong’s attempt to speak for all three conformed neither to reality nor previous Viet Minh position.

Solution for Laotian and Cambodian problems lay in obtaining controlled withdrawal of Viet Minh forces. Viet Minh refusal to separate problems would delay work of conference.

Dong replied that by “unification” he meant unification of each country and that he had no desire to reestablish Indochina federation. [Page 840] He spoke for governments of Khmer and Pathet Lao only because they had been excluded from conference.

Eden stated British Government considered Laotian and Cambodian problems basically different from that of Vietnam. British information was that both countries had only recently been invaded, that the areas occupied were small and adjacent to Vietnam border, that there were no pockets of resistance, that the peoples were fundamentally different, that in 1947 Laos and Cambodia had obtained democratic constitutions and had since held free elections. Dissident movements in both countries had dissolved themselves or surrendered. USSR, China and Viet Minh had not recognized phantom governments. UK would take serious view of any further aggression by any one against other country.

Smith cited practical reasons as well as those of logic and justice for separating problems and held failure to reach agreements on Laos and Cambodia would bode ill for success of conference. He cited recent dates they had been invaded, ethnic and religious differences, and popular support of Laotian and Cambodian Governments reflected through democratic processes. We could countenance no solution which would give recognition to small dissident groups which with outside assistance were threatening frontier areas.

Chou reiterated that war was between colonialism and forces seeking liberation and independence in all three countries. Foreign intervention began with French violation of its agreement with Ho Chi Minh. Problem Indochina must be settled as a whole by simultaneous cease-fire throughout Indochina.

Vietnamese delegate asked for agreement on separation of problems as test of sincerity in seeking restoration of peace.

Molotov stated conference was hearing only one side regarding conditions Cambodia and Laos. He recalled earlier proposal that representatives resistance governments be invited and said not too late to do so. He stated DRV representative in closest contact with conditions Pathet Lao and Khmer. Information made available by DRV demonstrates struggle for national independence carried on not only by people Vietnam but also in other two countries. CPR statement bears this out. France carries on colonial war throughout Indochina. Molotov rejected thesis external factors governing events in Cambodia and Laos. Such countries as CPR and India have refuted this thesis. Nehru speaks of independence struggle throughout Indochina. Other Asian countries do the same. Molotov also alluded to Secretary’s May 7 statement which referred to Indochina as a whole and to alleged failure French to give real independence to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. [Page 841] According to Molotov, Secretary made no distinction between three states or between struggles for national independence going on in each. Molotov stated greater part Vietnamese territory under control DRV. Similarly in other two countries resistance governments control parts of territory. Soviet delegate therefore rejects separate approach for Cambodia and Laos. Such approach would also be contrary to Berlin communiqué which speaks of restoring peace in Indochina as a whole.

Cambodian delegate then brieflly refuted DRV statements with particular reference to Son Ngoc Minh. Cambodian delegate stated this man represents nothing in Cambodia where unknown. He accused Viet Minh of imperialism and repeated thesis re absence indigenous Cambodian independence movement fighting royal government.

USDel then suggested adjournment in view lateness hour although indicating would wish to speak further this subject. There was some discussion as to whether Korea or Indochina should be conference topic tomorrow. Molotov indicated speakers inscribed for Korea. However USDel with strong support UKDel took view undesirable to top Indochina this stage and agreement finally reached for next Indochina restricted meeting tomorrow 3 p.m.

One sentence communiqué was agreed to as follows: “At restricted meeting of the 9 delegations on May 18, the consideration of the problem of restoring peace in Indochina was continued”.

US and USSR delegates reiterated agreement to effect delegation press officers should not go beyond terms of communiqué in informing press regarding proceedings the restricted session.

  1. A set of minutes of this session (IC Restricted/2) 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. 106–112.
  2. Dated May 17, p. 831.