Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs ( Raynor )

top secret


  • Indochina; Southeast Asia


  • Sir Roger Makins, Ambassador, British Embassy
  • Mr. Merchant, Assistant Secretary, EUR
  • Mr. Raynor, Director, BNA

Ambassador Makins called this afternoon at his request. Sir Roger said he wished to raise a few questions with respect to our discussions with the French for the purpose of clarification. His first question pertained to the level of continued French military effort and said he understood from Mr. Merchant that our condition was that the French should maintain the present level of their effort. From French sources the British had obtained the idea that we had indicated that the French must increase their effort proportionately to the effort made by others. Mr. Merchant replied that we had made no effort to arrive at any mathematical formula on this question but that the principle which we had put to the French was to the effect that any outside assistance from the United States or others must be additive to the general situation and not substitutive for the present French effort. The only basis Mr. Merchant could possibly have for the French misunderstanding [Page 847] our position on this matter was the fact that we did continue to feel that the size of the native forces should be augmented.

Sir Roger’s second point was to the effect that the French in Geneva had given British officials the impression that the current talks had devolved from U.S. rather than from French initiative as Mr. Merchant earlier told Sir Roger. Mr. Merchant reaffirmed that the present talks commenced as a result of French initiative in Paris last Tuesday or Wednesday. He said, of course, the French had known for some time we were willing to discuss this matter with them.

Sir Roger then inquired as to our present views with respect to possible UN action on a peace observation commission. Mr. Merchant indicated that we had not arrived at any final position but our present inclination was leaning in favor of this action being initiated by the Thais inasmuch as they were members of the UN and seriously considered taking this type of action late last summer.

Sir Roger then inquired if, on the question of conditions, it was correct to assume that the ball was now in the hands of the French in the sense that we were awaiting replies from them. Mr. Merchant said this was correct although he would not describe the matter as one of conditions. He said rather what we had put forward to the French was essential elements.

Sir Roger then said that he had been informed that Mr. Eden would be advising General Smith today that the British are agreeable to the holding of five-power military staff talks immediately in Washington with fairly broad terms of reference but without commitments. Mr. Merchant raised the question as to whether the French had been consulted on this matter and Sir Roger said he did not know. He did say that he thought Mr. Eden would advise the Colombo powers with regard to the holding of the five-power talks as soon as agreement is formally reached. He inquired what reactions we had as a result of our talks with the Colombo powers. Mr. Merchant replied he understood Mr. Murphy had only general talks with them.

Mr. Merchant then referred to Churchill’s statement in Commons. Sir Roger said that the statement in his opinion had been very very carefully worded in an effort to keep the door open for possible group discussion of South Asian collective security arrangements at a time when the situation at Geneva became clearer. In Sir Roger’s view the language clearly indicated that Churchill had not meant to imply that these talks must await the actual conclusion of the Geneva talks. Sir Roger added, however, that he thought it would be unwise to press Churchill on this at least for the next few days.