396.1 GE/5–2154: Telegram

Fourth Restricted Session on Indochina, Geneva, May 21, 3 p.m.: The United States Delegation to the Department of State1


Secto 279. Repeated information Paris 316, Tokyo 80, London 199, Moscow 80, Saigon 104. Tokyo for CINCFE. Department pass Defense. Re Secto 259, repeated Paris 299, London 188, Saigon 93, Tokyo 75, Moscow 78.2 Restricted Indochina meeting May 21, 3–7:15 p.m.

[Page 878]

Molotov in chair referred to “wish” expressed May 19 by Soviet delegation that discussion of paragraph 1 of French proposal and paragraph 8-a/of DRV proposal be initiated.3

Bidault recalled that French proposal dealt only with Vietnam while DRV proposal covered all three countries. He accepted principle of examination of all current proposals including Vietnamese, Cambodian and others. He noted that DRV and USSR have apparently accepted the principle that priority be given to military questions, but that they object to separate treatment of Cambodia and Laos on one hand and Vietnam on other. While French delegate agrees object of present exercise is peace in all three states, French delegate never had in mind priority for one over other and agrees must be guarantees and controls international character to cover cease-fire in all three states. Nevertheless fact that conditions in Laos and Cambodia are different from those in Vietnam must be taken into account.

DRV delegate stated that differences in three states were of degree but not of kind and rejected idea of disassociating Cambodia and Laos from Vietnam.

Cambodian delegate reiterated view that Cambodia was special case to be considered separately and on priority basis. Suggested however possibility discussion of Vietnam and then of Cambodia and Laos in alternate sessions. Laotian delegate spoke to same effect.

Chou En-lai spoke in favor of Molotov’s proposal on basis objective was working out of cease-fire throughout Indochina.

US delegate, making clear that he was not commenting on substance of proposals pointed out French proposals deal only with Vietnam which is principal problem. If way can be found of solving it we will have less trouble with others. He suggested application to Vietnam of French and Viet Minh paragraphs be discussed. US delegate maintained the view that Laos and Cambodia present a different and simpler problem from Vietnam.

Eden agreed with US and Cambodian proposal suggesting discuss application Vietnam one day and then next day application to Cambodia and Laos. He reserved position regarding details of proposals (as had US delegate).

Molotov then recalled that though some delegations had wished to start discussion political problems, compromise had been reached on suggestion of French delegate that military problems be discussed first. French and Viet Minh proposals accepted as basis for discussion. He said paragraph 5 of French proposal to be discussed in addition to one so as to match paragraph 8-a of Viet Minh proposal. Molotov [Page 879] suggested that these paragraphs be discussed from the point of view first of finding what provisions would be applicable to all of Indochina. Conference would proceed to discuss questions peculiar to different parts of the area.

DRV delegate supported Soviets proposal stating that before going into problems of Vietnam, Khmer and Pathet-Lao it would be well to establish certain general principles applicable to whole area.

Bidault said he did not think any general rules could be worked out which would be applicable to these special and particular situations. He felt that if special character was not established no results would be achieved.

US delegate then said that although US delegation believes relatively simple problem of Laos and Cambodia should be handled separately, US delegation willing to discuss application French and Viet Minh paragraphs to Vietnam in order to ascertain whether such discussion can give us some general principles applicable elsewhere. US delegate supported Cambodian proposal of alternate meetings.

After recess Eden made two points: (1) if we were to discuss two texts and proposals they contained, we should also discuss separately their application to each of three states, and (2) all delegations should also be free to discuss related proposals such as those dealing with international control.

Molotov stated his understanding we would discuss general principles applicable to all three cases and then their application to each separately. He agreed to discussion of any closely related proposals. He then suggested discussion turn to substance.

Bidault thought there would be confusion and waste of time unless there were agreement as to questions which would be discussed as relating to all three. He suggested committee be established to draw up such list.

Molotov saw no need for committee and suggested we begin by discussing two questions: (1) simultaneous cease-fire throughout Indochina, and (2) zones for regrouping forces. This would not preclude discussion of other elements such as international supervision and non-introduction of foreign troops or arms.

Dong concurred with Molotov’s first point, amplified second by saying there must be readjustment in each of three countries of areas held by opposing forces, and proposed discussion also to cover noninterference with movements of troops into zones. Proposal for cessation of introduction of foreign troops and arms spoke for itself. He supported Soviet proposal for neutral commissions and guarantee of agreements by members of conference acting of course collectively.

[Page 880]

Bidault cited reference in point 8 to agreements between France and each of three countries. He said France had agreements with each but they were allies rather than enemies and would be on same side any armistice agreement. Point 8 (a) ignored distinction between civil war in Vietnam and external invasion in Cambodia and Laos and was not acceptable as basis for discussion. He reiterated proposal committee draw up list of questions for discussion. He also suggested the conference summon representatives of Commanders-in-Chief to Geneva to assist in separate discussion of problems of three countries.

Smith cited problem of who would determine whether hostile forces in Laos and Cambodia were Viet Minh invaders or indigenous and agreed with Bidault we should have list of basic questions before proceeding to substantive discussion.

Chou thought committee would be pointless if conference itself could not agree on agenda. First point for discussion should be general principles for simultaneous cease-fire throughout Indochina. He granted application would be different in three countries. He supported Soviet proposal on neutral commission and guarantees. Viet Minh proposal re cessation of all entry of foreign troops and arms was essential to any effective cease-fire.

Bidault suggested two chairmen might be asked to establish list of questions.

Molotov said we had decided on May 17 to consider Viet Minh point 8 (a) and French points 1 and 5 and any other related questions. He saw five principal ones: first simultaneous cease-fire throughout Indochina. After decision in principle, this would require detailed consideration including fixing of time limits for carrying it out. Second was establishment of zones in each of three states. Third was nonintroduction of foreign troops or arms. Fourth was supervision over terms of agreement. Fifth is need for guarantees. Other questions might emerge from discussion.

Bidault said Molotov had listed five questions and he himself eight. Bidault could agree to discussion of any of them provided it was on basis of dealing with fundamental principles rather than national application.

Eden suggested Molotov’s five questions plus Bidault’s three others be taken up at next session. He thought it well to consider getting representatives of two commands here since that would take some time.

Molotov reaffirmed that his five questions were not exclusive and that anyone could add others. His referred only to military aspects and political problems could be discussed later.

[Page 881]

Cambodian delegate reiterated that in Cambodia there could be no question of regrouping troops in internal zones, only withdrawal of invaders.

DRV saw no need for representatives of two commands and said any delegation could call anyone it wanted.

Next meeting will be restricted one on May 24.

  1. A set of minutes of this session (IC Restricted/4) is in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 278. The minutes indicate that the meeting convened at 3 p.m. and adjourned at 7:15 p.m. The minutes are also printed in Conférence de Genève, pp. 122–130.
  2. Dated May 19, p. 854.
  3. For the Viet Minh and French proposals, see telegrams Secto 143, May 8, and Secto 162. May 10, pp. 730 and 753, respectively.