790.5/5–1854: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the United States Delegation1

top secret

Tedul 106. Limit distribution. In May 20 meeting with Webb and Munro Secretary outlined JCS recommendations (Tedul 932) re UK terms reference (Dulte 843) proposed five power military talks. Secretary said US believes talks should take place Washington and not transfer elsewhere later without full agreement of five. Webb expressed hope representation at talks would be high level in view importance New Zealand and world opinion. Secretary thought Defense tentatively had in mind two or three star general but indicated no decision yet taken. Subsequently it appeared New Zealand thinking of General Gentry, Chief of General Staff.

Secretary revealed background our recent discussions with UK re Southeast Asia action beginning with April 13 communiqué issued following London visit. He explained his concern that Eden had agreed to establishment working group Washington but subsequently backed out just prior scheduled meeting, which then had to be changed to meeting of 16-power Korean group plus Associated States representatives.4 Secretary stated Churchill’s May 17 Commons statement was further repudiation original April 13 joint communiqué.5 Churchill modified statement on readiness examine possibility establishing collective defense by inserting additional phrase “when the outcome of the Geneva Conference is clear”. Churchill statement also omitted UK readiness make such examination “with other countries principally concerned”. Churchill changed April 13 statement “establishing a collective defense” to “establishing a system of collective security and defense”. Secretary felt establishment of “system” might unduly delay necessary and immediate measures, noting that NATO Treaty had taken over year to work out.

Secretary outlined reasons which led US in April to take initiative in creating ad hoc coalition to offset then impending fall Dien Bien Phu. He admitted UK change of position had not been helpful to US-UK relations.

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Turning to recent conversations with French re “internationalizing” Indochina war, Secretary said French had never until recently asked us sit down discuss situation even though they have known we were prepared do so. French apparently not willing limit their complete freedom of action in spite our swift and extensive responses virtually to all specific aid requests except one, an air strike at Dien Bien Phu. Secretary said we made clear then we could not commit belligerent act unless based on sound principles fundamental to which was idea of collective action.

Secretary enumerated, in response recent French approach, what we told them would be necessary basic conditions for such internationalization i.e., France and Associated States request direct US military participation with similar invitation to Australia, New Zealand, UK, Thailand and Philippines; matter presented to UN in some form promptly; Associated States guaranteed complete independence by France; France not to withdraw its forces even with addition other forces supplementary to those of France and Associated States; agreement on command structure and raising-training native troops.

Secretary emphasized, in spite press leaks, these discussions in very preliminary stage and would probably remain suspended until General Ely return to Paris. He felt certain French had not yet reached firm decision.

Full memorandum follows.

Webb also made courtesy call on President May 20.

  1. Drafted by Horsey of EUR/BNA and Draper of S/S. Repeated to London as telegram 6275, to Paris as telegram 4222, to Wellington as telegram 166, and repeated from Wellington to Canberra as telegram 217. Memorandum of conversation, May 20, is in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 328.
  2. Dated May 20, p. 858.
  3. Dated May 18, p. 841.
  4. For the Secretary’s briefing on Apr. 20, see the memorandum of conversation, p. 535.
  5. For text of Churchill’s May 17 statement, see editorial note, p. 834.