396.1 GE/5–2554: Telegram

Fifth Restricted Session on Indochina, Geneva, May 24, 3 p.m.: The United States Delegation to the Department of State1


Secto 292. Repeated information Paris 323, London 205, Tokyo 85, Moscow 83, Saigon 106, Phnom Penh 3, and Vientiane 2. Tokyo pass CINCFE. Department pass Defense. Fifth restricted session met under presidency Eden today.

Eden said it had been left last meeting conference would discuss Molotov five points and additional ones submitted by Bidault. He then read list seven-point proposal made by Bidault and asked if discussion this list would be satisfactory basis continue meetings. Points were: (1) cessation of hostilities; (2) measures concerning regular troops; (3) measures concerning irregular forces; (4) questions concerning introduction into three states further foreign troops and matériel; (5) liberation prisoners war and civilian internees; (6) international supervision execution of agreements; (7) guarantees of agreements.

Molotov said there was no great difference between his list and French and two lists were satisfactory basis discussion, but he noted inseparability political and military solution and concluded after brief discussion military problem we should pass on to political.

Bidault said what conference had agreed was priority military over political solution. He noted mixing of two in case Laos and Cambodia would cause delays settlements there since no political problem existed and solution would be forced await political settlement Vietnam.

Smith pointed out first task was to end shooting and then settle political questions later. He added only problem in Laos and Cambodia was withdrawal invading forces and implementation settlement this simple problem should not await arrangement more complex Vietnamese problem.

Bidault then gave detailed comments his own seven points as follows:

on cessation hostilities, he said French had laid down principle May 8 fighting should cease under adequate security guarantees. He said France wanted war in all Indochina stopped, but we should not insist principle simultaneity cease-fire all three countries since it would be unfair to continue fighting in any state where agreement terminate [Page 908] it existed. He said France continued insist on Article 5 (section I) May 8 proposal.2
Bidault said he defined “regular troops” as being all those permanently organized, noting Viet Minh had many so-called irregulars who were just as well-organized as so-called regulars. He said in Cambodia and Laos problem was simply evacuating Viet Minh, while for Vietnam France proposed delimited zones for regular forces both sides with demilitarized zones between probably required to avoid danger contact between opposing forces. He agreed there appeared little difference between French and Viet Minh proposals this point. He said Viet Minh point re passage of troops through opposing zones might be acceptable if under adequate controls and not used to permit strengthening forces or areas either side.
Bidault said forces both sides not required for army or internal security should be disbanded. He said this was important since Cambodian and Laotian armies and Franco-Vietnamese troops in Vietnam would be imperiled if grouped in delimited zones and irregulars free to harass them.
On introduction new forces, Bidault stated we should return to this problem when vital question of nature controls determined.
France has asked immediate freeing of prisoners of war and civilian internees since May 8. This operation should be subject same controls as remainder agreement.
Bidault said French had asked for effective international controls since beginning. He said France open to suggestion on structure and membership control committee. He added we could not go further into detail on nature control entity until we know details of agreements which committee would supervise. He said France suggested (for Vietnam only) mixed committee two opposing military staffs to operate under international control group.
On guarantees, Bidault said France had proposed conference guarantee agreement and nine parties should consult immediately in case violation and proceed to appropriate individual or collective measures.

In conclusion, Bidault said France would not accept solution any individual point but only “package deal” on all.

Chou En-lai said he had no objection general discussion these questions but reminded conference of Molotov’s point political was inseparable from military. He reserved right reply Bidault later.

Cambodian representative made point conference should not insist on simultaneity cessation hostilities all three countries since this unfair those with simpler problems. He noted Viet Minh withdrawal would solve Cambodian problem.

[Page 909]

Viet Minh representative expressed following views on seven points:

Cease-fire must be complete, simultaneous and as soon as possible throughout whole area;
Regular troops of both belligerent sides must be assembled into zones established in accordance with principles agreed to by conference but worked out in Indochina separately in each state;
Problem of irregulars does not arise since when agreement reached each side would have responsibility of seeing that cease-fire observed in areas where it has authority;
Essential there be complete cessation introduction into Indochina of new forces or additional military equipment, munitions, etc. Cease-fire must lead to real peace and not be respite to permit preparation for expanding war;
Control would be effected (a) by joint commissions made up of representatives of belligerents having knowledge local conditions, and (b) by international control commission composed of neutral countries. If agreement in principle can be reached here should be possible work out composition, functions and relations between types of committees;
Democratic Republic Vietnam agrees that agreements be guaranteed by states members of Geneva conference on basis guarantees will have strictly multilateral and collective character;
There seems to be general agreement regarding release of prisoners of war.

Democratic Republic Vietnam proposed that following discussion of principles and agreement thereon conference could then proceed to apply same to individual countries. Dong suggested beginning with Vietnam as most important theater of war and then proceed to Khmer and Pathet Lao. He concluded with statement advocating examination of political questions by conference and stating sooner conference occupies itself with these questions the better.

US delegate spoke favorably of restrained way in which Democratic Republic Vietnam had spoken and also regarding Molotov’s clear, concise analysis of military questions before conference at last meeting. US delegate stressed importance of cessation hostilities and suggested conference vigorously explore whether progress could be made toward that end. US delegate said Dong statement encouraged optimism this respect.

Laotian delegate expressed general agreement with proposed list of questions. He emphasized importance of effective international control and fact withdrawal of foreign troops would automatically bring about cessation of hostilities in Laos.

Vietnamese delegate agreed with great desirability of cease-fire, but stated that Franco-Vietnamese declaration of April 28 and two treaties agreed to between France and Vietnam had important bearing since as result independence has been achieved by Vietnam. This [Page 910] problem of independence dominates events in Indochina. Vietnam has negotiated independence from France and must defend that independence against all foreign dangers. Vietnam delegate urged this question be debated.

Eden expressed hope there would be general agreement with US delegate’s suggestion leading to fruitful further discussion military aspects beginning with cessation hostilities. He expressed hope discussion general principles be brief and that conference get down to application. He agreed with Democratic Republic Vietnam suggestion that application in Vietnam be first topic after general principles.

Molotov, after speaking of desirability of effective cease-fire leading to durable peace, urged direct contacts be established either in field or at Geneva between parties directly concerned. Molotov then reminded conference of agreement take French and Viet Minh proposals as basis for discussions and pointed out these deal with both military and political matters. Molotov urged political problems be taken up without delay and urged that following tomorrow’s meeting on military problems that next meeting be devoted to political problems. He apparently contemplated alternate meetings on military and political problems.

Bidault stated that he could not accept proceeding to political problems until some real progress had been made on military problems. He said that to link two questions now would cause confusion and might lead to failure of conference.

Chou En-lai agreed with Soviet proposal to take up political matters day after tomorrow and also with proposal that parties directly concerned, whom he defined as France and Democratic Republic Vietnam, should make direct contact.

US delegate supported Bidault’s point of view regarding delay in taking up political problems until military questions further advanced. He also stated parties at interest include not only France and Democratic Republic Vietnam but also Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Viet Minh delegate advocated rotating discussion political and military problems. He accepted Soviet proposal for contacts between directly interested parties and referred to precedent already established on Dien-Bien-Phu wounded.

Bidault stated that while contacts in Geneva had been relatively satisfactory, it would be necessary to have all interested parties and not only these. He denied any agreement to take up military and political problems together and said it was wholly impractical and undesirable to go on to political problems without having at least [Page 911] provided for stopping bloodshed. He proposed that at tomorrow’s restricted session decision might be taken regarding next session.

Molotov then made very strong brief statement to effect that agreement already reached to take up French and Viet Minh proposals made necessary discussion both military and political problems.

Eden said no one denied political problem would eventually have to be discussed, but questioned helpfulness their injection at this stage. Suggested conference reflects on this point and discuss further tomorrow.

US delegate said that rather than challenge Molotov’s recollection of agreements earlier reached he proposed adjournment.

However, Cambodian delegate said that he would hope military problem would be cleared up first since Cambodia has no political problem, Cambodia independent sovereign country represented only by Cambodian Government.

Comment: Appeared Communists concerned at trend toward discussion military matters before political question and were attempting recover ground lost in this regard. Molotov appeared particularly concerned and his specific suggestion meeting following tomorrow discuss political questions discourages hope Communists might, while reserving their position, permit substantive discussion on military matters proceed without simultaneously injecting political issues. Conclusion is that Communists still playing for time on premise time is on their side in Indochina.

  1. A set of minutes of this session (IC Restricted/5) is in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 278. The minutes indicate that the meeting convened at 3 p.m. and adjourned at 7:10 p.m. The minutes are also printed in Conférence de Genève, pp. 131–142. This telegram was transmitted in two sections.
  2. Article 5, Part I, of proposals submitted by the French Delegation at the First Plenary Session on Indochina, May 8, read as follows: “Hostilities to cease as soon as the agreement is signed. The assembly of troops and disarmament of forces as above provided to begin not later than x days (the number to be fixed by the Conference) after the signature of the agreement.” (US Verb Min/1, May 8, 1954, Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 276)