396.1 GE/5–2654: Telegram

Sixth Restricted Session on Indochina, Geneva, May 25, 3 p.m.: The United States Delegation to the Department of State 1


Secto 302. Rptd priority information Paris 329, Tokyo 86, London 206, Moscow 86, priority Saigon 110, Phnom Penh, Vientiane unnumbered. Tokyo for CINCFE. Department pass Defense. The sixth restricted session met May 25 with Molotov as chairman.

Molotov indicated there was no need to remind conferees where session had terminated on previous day. He then asked for speakers.

Molotov thanked French delegation for translation of Bidault’s statement of yesterday. He had received text of Bidault’s statement only upon entering Palais and might reply at next session.

Molotov indicated this session should deal matters upon which there was common view taking up later other matters on which there was no agreement.

Vietnamese representative recalled meeting supposed to examine general principles. However, in doing so it must recognize different situation in three states, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. First problem to be recognized was cessation of hostilities. In considering this problem a different situation exists in Vietnam than in other two states. Negotiations must be based on independence which Vietnam has acquired. If peace restored it must be done within terms of Berlin communiqué. Peace should be restored anywhere possible.

Re measures for regular troops Vietnam held problem in Laos and Cambodia relatively simple. These are sovereign states which he was certain no one at the conference would contest. Conference need only agree on withdrawal of invading troops. Problem of concentration of regular troops existed only in Vietnam. He recalled plan he had previously put forth and made following points:

Vietnam would not agree to any plan which would result in its partition.
Vietnamese National Army set up under a legal government and there should be no agreement which would result in restrictions on Vietnamese troops.
Concentration of troops should take into account security.
It would be necessary to take measures to prevent any further aggression.

Irregular troops must be disarmed if minimum security precautions were to be met. He proposed procedure be worked out for handling this.

All delegations in agreement on release of POWs and internees. Cease-fire must be on international basis and internationally guaranteed. Such action required if Vietnam to be assured against further aggression. Withdrawal of foreign troops must be taken up after agreement reached on all other issues.

All points inter-dependent and there must be agreement on all before conference can succeed.

Eden submitted a proposal which he hoped would enable the conferees to deal with certain points and then move on to other points. He stated that his proposal related principally to international supervision. Text read:

“In order to facilitate early cessation of hostilities it is necessary to determine areas within which the forces of both sides shall be regrouped.

To this end it is proposed that:

Representatives of two commands should meet immediately in Geneva.
Their first task should be to work out regrouping areas for Vietnam.
They should report their findings and recommendations to conference as soon as possible.
Conference meanwhile should proceed with examination of other military matters, beginning with arrangements for international supervision.”

DRV representative stated cessation of hostilities means complete cessation to include not only ground action but air and sea action as well. After cessation of hostilities his government would not tolerate French aircraft in the air over territory nor would they permit the French engage in warfare against their fishermen.

He stated that separation of the problem of cessation of hostilities would mean that the conference is moving away from the stated intention of general cessation of hostilities. Separate cessation of hostilities would result in a concentration of forces in areas where hostilities [Page 922] continued would lead to general hostilities. Then made the following points:

Must be recognition of the principles of readjusting areas under control each state.
Readjustment would mean exchange of territory taking into account actual areas controlled including population and strategic interests.
Each side would get territory in one piece to include complete control of the area both economic and administrative.
Line of demarcation should be established following the topographical line of territory to make transportation and communications possible within each state.
When the demarcation lines are determined each side would withdraw its troops into its own area including all air and sea forces, military facilities and police forces.
Territory under administration of one side would continue under the control of that side until its troops were withdrawn, immediately after which administration would be transferred to control of the other side.

In conclusion, stated that agreement must be worked out on a ceasefire and once principle is agreed to by Geneva Conference, the commanders of both sides should meet and make recommendations to the conferees on the terms of the armistice. Conferees could then agree on final terms of settlement. Pointed out that any arrangement for ceasefire must include arrangements for Khmer and Pathet Lao.

Bidault referred to proposals made for regrouping of forces, pointing out that procedures should be examined as the first step in that direction. Referred to proposals previously made for examination by the High Command on the spot stating that conference convened in Geneva and the High Command should prepare and submit recommendations to the conferees for consideration. He mentioned that representatives of High Command might appear in Geneva for consultation.

Bidault proposed that the conference speed up consideration of the problem of Laos and Cambodia pointing out that the conference must not submerge a simple problem only to consider a more complex problem.

General Smith then made the following statement:2 “When we left yesterday, I was under the impression that we would talk about a cessation of hostilities in all of Indochina, with specific reference to Vietnam.

“If I understand the proposal of the Viet Minh representative, he referred to partition of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. I do not believe we should seriously consider this proposal. I believe that we can [Page 923] achieve a cessation of hostilities if agreement can be reached on three points:

  • “(1) Withdrawal into specified areas of regular forces in Vietnam;
  • “(2) Disarmament and disbanding of irregular forces;
  • “(3) Establishment of adequate safeguards and creation of an international supervisory commission whose composition and terms of reference would permit it to function effectively.

“On the first point, Mr. Bidault has made a proposal for assembling all regular units in assembly areas. I can wholeheartedly support Bidault’s proposal.

“In the meanwhile, Mr. Eden has submitted a proposal which is preliminary to achieving a cessation of hostilities. I believe that we should proceed with an examination of it immediately.

“With reference to the second point, the US believes that agreements for cessation of hostilities should include provisions for the disarmament of all irregular forces. It was my understanding yesterday that there was agreement on this point.

“Finally, it seems to us to be essential that there be effective safeguards to provide for the security of armed forces and the civil population, and to insure against abuses of the cessation of hostilities agreement by either party. It seems unlikely that men who have been fighting for months will ground arms and keep the peace unless they are under competent international supervision. From our point of view, the most competent authority in existence for such purpose is the United Nations.

“I have addressed myself exclusively to the problem of Vietnam because it was my understanding that was our agreement. However, I shall repeat what I have said before that hostilities in Laos and Cambodia can be stopped by arranging for the withdrawal from those two countries of the invading Viet Minh forces. I would hope that this arrangement can be made without delay. I will not say anything further on this point at this time.”

Molotov concluded by stating that Eden’s proposal would be circulated to permit quick consideration. He then stated that he hoped that he would be expressing a common view if he proposed recess.

Following recess, Molotov proposed certain amendments to Eden’s draft text: In preamble, addition of words “and simultaneous” between “early” and “cessation”; in paragraph 1, addition of the phrase “in order that this would contribute also to the establishment of contacts between interested parties on the spot”; and paragraph 2, to read “their task should be to work out the regrouping areas for the two sides and first of all for Vietnam”. He had no amendments for paragraph 3 but thought that paragraph 4 was hardly necessary because [Page 924] it dealt with matters which related to conference as a whole and not to immediate problem.

Bidault supported Eden’s proposal but Cambodian delegate asked whether it applied to all Indochinese states or just to Vietnam. Eden replied that preamble intended to be general but that paragraph 2 was for Vietnam. To this, Cambodian entered reservation in order “not to mix up those things which should be kept distinct”. Furthermore, he could not accept any of the Soviet amendments.

General Smith thought that British delegate’s proposal extremely well-drafted and got by two opposing positions now occupied without doing violence to either and offered possibility of progress. On other hand, he thought that amendment to paragraph 1 proposed by chairman was sensible and reasonable. Facilitating their contacts in the field would help work at Geneva and US delegation could accept this. The other suggestions he would find too difficult to accept and believe so would other delegations. He would explain his reasons to his colleagues. US delegation had made its position very clear regarding situation it believed existed in Laos and Cambodia. Yet in effort to be helpful and contribute to work of the conference, the delegation had gone along with examination of various proposals but making it very apparent that it was not abandoning its position. British proposal would make it possible to make progress without surrendering this point. He suggested conference accept Molotov’s amendment to paragraph 1 and eliminate the others, namely to preamble and paragraph 2, returning to original draft. This would permit conference to proceed without further obstacle or damage to US position.

Bidault then stressed that British proposal must be applicable only to Vietnam, that it was only there that a regrouping of military forces was required. He was agreeable to establishment of contacts at Geneva and in the field.

Vietnam delegate expressed view that first sentence of British proposal prejudged situation in Cambodia and Laos. He supported Bidault’s statement and requested specification that first sentence where reference was made to regrouping of forces only applied to Vietnam. He could not agree to Soviet addition of “simultaneous”. Cessation of hostilities should occur wherever possible without delay. Soviet amendment to paragraph 2 by generalizing concept prejudged by its terms result of any regrouping. As a final remark, he stressed concern with which Vietnam nation views possibility that conference may produce partition of national territory. This was contrary to wishes of Vietnam people and he was duly bound to request conference to give its assurances that regrouping of forces would not result in partition.

[Page 925]

Eden supported General Smith’s analysis of meaning of his text and proposed amendments. He had simply tried to put down greatest common measure of agreement without prejudging any issues. He had not tried to deal with that of Laos and Cambodia but simply with great task of work regarding Vietnam which sooner or later conference had to deal with. He expressed hope that agreement could be reached on Molotov’s amendment to first paragraph and that his other amendments would not be pressed.

Molotov offered to withdraw his amendments excepting that to paragraph 1 but added that in order to avoid controversial issues he coupled this with proposal that text be restricted to paragraph 1. If necessary, paragraph 3 could remain as new paragraph 2, although its content was obvious.

Bidault replying first to Vietnam statement, assured him that conference had not been convened to tear apart unity of Vietnamese nation. He then expressed view that suppression paragraphs 2 and 4 from Eden proposal would render document null and void. He proposed that if whole text with Soviet amendment to paragraph 1 could not be accepted, that time be taken to ponder the problem. It might be advisable to devote tomorrow to full examination of all proposals made so far in order to understand complete situation where there was agreement and where not.

Cambodian delegate then announced it was his duty to state that he could not accept UK proposal since in some points it applied to Cambodia. It was his understanding that today was to be devoted to Vietnam. He appreciated Eden’s efforts at conciliation but was obliged to make firm reservations regarding any decisions which might be taken affecting his country.

A final effort by General Smith to obtain agreement to Eden’s proposal with Soviet amendment to paragraph 1 only impelled Molotov to accept Bidault’s suggestion that tomorrow be devoted to clarification of delegation’s views on this and other proposals.

Following agreement of routine communiqué, next restricted meeting Indochina phase agreed for Friday, May 27.3

Comment: It is clear from foregoing that separate treatment Laos and Cambodia remains fundamental issue on which Communists despite procedural dialectics are not yet prepared to compromise. DRV proposal is clear bid for partition. All delegations excepting Laos and Cambodia have agreed to contact between representatives High Commands both in Geneva and in field.

  1. A set of minutes of this session (IC Restricted/6) 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. 143–153. Under Secretary Smith’s speech, Indochina Document IC/14, May 26, is in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 279A.
  2. Correction in Under Secretary Smith’s statement transmitted to the Department of State in telegram Secto 304, infra .
  3. Date of next restricted meeting, Indochina phase, given incorrectly; it should read Thursday, May 27. (Corrected in telegram Secto 304, infra .)