396.1 GE/5–2754: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State 1

[Extracts]

confidential
priority

Secto 319. For McCardle from Suydam. Following is extensive selected verbatim Under Secretary’s press briefing U.S. correspondents morning 27th. Full text will be pouched.

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Question: Have Cambodian or Laotian delegations indicated to us they might walk out of conference if principle of partition should be applied to their two states?

Answer: They have not so indicated to us because we do not accept principle of partition. Our position is that Laos and Cambodia have been invaded. Way to stop trouble in Laos and Cambodia is for invaders to withdraw.

Q: You said Viet Minh proposal seemed to go lot further than we were willing to go. Could you give us any sort of general guidance on how far we are prepared to go?

[Page 951]

A: You know basic position of U.S. It is that Laos and Cambodia are separate distinct problems from Viet Nam, that Laos and Cambodia have been invaded and that settlement of their respective problems is completely simple; all that is necessary is for invader to withdraw. It is recognized, however, that in Viet Nam we have powerful, indeed formidable, opposition, well-organized and national. That is, national in sense that they are Vietnamese; whereas dissident elements in Laos and Cambodia, in accordance with our info, are not Laotian or Cambodian but are also Vietnamese. So that there the problem is quite different.

Q: Do we recognize any difference between Cambodia, where apparently there are no areas which are really under control of Viet Minh, and Laos, where there are very definitely areas which have been more or less constantly under Viet Minh control, in north?

A: Not in principle, because forces which control those areas are identified battalions of Viet Minh Army, identified even with respect to divisions to which they belong. So in principle there is no difference.

Q: When Indochina discussions opened it evidently was strategy of six powers to isolate and deal first with Laotian and Cambodian questions, but now over last two days six delegations have moved around to position of evidently trying to deal with Viet Nam first. Wonder if you could give some explanation or reason for change in strategy.

A: We have not changed our views, have made our position completely clear. It is, as I have outlined to you, with regards to Laos and Cambodia. We propose to deal with them first because they are most susceptible of quick solution. Since other side would not accept that approach, while completely reserving and maintaining our position with respect to Laos and Cambodia, we have, in interest of possible progress, been willing examine other one, because from purely practical point of view, if solution could be reached with regard Viet Nam, it would be very simple to apply principles which have governed that solution to much less difficult problems of Laos and Cambodia. We do not believe cessation of hostilities in Laos and Cambodia should wait on solution of problem in Viet Nam.

Q: Thing that seems to have Cambodians and Laotians worried is, for example, if you accept internati supervision or some political formulas in case of Viet Nam you might be walking into trap where those formulas would be made to apply to Laos and Cambodia as quid pro quo of winding up Viet Nam war.

A: If we are blind enough to walk into trap, then they have reason enough to worry. Don’t think we are.

Q: Are all our allies in same position of completely separating Laos and Cambodia at present?

[Page 952]

A: At present, and in general, yes. There are certain differences of opinion as to tactical approach, slight differences of view as to real practicalities of situation as against position in principle. There is no basic difference.

Q: You have emphasized our position in respect to principle of partition of Cambodia and Laos. Does that also apply to principle of partition in respect to Viet Nam?

A: Our present official position is yes. However, we do have recognized and very practical difference there. You just cannot ignore fact that Ho Chi Minh has well-organized, disciplined formidable military force which controls considerable proportion of country. You cannot just wish that out of existence. Actually, what we are doing here is rather groping for possible solutions which do not violate our principles, but which might produce objective we are seeking, that is, termination of hostilities on honorable basis.

Q: What is your reading as to whether Communist side, on basis of last few days’ sessions, appear to be trying to come to settlement or are they planning for deadlock? What is general tone at this point?

A: I would answer if I could. I really don’t know yet. In dealing with Communists, you know, it takes infinite time. There is unending argument about minutiae of phraseology of proposal, or paragraph, or sentence. We have not gone far enough yet to be able to determine whether we are going to encounter complete intransigence or whether we are going to encounter slight move toward compromise coupled with proposals we cannot accept, or whether we are really going to find some way out. Think next coming week may well tell story.

Q: Do you see any indications here that Communist bloc at present in light of governmental situation in France, is trying through its strategy to link Indochina with EDC?

A: That has worried me great deal; but, again, because I don’t know I haven’t been able form considered opinion as to what their strategy or intentions are. I can very well answer. Obviously, there is or could possibly be very important connection.

Q: Have we any reason to believe there is difference in approach among three Communist delegations on Indochina negotiation?

A: Can’t say I have. Would also be very reluctant to say Molotov, without consultation, is able speak authoritatively for all three. Have seen huddles during recess and delays obviously for tactical purpose of permitting time for discussion among themselves, even on very simple things.

Q: How does this look to you in terms of time? Does it look like all summer job? You mentioned in a week you might be able tell whether you could see any quick ending or another Panmunjom.

[Page 953]

A: If one can approach military solution, or if there seems to be military solution in sight, discussions might go on for long time. But discussions would certainly not go on at foreign minister level. Can’t estimate at this time.

Q: What kind of military solution would that be?

A: First object is to stop killing. Granted you can’t arrive at solution which would stop killing everywhere without considering some political questions along with military solution, because to certain extent there are corollary military political considerations.

Q: What can you tell us about state of Anglo-American relations’?

A: They are good, I think. As matter of fact, you know there was terrific amount of “dust” raised about Anglo-American differences. There were not real differences either as to policies or as to objectives; such differences as existed were differences of opinion with regard to tactics and timing.

We are in very close indeed constant contact with British delegation. Relationships are extremely good. I am not prepared to say in fact I am inclined to believe that in some respects their views on timing were right, while in some respects our views were right. Won’t go into any further detail on that. In any event, there are no serious or substantial differences.

Remember that this conference is in effect still groping. We have our respective basic positions. That does not mean there cannot be or would not be certain amount of compromise, not only between our own, and that of our allies, but between our combined positions on one side, and that of Communists on other, if it will produce end product we want. Nothing rigid about this. As I have said several times, we are really groping to see if there does lie in middle of all this “spate of oratory” germ of solution. It will take little while to do that.

Q: Think we get impression that British probably more inclined to look favorably on some kind deal involving partition than we are. That would seem to be rather fundamental difference.

A: I don’t say that British are not opposed to it in principle either. Don’t think their views have crystallized any more than our own have. We have our respective principles.

Thank you, gentlemen. Hope will be seeing you little more often.

Smith
  1. Transmitted to the Department of State in three sections.