Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 281

United States Minutes of the First Meeting of the Drafting Committee on Indochina1



  • United Kingdom
    • Lord Reading
    • Mr. Allen
    • Mr. Tahourdin
    • Mr. Vallat
  • U.S.S.R.
    • Mr. Gromyko
    • Mr. Novikov
    • Mr. Troyanovsky
  • Vietnam
    • Mr. Dac Khe
    • Mr. Thanh
    • Mr. Buu Kinh
  • Cambodia
    • Amb. Nong Kimny
    • Mr. Sam Sary
    • Mr. Son Sann
  • Communist China
    • Chang Wen-tien
    • Li Ke-nung
    • Pu Shou-chang
    • Ch’en Chia-k’ang
  • United States
    • Mr. Phleger
    • Amb. Heath
    • Mr. Stelle
  • France
    • Amb. Chauvel
    • M. Roux
    • M. Cheysson
    • M. Andronikov
  • Laos
    • Mr. Sananikone
    • Mr. Panya
  • Viet Minh
    • Mr. Phan-Anh
    • Mr. Hoan
    • Mr. Quat

Lord Reading stated that he had had discussions with Mr. Gromyko as to the question of Chairmanship. Since this committee was formed in yesterday’s restricted session, they had thought it should be treated [Page 956] as a carry-over from that session when Mr. Eden was in the Chair rather than a committee which would be attached to the next session of the Ministers when Mr. Molotov would be in the Chair. Mr. Gromyko and he had thought, therefore, that it might be appropriate to have him in the Chair. He wondered whether this was generally agreeable to the other delegations.

Chauvel stated that the French delegation was in full accord with this idea. If meetings similar to this one should be held, the same arrangement might be carried out. The other delegations signified their agreement.

Reading stated that he thought the purpose of the meeting as set by the Ministers was to consider three drafts—the UK draft of the day before yesterday, and the French and Chinese Communists’ drafts which had been tabled at yesterday’s sitting. He thought it would be remembered that Mr. Molotov had proposed certain amendments to the UK draft, that these amendments had been discussed, but that in the end it had proved impossible to reach agreement. Lord Reading distributed drafts of a UK proposal which follows:2

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

Representatives of the 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 the Conference as soon as possible.
The Conference meanwhile should proceed with examination of other military matters, beginning with arrangements for international supervision.”

He stated that the UK itself would like to make one amendment. He would like to delete in the preamble the phrase “It is necessary to determine the areas within which the forces of both sides shall be regrouped. To this end”.

This amendment would leave the effective part of the proposal unchanged. Reading stated he did not want to take advantage of being in the Chair to talk too much, but he would like to make one suggestion on the procedure of this meeting. During the last few days at the restricted meetings we have been making a vigorous effort to arrive at a point where action at last could be taken. It would be a relief and incentive to all of us if we felt we were making genuine progress [Page 957] towards a settlement. It would also be a satisfaction to the whole world which was watching these proceedings.

He stated that we have been searching for common ground but to him two points seemed agreed upon. The first was the necessity for direct contacts between the commanders either in Geneva or on the spot, or perhaps preferably both. The second was the extreme desirability for a simultaneous cease-fire throughout Indochina. He wondered whether it was not possible and urgent to get representatives of the commanders together to begin work on the terms and methods of cessation of hostilities while the conference proceeded with other matters. The conference could then at any time enlarge the terms of reference upon which the military representatives could work. The important thing to do was to get them started on something, and we might get them working on something more later on. He thought it well to recall that the commanders or their representatives could only present proposals to the conference. Only the conference itself could approve or disapprove those proposals. He thought the UK proposal did not conflict in any way with the proposal which had been tabled by Mr. Chou En-lai even though the ideas contained in the Chinese proposal were perhaps expressed in different language. He thought that the first two of the Chinese proposals might be referred to the military representatives and that others might be taken up perhaps later on. He was sorry that he had talked at such great length, but he had thought that it might be useful to give expression to the sense of urgency which he was sure all delegations share. He hoped that the other delegations would express their opinions.

Chauvel gave thanks from the French delegation to the Chairman for a clear and lucid exposition of the task of the committee. He thought the committee was not meant at this level to replace the conference and to repeat its work but rather to facilitate the work of the conference. He thought that if the committee could find points of common agreement it could achieve positive results. He thought the task of the committee should be approached in a positive way and that to this end it should limit the scope of the matters with which it dealt. He thought the committee should address itself to specific matters.

The last meetings of the Ministers have been concerned with the question of bringing together representatives of the commanders-inchief. He thought the question should be put as to whether the conference wants these representatives to meet and to undertake certain tasks for the conference. He thought it was not very difficult for the committee to arrive at useful results. There were quite a few points of common agreement although the angles from which those points were approached were not necessarily the same. He thought that in the [Page 958] various proposals some were addressed to immediate tasks whereas some—suoh as, for example, some of those of the Chinese Communists’ proposal—were larger in scope and addressed to principles. Even in the Chinese Communists’ proposal, however, there were certain immediate tasks which were in common with those of the other proposals. He did agree that proceeding toward finding items of common agreement should be the purpose of this meeting. Finally, of the three proposals he thought that Point a, of the UK proposal, covered the same ground as the first point of the French proposal; Point b of the UK proposal was similar in purpose to the second point of the French proposal; Point c of the UK proposal could be equated with the third point of the French proposal and Point d of the UK proposal with the sixth point of the French proposal.

Chauvel stated that the Chinese proposal was much broader in scope and covered very much the whole ground of the discussions of the conference. However, Paragraph 2 of the Chinese Communists’ proposal did cover points which were referred to in the British and French drafts. If his memory was correct he believed that Chou En-lai had noted the desirability of contact between the commanders in Geneva. The same statement had been made in one form or another by many other delegations. He thought, therefore, that without difficulty this could be extracted as a point of common agreement. He might further say that he had had the feeling that the proposal which the French had made on the 27th of May was not far removed from Mr. Dong’s proposal and that it did not conflict with what the Viet Minh representative had put forward.

The Cambodian, Ambassador Nong Kimny, took note of the amendment which the UK had made to the proposal which it had itself distributed. He stated that the head of the Cambodian delegation had the other day mentioned that the British proposal might raise certain misunderstandings. The head of the Cambodian delegation had at the same time addressed to Mr. Eden questions as to whether the UK proposal applied to all three countries or whether it applied only to Vietnam. Eden had replied, he believed, that the preamble applied to all three countries and the rest to Vietnam. The Ambassador thought he should again address these questions to Lord Reading. He believed that to start with the UK draft might again give rise to a series of amendments and objections. He thought it might be better to start with the French plan, particularly since Paragraph 4 of the French plan removed some of the difficulties which were raised by the proposal of the UK delegation. He would like to propose that the committee begin by considering point by point the French proposal in which [Page 959] case it might then attack directly the question of achieving contact between the two commands.

Lord Reading stated that the UK proposals were general and intended to apply to all three states. Only the specific Paragraph b was directed to Vietnam since this was a question of the greatest urgency. He thought it was for the meeting to decide which proposal it should consider. He himself had no personal objection to considering the French draft.

Gromyko referred first of all to the proposal tabled by the Chinese delegation. He understood that there had been some agreement among the Ministers that these proposals should be considered tomorrow at the next meeting of the Ministers. He thought that at this meeting the committee should begin work at the point where the Ministers had stopped which was, as he saw it, in reconciling the various texts of Eden’s proposal for achieving contacts between the commanders of the two sides. He believed that to save time discussions should be started with the last draft presented by the representative of the UK which as he understood it had been formulated taking into consideration the various opinions expressed around the table. From the observations of the UK representative he understood that this draft had been also formulated in such a way as to represent the ideas proposed by the French delegate. He would like to speak first about the preamble. He thought it would be desirable to insert the phrase “and simultaneously” between the words “the earliest” and the phrase “cessation of hostilities”. He thought that proceeding from the fact that there had been at one time no objections from other delegations to the insertion of such a phrase he did not see why such a very general statement should be unacceptable to any delegation. He thought that if all delegations concurred, the committee could agree on the preamble in its new form.

As to Paragraph a of the UK proposal he would suggest the addition of the phrase “and also to establish contact on the spot”. He proceeded from the fact that this addition had also been discussed in various meetings and had not evoked disapproval. He believed that Mr. Bidault had spoken of the desirability of contacts on the spot.

At this point Lord Reading raised the question as to whether the Russian amendment might read more smoothly if it read “and contact also be established on the spot”. Gromyko acquiesced in Reading’s revision.

Gromyko proposed that Paragraph b of the UK text be amended to read “their task should be to work out regrouping areas for the two sides” or alternatively it should be amended to read, “their task should be to work out regrouping areas for the two sides beginning [Page 960] with Vietnam”. Gromyko accepted Paragraph c. He stated that he still held the view that there was no need at all for Paragraph d. He justified his feeling that there was no need at all for Paragraph d by stating that the Ministers had agreed that the re-establishment of peace should begin with a discussion on how to bring about a cessation of hostilities. There had been already considerable discussion on this point and this committee was addressing itself to these matters. The conference had still to talk political matters.

The question of when they should discuss these was something which the Ministers themselves should decide. There was no reason for the committee to commit them in that respect. In his own view, Gromyko said, if the French and the DRV delegations were agreeable he thought it might be well to give a date when the contacts between the commanders should be established and to amend the British draft on that respect. Gromyko concluded by advocating that it was advisable to take up the last UK draft read, to take into consideration the amendments he had proposed, and to prepare a text for consideration by the Ministers.

Phleger raised a point of inquiry as to whether the USSR had accepted the UK deletion in the preamble of the British draft. Lord Reading thought the USSR had accepted that amendment and read the text including the Russian amendments and deletion of the phrase the UK had recommended to be deleted. Gromyko said he had had in mind the Russian text which had been distributed and that the text as he had it in mind would read “in order to facilitate the earliest and simultaneous cessation of hostilities it is necessary to determine the areas within which the forces of both sides shall be regrouped”. (This made it evident that Gromyko did not accept the UK deletion.)

Reading asked whether Gromyko would have objection to the amended form which he stated was intended only to simplify the proposal. Gromyko said that simplification was good within certain limits but it was not useful when the limits were surpassed. He therefore thought that it was more useful to use the fuller formula of the original UK text.

Sananikone, the Laotian representative, stated his pleasure that after two weeks the conference was about to reach a constructive stage. As to which paper the committee should consider the Laotian thought that it was preferable to extract common points of agreement. He thought that all were agreed on the desirability of the meeting of the commanders. He quesioned why that point should not be presented to the conference for a decision. He had one question, however, to address to Lord Reading. He had understood Reading to say that all except Paragraph b of the UK proposal applied to all of Indochina. If this [Page 961] were so, he wanted to know what commanders were referred to in Paragraph a. If the reference were to the Laos commander and the Viet Minh commander, he thought it should be again made clear that there was in Laos no question of any regrouping but merely a question of simple withdrawal of Viet Minh forces.

Dac Khe thought that progress could be made by leaving the level of the abstract and progressing to the concrete. He thought that progress had been made by beginning a concrete examination of the problems of Vietnam leaving aside for the moment those of Cambodia and Laos, which would be settled later on their merits. He pointed out that the French proposal clearly refers to Vietnam and only Vietnam. Moreover Paragraph 4 of that proposal contained elements which he thought it was necessary for the commanders to have for guidance in their work. He therefore proposed that the committee take the French draft as a basis for discussion.

Lord Reading stated that he fully realized the reasons advanced by the representatives of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, but he wondered whether in view of the fact that the British proposal was so similar to the French, and since it had been already commented upon by the USSR whether it would not be useful for the committee to come back to the UK text and to deal with Gromyko’s amendments as well as certain other amendments which he himself was prepared to make, and amendments which others might care to make. He thought the question needed considering, but he wondered if we could not return for the moment to the British text.

Chauvel commented that he had no pride of authorship, that he did think that the French proposal, particularly with the points which were made in Paragraphs 4 and 5, had some advantage and that there was also an advantage in the fact that the French proposal had no preamble. His mind, however, was open to any text. As regards the UK text, he endorsed the deletion in the preamble which the UK had recommended. He thought that whatever text the committee considered it was running the risk of making no progress unless it realized that principles were one thing and implementation another. He thought it was important to begin with the problems of Vietnam which was the most important theatre of operations. If it were attempted at the same time to deal with the problems of Laos and Cambodia, this might temper whatever draft was arrived at and complicate it. He thought the committee should limit its objective and start with Vietnam. It could immediately thereafter address itself to work on Laos and Cambodia if the conference should so decide. Chauvel commented that if we were dealing with Vietnam alone the notion of a simultaneous cease-fire had no application or meaning. He was concerned that the committee [Page 962] should reach a practical conclusion. If the conference wanted military people to meet and to take up the problems of Vietnam, we should say so simply. If at a later date the conference wanted the same military people to take up the problems of Laos and Cambodia, it could say so at that time. With regard to the question of simultaneous cease-fire the French delegation admits this as a practical possibility, and as a matter of fact, the first part of the French proposal contained mention of the possibility. Chauvel thought that it would be an improvement if the UK proposal could be clearly headed “Proposal for Vietnam”.

As to the question of timing which had been raised by Mr. Gromyko, Chauvel would like to inform the committee that military representatives of the Franco-Vietnamese High Command would be arriving in Geneva Monday.

Phleger stated that his understanding of the terms of reference of the committee was that the committee was to examine the various proposals and the discussions concerning those proposals which had been put forward in the last few days and to extract from them those points on which there was agreement. It was not the task of the committee to make suggestions on matters on which there had been no meeting of the minds. From examination of the proposals and the discussions of the last few days it seemed to him that there were only two clear points on which there was general agreement. First there was general agreement that representatives of the Franco-Vietnamese commanders should meet in Geneva. Second there was agreement that these military representatives should explore means and methods of working out regrouping areas for Vietnam. If there were general agreement on these two points it should be possible to find a way to express this agreement clearly and simply.

Phleger said it was equally clear from an examination of the discussions and proposals that there was not a meeting of the minds on two subjects: (a) There was no agreement that the three countries should be treated in the same manner. (b) There was no general agreement that there must be a simultaneous cessation of hostilities. There might eventually be agreement to that effect but as yet there existed no such agreement. It therefore seemed to him that all language which referred to agreement on simultaneous cessation of hostilities should be excluded from proposals drafted by the committee. Application of the test as to areas of agreement lead him to the view that as amended by the UK the UK proposal was one which clearly stated points on which there was general agreement. It is clear that the task of the military commanders applied solely to Vietnam. The amendments suggested by the USSR on the other hand introduced matters on which there had not been agreement and therefore he did not think that the amendments proposed by the Russian representative should [Page 963] be acceptable. Phleger stated that in a desire to be helpful he made the suggestion that the UK proposal be restricted to Paragraphs a, b and c, that the preamble be dropped and that in line with the views of the Russian representative Paragraph d be omitted also. He thought it would be useful if the names of the commanders referred to were inserted. The proposal would therefore read:

“Representatives of the Franco-Vietnamese and Vietminh 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 the conference as soon as possible.”

Lord Reading stated that several delegations had requested to speak, that there was a plenary on Korea this afternoon, that since it was one o’clock already he did not believe agreement could be reached on the various proposals at this meeting. He recommended an adjournment and asked whether it would be agreeable to the others to meet again at 1030 Saturday morning. The other delegations indicated readiness to meet on Saturday morning. Lord Reading stated that there was just one point he would like to make in closing the meeting—the military representatives would be here Monday, and he thought it would be absolutely a tragedy if we did not have something for them to do.

  1. Drafted by Stelle, Minutes indicate that meeting convened at 11 a.m. and adjourned at 1 p.m. Summary of minutes was transmitted to the Department of State in telegram Secto 333, May 28. (396.1 GE/5–2854)
  2. The British proposal was transmitted to the Department of State in telegram Secto 332, May 28. (396.1 GE/5–2854)