396.1 GE/5–2854: Telegram
Eighth Restricted Session on Indochina, Geneva, May 29, 3 p.m.: The United States Delegation to the Department of State1
Secto 349. Repeated information Paris 365, London 229, Moscow 99, Tokyo 100, Saigon 132, Phnom Penh Vientiane unnumbered. Tokyo pass CINCFE. Department pass Defense. Eighth restricted session, Saturday, May 29, Molotov presiding.
Eden stated informal talks yesterday had, he hoped, produced agreement on text which was merely attempt to express generally accepted view without anyone accepting at this stage undertakings they found impossible (text telegraphed separately2). If agreed, date for meeting of representatives of commanders should be fixed.
Bidault held it important to begin concrete discussions between representatives of commanders and that Eden text permitted such discussions to start. French did not object, it being understood talks would begin on regrouping in Vietnam. France reserved its point of view on other problems, notably on difference between Laotian and Cambodian problems, and that of Vietnam. Other questions dealt with in general discussion such as controls and guarantees must also be solved before any agreement could be considered valid. Military experts would work merely on behalf of conference and their findings could not commit it without its explicit approval. Representatives of French and Vietnam Commands would be available here as of June 1.
Dong in long prepared statement said regrouping essential but must not interfere with essential unity of country. Two armed forces must first be separated but peace could only be based on recognition of national rights and independence of people of Vietnam. Essence of military problem was cease-fire. Essence of political problem was independence and territorial unity. Establishment of zones was only transitory and provisional measure looking toward national unity to be attained through free elections. Progress toward peace and unity was disconcerting to US interventionists but their obstinacy deceived [Page 971] no one, particularly in Indochina. Bao Dai’s army and administration were falling apart. Viet Minh proposals were greeted with unanimous enthusiasm by Indochinese in France as well as Indochina. He thought Chinese proposals should be accepted as synthesis of views so far expressed and conference then pass on to other questions. British proposal contained essential element of direct contact between military and was acceptable. It would take some time to get Viet Minh representatives here. Local contacts between commanders would be even more important than those in Geneva. (He distributed statement on completion of evacuation of 858 wounded of 21 nationalities from Dien Bien Phu with what he stated was agreed report on evacuation by field representatives of two parties.)
Molotov remarked sharply that Viet Minh statement covered several points not dealt with in Eden proposal. They could be dealt with later. Eden proposal was subject of discussion at present. No objections had been raised to it. If it was agreed, conference could pass on to other work.
Bidault said that although Viet Minh statement on evacuation of wounded contained many misstatements, he would not enter into polemics other than to say evacuation of wounded had not been completed. French Government for its part was prepared unilaterally to liberate a large number of wounded Viet Minh.
Chou in single sentence favored adoption of Eden proposal.
Cambodian delegate stated understanding Eden proposal concerned Vietnam only. Cambodia had no objection to simultaneous cease-fire provided arrangements were made for withdrawal of foreign invaders from Cambodia. Since no Cambodian representative would participate in discussions, he reserved right to contest any prejudicial recommendations. Regrouping could not apply to Cambodia. If his reservations were accepted by all other delegations, UK proposal was acceptable as starting point for military experts, who should be instructed to consider regrouping in Vietnam only.
Laos accepted Eden proposal on understanding regrouping could be applied only to Vietnam.
Vietnam representative agreed representatives of two Commands should meet here soonest but their work would be purely technical. It must be guided by general principles, one of which as included in French proposal was that regrouping should not be detrimental to Vietnamese political and territorial unity. Press had been nearly unanimous in regarding Viet Minh proposals as [calling for?] partition. Even if it were called provisional, same had been true of division of Korea. He asked that statement of this principle be added to Eden proposal.[Page 972]
Molotov stated Soviet delegation considered Eden proposal acceptable and would in due course express its views on matters covered therein. Speaking again as chairman, he wished to sum up discussion. Meeting was discussing question of whether Eden proposal was acceptable. Account must be taken of the reservations already made and others which might be made by other delegations. He believed all were proceeding on assumption UK draft did not exhaust questions upon which it touched but that on other hand it was acceptable in its present form as all had spoken favorably of it as step forward. If it were acceptable to all, date should be fixed and he suggested June 1 as French had earlier proposed.
Dinh said that as representative of most interested party, he must return once more to question of safeguarding Vietnamese political and territorial unity. Without assurance on this point, it would be difficult for him to accept Eden proposal which neither provided for nor excluded partition.
Molotov expressed desire to help. He suggested it was common view of all that we should proceed from principle of Vietnamese unity and that this matter could not provoke any discussion.
Dong expressed agreement.
Molotov again inquired as to date.
Dong recalled his reservation as to delay in arrival of his military representative and suggested continuing and expanding contact already established between his delegation and French.
Bidault suggested that if Viet Minh representatives were not here by June 1 talks could start with whomever they had on hand. Chou referred to mechanical difficulties of transport and suggested meeting recess. Smith believed any mechanical difficulties could be easily overcome and asked estimate of time necessary.
Following recess, during which Communist delegates met, Viet Minh delegation, after smilingly turning down US delegation offer of plane of “aggressor state” to bring Viet Minh military representative to Geneva, repeated Viet Minh “taking necessary dispositions” and finally said would advise prior June 1 date when Viet Minh military representative would arrive Geneva.
Molotov then embarked on lengthy commentary of principles set forth in CPR proposal of May 27 (Secto 3265). He said all delegates seemed to agree regarding simultaneous cease-fire applicable all armed forces in Indochina and that direct negotiations between parties concerned [Page 973] both in Geneva and on spot should lead to implementation this principle. Question of adjustment of territories, grouping of troops and passage of troops across areas held by each side and other matters could also be discussed by military representatives in Geneva and on spot.
Molotov strongly endorsed CPR position regarding importance of stopping entry of troops and war matériels into Indochina. This problem leads to problem of controls and supervision. Molotov stated that supervision by an international commission had been proposed by the French delegation and others and that the Soviet delegation had proposed supervision by commission of neutral countries. After an agreement in principle on this point, question of composition could be taken up. Molotov also endorsed Viet Minh proposal supported by CPR regarding principle of control by commission made up of representatives of two Commands. He discussed this as an indisputable proposal to which no one had objected. Molotov then referred to French proposal that agreements be guaranteed by Geneva conference states and said Soviet delegation had expressed agreement. He continued that no other delegation had expressed objection. Following agreement in principle on guarantee Molotov envisaged discussion of character of commitments to be entered into as suggested by CPR. Molotov said that USSR believes in consultation which would then provide approach collective action. Molotov believed no difficulty would be encountered regarding prisoners of war and civil internees.
Molotov suggested it would be well to record agreement regarding principles involved in CPR proposals. Their adoption would facilitate discussion of other matters on which agreement not yet reached.
US delegate stated he could not accept all of “interesting summary” made by Molotov, adding that there are objections to CPR proposals. He added that some of CPR proposals already taken care of in UK proposal adopted. He stated nothing more important than questions of supervision. He suggested that at next meeting conference devote its attention to such matters as type, quality and composition of supervisory authority, stating that if this matter could be disposed of practically all others might fall into line; if not, problem very difficult indeed.
Molotov then read draft communiqué (see Secto 3476).
US delegate stated that while there was agreement on communiqué various delegations have made reservations or statements establishing their positions regarding UK proposal. US delegate stated he reserved right to make US position clear and to make statement to press along [Page 974] lines brief statement he had previously made (see Secto 343 and Secto 344).
Cambodian delegate made statement endorsing US delegate’s statement and stating that Cambodian delegate would make Cambodian reservation available to press.
Soviet delegate said that if each delegation could give its point of view regarding communiqué, nature and purpose of communiqué might be vitiated. He suggested perhaps conference had better resume plenary sessions.
US delegate stated this special case and suggested perhaps a sentence could be added to communiqué to effect various delegates reserved position on certain matters of principle.
Eden, who during this discussion had been showing signs great impatience and irritation then said perhaps terms of UK proposal might be altogether omitted from communiqué (see below).
Chou En-lai said communiqué had better be left as read and asked whether US delegate proposal would not empower every delegation to make its views known through a press conference.
US delegate expressed appreciation for Chou En-lai observation. Stressed that US delegation has observed press ethics in matter of restricted sessions. He pointed out however this peculiar situation in which US delegation authorized not to accept and not to oppose UK proposal but rather to record certain principles. He stressed he did not intend, in dealing with press, to go beyond framework of brief remarks he had made.
Molotov then suggested that agreement be reached to adopt communiqué without additions, to take note of observations made by delegates regarding their reservations and not to restrict delegations in their dealings with press on this topic. This was generally agreed.
Comment: It was clear that while there had been prior coordination between Molotov and Chinese, Viet Minh had not been given their instructions prior to meeting and were somewhat slow in responding to Molotov’s clear directions that they agree to meeting of Commanders in Geneva if possible by June 1.
Although I had discussed with Eden at intermission fact that we would have to make our position clear on various reservations of principle we had taken, when I raised subject in meeting both Eden and Reading gave a startling public exhibition of impatience and pique which included an irate aside by Reading, audible throughout room to effect UK should withdraw its proposal. In contrast Molotov remained calm and finally accepted that it would be understood each delegation would be able to make clear positions it had taken with regard to resolution.
- A set of minutes of this session (IC Restricted/8) 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 p.m. The minutes are also printed in Conférence de Genève, pp. 159–167. The communiqué issued by the Conference is printed in Cmd. 9186, p. 136.↩
- Telegram Secto 336, dated May 28, p. 965.↩
- In telegram Secto 344, May 29, the U.S. Delegation reported that the last sentence of text of telegram Secto 343, infra, should read “US delegation of course reserves its right, as do others, to decide for itself.” (396.1 GE/5–2954)↩
- Dated May 27, p. 947.↩
- Dated May 29, p. 975.↩