396.1 GE/6–254: Telegram
The United States Delegation to the Department of State1
Secto 360. For McCardle from Suydam. Following is substantial verbatim Under Secretary’s briefing US press morning June 2:
We have tried, as executive sessions on Indochina went on, to give certain amount of guidance, which I hope has been helpful. On one occasion, as in reserving our general position with regard special problems Laos, Cambodia in connection with proposal for military staff talks, I gave you practically verbatim statement. Those of you who read statement will note we did not interpret UK proposal as deviating any way from principle which we on our side all accept, that is special situation which exists in Laos, Cambodia. No difference opinion on our side about that.
As Korean phase approaches conclusion, very clear Allied side is able to rest its case on one very important principle and one clear-cut issue. We stand before world on that issue and that principle. Issue is authority and moral force of UN as exponent collective security.
This has been categorically rejected by all Communist participants: it has been strongly upheld by all other participants. It is issue we cannot see fuzzed up or abandoned, from which we have no intention retreating. It looks as though two opposing points view were not reconcilable at this time.
With regard Indochina phase, as I told you before, our position in conference itself is little bit different from what it is in Korean side [Page 1003] of conference. We are not belligerents although we have given assistance to our allies in Indochina. In conference itself, our position is rather one of trying to give friendly advice when suitable and of upholding there, as well as in Korea, certain principles to which we adhere.
Indochina phase is seeking solution for problems of supervision and guarantees. Has been pretty generally reported what first definite proposal was, with regard to composition of supervisory commission. Without going into details in regard that proposal, would like mention performance neutral nations supervisory commission in Korea which, as you know, consists of Switzerland, Sweden, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.
Senior Swedish representative, General Mohn, who has recently returned to Sweden, officer of great character, ability and integrity, has characterized that performance as complete farce, and so it is.
Swiss and Swedes have had complete access to UN side for most thorough inspections. They have made separate report in which they completely disassociated themselves from report submitted by Poles and Czechs. Swiss and Swedes refute and deny point by point allegations made by two Communist members. We have done everything we could to help make that supervisory commission effective. It had built-in veto at beginning, and that veto has been consistently exercised during entire scope its operation. US, under no circumstances, would even consider adopting similar formula anywhere else in world where really neutral supervision by international authority was necessary for solution.
Have interesting paper2 on my desk which was prepared by staff of coordinating committee just before I left Washington. C. D. Jackson, who at that time was intimately concerned with work of committee, assisted in reviewing paper. Title is “War by Cease-fire”. Some day will make it available to you. It starts out with quotation from Chou En-lai, which is extremely significant. It points up very definitely crux of this whole problem of what Chou En-lai calls “coalition government” as corollary of an armistice, a cease-fire, for political reasons. We cannot lend ourselves to any theory like that, and won’t.
Question: When military men sit down here and start drawing up papers, are they working on basis of general line across Indochina or are they working on basis of trying to define pockets and areas of controls?
Answer: Can only tell you what French theory is. Can guess how Viet Minh will approach it. My guess is Viet Minh will try draw line right across, further down the better. I know French do not accept [Page 1004] theory like that. They propose outlining certain areas. That is what you call at Leavenworth “drawing goose eggs on map”, that is, assembly areas for regular troops. Of course, that will leave certain other areas which are in effect demilitarized, where irregular forces would presumably lay down arms. That is why question of supervisory authority assumes such transcendent importance. In first place, where men have been fighting for almost eight years, you cannot expect when whistle blows they will in good faith lay down their arms, sit there, and look at each other. You know what will happen unless there is some really competent neutral, effective supervisory authority on spot. That means on spot with troops.
Q: Could thing equally break down on issue of whether you draw continuous line, or whether you try to do it by areas?
A: Again, from my point view, we are not in position here of either forcing viewpoint or of obstructing or preventing agreement. It might be agreement with which we could not associate ourselves.
Q: Would it not take great deal more troops and logistic facilities to supervise French plan?
A: Indeed it would, because other is simply partition.
Q: This morning BBC announced consideration was being given to French plan under which Britain, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland would be members of neutral commission.
A: I hadn’t even heard of it.
Q: Have we any suggestions ourselves as to what composition of neutral commission should be?
A: No, we have no suggestions.
Q: Do we have general suggestions in terms what categories of countries, how to divide them up far as areas of world might be concerned, as Asians, Europeans, and that sort of thing?
A: We have two views in matter. First I have already given you, and that is that country in Soviet orbit cannot be neutral. Second one is that insofar as possible, we would like see Asiatic nations police their own back yard. There are, of course, European interests there and very strong ones, but we have in mind no specific proposals as to what consortium of nations would or would not be acceptable, except we completely reject idea there should be two so-called neutral nations and two so-called Communist neutral nations. We do not think second thing exists.
Q: What would our attitude be, say, towards Colombo powers taking on job, with India carrying most of load far as providing troops?
A: I don’t know. I do not have instructions from Department on it.[Page 1005]
Q: Will you give us our position as of now in regard Laos, Cambodia?
A: Our position as of now in regard Laos, Cambodia is that they are invaded by foreign troops, that foreign troops should be withdrawn, and that when foreign troops are withdrawn there is no problem either in Laos, Cambodia. Sooner foreign troops are withdrawn, sooner fighting stops. There are in both states regular Viet Minh battalions identifiable by division. They should be withdrawn.
Q: Is there agreement among the six on that position?
Q: What do you understand about that agreement, as announced in communiqué Saturday night? What do you understand position is going to be under provision for military talks in Indochina as well as here?
A: Ultimate decisions will have to be made here. There would, of course, have to be certain field reconnaissance and field contacts, but our view is that decision is to be made here, not by two sides in Indochina sitting down and defining areas, because there are political considerations involved.
You mentioned two possible alternatives, one which might be quite acceptable to soldier in field, and that is just drawing line, pretty easy thing to do. This would be completely unacceptable, I would say, from political point of view.
Q: Does this statement in regard to our position re Laos, Cambodia mean we would probably disassociate ourselves from any agreement which would give Viet Minh northern Laos, which they now effectively control?
A: Yes. At present time our position is we cannot associate ourselves with any formula which partitions or dismembers Vietnam.
Q: I was talking about Laos, north Laos.
A: You said “which they effectively control”. I don’t understand they effectively control it at all.
Q: French themselves say that 25% is controlled by Viet Minh.
A: We have couple of bright young soldiers here who have been all over it. One has visited every Cambodian battalion but one. That terrain, he reports, is just as wild and jungle-like as Bataan peninsula used to be in early days when I took parties over it to keep trails open. Battalion or part of battalion can take position anywhere in that northern territory of Laos and claim it controls everything within 500-mile radius. It can probably maintain that claim until two battalions go and chase it out. Then it moves couple hundred miles away, sits down and makes same claim. So there you are. It is extremely rugged terrain.[Page 1006]
Q: But even as far as Vietnam is concerned, we would not associate ourselves with any formula which resulted in dismemberment or partition of country, is that it?
A: Permanent dismemberment or partition. Molotov has categorically stated that views of entire conference are that there will not be dismemberment or partition.
Q: Is operative word there “permanent”? You said “permanent partition or dismemberment”. In other words, if there is temporary line drawn we could associate ourselves with two-zone system.
A: Even that I would hesitate to subscribe to because once you draw line, divide country and provide what you might call demilitarized zone in between, you have in effect partitioned it. It would depend largely on political formula whether that were permanent partition or not. But what we witnessed in Korea is not in any way encouraging to thought that there could be reasonably prompt, political formula which would resolve it and prevent it from being dismembered or partitioned.
Q: What’s your interpretation of Molotov’s categorical assertion on this point? Does it mean they want whole country?
A: That’s right.
Q: Is there any news about American prisoners in China? You told us last week it seemed to be reasonable thing to engage in direct contracts with Chinese if necessary.
A: If we can do it on proper basis, yes, but we haven’t found out anything yet.
Q: What would be proper basis?
A: Basis of complete disassociation of any recognition. Don’t know whether that can be done or not.
Q: If we were opposed to principle of partition and we are opposed to any form of coalition settlement, how do we see solution of that problem?
A: Actually, we are just now shooting at cease-fire side of it. We do not believe you can have any kind of political settlement, any reasonable political settlement, until military operations have ceased until peace and tranquility have been restored, if that is possible.
Q: But that in itself will involve some sort of de facto revision of forces which could be beginning of partition, even unintentionally. Most of our partitions started off that way in other countries.
A: Can only repeat what I said before, that if you drew line across country that would indeed be beginning, in our view, of partitioning. If, however, you withdrew regular troops into series of enclaves or pockets of various sorts, depending on locations, and kept them there and disarmed irregulars in demilitarized areas in between, and did it [Page 1007] under effective international supervision, this would not necessarily involve partition.
Q: When Molotov made his categorical rejection of idea of partition could you draw from that the meaning that in military talks Communists will accept principle of grouping by areas rather than trying draw continuous line?
A: Can only give you Molotov’s words.
Q: It strikes me as being rather important, categorical statement like that.
A: It strikes me as being very important. Can draw my own conclusions and I leave you to draw yours, but I can’t interpret his words because he didn’t interpret them. He just simply says we are all in agreement that there should not be dismemberment.
Q: In view military situation in Indochina today, do you think West can afford to keep these negotiations going for indefinite time here?
A: Sometimes I have mental picture of myself wandering up and down corridors of hotel Du Rhone with long white beard. It is very hard to say.
Q: Last week you said you were still groping for some solution. Do you see any more daylight today than you did last week?
A: Only in sense that it does look as though finally we get some of military people down to drawing goose eggs on map then we can see what is going to come out of it.
Q: What’s our attitude towards Siamese proposal on Korea to set up semi-permanent commission to continue exploring problem?
A: I didn’t know there had been any such proposal officially made.
Q: Well, Prince Wan has been promoting idea and New York Times had it Monday.
A: Well, actually until I get it from Prince Wan or get it officially I won’t comment.
Q: Do we favor any possible semi-permanent machinery to continue exploring problem?
A: I don’t know because if and when such proposal were officially made would have to go back to Department and find out.
Q: You said any neutral supervision in Indochina would have to be with troops. Do you have any idea how many troops would be necessary?
A: Have my own ideas which probably not entirely accurate because to make estimate of that sort you have to go over terrain and map very carefully and make military plan. I should think it would be somewhat on order of about three times as many as were needed in Korea. In Korea it was 5,000. Should think it would take two or three [Page 1008] times that many in Indochina, considering nature of terrain and long frontiers involved.
Q: You are talking about Vietnam itself?
A: No, I am talking about whole area because you have got border problems, even though Viet Minh regular troops are withdrawn, you have got some irregular troops. Remember frontier between Laos and Vietnam is extremely long frontier and very rugged. There are Vietnamese living on Laotian side of frontier and there are Laotians living on Vietnamese side, so you really have problem of border observation, as well as problem of administering cessation of hostilities inside one country.
Q: Would there be American troops among this approximate 15,000?
A: Hell, no.
Q: Korean plenaries will presumably continue more or less as they have been going. There is no move to break that side off, is there?
A: It’s pretty hard to forecast tactics on matter of that kind, but we do have really basic and fundamental issue which it does not appear we are likely to be able to resolve here. When you have real basic and fundamental issue, one might as well stand on that rather than have it fuzzed up by lot of possibly supplementary suggestions and speculations. That is way I feel about it.
Q: Have there been any indications from Communist side here, since conference started, that it would try to persuade West to drop American conception of Asiatic Pact in return for guarantee system?
Q: Will Thailand move in UN have an effect on conference?
A: Don’t think it should. I think that it is just move of common prudence.