396.1 GE/6–254: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State

top secret

Dulte 141. I hope to see Bao Dai within the next few days and when I do, I will put to him the four questions listed in Geneva Tedul 1101 and urge on him the formation of an appointive provisional national assembly initially having broad consultative powers but also constituent powers.

I will, I believe, get answers to the questions and probably approval, in principle, of a consultative-constituent assembly. I doubt, however, [Page 1009] that I will be successful in getting Bao Dai to return promptly to Vietnam. He will wish to continue in close contact with his delegation here. Furthermore, his decisions regarding degree to which he will directly engage his person and his fortunes in fate of Vietnam at this time will, in my judgment, not be made until current Franco-American discussions reach conclusion. Even if Bao Dai does return, it, of course, highly problematical whether he is capable of exerting real leadership or of setting an inspiring personal example or of driving through fundamental reforms in his government.

To the extent that the trend of Bao Dai’s recent thinking has been accurately reported by Ngo Dinh Luyen (Secto 3132), it seems likely that Bao Dai will endeavor to draw me out on the degree to which he can count on direct US assistance particularly in the event that French will and capacity to carry on the struggle in Indochina should markedly decrease. With any assurance, of unconditional backing from us or perhaps merely encouragement, Bao Dai might conceivably within a week or so withdraw his delegation from Geneva although he would, of course, consult with Bidault first. Vietnamese Foreign Minister Dinh told Heath May 31 that tactics of the Vietnamese delegation for next few days were to go through the motions of negotiating a cessation of hostilities in order not to embarrass Bidault whose private preference, Dinh felt, would be for a firm stand for continuing the fight against the Viet Minh if his government and French Parliamentary and public opinion would allow it. Dac Khe, deputy chief of the Vietnamese delegation, said he was thinking of recommending to Bao Dai the withdrawal of the Vietnamese delegation after a few days and asked Heath what he thought of such an idea. Heath replied that it would be unthinkable to break up the conference at this stage.

Bao Dai will, therefore, probably ask me for my advice as to the course of action he should take and the support he would receive from us in the event the French here appear disposed to agree on a cessation of hostilities on a basis which will practically result in a turnover of Vietnam to the Communists.

I should like to take the position with Bao Dai that these are not profitable topics for exploration and discussion at this time. I shall inform him in general terms of the present state of our efforts to create an effective organization for united action and of the discussions we are having with the French regarding possible US intervention in Indochina (in this I shall be confirming widespread press reports). On the other hand, we could not consider participating in the conflict without prior Congressional approval, assurances of continued [Page 1010] French participation and some form of UN association and assurances of cooperation from other countries in the area. I would wish to take the line that any important action now taken by either France, by Vietnam or by the US as the three active partners in the enterprise to save Vietnam from Communist control should be carefully coordinated with other partners in order to make sure that any single action will in fact result in net addition to strength of the partnership as a whole.

I shall say that particularly in France there are dangerously strong forces of defeatism which will seize upon any pretext or excuse to diminish or even abandon the French contribution. I shall say to Bao Dai that in my judgment for the present and probably for many months to come that contribution is vital and irreplaceable.

I shall tell Bao Dai that I have been encouraged by the French plans for reinforcing the expeditionary corps and at the general willingness of the French to envisage a more direct US participation in the training and perhaps also the supplying of the Vietnamese national army. I shall state that I would hope his relations with the French would be constantly characterized by the mutual confidence and consultation which has existed in the past.

I shall add, however, that if the present relatively favorable situation should change, I should hope immediately to have consultations with Bao Dai in order to concert with him such measures as might seem appropriate. I would expect him to take no decisions, based upon a French withdrawal from the struggle, until he had given me and other representatives of our government a full opportunity to discuss the situation with him and to see what measures might be requisite.

Urgent guidance requested.3

  1. Dated May 22, p. 892.
  2. Dated May 26, p. 936.
  3. Department’s reply contained in telegram Tedul 159, June 5, p. 1044.