At his news conference on June 8, Secretary of State Dulles, in reply to a question of his assessment of the Geneva Conference talks concerning Indochina to date, said:
“The primary responsibility in those negotiations is being carried, of course, by the French delegation in association with the delegations of the three Associated States of Indochina, Viet-Nam, Laos, and Cambodia.
“The United States is playing primarily the role of a friend which gives advice when it is asked for, and of course we have a very deep hope that the result will be one which will maintain the genuine independence of the entire area and bring about a cessation of the fighting.
“Whether that result is obtainable or not is of course problematic. It seems that the Communist forces in Indochina are intensifying their activities. They have done so ever since the proposal for peace in Indochina, which was taken at the Berlin Conference. There has been, I think, a deliberate dragging out of the negotiations at Geneva while the Communist military effort has been stepped up in Indochina itself. The fact that under these circumstances the Communists are dragging their feet on peace and intensifying their efforts for war is a commentary upon the general attitude of the Communists and gives a lie, I think, to their greatly professed love for peace.”
Asked what, in his view, was the best way to meet a situation where the Communists were intensifying war and dragging their feet on peace, the Secretary said:
“The United States has made a number of suggestions which all fit into a common and consistent pattern.
“The first suggestion of that order was, as I have recalled to you, the proposal that the President made over a year ago in his April 16 address when he proposed that there should be united action in relation to Indochina. That suggestion was not adopted, although, as I mentioned here, I think, in my last press conference, it was followed up in private negotiations by the United States Government.
“I renewed the same suggestion in my March 29, 1954, speech, and the position of the United States with respect to that matter still stands, subject, of course, to the possibility that a time may come when that particular suggestion is no longer a practical one. But it has been a practical one ever since President Eisenhower first made it, and I believe it is still a practical one.”
Asked whether the alternative, should the plan for united action not become practical, might imply the United States dealing with this situation singlehandedly or unilaterally, Dulles replied:
“No. The United States has no intention of dealing with the Indochina situation unilaterally, certainly not unless the whole nature of the aggression should change.… if there should be a resumption by Communist China of open armed aggression in that area or in any other area of the Far East that might create a new situation.”
Asked how long he felt the United States and other nations should continue to sit at Geneva in a sincere effort to negotiate while the Communists dragged their feet at Geneva and intensified the war in Indochina, Secretary Dulles said:
“As I pointed out earlier, the primary responsibility in that respect has to be assumed by the countries that are carrying the principal burden of the fighting in the area, which on our side are France and Viet-Nam. They are recognized by us as having a primacy in this matter. It would be their decision in this respect which would be controlling. I would not want to attempt to establish what I thought should be their policy in this matter.”
The Secretary of State was asked what the objectives of united action would be—would it mean intervention, the holding of a special line in Indochina, or some other objective? The Secretary replied:
“It would obviously have an objective. The objective would be to retain in friendly hands as much as possible of the Southeast Asian peninsular and island area. Now the practicability varies from time to time. What was practical a year ago is less practical today. The situation has, I am afraid, been deteriorating.”
The Secretary was asked what progress had been made toward general acceptance of the united action idea. He replied:
“I would say that progress has been made only in this sense, that two of the conditions precedent have been advanced. Namely, considerable further progress, I think, has been made in clarifying the prospective status of the states of Viet-Nam, Laos, and Cambodia as regards their complete independence. And, also, the fact that on the application of Thailand the Security Council voted 10 to 1 to put that on its agenda, and to begin to get into the matter. That, again, is a movement on one of the fronts which we have felt to be indispensable in relation to united action. In those two respects some progress has been made.”
The Secretary was asked about the progress of the Washington military staff talks and about parallel talks with Asian countries. He replied:
“We have had a series of talks the first of which I think took place here in Washington with the representatives of the Government of [Page 1069] Thailand with reference to their military position and steps which might be taken to strengthen it. Then Secretary Wilson, when he was in Manila a few days ago, had a series of talks, himself and his military advisers, with the representatives of the Philippine General Staff.
“The talks that are going on here in Washington with the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and New Zealand are the same type of talks designed to gather together military information, to assess military possibilities so that if and when it is necessary to take political decisions there will be available at hand the military elements of the problem. I expect a further visit to this country of the Philippine Chief of Staff and possibly a similar visit from Thailand. We are trying to keep in as close touch as we can with the military position, as I say, because that has to be taken into account in reaching political decisions.”
Asked about reports that the Administration might ask Congress to adopt some sort of resolution on the Indochina situation, Secretary Dulles replied:
“There is no present plan for going to Congress for any authority in this matter. As is well known, the general scheme which the United States has had for this area and which I have already described here, would, if it were implemented, probably require congressional action. But there has so far not been a sufficiently general acceptance of the program to make it, as a matter of practical politics, a question of going to Congress.”
For the Secretary’s complete remarks on the Korean and Indochina phases of the Geneva Conference, see the Department of State Bulletin, June 21, 1954, pages 947–949.