396.1 GE/6–854: Telegram

Fifth Plenary Session on Indochina, Geneva, June 8, 1954, 3:03 p.m.: The United States Delegation to the Department of State1


Secto 405. Repeated information Paris 404, London 260, Tokyo 118, Moscow 111, Phnom Penh, Vientiane. Department pass Defense, Tokyo pass CINCFE. Fifth Indochina plenary session Tuesday June 8 with Eden presiding opened with long well-balanced speech by Bidault reviewing progress so far in effort define points of agreement and problems still at issue. Bidault pointed out as result adoption French [Page 1070] proposal May 172 give priority military aspects cease-fire, progress of conference was “not negligible”. But desire French delegation take up cases Laos and Cambodia first, because simpler, frustrated by Communist insistence “peace indivisible” and in order facilitate progress conference French had agreed to discuss Vietnam first. Bidault emphasized, however, that although some progress made discussions Vietnam, cases of Laos and Cambodia still pending.

Bidault then took up six points which he said would bring out those matters on which there was agreement and those on which divergent views had been expressed:

Principle of cessation of hostilities. All delegates agreed this principle which French delegate had proposed May 8. However, Communists wanted simultaneous cease-fire throughout Indochina and some delegates had expressed reservation on this.
Regroupment of regular units. After various proposals had been made Eden text was adopted on May 29.3 French had observed at that time that regrouping applied only to Vietnam and that principle of unity of Vietnam could not be questioned. All delegates had agreed principle unity of Vietnam. Concrete results Eden proposal manifested in meeting at Geneva on June 2 of representatives High Commands both sides4 and preparations going forward for on-the-spot meetings in Indochina. French delegate hoped these military discussions could proceed rapidly so that conference could examine concrete recommendations on map.
Irregular forces. Pointing out one-third Viet Minh forces in this category, Bidault stressed conference could not leave large part forces one party free; conference should study this problem when talks on zones had progressed sufficiently. Bidault felt Dong statement May 255 did not rule out possibility agreement this point.
Entry of troops and material into Vietnam after cessation of hostilities. Clauses in armistice agreement relating this subject should apply equally to both parties. Should also cover local war production. Without strict control of Vietnam’s land and sea frontiers accord on supervision would be illusory and fraudulent. Agreement on this principle seems possible.
Prisoners of war and civilian internees. There is unanimous agreement on immediate liberation of POWs and civilian internees following cessation of hostilities.
Controls and guarantee. Bidault stressed following aspects this problem:
Responsibilities International Neutral Control Commission should extend to all clauses of armistice.
Joint Commissions of two sides must be subordinated to International Commission; questions on which Joint Commissions cannot agree should be submitted to International Commission for decision by majority vote. Communist delegates insistence that essential responsibility for certain aspects of armistice be confined to Joint Commissions, which would not be subordinated to International Commission, represents serious divergence in views which must be surmounted.
Composition of International Commission should be determined by criteria of objectivity, impartiality and effectiveness, any countries meeting these criteria satisfactory to French. An International Commission composed four neutrals chosen reflect equally views two sides would be impotent. Such content would guarantee no one.
There must be authority to which International Commission reports. This organ would in turn look to guarantors of armistice, namely members Geneva conference. Bidault emphasized guarantee must not be paralyzed by any veto.

Bidault summed up “appreciable results” of conference as follows: (1) method of work chosen; (2) principle total cessation hostilities accepted, simultaneously throughout Indochina if possible; (3) principle regroupment zones Vietnam adopted and referred competent persons for study; (4) principle of setting up International Control Commission accepted.

Bidault cautioned however, that serious differences existed on essential points which cannot be exceeded without infringing essential principles. He specified three subjects which had not yet been examined or on which conclusions not yet reached: (1) Laos and Cambodia; (2) regroupment zones; and (3) methods of control.

Next speaker was Pham Van Dong who said he would like to compare various proposals made during conference. Claiming Vietnam proposals realistic, fair, rational, he attacked proposals other delegates as unilateral, incomplete, and negative. Describing Bidault’s proposals as completely military, Dong stressed interdependence political and military problems, said even Bidault military proposals failed reflect real situation Indochina and thus not likely lead to agreement. Dong then attacked sarcastically proposals made by “Bao Dai delegate”, singling out particularly proposals on incorporation Viet Minh Forces into Vietnamese Army and elections under UN supervision for government under aegis Bao Dai. He also attacked theses that there should be no control on introduction of arms into Cambodia and Laos.

Saying that “first result” of conference was acceptance resolution pertaining to contacts by representatives of High Commands in Geneva and Indochina, Dong accused French of offering nothing in military meetings which could lead to agreement and of stalling start of on-the-spot talks in Indochina. Dong ridiculed recent initialling of [Page 1072] Vietnam independence treaty in Paris, saying it was simply fulfilling condition laid down by US for intervention in Indochina.

Dong then made several proposals, suggested conference discuss in “realistic fashion” proposals tabled by Chou En-lai. Invited French delegate expedite on-the-spot contacts of military representatives in Indochina. Invited conference to embark immediately on discussion of political questions such as recognition of Vietnam, general elections, and relations Indochina with France, including association of Vietnam with French Union.

Third speaker was Tep Phan, Cambodian delegate, who again drew attention to fact that Cambodia was victim of Viet Minh aggression and reiterated Cambodian demand for complete evacuation Viet Minh Forces. He then made four-point proposal. (See Secto 367.6)

Turning to task of International Control Commission, Tep Phan said its tasks different in Cambodia than Vietnam and outlined its control functions in Cambodia as follows: (1) evacuation of Viet Minh regular and irregular forces; (2) disarming of all armed elements not in the army or police forces; (3) liberation and exchange of POW’s and civilian internees; (4) external activities endangering peace and security of Cambodia.

Phan emphasized his government could not accept any control over the entry of troops and war material into Cambodia, pointing out that unlike Vietnam there would be no armistice in Cambodia since all Viet Minh troops would be withdrawn. He assured Communist delegates Cambodian Army being trained for defense frontiers only and said his government prepared under certain conditions limit size of army in order not to pose threat to neighboring countries.

Cambodian delegate then discussed briefly questions composition International Control Commission, pointing out Korean experience demonstrated uselessness of Commission with composition suggested by Soviet delegate. He referred again to Cambodian proposal on composition of June 47 and suggested if no agreement could be reached on Commission of neutral countries control of armistice should be entrusted to UN.

Following recess, Molotov made long speech which included attacks on US, France and Associated States. Beginning with comments on insincerity some participant this conference which supposed to be concerned with restoration peace in Indochina, he then claimed US scheming on Southeast Asia military pact with colonial powers; pointed to military talks in Washington; accused US of ordering Thailand UN appeal in order prepare for UN intervention which really US.

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Molotov then stated that Indochina cease-fire must be enduring and therefore necessary take up political problems. Although priority military question agreed at beginning conference, it was now time to sum up and begin on political matters. He noted result of discussion of various proposals was some movement toward reconciliation, such as agreement simultaneous cease-fire, in spite some reservation, regroupment regular forces, and meeting of military representatives.

Also establish agreement in principle to Viet Minh proposal non-introduction foreign troops and arms after cease-fire. No doubt raised necessity Joint Commissions or international supervision. Guarantee of settlement by conference powers suggested by France received favorably by Soviet delegate. In discussing guarantees, Molotov, did not mention “collective”.

Molotov also marked areas disagreement such as function and composition International Supervisory Commission, and noted “crude attempts discredit NNSC in Korea”. Maintained Communist position of more important role for joint committees which should be responsible for all on-the-spot measures to ensure the cessation of hostilities.

Leading up to further comment on political questions, he praised national liberation movements in three states. Acknowledged differences in three such as three quarters of Vietnam in hands of movement while in Laos one-half of country not under control of “official agencies of the government”. Cambodia “less” but developing. Ridiculed claims of Associated States to independence, pointing out no Asian power believes this true; that is why they have not recognized. Eight years of attempts to re-establish colonial regime has resulted in 100,000 French killed, wounded and cost of 2,000 billion francs and heavy defeats in spite US aid. War was not in national interest of France, but if French Government wished to end it there was now possibility peace with honor on both sides.

Molotov disliked dwelling on military matters and said restoration peace required settlement two basic political questions: (1) relationships between France and Indochina states, and (2) internal political matters. Since Viet Minh had made generous offer, including readiness to examine French Union membership, and French had claimed willingness to recognize independence of three states, should not be too difficult to reach agreement.

Then returned to attack Associated States Government quoting from US House Committee reports to prove Associated States lack independence. Commented Dien-Bien-Phu defended by foreigners who had nothing to do with France or Vietnam. Noted futile attempts to prove foreign elements with Viet Minh. Further proof lack of popular support for Bao Dai was failure to mobilization.

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He devoted considerable comment to subject national elections in Vietnam and asked for French position. Ridiculed performance of Vietnamese in municipal elections and quoted western sources to effect Viet Minh would win if national elections held. Elections must be held in Vietnam under conditions freedom of activity for patriotic parties, groups and organs. However, elections should be preceded by withdrawal foreign troops, which requires military settlement at Geneva. He then enumerated three main political problems as: (1) establish Franco-Indochina relations on basis equality and freedom; (2) free elections in all three states for democratic government; (3) on-thespot contacts in Indochina for contribution to political as well as military settlement.

Molotov concluded with repetition of call for free elections after foreign troops withdrawal, direct contact in Indochina, and then proposed parallel consideration by conference of political and military matters by means alternate meetings.

Eden then made strongest and most forceful statement thus far made by UK in conference (Secto 404)8 during which he suggested five Colombo powers for Supervisory Commission.

Bidault returned with vigorous but dignified reproach to tone and line of Communist speeches this session. Disappointed by insistence on political question, since cessation hostilities was obviously beginning of any solutions. He referred to speech on Korea by Soviet delegate in Security Council Malik in June 1951 and quoted him as follows:

“The Soviet peoples believe that the first measure should be to introduce discussions between belligerents for the purpose of bringing about a cease-fire and an armistice, involving the withdrawal of the forces behind an agreed line”.

Said Viet Minh should not worry over lack of contacts Indochina since instructions had been given to French authorities to carry this out. Hoped duality these contacts Indochina and Geneva would not cause delays. Said that answer to Dong’s remark that some people wanted international war was that simplest means preventing this was to end war. Made special reference to Molotov’s attacks and noted lack of urbanity usually found in this eminent and experienced diplomat, and regretted that one of conference chairmen had resorted to partisan attack.

Dinh commented that truce on insults should be first order of business. Eden then called on US delegate.

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Under Secretary offered forgo his statement in view late hour if other remaining inscribed delegates willing do same. Molotov said he would like speak one minute. Under Secretary refused yield to Molotov and then made statement Secto 403.9

Molotov, obviously reacting to effective comments by Bidault, denied his speech insulting and said he was only recalling “certain bitter harsh facts”.

Bidault replied facts must be respected but question is how facts are narrated.

Eden closed meeting by suggesting that remaining two inscribed speakers could speak at tomorrow’s plenary. Meeting adjourned at 7:50.

Comment: Bidault last statement superb job of offsetting Molotov’s obvious appeal to French opinion and turning tables on Communists by placing onus on them for failing achieve cease-fire because of intransigence and introduction extraneous issues as opposed reasonableness and conciliatory approach of French.

  1. A set of minutes of this meeting (US Verb Min/5) is in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 277. The minutes indicate that the meeting convened at 3:03 p.m. and adjourned at 7:50 p.m. The minutes are also printed in Conférence de Genève, pp. 205–236. The speeches of Bidault, Molotov, and Eden, and the proposal made by the Cambodian Delegation are printed in Cmd. 9186, pp. 137–153. The speeches of Eden, Bidault, Tep Phan, Pham Van Dong, and Molotov, Indochina Documents IC/17, IC/18, IC/20, IC/21, and IC/22, respectively, and the Cambodian proposal, IC/19, of June 8–9, are in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 279A.
  2. See telegrams Secto 240 and 241, May 17, pp. 831 and 833, respectively.
  3. See telegram Secto 349, May 29, p. 970.
  4. Reference to meeting between French and Vietnamese military representatives at Geneva.
  5. See telegram Secto 302, May 26, p. 920.
  6. Dated June 3, p. 1014.
  7. See telegram Secto 379, June 4, p. 1031.
  8. Dated June 8, p. 1077.
  9. Infra.