396.1 GE/6–954: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State1

confidential

Secto 408. From Suydam for McCardle. There follow pertinent excerpts Under Secretary’s briefing of American press this morning (full text pouch mail): “the Secretary had quite a press conference (yesterday) and we have just gotten the pertinent points of it here. I presume that it has been or is being made available to you.

… (he said), among other things, that the attitude of the Communists at Geneva and in stepping up the war in Indochina, as he put it, ‘gives the lie to their greatly professed love of peace’.

[Page 1095]

As an example of their professed efforts to diminish international tensions, I think it is worth while that you take another good close look at what Mr. Molotov said yesterday. It really represented him at his cleverest. He didn’t address himself to substance at all. It was very apparent, as soon as he had gotten into his speech, that his purpose was to undermine as much as possible the position of M. Bidault in the debates which were scheduled to start today. He took a blast at French foreign policy and at French military policy, and he had a few words to say about M. Bidault’s philosophy. He was pretty brutal about the losses of Dien Bien Phu, and he enlarged in considerable detail on the cost of the war to France. Then he really cast all amenities to the wind, and so did his colleagues, because they then began to refer to the Vietnamese Government, which as you recall has been officially recognized by a great many nations, as the Bao Dai Government and the representative of the Bao Dai Government—a clever buildup.…

In my opinion, Mr. Molotov’s attitude has stiffened considerably since his return from Moscow. Whether the Moscow visit itself contributed to that, I do not know. A certain indication of a willingness to cooperate, and possibly play the part of the slightly left-of-center middleman—as between the two extreme positions which some people might say are represented by Communist China and the US—has vanished.

There is a great deal more evidence of rigidity and aggressiveness.…

Our attitude in connection with the Indochina phase of the discussion has been that of a friendly collaborator; we do not attempt, and have not attempted, to exert any particular leadership, giving advice where we thought it was desirable and supporting reasonable suggestions as they were made.

The Communist position in demanding international—or, as they call it, ‘neutral’—supervision of the ceasefire in Indochina, the counter part of the so-called Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission in Korea, we have had to reject. We have also had to maintain and reaffirm and re-reaffirm our position with regard to the special character of the problems existing in Laos and Cambodia. Mr. Eden made a very strong statement on it yesterday himself, recording unmistakably the British policy, which is identical with our own. He proposed a counter-suggestion to that of Mr. Molotov, that impartial international supervision might be provided by the Colombo powers, reminding the conference that the prime ministers at Colombo had passed resolutions and issued a communiqué which had been of some help, and at least by implication had suggested a very great interest. I thought, [Page 1096]and I think others did, that that suggestion is worth very serious consideration.

Question: General, are you aware that the Chinese Delegation’s spokesman rejected it last night at the press conference?

Answer: No, I am not; but if so, it seems to me to indicate an even greater degree of intransigence than I had anticipated.

Q: He seemed to think, General, that Pakistan was not neutral, having a military agreement with the US. Nevertheless, he continued to accept the two of them as part of the Molotov formula.

A: I see. We sometimes think that India is not too entirely neutral in our direction. But some sort of a consortium of nations based on an India-Pakistan axis has always recommended itself to me as a possibility. I know that the Secretary feels that, insofar as possible, our Asiatic friends should exercise policy functions in their own back yard.…

Q: Then, you endorsed Mr. Eden’s proposal …?

A: I welcomed Mr. Eden’s proposal without endorsing it and, said that it deserved very serious consideration; and I also said that I had thought for some time, as I previously stated in our restricted conference, that some sort of a consortium of nations, of impartial nations, might be found using as the base the India-Pakistan suggestion of Mr. Molotov.

Q: What is your feeling, General, about having one Communist country also on the commission?

A: If the commission were otherwise well organized and if it did not operate on a basis, the good old Communist basis of unanimity, such that refusal of one member might nullify or veto every action of the group, I should think it might be acceptable … in other words, if there is not a built-in veto. We have had a lot of experience with that.

Q: General, about this seeming stiffening of Mr. Molotov’s attitude since his return from Moscow … it seemed to me that Mr. Molotov didn’t say anything yesterday in the way of a position relative to Laos and Cambodia, any other thing that they didn’t say in their first speech here. ‘What, in the interim, indicated a lessening or softening of their position?

A: This is just my personal impression.

Q: Well, didn’t Molotov at the beginning, General, indicate a willingness to consider the military aspect of the problem?

A: Yes.

Q: Separately, or give it priority?

A: Yes.

Q: Whereas yesterday he backed away from it?

[Page 1097]

A: Yes. He said first that he would consider the military aspects of the problem. Then at various times during the closed sessions he indicated very clearly that he recognized the special considerations applying to Laos and Cambodia. He specifically stated on at least one occasion that there was no thought whatever of partitioning anywhere in the area. Now he has, at least by implication, backed away from the really vital question of solving the military problems. And his associates have now proposed, as I recall it, alternating military and political sessions.

Q: General Smith, since we have in our role of friendly advisers only taken two positions, but have taken them quite definitely, in regard to the separation of Laos and Cambodia from Vietnam, and in regard to the need to have a truly impartial non-veto international commission—

A: Non-built-in veto, yes.

Q: —and since the Russians now in their [garbled group] what appears to be a very thoroughly thought out statement of policy, have definitely turned down those two typings[?] on which we have stood, is there any possibility of an agreement in which we can participate?

A: Not unless they modify their position. Ours is a reasonable and moderate one, we think. The bargaining stage on Indochina I do not believe is over. On the other hand, events in Indochina themselves are certainly going to influence, have more influence on, what agreement is reached than debates around the conference table at Geneva.…

Q: General, in view of Mr. Molotov’s new aggressiveness, do you think there is any chance of (your) being more articulate in these plenary sessions? Yesterday he attacked our efforts to build up a Southeast Asia security organization. Are we going to keep still to the end of the conference on issues of that sort?

A: Well, occasionally the spirit moves me to speak. I did yesterday.…

Q: General, is there any chance of this conference breaking up pretty shortly?

A: I do not think these things should be prolonged indefinitely when it becomes apparent that there is no equitable solution in sight. Take the Korea phase, for example. The Secretary said yesterday that the talks about Korea are pretty close to the end of their useful life. My own view is that when we reach a point where it becomes clear that the mission of the conference is not likely to be accomplished, or the mission of one phase of the conference is not likely to be accomplished, that phase should not be permitted to drag on in order to permit the Commies to use the conference as a platform for propaganda, and to obfuscate the major issues. We have two very important and very [Page 1098]clear-cut issues with respect to Korea. The first is the status and the authority of the UN in its role of repelling aggression and in uniting Korea; and the second is the possibility of arriving at a formula which would produce actually free, uncoerced, and honest elections both in the North and in the South. And since the formula which the Commies insist on is quite incapable of producing anything but completely rigged and coerced elections in areas in which they control, and since they have gone even further and said that the franchise in North Korea at least would be exercised by everybody on the spot, regardless of nationality, which would include all the Chinese and any Russians that happened to be there, and various other odds and ends, it does not seem to be a solution which is susceptible of producing any results, and certainly not one that we could accept. Therefore, I should dislike very much to see that phase of the conference degenerate into a propaganda medium for our Commie associates.

Q: What is the outlook, General, on the Korean situation? What is likely to happen? You said the other day you were ready to rest our case at the bar of world opinion. Do the other delegates here share your opinion?

A: I think that most of them do, yes. Of course, Mr. Chou En-lai has reserved the right to reply to some of the things that I said. He may want another plenary session. We would certainly want one because we have Mr. Molotov’s proposal which, if read just by itself by people who still held the illusion that ‘neutral’ means the same to us as it does to the Commies, might have some effect … (but) if you read his speech, which accompanied the presentation of that proposal, you will note that he was absolutely adamant in insisting that that composition must be the same as that of the neutral nations supervisory commission of Korea … the Swiss and the Swedes have had a complete snootful of it, and I don’t blame them.

Q: What about Indochina, after you get thru this series of plenary sessions? Do you think you will go back into restricted sessions again on this?

A: I do not know. Mr. Molotov asked to go into open sessions because, he said, the closed sessions were not actually closed, and because the information always leaked out, and, since it leaked out from various sources and in various distorted forms, it was far better if we had our discussions in open sessions.…

Q: General Smith, do you have any idea of how these conversations on Indochina could ever be broken off? …

A: All I can say about that is that we started the one seeming step toward progress that was made, which was the beginning of what you might call talks by military experts on both sides. As far as I can [Page 1099]ascertain, nothing has been accomplished. The Commie side has refused to discuss actual details and has restricted itself more or less to political polemics. In other words, it seems that we are just as far from getting down on the map the staff officers idea of concentration areas for the regular troops involved as we were at the beginning. That has a certain ominous significance to me. I would not like to enlarge on why, however.

Q: Then, can one take it to be our feeling now that it is going to be extremely difficult to break up the conference on any pretext?

A: Well, whether the Indochina phase would really break up or not is problematical. You must remember at Panmunjom we went there for three weeks and we stayed there twenty-seven months … that doesn’t mean that I will be here twenty-seven months.

I have had some interesting minor items in some of our press summaries, and, without intending to be critical, there are certain errors of fact … for example, these constant reiterations about a split here between the British and the US delegates are not justified. I read one comment, I believe, that when the closed session on Korea was called off that the US del was highly irritated; well, that is not a fact. The US del was thoroughly satisfied. We saw no reason for a closed session on Korea after the speeches made at the previous plenary.…

(As) to the possibility that the Korean phase might last a long time further, as a result of Mr. Molotov’s new proposals: … they do not say one single thing that has not been proposed before, although they say it differently, and they sugar-coat the unpalatable morsel by the phrase ‘composition to be examined later’ … I do not think that the majority of the other fifteen are ready to chop it right off (here). As a matter of fact, I personally now want to see some others speak to the point of Mr. Molotov’s proposal. I have spoken my piece, and I dare say that others will.

Q: Has there been a change in our position from the beginning of this conference, when it was my definite impression that we wanted to get a clear-cut decision here as to whether the Russians and the Red Chinese were going to talk business, and, if not to cut the thing short and go home, and take what measures had to be taken to stop Commie expansion in Southeast Asia? Was that a mistaken impression, or do we wish to get a clear-cut decision and stop muddling the mind of the public?

A: We always want a clear-cut decision, and we always want it quickly. That is a national characteristic, and I must say that I share it to the full; but it isn’t always possible to get it as quickly or as cleanly cut as we ourselves would like because we work with a group of allies, each of whom has its own public opinion to consider, and [Page 1100]many of whom are more convinced than we that there are possibilities in somewhat prolonged negotiation. We should take that into consideration. We cannot always do what we like ourselves, neither can our allies. We have to arrive both tactically and in matters of policy at a sort of a compromise; that’s almost inevitable, both as to timing and as to procedure.

Q: And as to principle?

A: Well, I do not think there is any great difference in principle. I have not encountered that. Such differences in opinion as I have encountered here have related primarily to timing and to procedure, and I would like to say this to you, completely off the record, please, as my own estimate now after several weeks here: If I had to total up the score, I would say events have demonstrated that in some cases we have been right, and in some cases some of our associates have been right, and I think that they would admit that as quickly as I am prepared to admit the other.”

Smith
  1. Transmitted in two sections. Ellipses in this document are in the source text.