396.1 GE/6–1154: Telegram
Smith–Dinh Meeting, Geneva, June 10, Morning: The United States Delegation to the Department of State
Secto 422. Repeated information Saigon 161, Paris 417. Vietnam Foreign Minister Dinh called yesterday morning to deliver a “message” from Bao Dai. The “message” was that Bao Dai felt that definite military measures should be undertaken without delay, for the accelerated formation and expansion on an autonomous basis of the Vietnamese National Army. His dilemma was that if he undertook such measures now he would be accused of war-mongering and of thwarting the efforts at Geneva to find a peaceful solution of the Vietnamese conflict. It would be difficult to launch such measures until he knew what the outcome of the Geneva Conference would be.
I replied that I saw no dilemma to hinder Bao Dai’s taking such action while the Geneva Conference was still in progress. I fully agreed that the Vietnam National Army must have its own identity and felt sure that the French would agree to it but that was something that Bao Dai, as Commander-in-Chief of Vietnamese Forces, should take up personally with Pleven and perhaps Laniel. It would be well for him also to talk with Bidault. I remarked that O’Daniel had a plan for training four light divisions as a starter and when they were formed they could take the place in the lines of the Vietnamese battalions now integrated into the French Command. The latter could then [Page 1107]be withdrawn and later be formed into divisions. I realized their lack of higher officers. They would have to use French staff officers at this stage and, of course, the National Army would be under the French High Command. Dinh said Bao Dai had instructed Buu Loc to take this matter up with Pleven but Buu Loc had had to return to Saigon before doing so.
I went on to say as a general proposition that when military crises occurred, the Commander-in-Chief should be on the ground. As I understood it, Bao Dai was Commander-in-Chief of the National Army just as our President, by constitutional right, was CIC of American armed forces.
Dinh said he understood no final decision had been taken on General O’Daniel’s plan for a training mission and program for the Vietnam National Army. I agreed that final decision had not been taken but suggested that Bao Dai should take that matter up in his talk with Pleven. I said the fact that the independence treaty with France had only been initialed but not formally signed by the latter placed Vietnam and ourselves in a difficult situation. We felt the treaty should be signed and that Bao Dai should insist on the advantage to France and Vietnam of having the convention signed without further delay.
I said that I would be glad to talk again with Bao Dai if the latter so desired, and Dinh said he would urge him to come to the Geneva area.
Dinh raised the question of possibility of an early cease-fire which might be accompanied by a prohibition on arrivals of fresh troops and matériel. Such a provision would prevent the sending of an American training mission and equipment which the Vietnamese Army would require. I replied that a cease-fire on such lines might present certain but not insuperable difficulties. If a cease-fire were agreed upon it might be somewhat on the lines of the Korean arrangement which provided for the gradual withdrawal of foreign troops but allowed for their replacement by newly formed native divisions which would be entitled to bring in the necessary equipment.
After our talk, Heath asked Dinh the reason for the delay in concluding the negotiations for the supplementary financial, economic and cultural accords in Paris. Dinh replied that there had been some “foot dragging” on both sides but the delay was mainly due to the inexperience of the Vietnamese negotiators. Dinh said that if he and Dac Khe were not tied down in Geneva they could return to Paris and he thought, conclude the supplementary agreements within a week.