396.1 GE/6–1454: Telegram

Thirteenth Restricted Session on Indochina, Geneva, June 14, 3 p.m.: The United States Delegation to the Department of State


Secto 441. Repeated information Paris 433, Saigon 167, London 281, Tokyo 135, Moscow 123, Phnom Penh, Vientiane unnumbered. Tokyo for CINCFE. Department pass Defense. Following is verbatim text General Smith’s statement made in Indochina restricted session Monday 14 June:

“Mr. Molotov outlined very clearly some of the fundamental questions on which we have not been able to agree. I listened to him with great attention and will examine his proposals with care. I must say, however, that I heard nothing said which truly disposes of the fundamental issues before us. We are still in disagreement as we were before regarding the mandate of the international supervisory commission, regarding the relation between the proposed joint commissions and the international commission, and with regard to the composition of the international commission. We have already stated that agreement on these points is essential if our conference is to succeed.

I should like later to comment on the two most important issues listed by Mr. Molotov with regard to the international supervisory commission and the joint commissions. I should like at this time to remind my colleagues that there is a third question before us, the special situation in Laos and Cambodia.

On the question of Laos and Cambodia, it is my opinion that the statements at our meetings by the delegations of those countries have been clear, accurate and altogether in accordance with the facts. The information given by the delegate of the UK confirms that already available to the US delegation. I would like to point out that the US has been represented by diplomatic missions in Cambodia and Laos as well as in Vietnam since 1950. The US delegation at this conference includes several members who have been and still are assigned to these missions. Other members of this delegation have visited Cambodia and Laos one or more times during the past year or two. They have traveled widely in these two countries; they have talked to people in the cities and in the villages; they have seen with their own eyes the situation as it has developed and they are thoroughly familiar with this situation. American representatives were in these two countries during their last elections in 1951 and were deeply impressed by the [Page 1142] conduct of these elections and by the demonstration of the rapid development of effective democratic institutions in the short period since the constitutions of the two countries came into effect.

I must, therefore, reiterate as a fact what has already been said here, that whatever armed opposition to the legal governments of Cambodia and Laos exists is provided by the military forces of the Viet Minh and the Communist political cadres under the protection of its army.

I accept as a fact and repeat as such the statement of the Cambodian delegate on June 8 that the common denominator of the three wars in Indochina is the presence in each country of Viet Minh troops.

It should be apparent to us all that the problems of Cambodia and Laos could be solved in a single day if the Viet Minh were willing to withdraw its invading regular and irregular troops. A political problem does not exist, as we know both from experience and from the statements by the delegates of Cambodia and Laos before this conference.

The delegation of Cambodia submitted a proposal to our meeting of June 8. This proposal is reasonable and logical in concept and it should be simple in execution.

The delegation of Laos submitted a proposal on May 10 which seemed to us to fit every requirement of the situation. In the opinion of the US delegation, these proposals could be rejected only by those having no interest in the restoration of peace to the two countries. It seems to me that if we have any hope that our conference may make any positive contribution to the restoration of peace in Indochina, we might devote our next restricted session to the problem of how to restore peace to Laos and Cambodia.

As to the next fundamental question clearly at issue between us, that of the authority of an international supervisory commission, it seems to us that there is very little to add to the clear and persuasive statements already made on this subject by Mr. Eden and M. Bidault. As far as this delegate is concerned, these statements demonstrated to us that the international supervisory authority must have competence and power to settle any problems or differences which may arise in the joint commissions of the belligerents and that the decisions of the supervisory authority must be binding on the joint commissions. It is, therefore, with great regret that I heard Mr. Molotov reject any possible subordination and insist on parallel action of the two bodies.

There is, however, one important point that I think the Communist delegates should carefully consider. The Communist delegates have said that observance of an armistice depends upon the good faith of the belligerent parties; that cessation hostilities will not be permanent if the two contending parties are not prepared to cooperate in carrying out the agreement. This is a perfectly valid argument. Good faith on both sides is an essential element of a successful armistice. I accept it. But reasonable men will recognize that the passions aroused by eight years of bitter warfare do not easily or rapidly subside; that given the best of will on both sides there will be differences which cannot, as has already been said, be readily adjusted, and that it is absolutely necessary that there be impartial authority with the power to arbitrate the differences which will arise. Good faith in entering into an armistice must, therefore, be expressed by willingness voluntarily [Page 1143] to submit to the authority of an impartial international agency in the carrying out of an armistice. It is the willingness to submit questions to impartial authority, as well as the intent to stop shooting, which will demonstrate whether or not the contending parties have that good faith which the Communist delegates rightly say is an indispensable ingredient of a peaceful settlement.

The third vital matter on which we are in disagreement is that the composition of the international supervisory commission is closely related to the question of its necessary authority and most of us are convinced that the commission must have authority over the joint commissions and since its decisions must be binding on them, it is obvious that the commission must have both the capacity to arrive at decisions and the impartial character which will win for it the confidence of all the parties to the agreement including all the participants of this conference. If the commission is so divided that it cannot reach decisions, it will be impotent in settling differences. If the commission is not recognized to be impartial its decisions will not readily be accepted by the parties to the agreement.

It seems essential to us, therefore, that the commission be an impartial one, and that it be so constituted that it can reach decisions. I regret that Mr. Molotov reaffirmed his previous proposal of a four-country commission of Poland, Czechoslovakia, India and Pakistan. This proposal does not seem to meet either these two criteria for the simple reason as stated by Mr. Eden that it just would not work.

It did not seem to me, as I listened to Mr. Molotov, that the attempt which he made to differentiate between certain matters which could be settled through a majority vote with the chairman casting the deciding vote and other matters which would require unanimity for decision would do anything more than further to complicate an already complex problem.

I have said before that I welcomed the proposal of the UK for a commission composed of the Colombo powers. I have also said that I believed the proposal of the representative of Vietnam that the duties of the commission be entrusted to the United Nations was also a reasonable suggestion. Either of these proposals would provide a commission which could be impartial and which had the capacity for making decisions. I should again like to point out to our Communist colleagues that the good faith which they have stated is important in carrying out an armistice should extend to providing reasonable prospects for success of such an armistice. An impartial and workable supervisory commission is a final essential element of such a successful settlement.”