396.1 GE/6–1654: Telegram

SmithChauvel Meeting, Geneva, June 16, Morning: The United States Delegation to the Department of State

top secret
priority

Dulte 187. Repeated information Paris 443. Paris eyes only Ambassador. Reference Tedul 198 repeated information Paris 4850 Saigon 2601.1 Chauvel informed me this morning that in Franco-Viet Minh “underground military talks” (conducted by Colonel de Brebisson on French side) Viet Minh had demanded all of Tonkin and entire delta area including Hanoi (to become Headquarters Viet Minh Army) and Haiphong be turned over to Viet Minh. French without agreeing had implied that if anything like this settlement were made, French would demand free hand in south, indicating area south of line starting approximately 18 parallel on Laotian border and running southeast approximately to Badon (this line marked somewhat indefinitely on map in Chauvel’s office), French had also indicated necessity for enclave and port in delta area, implying temporary tenure for troop withdrawal. Chauvel indicated Ely felt he could not defend delta area and better have French forces therein by negotiations than lose them in battle. French raised question evacuation their troops, French citizens, and Vietnam Catholics from Tonkin area but had received no reply from Viet Minh. Chauvel also stated French had made clear that Laos and Cambodia were not involved in this proposed settlement. No mention was made regrouping Viet Minh forces south this line. Last conversation three days ago and nothing has developed since. Chauvel continued that Vietnamese had no knowledge this proposal and if acceptable to French it would be most difficult to sell it to them, which [Page 1155]might be necessary within next few days. He implied that Ambassador Heath might be of real service this connection.

I informed Chauvel of Zhukov-Kingsbury Smith conversation (Secto 423 repeated Paris 4182) emphasizing advisability French retaining foothold in north preferably Haiphong-Hanoi area, but at least Haiphong. This, with possibly, small compensating enclave for Viet Minh south of line, would avoid appearance of outright partition. Chauvel was somewhat dubious whether this would be possible but thought that maybe foothold on delta coast at Hon Gay, where there are important French coal interests, might be retained. I told Chauvel that we did not wish be suddenly placed in position where these secret negotiations might have result of our being abruptly confronted with agreement or proposed settlement which we would not feel able accept and from which we might have to disassociate ourselves, and stressed need our being informed on continuing basis of conversations. Suggested Colonel Dwan be liaison officer this respect. Chauvel agreed entirely.

Smith
  1. Dated June 14, p. 1148.
  2. For a memorandum of conversation of this discussion, see p. 1109. Summary of conversation transmitted to the Department of State in telegram Secto 423, June 11. (396.1 GE/6–1154)