396.1 GE/6–1854: Telegram

Fifteenth Restricted Session on Indochina, Geneva, June 18, 3 p.m.: The United States Delegation to the Department of State1


Secto 472. Repeated information Paris 459, London 304, Saigon 180, Tokyo 150, Moscow 135, Phnom Penh and Vientiane unnumbered. Department pass Defense. Tokyo pass CINCFE. Fifteenth restricted session, Friday, June 18, Molotov presiding.

In General Smith’s absence, Robertson made statement (Secto 4702) supporting proposals made June 8 by Cambodian delegate (Secto 3673) and June 16 by Laotian delegate (Secto 4574). He [Page 1180] stated Chinese Communists proposal (Secto 4585) seemed to make provision for local Communists to remain in Laos and Cambodia and was lacking in precision and definiteness. He stated US delegate therefore unable accept Chinese Communist proposal. He spoke of large number positively identified Viet Minh units in Laos and Cambodia.

Cambodia delegate then commented on Chou En-lai’s June 16 proposal. He said he was not opposed to simultaneous cease-fire throughout Indochina if it could be rapidly reached. Otherwise cease-fire in Cambodia might precede other cease-fire since it can be accomplished by withdrawal of all regular and irregular foreign forces. Cambodian delegate reiterated commitment that after such withdrawal, Cambodia would admit no more foreign troops. He stressed, however, Cambodia cannot accept re-grouping zones for existing foreign troops i.e. Viet Minh in Cambodia.

With regard to negotiations by the representatives of belligerents, Cambodian delegate said purpose, location and participants must be settled. As to purpose, he said military representatives must deal primarily with elimination of foreign forces including period of time, facilities to be given Viet Minh command to fulfill commitments and road and river routes to be used. Military representatives must have precise terms of reference.

With regard participants, Cambodian delegate said there would be representatives of Royal Cambodian Command on one hand and Viet Minh Command on the other.

As to location, Cambodian delegate recalled Viet Minh proposal that discussions for Vietnam be on spot and said this would be appropriate in case of Cambodia. He pointed out extremely fluid military situation in Cambodia with highly mobile Viet Minh invaders. He therefore did not consider meeting of military representatives in Geneva practical or useful. He reiterated paragraphs 2 (a) and (b) and 3 of Cambodia proposal of June 8 (Secto 367) as spelling out terms of reference of military representatives.

Turning to paragraph 3 of Chinese Communist proposal re non-introduction from abroad of new troops and military personnel, Cambodian delegate expressed appreciation. Chou En-lai’s understanding that new country requires to organize its defense structure. He said however, in addition to arms and munitions, new army needs experts and instructors.

With regard to 4th paragraph of Chinese Communists proposal on international control Cambodian delegate indicated acceptance of such control either by true neutrals or by UN, stating that it must be on spot and ready to function at time of cessation hostilities in order to [Page 1181] control (1) withdrawal of foreign forces, (2) freeing of prisoners of war and civilian internees, and (3) any external activity capable of troubling peace and security of Cambodia. Cambodian delegate expressed view there would be no difficulty with 5th and 6th paragraph of Chou’s proposal dealing with liberation and exchange of prisoners of war and civilian internees and with non-persecution of persons having collaborated with opposing party.

Cambodian delegate took strong issue with Viet Minh statement supporting so-called resistance government. He added Chou En-lai’s proposal not far off some points from Cambodian position and expressed satisfaction at spirit of conciliation shown by Chinese.

Cambodian delegate then submitted specific proposal (Secto 4716) covering meeting of military representatives to achieve purposes outlined above.

Chou En-lai then spoke. He stated Mr. Robertson’s statement was obviously different from General Smith’s statement other day. He expressed understanding of duty Robertson has to perform i.e. the creation of controversy and of instigating controversy. For himself, he would put emphasis on conciliation and attempt to reach agreement in principle. He added, however, that as Robertson well knew, if Robertson insisted on challenging him, he would meet challenge and there would be endless discussion in this conference “we are not strangers to each other”.

Chou En-lai then took up situation in Laos and Cambodia stating that in both countries there were resistance forces led by resistance governments and that there were also foreign troops some of which have been withdrawn. Agreement should be reached for complete withdrawal of foreign troops in Laos and Cambodia as well as in Vietnam.

Chou En-lai reiterated need for meeting of military representatives. Re international supervision he said that UN cannot be considered. He added international control should extend to Laos and Cambodia taking into account special conditions there. He urged early effort both within and without conference to agree on composition of neutral committee, stating that after agreement on composition decision can be reached on other points re control. He expressed himself favorably re French proposal for a committee of [nine] delegates to discuss this point (Secto 4607). He considered this proposal an alternative to discussion within the conference itself.

Chou En-lai reiterated stand be simultaneity of cessation of hostilities.

[Page 1182]

Chou En-lai then turned DRV proposal of June 16 re political considerations (Secto 4598) and expressed full support. He stated true peace can be consolidated only when political problems are solved. He proposed that conference set date for discussion of political problems on basis DRV 6-point proposal June 16.

Laos delegate then stated Chinese Communists proposal of June 16 seemed to him to present acceptable basis for development discussion. He recalled his reservations on simultaneity of cessation hostilities but he said none of Chinese Communists points presented insuperable problem but that some required precision.

Laos delegate then made proposal (Secto 459) for meeting of representatives of the two commands in Geneva and on spot to study withdrawal of Viet Minh troops from Laos and of French Union troops to peace time bases in Laos. The representatives are to submit recommendations to conference as soon as possible. Meanwhile conference can continue to examine other problems relating to peace in Laos and especially to international control.

After the recess Mr. Robertson asked for the floor and made the following statement:

“I categorically reject Mr. Chou En-lai’s insinuations.

There is nothing contradictory in the statement I have just made with the position taken by General Smith at our last meeting. General Smith stated that Mr. Chou En-lai’s proposal deserved our respectful attention. The US delegation has carefully considered the proposal and I have stated the conclusions reached. We have listened with careful attention to the statements made by the Cambodian and Laotian delegates. They pointed out, as I did, the lack of precision and definiteness in some aspects of the Chinese proposal and its failure to provide for the withdrawal of the Viet Minh forces. For these reasons the US delegation believes that the Laotian and Cambodian proposals provide a more desirable basis for negotiation”.

Pham Van Dong (Viet Minh) spoke next and supported Chinese proposal of 16 June (Secto 458) which, he said, should be used as basis for further debate and which springs from principles presented in Chinese proposal of 27 May (Secto 3269). His delegation, he said, supports these principles and Chinese proposal concerning Laos and Cambodia.

He then made following remarks:

Principle of simultaneous cease-fire in three states should be accepted.
Disposition of forces of both sides after cease-fire should pertain to local forces including forces of resistance movements in Laos and Cambodia which, he said, exist in fact.
With respect to withdrawal of foreign forces he said there have been Viet Minh volunteers in Laos and Cambodia and that these have been withdrawn but that if today there are such forces they will be withdrawn.
No foreign country should establish military bases in Indochina.
Representatives of military commands should engage in negotiations in Geneva and on the spot re cease-fire in Laos and Cambodia.

Dong then devoted some time to discussion of resistance movements in Laos and Cambodia, stressed that they were organized in companies and battalions, and that the existence of these forces must be recognized by all parties. He attacked Laotian and Cambodian delegates for denying existence of such forces and hoped these delegates would yield to reason. Concluded by charging that information about Viet Minh units mentioned by Robertson in opening statement was as fallacious as allegation that Chinese units participated in battle of Dien Bien Phu which, he said, has been denied by French High Command.

Chauvel (France) spoke next and referred to Chinese statement and proposal 16 June as reasonable and moderate, and as containing elements which could be acceptable although terminology appeared subject differing interpretation. He then commented on following points of Chinese proposal (Secto 458):

Re paragraph 3: Clarification necessary since, while text does not prohibit certain categories of armament necessary to defense, its purpose appears to be otherwise.
Re paragraph 4: While French delegate agrees international control should be applied to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, it is not clear whether one or three commissions intended.
Re paragraph 2: This main difficulty Chinese proposal believe all agree negotiation between representatives commands of belligerent parties necessary, but who are those commands? This not clear since in statement introducing proposal Chou En-lai drew distinction in speaking of disposition of forces between local troops and foreign troops.

Chauvel remarked that Chinese text offers prospect for making progress and added parenthetically, in obvious reference to French delegate, conference should resolve these questions since composition some delegates might soon be changed.

Taking up question withdrawal foreign forces Chauvel emphasized need for clear definition identity of belligerent commands. For example, in Cambodia since no French forces are there, who would establish contact in the field. Suggested Command of Royal Cambodian Forces would have to discuss problem with Viet Minh since latter would be command that had to receive troops withdrawn. Similarly in Laos there is French-Laotian command and on other hand [Page 1184] Viet Minh Command which would be responsible for receiving foreign troops withdrawn. At this point Chauvel injected comment that French High Command could confirm US information re Viet Minh units in Laos and Cambodia.

In concluding Chauvel referred to three drafts now before conference—Chinese proposal 16 June, and Cambodia and Laos proposals of today. Suggested that if these looked at side by side they would not be conflicting although Laotian and Cambodian drafts reduced in scope and more precise. He then suggested that all delegates work on three proposals overnight and attempt to formulate by tomorrow version acceptable to all.

Molotov then took floor as Soviet delegate and noted that during debate last few days certain rapprochement of views has appeared on Laotian and Cambodian questions as would be seen from reaction to Chinese proposal 16 June. He believed all had impression Chinese draft constituted step forward and contained number of positive proposals on which position several delegates could be brought closer together. Re to common ground that now appeared to exist re Laos and Cambodia Molotov noted today’s statement by US delegate which caused him to ask if US delegate felt there was danger in possibility of agreement being found. He stated we should work to overcome difficulties and not fear that agreement constituted danger to anyone. Pursuing this point further he noted that comparisons were made between statements of US delegate at last and at today’s meeting. He noted that US delegate now appeared to have different attitude re Chinese proposal, and that Robertson appeared so interested in refuting existence these differences that no comment seemed necessary. However, he asserted, such differences exist. US delegate, he continued, at last meeting characterized Chinese proposal as “reasonable and moderate,” and today its views are of different nature. He noted particularly that representatives of countries directly concerned, particularly Laos, thought Chinese proposals could be acceptable basis for discussion but “Robertson won’t hear of that”. Fact that Cambodian delegate did not refuse to consider Chinese proposal he said, further gives reason to believe three proposals not so irreconcilable as to make impossible chance of bringing them together.

Molotov then devoted some time to supporting assertion that national liberation movements exist in Laos and Cambodia.

In concluding Molotov referred to adoption by conference on 29 May of resolution10 that military talks begin between two commands in Vietnam and suggested similar decision re Laos and Cambodia be adopted. He recognized that clarification would be needed as to who [Page 1185] would conduct such military talks but that this would not be difficult to settle.

Eden spoke last briefly in support of Chauvel’s suggestion that all delegates consider three texts (Chinese, Laos, and Cambodian), in effort to reconcile them between now and next meeting as practical basis to go on.

Molotov stated he saw no objection to this suggestion since it appeared to be reformulation of French delegate’s proposal. Molotov then adjourned meeting to be reconvened 19 June.

  1. A set of minutes of this session (IC Restricted/15) is in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 279. The minutes indicate that the meeting convened at 3 p.m. and adjourned at 7:20 p.m. The minutes are also printed in Conférence de Genève, pp. 311–322. The speech by Tep Phan, Indochina Document IC/37, June 18, and the proposals by Cambodia and Laos, Indochina Documents IC/36 and IC/38. respectively, June 18, are in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 279A.
  2. Infra.
  3. Dated June 3, p. 1014.
  4. Dated June 16, p. 1162.
  5. Dated June 17, p. 1162.
  6. Dated June 18, p. 1186.
  7. Dated June 17, p. 1164.
  8. Dated June 17, p. 1163.
  9. Dated May 27, p. 947.
  10. Text of the resolution reported to the Department of State in telegram Secto 347, May 29, p. 795.