Dillon–Mendès-France Meeting, Paris, June 21, 10 p.m.: The Ambassador in France (Dillon) to the Department of State
4980. Repeated information priority London 1205, Geneva 433. London, Geneva, eyes only Ambassadors. Limit distribution. Mendes-France asked me to come to see him last night and I saw him at his apartment at 10 p.m. He said that he wished to bring me up-to-date regarding his proposed meeting with Chou En-lai. He said that the French delegation had informed the Chinese that Mendes would not come to Geneva but that he would like to see Chou and proposed a meeting in France somewhere between Paris and Geneva. Chou replied that while he had no objection to leaving Geneva in order to meet Mendes he could not of course under any circumstances enter French territory as France did not recognize Communist China. He therefore renewed his proposal that the meeting take place at Geneva. After some further negotiation the following arrangement was accepted [Page 1213] in principle by Chou. Mendes told me that all the delegation chiefs including Bedell Smith, Eden and Molotov had at one time or another visited Bern to pay their respects to the President of Switzerland and to thank him for having made available the facilities of Geneva. Bidault had not been able to make this visit because of the crisis although he had desired to do so. Accordingly Mendes tentatively planning to go to Bern on Wednesday and make his visit to the Swiss President. Later Wednesday he will meet Chou at the French Embassy in Bern. Chauvel left for Geneva last night and is seeing the head of the Chinese delegation this morning to firm up this arrangement.
Mendes then said he had been quite embarrassed by a UP press leak Monday from Washington indicating that he might meet Chou. This had brought him a series of telephone calls from French press as well as from members of his own Cabinet who were uninformed. He said he had refused to comment to the French press or to his Cabinet and had had to postpone the Cabinet meeting scheduled for this morning to this afternoon so that he would be [in] a position to give factual information to his Ministers. He also said that he had scheduled a second meeting with Diem for early this afternoon at which he had intended to tell Diem of his plan to meet with Chou. Mendes said that unfortunately now Diem would probably read about the meeting in the press. Mendes then said that it was his desire to keep the US fully and currently informed of his actions through me, and he expressed the hope that in the future the Department of State would show more discretion in preserving his confidences.1
- In reply to Mendès-France’s implication that the Department of State had been responsible for the leak of his proposed meeting with Chou En-lai, the Department in telegram 4752 to Paris, June 22, informed Ambassador Dillon that a careful check throughout the Department “revealed no Dept source any press leak on this subject. Matter taken up on confidential basis with UP who informs that first story this subject was from Geneva June 21 attributed to ‘high diplomatic French source’, which stated Mendes-France trying arrange secret meeting with Chou. No stories Washington dateline this subject. You should further explain to Mendes-France that this is by no means first time Dept has been accused of French leaks and we hope that in future instances his first step will be to ascertain facts.” (751.13/6–2254)↩