The Ambassador in France (Dillon) to the Department of State
5035. Repeated information Geneva 443. Limit distribution. Since Mendes was tied up in National Assembly today, he asked me to see Parodi and Chauvel regarding his talk with Chou. Chauvel did all the talking and described the meeting as follows:
He said that Mendes opened the meeting telling Chou that he had been glad to agree to Chou‘s idea of a meeting and that he was interested to hear anything Chou had to say. Chou then spoke very fully and most of the time at the meeting, which lasted a little over two hours, was taken up by Chou‘s statements and the necessary translations.
Chou in general followed the same line as he previously had taken with Eden and Bidault, with certain important exceptions, which Chauvel considered to represent a considerable advance over Chou‘s previous position.[Page 1240]
Chou started by talking about Laos and Cambodia. He said that the immediate problem was to obtain the withdrawal of all foreign forces including Viet Minh from the entire territory of both countries. He said that then the governments of the two countries should arrange political settlements within their own countries based on the will of the majority of the people. Chou said that while there should be no persecution of minorities, he had no objection to the two countries retaining their monarchical form of government if they so desired. The one thing upon which he insisted was that there should be no US bases in either Laos and [or] Cambodia. He stated that he saw no objection to Laos and Cambodia remaining with the French Union, provided they so desired.
The talk then turned to Vietnam where Chauvel considered important advances in Chou‘s position were revealed. Chou said that he recognized that there were now two governments in the territory of Vietnam, the Viet Minh Government and the Vietnamese Government. According to Chauvel, this was the first time that Chou had recognized the valid existence of the Vietnamese Government.
Chou then said that the settlement in Vietnam should be reached in two stages. First, an armistice which should be reached as soon as possible, and second, peace, which would obviously take longer to achieve. Chauvel said that Chou clearly accepted, and for the first time, the French thesis that there should be two phases; first military and second political to the eventual settlement of Vietnam. Regarding military settlement, Chou said that there should be regroupment of troops in large zones in order to stop the fighting. Chou said that he was ready to discuss the division of zones if Mendes so desired. Mendes answered that he was not yet prepared for such a detailed discussion and said he preferred that it be handled by the delegations at Geneva. Therefore, there was no discussion in detail regarding the make-up of the eventual zones.
Regarding the final political settlement, Chou said this should be reached by direct negotiations between the two governments in Vietnam, i.e., the Vietnamese Government and the Viet Minh Government. Chou further said that France might be able to help in these negotiations. He added that he saw no reason why the eventually united state of Vietnam should not remain within the French Union.
Mendes at this point said that since the war had been going on for 8 years and passions were high, it would take a long time before elections could be held as the people must be given a full opportunity to cool off and calm down. Chou made no objection to this statement by Mendes and did not press for early elections.[Page 1241]
Mendes then told Chou that negotiations with the Viet Minh for reasons not very clear to the French had been at a practical standstill for the past week or ten days and he suggested that a word from Chou to the leader of the Viet Minh delegation might be helpful in speeding things up which seemed to be Chou‘s desire as well as Mendes’. Chou agreed to intervene with the Viet Minh and ask them to speed up negotiations.
The conversation never touched on any subject other than Indochina. According to Chauvel, no other item of Far Eastern policy was touched upon, nor was Europe nor the UN or possible recognition of China by France ever mentioned.
Chauvel is returning to Geneva tonight and will see the head of the Viet Minh delegation tomorrow in an attempt to get the military talks under way again.