396.1 GE/6–2554: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State

top secret

Secto 528. Limit distribution. Reference last paragraph Tosec 478.1 My understanding is that original thought was conference would go into complete recess pending results military talks, or displacement Geneva by developments elsewhere, and under this condition observation and reporting group only would be left under Bonsal (Dulte 1802 and Tedul 1963). In meanwhile, I would remain here as long as Lord Reading and Molotov stayed (Dulte 1864 and Tedul 2045). Subsequently, in discussions here leading up to statement in June 19 communiqué that “conference would continue in session” together with chairman’s (Eden) statement just before adoption communiqué that “first task of conference would be consider question international supervision or control” (Secto 4806) and our acquiescence thereto, it seems to me we have agreed to continuation conference at lower level pending results military talks.

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With UK represented by Ambassador (Lamb) and USSR by Deputy Foreign Minister (Kuznetsov), reduction our representative below ambassador level together with Bonsal being restricted to role of observer will be interpreted by all as first step toward complete disassociation, and by French in particular as contrary to understanding as of June 19.

Therefore, seems to me that question is whether events since June 19 have been such as cause us reconsider our acquiescence in continuation conference and thus withdraw to role observer.

In this connection from my conversation with Chauvel this morning (Secto 5227), as well as previous conversations, I believe that he and Mendes-France estimate that we will in the end acquiesce in type of “regrouping areas” in Vietnam he has outlined to us. If our considered decision is that we will not do so, should they not be told this now and told that in absence of any change of policy on their part we are immediately disassociating ourselves?

This would be said by Dillon directly to Mendes-France and by me to Chauvel.

I am unable to assess what effect would be on French and believe Department may want to obtain Dillon’s view on this. On one hand, it may stiffen France, which might attempt somewhat correct its policy when faced with break with US. On other hand, in view of pledges he has made, Mendes-France might feel there would be no use even trying obtain US acquiescence and, therefore, capitulate even further.

Insofar as Associated States are concerned, any disassociation would have to be carefully handled so as not leave them with any even temporary impression we are abandoning them to French policy with which they would have no choice but to acquiesce. Unless we are able immediately to assure them we are prepared enter into truly significant politico-military-economic relationships with them, I do not see how this could be done.

My own frank view is that while I appreciate but cannot assess other considerations, our continued participation on a critical and reserved basis would serve, at this precise stage, to act as restraining influence upon French and bolstering influence upon Associated States and thereby assist in salvaging as much as possible from a most unhappy situation. If we, with or without our allies, are prepared to take immediate and concrete action to prevent an unacceptable settlement, I see much merit in immediate disassociation. If we are not, then I think we should not at least for time being, withdraw our influence from the conference unless we estimate withdrawal or threat thereof will in itself produce favorable change in French policy.

Alternatively, I could withdraw leaving Bonsal as US representative [Page 1251] who would continue participate in meetings. There is no middle position between observer role and participant. If observer role chosen, it must be made clear to all other participants as there constantly arise situations in which silence can only be interpreted as assent.8

  1. Dated June 24, p. 1238.
  2. Dated June 14, p. 1136.
  3. Dated June 14, p. 1146.
  4. Dated June 16, p. 1165.
  5. For text of message, see footnote 2 to telegram Dulte 186, p. 1166.
  6. Dated June 20, p. 1200.
  7. Dated June 25, p. 1241.
  8. See footnote 4, p. 1271.