751G.00/6–2854: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in France1

top secret

4852. Following is translation aide-mémoire delivered by Bonnet to Secretary and Eden June 26. Text coordinated US-UK reply contained next following message.2

“The coming weeks will be of decisive importance insofar as Indochina is concerned. Following his conversation with Mr. Chou En-lai, the head of the French Government has instructed M. Chauvel to approach M. Pham Van Dong with a view to carrying on with him directly negotiations to ascertain whether a basis can be found, in his opinion, for a territorial settlement in Vietnam or not.

[Page 1258]

“The objective of the French Government is to arrive at a regrouping which will assure the State of Vietnam a territory as solid as possible, and without the de facto division which will result being too cut up. That is the reason why the French Government will insist on maintaining Haiphong as long as possible and on obtaining the neutralization of the bishoprics of Bui Chu and Phat Diem.

“It is difficult to predict the result of this negotiation in which the French authorities must face two sorts of difficulties: on the one hand it will be most difficult to obtain concessions from the Viet Minh in the north; and on the other hand the negotiations risk causing, if the agreement is concluded, dangerous reactions by the Vietnamese Government whose citizens are serving at the present time under the orders of the French command, comprising a major proportion thereof.

“The French Prime Minister feels that the allied American and British Governments should be as well informed as possible of these possibilities. M. Mendes-France wishes especially to call the attention of these two Governments to the following aspects of the situation:

  • “(1) If the Viet Minh appears disposed to negotiate, it is for a series of reasons among which figure without doubt the fear of a spreading of the conflict, a spreading which nothing at the present time would lead us to expect, but which the general world situation does not permit us to exclude. Although the fear of such an extension of the conflict may have a determining influence on the decisions of our adversaries, the French Government realizes that precise declarations on this subject are not possible at this time. But it considers it would be very useful if the final communiqué of the Anglo-American talks in Washington could state in some fashion or other that, if it is not possible to reach a reasonable settlement at the Geneva Conference, a serious aggravation of international relations would result.3
  • “(2) The problem which is posed with regard to Vietnam is different. It is to be feared that any solution providing for an indefinite period a division of the country will cause a violent and unreasoning reaction on the part of the Vietnamese patriots. While this reaction may be in a large measure inevitable, every effort should nevertheless be made to canalize this reaction in a direction in conformity with the interests of Vietnam, France and their allies.

    “To this end it appears highly desirable to the Prime Minister of France to obtain the assurance of the United States Government that nothing will be done by the latter which might even implicitly encourage such a reaction. Under present circumstances such action could lead to no result but to ruin any hope of seeing Vietnam consolidate herself in such a fashion as to create in the face of the Viet Minh an authentically national and independent force. It is for this reason that the French Government strongly hopes it can count on the United States at the proper moment to intervene with the Vietnamese to counsel upon them wisdom and self-control and to dissuade them from refusing an agreement [Page 1259] which, if it is reached, is dictated not by the spirit of abandoning them, but on the contrary by the desire to save in Indochina all that can possibly be saved, and to give the Vietnamese state, under peaceful conditions, opportunities which have not always been possible heretofore because of the war.”

  1. Drafted by McBride of EUR/WE. Repeated to London as telegram 7146, to Saigon as telegram 2740, and to Geneva as telegram Tosec 489.
  2. Supra.
  3. See the editorial note, p. 1254.