396.1 GE/7–154: Telegram

JohnsonChauvel Meeting, Geneva, July 1, Morning: The United States Delegation to the Department of State


Secto 549. Repeated information Paris 2, London 2, Saigon 1. Limit distribution. Paris eyes only Ambassador. London eyes only Ambassador. Saigon eyes only McClintock. Chauvel called me this morning to tell me that he is going to Bern for 24 hours. His talks with Dong remain at standstill. He wishes to avoid impression of eagerness or anxiety on French side. He will return in time for restricted session tomorrow. He will then request meeting with Dong either tomorrow night or Saturday morning for ostensible purpose of discussing international control. At that meeting he plans to tell Dong that military demarcation line somewhat north of Dong Hoi (he referred to US—UK aide-mémoire quoted Tosec 490)1 would have international acceptance in sense that France’s friends at conference would respect it, implication being that this line, as military demarcation line, would avoid risk of international intervention to which Viet Minh are sensitive although, in Chauvel‘s view, less so than their Soviet and Chinese Communist backers. He intends make clear there is no room for bargaining on that line.

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Chauvel does not expect Viet Minh to move very promptly. Although they may come to decision regarding military demarcation line early next week, probability is that they will await return of Ministers.

In reply to my question, Chauvel stated there had been no discussion as yet with Dong regarding evacuation of civilian population desiring to leave areas which will be under Viet Minh control following armistice. I stressed importance of this.

Chauvel stated that rapidity with which French High Command had withdrawn from southern part of delta had given impression of weakness which had not been helpful to him in his negotiations with Dong. He stated that no reply had yet been received from Dong re proposed neutralization of Catholic bishoprics or conditions under which French would remain in Haiphong although he stated Dong had made no objection on latter point. Chauvel hopes to make retention of Haiphong at least as “permanent” as military demarcation line.

Chauvel stated that as soon as agreement on demarcation line is reached, actual drafting of armistice agreement should be relatively simple. I cautioned him on basis of our Korean experience re difficulty and complexity of translating agreements in principle with Communists into workable documents.

I re-emphasized to Chauvel our position re composition of international supervisory commission with particular reference to rejection of Communist membership. He stated that Viet Minh had agreed to freedom of movement in their border areas for international control teams supervising non-importation of reinforcing troops and arms.

Chauvel stated he had impression there might be division of views within Viet Minh delegation with Dong following Communist line of consolidating gains already achieved and avoiding risk of international intervention and extension of conflict while other elements following purely nationalist line wish to exploit further existing military and political situation which they believe highly favorable to them even at risk of provoking international intervention.

Chauvel also told me that at his suggestion DeJean is proceeding to Cannes within a day or two to visit Bao Dai generally to inform him re present state of negotiations with Viet Minh and do whatever may be possible to have Bao Dai take a realistic view of the situation and use his influence accordingly. Chauvel states new Prime Minister, Ngo Dinh Diem, highly unfamiliar with facts of life in Vietnam and generally “unrealistic” in his approach to situation.

Chauvel expressed concern at weakness of British delegate indicating that Lamb only comes to Geneva for meetings and that next member of British delegation, Tahourdin, although able cannot perform [Page 1268] “go-between” role with Soviets which Chauvel thinks important. Massigili has discussed the matter with Reading but had not received definite reply.

Chauvel said Offroy had been discussing control matters with Novikov but apparently no positive results yet reached.

French delegation being strengthened by LaTournelle who is arriving this afternoon.

  1. Telegram Tosec 490 to Geneva sent as telegram 4853 to Paris, June 28, p. 1256.