Bonsal–Chauvel Meeting, Geneva, July 3, Afternoon: The United States Delegation to the Department of State
Secto 557. Repeated information Paris 10, Saigon 8. Limit distribution. Paris eyes only Ambassador. Saigon eyes only Chargé. In Johnson‘s absence, Chauvel this afternoon, informed Bonsal regarding his talk with Kuznetsov last night and with Dong this morning.
Chauvel raised with Kuznetsov pending questions on control. He found Kuznetsov adamant on necessity of inclusion Communist power and rejection thesis Communists can not be neutral. Kuznetsov added that Colombo powers are after all sworn to influence of London which in turn is influenced by Washington. Upshot of talk on this point was that matter of composition might be set aside for present and left for Ministers to settle when they return. Concerning acceptance by parties of decisions or recommendations of international commission, Chauvel stressed importance of establishing “rule of law” accepted beforehand by both sides. Chauvel had impression Kuznetsov not unmoved by his arguments this point, although he gave no indication of change in Soviet position.
On military questions, Chauvel made clear to Kuznetsov that these are held up because Viet Minh have made unacceptable proposal of demarcation line along thirteenth parallel (about Tuy Hoa). On other hand, Chauvel stated French have proposed line acceptable not only to French, but one which French have reason to believe would be acceptable to conference as a whole, and thus would avert risk of internationalization of conflict. Kuznetsov replied that difficulty, arises from fact that three provinces south of Faifo have been held for many years by Viet Minh (area in question would appear to run from just south of Faifo and include provinces of Quang Ngai, Qui Nhon and perhaps all or part of Song Cau; Department will recall in this connection, recent violent Viet Minh attack against French forces withdrawing from Ankhe which is in this general area). Kuznetsov suggested French and Viet Minh might examine area between fourteenth and eighteenth parallel and exchange views as to specific areas of particular interest to each party. Chauvel stated this could not be considered and repeated position regarding line French have already offered.
Chauvel‘s talk with Dong took place this morning at residence of Chinese Communist delegation. There was an exchange of views about control and particularly regarding prior agreement to accept decisions or recommendations of international commission. Dong stated that he [Page 1279] would consider this further. He is aware that French, British and Soviet delegations are working on specific proposals (Secto 5531).
Chauvel reports that he spoke most firmly to Dong regarding military discussions. He said French have accepted Viet Minh proposal that Viet Minh receive Tonkin area, including Capital, but that further Viet Minh proposal for demarcation line is unacceptable. Chauvel reiterated in strongest terms fact that French proposal for demarcation line just north of Dong Hoi would be acceptable to conference and would thus eliminate danger of extension of war. (Chauvel stated to Bonsal that of course French would have to hold Haiphong and adjacent zones for considerable period.)
Dong raised question of Viet Minh troops and sympathizers in area south of Faifo. Chauvel stated he assumed regular troops would be evacuated and others would return to their villages. He said that presumably there would be no objection to any persons desiring to do so removing to Viet Minh controlled territory. (Bonsal expressed interest and emphasized United States view this subject as set forth paragraphs of aide-mémoire contained Department telegram 4853.)2
Dong endeavored to raise question of eventual political settlement, but Chauvel stated that in present discussions must be limited to military matters and reaching of armistice. He stressed purpose of present conversation is to make arrangements for removal from Tonkin of 300,000 Franco-Vietnamese troops. He said that French have no aggressive military intentions, although obviously it is essential for French to reinforce their position both by regrouping their forces in delta and by measures agreed on in Paris in order to insure so far as possible, security of their troops. (He told Bonsal he did not believe either French or Viet Minh would take aggressive military action under present circumstances.)
Alluding to political matters, Chauvel took occasion to point out to Dong that elections have not yet been held in Communist China and that Dong would probably agree on need for considerable period of pacification and reconstruction before elections would be held. Dong made no comment.
Chauvel read Bonsal passages from letter he had received from Mendes-France indicating that French negotiators should avoid appearance of overeagerness to reach settlement. Deadline date of July 20 which Mendes-France has set himself3 is not so pressing as to induce French to accept Viet Minh proposal of thirteenth parallel.[Page 1280]
In view Department telegram 9,4 Bonsal drew Chauvel‘s attention to presence here of new Vietnamese representative Tran Van Do and to latter’s interest in seeing Chauvel. (Chauvel apparently not fully informed by his subordinates on this score.)