Johnson–Chauvel Meeting, Geneva, July 6, Morning: The United States Delegation to the Department of State
Secto 560. Repeated information Paris 12, Saigon 10. Limit distribution. Paris eyes only Ambassador. Saigon eyes only Ambassador. This morning Chauvel expressed to me serious concern re reports he had had from Bonnet of two statements by Secretary and one by Under Secretary to effect US not being adequately informed. He asserted with much emphasis that he had and would continue keep me fully and frankly informed. My own belief is that Chauvel has not deliberately withheld information.
Chauvel had seen Dong this morning. On question of demarcation lines, Dong again referred to status of populations sympathizing with Viet Minh who would be left south of demarcation line proposed by French. He said this question would be easier for him if he could get some general political assurances regarding eventual status these people. Chauvel said Dong indicated that with such assurances he might be able to accept Dong Hoi line.
In reply to Dong Chauvel stated that such assurances would have to be very general. They might refer to such matters as eventual unity, territorial integrity, democratic conditions, etc.
Chauvel told Dong that any attempt to go further into detail on political matters would result in prolonged discussion and delay in achieving the armistice which all desire.[Page 1287]
Chauvel suggested to Dong that it might be advantageous to have the agreement on the armistice purely one between the commands of each side and not between governments. This would obviate immediate problem of securing consent of Vietnamese Government. Agreement would, of course, have to include certain questions not purely military. The agreement could then be submitted to the conference. Perhaps conference might then make a general statement of political principles which would be included in a final declaration by conference. Dong agreed with this general approach. He referred to his own statement of May 12 in which he had advocated that agreements regarding cessation of hostilities should be bilateral.
Chauvel stated that in his talk with Dong he referred to fact military conversations not moving well. He wondered whether it might not be possible to supplement them with some conversations between civilians on certain subjects not purely military. Dong agreed and Chauvel designated Offroy while Dong indicated that Tran Cong Tuong (Vice Minister of Justice in Viet Minh Cabinet and member Viet Minh delegation here—he was also in Fountainebleau Conference in 1946) would be his representative.
Chauvel told me French delegation is working on draft of paper on control system which will be submitted to British and Russian delegations and of which he will give us a copy as soon as completed. Although his position remains that parties should agree accept decisions or recommendations of international commission, he is somewhat skeptical on how system will work in practice on major questions. He stated that decisions could be by majority or unanimous vote, but that in case of majority decisions on major questions implementation would obviously be difficult. He pointed out that eventual recourse to guaranteeing powers, i.e., conference powers will obviously not work in event serious disagreement. He stated that it will be necessary in this case “for us to work out something among ourselves”.
Chauvel told us that he is leaving for Paris tomorrow to see Mendes-France in order to get his instructions. He indicated that Mendes-France has been in touch with London regarding future plans for conference. He has impression from Massigli that Reading or Caccia will be returning here shortly and that Eden is expected about 12th, (Lamb subsequently told me he has no information on Eden‘s plans and knows nothing about Reading or Caccia returning in advance of Eden).
Mendes-France himself may come here between 10th and 12th, probably not before Eden. The Chinese Communist representative apparently indicated to Chauvel that Chou En-lai’s return is expected, but gave no details. Molotov is apparently still due about 8th, although Soviets have not directly said anything on this.[Page 1288]
I again raised matter Haiphong enclave by asking Chauvel if any recent Viet Minh reaction on this. Chauvel said that Dong had given no definite indication regarding maintenance French enclave there. Chauvel said French would in any event obviously have to remain there for some time to come. In reply my further question, he said that French military do not attach great importance to retention of Haiphong from military point of view.
I also again raised with Chauvel question of anti-Communist civilian population in zones evacuated by French under any agreement. Chauvel said he expected Offroy to take this up with Dong‘s representative. Such matters as amnesty for alleged political offenses could also be discussed. Chauvel stated that problem of forcible repatriation of prisoners had not risen and that he did not expect that it would.
I asked Chauvel regarding liaison with Vietnamese. He replied he was handling this through members of his staff and was avoiding direct contact with Vietnamese in order not to have to answer their questions.