396.1 GE/7–854: Telegram

BonsalDo Meeting, Geneva, July 7, Evening: The United States Delegation to the Department of State


Secto 571. Repeated information Paris 20, Saigon 14. Bonsal and Dwan dined last night with Tran Van Do, new Vietnamese Foreign Minister, at latter’s invitation. Also present were Ngo Dinh Luyen (brother of Prime Minister) who is here on brief visit Nguyen Huu Chau, a family connection of Ngo Dinh Diem‘s, newly-arrived member of Vietnamese delegation here; Le Quang Trieu, Vietnamese Military Attaché, Washington, and Dac Khe, member of former Vietnamese Government.

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Vietnamese, with Ngo Dinh Luyen doing most of talking, made many bitter intemperate statements regarding French of which following fair sample:

French refused to allow Vietnamese to defend recently-evacuated areas of south delta and particularly bishoprics. “If French don’t want to fight any more themselves, they might at least make it possible for us to fight.” (There was no attempt to make any analysis of capacities of Vietnamese forces which would have opposed Viet Minh in this area.) Marshal de Lattre‘s action in dissolving Catholic militia three years ago was severely criticized.
French failed to notify Vietnamese beforehand of their intentions in delta or to explore with Vietnamese possible alternative courses of action.
French have consistently failed and still fail to understand that creation of effective Vietnamese fighting force depends upon autonomy of that force under own leadership and its use as integrated whole rather than as mere manpower reserve for French High Command. Necessity for Unified Command recognized.
French are not keeping Vietnamese informed of current negotiations. Ngo Dinh Luyen has not seen Mendes-France for many days and interviews with Guy La Chambre have proved unilluminating.
There is reason to believe French plan to revive “Republic of Cochinchina” and thus to retain for themselves richest part of Vietnam leaving remainder to Communists [.No?] evidence whatever was given on this score.
French still refuse official signature of treaties of independence and association and completion of negotiations on supplementary conventions (economic, cultural, military, et cetera).

In reply to all this, Bonsal could only suggest importance of establishing and maintaining closest contact between Vietnamese delegation here and other friendly delegations including particularly French delegation. He expressed skepticism regarding some of points made above. He pointed out that for eight years French and Vietnamese have been fighting Communists in Vietnam and that for past four years US material and moral support to both French and Vietnamese in this struggle has been substantial. He added expression of hope for future and belief that fact Vietnamese Government now being taken over by new men who had not previously been involved in struggle might produce important new political assets and revitalize forces fighting against Communist domination.

General effect of conversation was depressing. None of Vietnamese give impression of ability to exercise leadership or to conceive of or to carry out practical enterprises. Dac Khe suggestion regarding importance of maintaining covert relationships with friendly elements in Catholic bishoprics and even of arranging to parachute arms and supplies to them was closest Vietnamese came to focusing on realities of present situation.

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Luyen reported Bao Dai‘s state of health precarious.

Chau told us that in South Vietnam relations between Vietnamese and Viet Minh troops, at points where French are absent, are relatively good. Viet Minh do not tend to attack posts manned only by Vietnamese.

Dac Khe stated recent AP story attributed to Vietnamese sources here regarding military demarcation line at sixteenth parallel with enclaves for Franco-Vietnamese to north and for Viet Minh to south of line had in reality come from Viet Minh.