Johnson–Chauvel Meeting, Geneva, July 9, Afternoon: The United States Delegation to the Department of State
Secto 578. Repeated information Paris 28, Saigon 19. Limit distribution. Paris eyes only Ambassador. Saigon eyes only Ambassador. [Page 1322] I called on Chauvel following restricted meeting today. He has just returned from Paris. His impression is that Mendes-France position unchanged and that he does not intend make further concessions to secure agreement with Communists. Mendes-France anticipates active week of discussions followed possibly by last minute agreement on evening July 19. Mendes-France arrives here tomorrow afternoon. He will see Molotov tomorrow evening.
Chauvel dined last night with Communist Chinese. Li Ko-nung and Chang Wen-tien, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to USSR who has just returned here, were present. Atmosphere was “very cordial”. Chauvel informed Chinese that military discussions with Viet Minh not going well and that latter had made both for Vietnam and for Laos unacceptable proposals wholly out of harmony with what Chauvel had understood Chou En-lai’s position to be. Chinese expressed surprise but did not go into details of situation. He told Chauvel that Chou En-lai would probably return here early next week saying it takes three to four days to fly here from Peking depending on weather. Vice Minister stated Chou En-lai had had “very good meeting” with Ho Chi Minh and results “would be helpful to French”. Vice Minister has spent last two weeks in Moscow and Chauvel believes Communist Chinese and Soviet positions regarding problem have been coordinated, with Chinese views on Asian problems being given major weight.
There was an “underground” meeting between French Colonel Brebisson and Viet Minh military representative yesterday. At this meeting Viet Minh made two proposals (1) A demarcation line about 40 kilometers north of Tuyhoa line and (2) “neutralization” of delta in order to permit total evacuation of French Expeditionary Corps in three months period. French representative stated both these proposals wholly unacceptable and not even worthy of discussion. He refused to set date for next meeting.
Chauvel saw Molotov this morning. Molotov expressed interest in being informed of progress of conference. Chauvel gave him general review touching particularly on question of demarcation line, attitude of extreme intransigence being adopted by Viet Minh in military talks and problem of international controls. Molotov expressed interest but claimed unfamiliarity with details. Chauvel suggested desirability of contact between French military representatives and members of Soviet delegation in order that Soviet delegation might be fully informed of difficulties being encountered and of attitudes adopted by Viet Minh. Later in day Soviet delegation got in touch with French delegation and these contacts will be set up. Molotov stated that he had seen [Page 1323] Chauvel‘s working paper (Secto 5751) and that while there were points requiring clarification and further study he thought it was a useful contribution.
Chauvel has impression both Russians and Chinese give Viet Minh fairly free hand to see how far they can go but that when they find Viet Minh demands have gone beyond limit which French can be expected to accept, they intervene. Chauvel made point to Molotov that any agreement reached must be acceptable not only to Franco-Vietnamese side and to Viet Minh but also to other conference members. He is hopeful that, as he says occurred previously, Chinese-Russian moderating influence will now be brought to bear on Viet Minh. Chauvel expressed confidence that if he were negotiating only with Russians and Chinese, he could almost certainly achieve a settlement in line with provisions of US-UK aide-mémoire.
Chauvel told me that he is having his staff prepare drafts of an armistice agreement and related documents so as to be ready in case ministers reach agreements on major matters. He stated that information we had furnished regarding Korean armistice was most useful to them and was much appreciated.