396.1 GE/7–754: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the United States Delegation1


Tosec 529. Reference Secto 569.2 Amb Johnson should reiterate to Chauvel and Amb Dillon or Ambassador Johnson to Mendes our views on international control which are closely tied to attitude we shall adopt re any Geneva agreement.

In this connection it should be stressed our attitude will depend not only on adherence to seven points of US-UK note, but also on acceptance or non-acceptance of any agreement by Associated States (ref Deptel 84 to Paris3). For this reason it is indispensable that French face up to problem of advising Vietnamese of Geneva developments [Page 1325] and prospects in order avoid dangerous reactions mentioned Deptel 394 to Paris.

Saigon’s 855 indicates Ngo Dinh Diem is still uninformed re French intentions and has not accepted implications military situation. We are struck by his statement that “ceasefire must not lead to partition which could only lead to preparation for more deadly war”, and his appeal that southern provinces of delta be restored.

Ambassador Dillon should again stress to Mendes (or in his absence to de Beaumont) acuteness this problem as it appears to us, and advise him that unless French themselves take initiative in preparing Diem for a Geneva agreement in line with US-UK seven points, we fear strongly adverse Vietnamese reactions may compromise possibility of establishing any line in Vietnam.

FYI For our part, we believe we must place our own relations with Diem on basis both more realistic and confidential if we are to play useful role in Vietnam at this time or in future. We would wish, of course, not to embarrass French thereby and would hope that their own consultations with Diem might have provided background against which review of our relations with Vietnam and statement of our policy in present circumstances would be appropriate. We believe such a step would contribute and in fact be indispensable to purposes set forth in French Aide-Mémoire of June 26 (Deptel 4852 to Paris6). We propose Diem be given information based on our reply to Aide-Mémoire (Deptel 4853 to Paris7), although neither Aide-Mémoire nor our reply should be mentioned to him. End FYI.

French should be informed by Embassy Paris and British by Embassy London that we are conveying this information in general terms to Diem, primarily in effort relieve pressures which appear dangerous to us and prejudicial to establishment of any free world strength in Vietnam.

Ambassador Heath should see Diem soonest and convey to him oral message from Secretary in following sense:8

“As you assume your high office I want you to know that thoughts of American people, President Eisenhower and myself are with you and with your country in its difficult ordeal.

“Your wisdom, strength and record of devotion to cause of genuine independence are well known to us and we are confident that they will be put to service of Vietnam.

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“We know that struggle in Indochina is one for liberty against despotism and that you represent the spirit of resistance to a menace which threatens entire free world.

“US has, as you know, taken up arms against this Communist imperialism as one of the United Nations in Korea. We have also contributed of our resources and those skills we possess in other threatened areas, not least in Vietnam. US remains prepared support countries everywhere seeking maintain their freedom against godless Communist menace.

“During past year as new plans of French Union High Command developed, we sought to assure ourselves that those plans offered prospect of military success and would accompany and foster early completion of independence, and development of national armies, in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

“Unfortunately this program was not fulfilled and military situation in Vietnam deteriorated.

“Meanwhile US had acquiesced in suggestion of its associates in free world that fullest trial should be made at Geneva of resources of negotiation. Communists during this period in no wise abated their aggression in Vietnam. Other negotiations with Viet Minh and Chinese Communists, to which US is not a party, have also taken place.

“If as a result of such negotiations or of military operations there should now result any cease-fire line tending to divide Vietnam, we would be unwilling to consider it as final. We would lend our best efforts to assist patriotic Vietnamese in building up strength in that part of Vietnam remaining outside Communist occupation. At the same time, it must be recognized that the necessary conditions for intervention by our own forces in North Vietnam have not been realized and are unlikely to be in the future.

“As you know, President Eisenhower and I have recently concluded a series of conferences with British Prime Minister Churchill and Foreign Secretary Eden. At these conferences we made clear our strong opposition to any settlement which might be made on terms leading to permanent division of your country. We and British agreed, and so informed French, that although temporary division of country might be required to effect regrouping of opposing military forces, we could not exclude prospect of ultimate peaceful reunification. In any such regrouping, we informed French, we felt strongly provision must be made for humane movements of populations.

“We believed French might be encouraged to resist possible agreements of more undesirable character if they were advised what kind of provisional agreement we and British might be prepared to respect, even though we were not prepared accept it as desirable or final. Accordingly we and British informed French we would ‘respect’ an agreement which:

  • “1. Preserves at least the southern half of Vietnam:
  • “2. Does not impose on free Vietnam any restrictions materially impairing its capacity to maintain a stable non-Communist regime, and especially does not impose restrictions impairing its right to maintain adequate forces for internal security, to import arms and to employ foreign advisers:
  • “3. Does not contain political provisions which would risk loss of the retained area to Communist control;
  • “4. Does not exclude the possibility of the ultimate reunification of Vietnam by peaceful means;
  • “5. Provides for peaceful and humane transfer, under international supervision, of those people desiring to be moved from one zone to another of Vietnam; and
  • “6. Provides effective machinery for international supervision of the agreement.

“While we recognize that settlement along these lines imposes hardships on Vietnam, we fear that deteriorating military situation and separate negotiations in progress with Viet Minh and Chinese Communists could lead to something still worse. It is our hope that views we have expressed to French may bear fruit in form of stronger resolve on their part.

“Finally permit me say how much I sympathize with sufferings of Vietnam and its people. I am glad that one who had dedicated his life and prayers to its service is now at hand to give comfort and guidance.”

  1. Drafted by Sturm of FE/PSA and Gullion of S/P. Repeated to Paris as telegram 124, to Saigon as telegram 121, and to London as telegram 190.
  2. Dated July 7, p. 1296.
  3. Dated July 8, p. 1309.
  4. Dated July 2, p. 1275.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Dated June 28, p. 1257.
  7. Dated June 28, p. 1256.
  8. Ambassador Heath conveyed the Secretary’s message to Diem on July 12. For Heath‘s report, see telegram 150, July 12, from Saigon, p. 1339.