Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 324

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Head of the United States Delegation ( Johnson )1

secret

Participants:

  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Dillon
  • Mr. MacArthur
  • Mr. Phleger
  • Mr. McCardle
  • Ambassador Johnson
  • Mr. Eden
  • Sir Harold Caccia
  • Sir Gladwyn Jebb
  • Sir Anthony Rumbold
  • M. Mendes-France
  • M. Parodi
  • M. Guerin de Beaumont
  • M. Latournelle
  • M. de Margerie
  • M. Folin

The meeting was very informal, with at times discussions going on between the Secretary and Mendes-France, the Secretary and Eden, and all three.

The Secretary first discussed with Mendes-France a letter to be addressed by Mendes-France to the Secretary confirming the discussions and undertakings that had been reached. Mendes-France agreed [Page 1360] with the conclusion of a draft presented by the Secretary but indicated that he desired more fully to include the French position.2

There was also a discussion of a joint French-US position paper of which the Secretary showed Mendes-France a draft.3 The discussion of this paper centered principally around respective positions with regard to bringing the matter of Indochina to the UN if there was no agreement at Geneva, and French intentions and policies concerning the independence of the Associated States. During this discussion the Secretary pointed out the dilemma with which France faced any US efforts to be of assistance. On the one hand, the French claimed that Indochina was an internal affair which could not be brought before the UN, and on the other hand, wanted assistance from the outside. The US could not be in the position of assisting a French colonial war in Indochina. Mendes-France replied that the Indochina affair was at the beginning a colonial war, but outside influences were more and more coming into the situation and it was no longer an entirely internal affair. However, with respect to bringing the matter to the UN, France had to consider the situation if trouble broke out in another French territory and the precedent that would be established if the matter of Indochina were brought to the UN.

With respect to the American draft of the position paper, to the effect that France reaffirms its intention to reaffirm genuine independence to the Associated States and would not forcibly prevent any of the States from withdrawing from the French Union, Mendes stated that France had many times expressed its intention with respect to the independence of the Associated States, and in addition there was no problem with respect to Laos and Cambodia with which treaties were completed and in effect.

With respect to forcibly preventing their withdrawal, he pointed out the constitution of the French Union did not make any positive provision for secession there from, and it was therefore beyond his constitutional power to make any such statement.

Mr. Eden stated that he thought the question of Vietnamese independence was very fundamental in the present situation and the Vietnamese had said to him that unless the question of their independence was resolved, there would be no hope of holding any part of retained Vietnam. The Secretary also expressed the view that there was no chance of holding Vietnam unless they were granted real independence. Mendes-France said the question is what is to be done if there is a cease-fire. Neither the separate authorities in the north nor in the south would have the right to speak in the name of all the country. [Page 1361] Only a future unified government would be able to do that. However, he fully recognized the importance of developing a strong nationalist government in the south of Vietnam even if in the beginning this gives rise to difficulties for France.

Mendes said he fully realized the urgency of doing something in this regard both in the civilian and military fields and that France must take political and psychological measures which will give the Vietnamese in the retained portion of Vietnam prestige and popularity and they would also need outside aid. It was extremely important that Vietnamese in this area be able to present themselves as representing a truly national movement.

It was decided that a working group would redraft the proposed letter and the joint position paper.

There was then discussion regarding whether General Smith‘s health would permit his presiding at Geneva.4 However, Mendes expressed the view that the important thing was not the exact date General Smith was able to arrive, but that they be able now to say that he was coming. The Secretary said that if General Smith was not able to come, it might be possible for him to return for a two or three-day period, but he explained that the situation in Congress with national and foreign aid and other legislation of importance to the area made it imperative that he be in Washington and also that he fully explain to Congressional leaders the results of the conversations held here.

Mendes said that the cease-fire act “has to be done by Tuesday”.5 That is when the date upon which the cease-fire was to go into effect must be published. After that the Conference can go on as long as it likes with regard to technical matters. If he deviates in any way from his determination that this be done by Tuesday, it will mean that the French will be involved in another Panmunjom. The Secretary pointed out that “technical matters” could be of very great importance.

The discussion was recessed until 3 p.m.6

  1. This meeting took place at the Quai d’Orsay from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  2. The U.S. draft has not been located; for the text of the letter from Mendès-France to Dulles, July 14, see p. 1365.
  3. The U.S. draft has not been located; for the final approved text of the U.S. France position paper, July 14, see p. 1363.
  4. See the editorial note, p. 1381.
  5. July 20.
  6. Following this meeting, Secretary Dulles called President Eisenhower to inform him that agreements had been reached which would require Under Secretary Smith to return to Geneva. The President gave his approval. (Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file)