396.1 GE/7–1654: Telegram

Bonsal-Ghau Meeting, Geneva, July 15: The United States Delegation to the Department of State


Secto 618. Repeated information Paris 66, Saigon 39. Tran Van Do yesterday sent Nguyen Hu Chau to call on Bonsal to express on behalf of Diem great concern over possibility of losing entire Tonkin delta in conference settlement. Chau read full text of point 2 of US-UK seven point reply to French aide-mémoire.1 (Full text of seven points had been given to Vietnamese by British; we had only furnished them with abbreviated oral version contained in Secretary’s message to Diem,2 and put special emphasis on “if possible an enclave in the delta”.) He expanded on both political and military necessity retaining Hanoi-Haiphong area as well as Bui Chu and Phat Diem, saying that new government would lose its raison d’etre as champion of unity and independence if that area should be given up. At least, he said, Bui Chu and Phat Diem should somehow be neutralized and “subtracted” from Viet Minh pressure and influence.

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Chau, who is lawyer by profession, laid great stress on legal arguments, implying that protectorate treaty of 1884 was last valid treaty between Vietnam and France, and that this would somehow preserve his government’s claim to Tonkin even if French should sign it away at Geneva. His intention was apparently, through Bao Dai‘s status as heir of the Nguyens and Chief of State, to establish legitimacy of his government and its claim to all of Vietnam.

Chau alluded to possibility that if Tonkin were lost, Bao Dai might feel obliged to retire from the scene. Chau implied, not too convincingly, that this would be fraught with undesirable consequences and hence was an additional reason for trying to hold Hanoi, Haiphong and the bishoprics.

Bonsal replied that it was his understanding Franco-Vietnamese relations subject agreements of 1949 rather than treaty of 1884 and that Bao Dai‘s constitutional status currently that of Chief of State and not hereditary sovereign Emperor. He stressed view that current discussion of demarcation line involves only military arrangements and that goal continues to be, whenever favorable conditions can be brought about, the unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam. He stressed in this connection vital necessity of closest possible contacts between French and Vietnamese delegations.

In more general conversation Chau commented on following subjects:

Some Vietnamese and French would like to see reestablishment Cochin Chinese Republic; in this connection he noted Tran Van Huu back in Geneva after very active period in Paris. He implied French official backing for intrigues this direction.
He complained of French and Viet Minh neglect of Vietnamese Army officers at military talks in Indochina.
Chau seemed particularly proud that Ngo Dinh Diem government has obtained “full powers” from Bao Dai. Contact here with Viet Minh delegation and coming replacement of Tran Van Kha in Washington given for examples of action by new government without Bao Dai approval. Also noted plateau areas formerly ruled directly by Bao Dai through Imperial Cabinet now placed under Central Government. Chau was critical of Bao Dai‘s entourage.

  1. For text, see telegram 4853 to Paris, June 28, p. 1256.
  2. For text, see telegram Tosec 529, July 10, p. 1324.