Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 301

The Secretary of State to the Under Secretary of State (Smith)1

top secret

My Dear General Smith: The following basic instructions,2 which have been approved by the President, will guide you as head of the United States Delegation in your participation in the Indochina phase of the Geneva Conference for which you are leaving today.3

I append hereto as Annex A a Six Point France–United States Position Paper, dated July 14, 1954.4 Attached thereto is a Seven Point Memorandum setting out the terms which the French Government states it believes are obtainable at Geneva by negotiation, and which would be acceptable to France, and France believes, to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.5
The United States recognizes that these four nations have a direct and primary interest as belligerents which entitles them to negotiate a settlement without any coercion or pressure from the United States. As stated in the Position Paper, the United States will not seek “to [Page 1390]impose its views in any way upon those primarily interested”, i.e., France and Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Therefore, your role at the Conference will be that of the representative of a nation friendly to the non-Communist states primarily interested, which desires to assist, where desired, in arriving at a just settlement. You will not, however, go beyond this role.
If there is a cease-fire, armistice or political settlement which conforms substantially to the Seven Points referred to in the annexed Position Paper, and which is agreed to by the states primarily interested, you are authorized to make a declaration of the attitude of the United States in the form of the annexed declaration, marked Annex B. This will be a unilateral declaration, unless certain of the non-Communist states desire to associate themselves with it, in which case this is acceptable. The United States will not, however, become cosignatory with the Communists in any declaration.
You will note that the Position Paper states that if the terms of settlement differ materially from those set out in the Seven Points, the United States will not be asked or expected by France to respect those terms and “it may publicly disassociate itself from such differing terms.”
In the event that you are in doubt as to whether the settlement conforms substantially to, or differs materially from, the Seven Points referred to in the Position Paper, you will seek instructions before either refusing to make the declaration contemplated by the above paragraph numbered 4 or publicly disassociating the United States as contemplated by the above paragraph numbered 5. Of course, before taking any important action which could have serious repercussions upon our international relations, you will naturally communicate with me.
You will avoid participation in the negotiations in any way which would imply, or give the Communists a plausible case for contending, that the United States was so responsible for the result that it is in honor bound to guarantee that result to the Communists. We apprehend that the Communists might offer to make certain concessions if the United States would then guarantee the settlement so far as they were concerned. You should, so far as possible, avoid getting yourself into a position which would lend itself to such a Communist maneuver. Accordingly, the non-Communist belligerents, rather than the United States, should be the active negotiators, and such ideas as we have should be put forward to the French or Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, as may be appropriate, and through them to the Conference if they find it desirable to adopt such ideas as their own.
Also, since the United States is not prepared at the present time to give any commitment that it will intervene in the war if the Geneva Conference fails—the United States position in this respect is set out in President Eisenhower‘s letter of June 16, 1954, to President Coty 6—you should avoid as far as possible exerting any pressures or giving advice to the French of such a character that, if there is no cease-fire, the French can plausibly contend that it is because of our advice to, or pressure upon, them, and that therefore we are morally obligated to intervene at once in a military way.

Sincerely yours,

John Foster Dulles

Annex B7

The Government of the United States being resolved to devote its efforts to the strengthening of peace in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations

Takes note of the Agreements concluded at Geneva on _______ (date) _______ between the __________ military commands

Declares with regard to aforesaid Agreements that

it will refrain from the threat or the use of force to disturb them, in accordance with Art. 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations dealing with the obligation of members to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force; and
it will seek that other states which are not members of the United Nations shall similarly refrain from the use of force, in accordance with the Art. 2(6) of the Charter of the United Nations dealing with insuring that states which are not members of the United Nations shall act in accordance with the principles of the Charter so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security;8 and
it would view any renewal of the aggression in violation of these agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security.

  1. A copy of this letter is also filed in 396.1 GE/7–1654.
  2. Under Secretary Smith‘s original instructions were contained in telegram Tosec 138, May 12, p. 778.
  3. Under Secretary Smith departed for Geneva on the afternoon of July 16.
  4. Ante, p. 1363.
  5. Attached to the position paper, p. 1364.
  6. The text of President Eisenhower‘s letter to French President Coty, June 16, is printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954, pp. 583–584. The pertinent portion of the letter, the fourth paragraph, is printed in volume xiii .
  7. The copy of this draft in the Dulles papers at the Eisenhower Library bears the handwritten initials of President Eisenhower indicating approval.
  8. The following marginal notation appeared opposite paragraph (ii): “Deletion recommended by Secretary. Tosec 560.” Telegram Tosec 560, July 17, read as follows: “Upon reflection and in view of reactions here, believe that Subparagraph 2 of US Declaration Annex B should, if at all possible, be eliminated as subject to misconstruction. Suggest you inform Phleger.” (396.1 GE/7–1754)