396.1 GE/7–1654: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State

top secret
priority

Secto 626. Repeated information Paris 72, Saigon 44. Saw Chauvel this afternoon. He told me that Mendes-France and Molotov had dinner last night, and Soviets had launched into substantive discussion even before cocktails were served and continued throughout dinner, and Mendes-France and Molotov had discussion following dinner with only interpreters present which lasted more than 3 hours until almost 1 a.m. Discussion covered whole range of outstanding questions at least once; according to Chauvel some of them “twenty times”. Chauvel said Mendes had stuck firmly to French positions and with very minor exceptions of elections mentioned below, Molotov had, while being very pleasant, not budged an inch. On elections Molotov finally made suggestion that conference agree on date by which two governments of Vietnam would have decided date for elections. Mendes rejected this. Chauvel‘s assessment was that Communists expected to find Mendes [Page 1395]“soft”, are somewhat confused at his firmness, and are still testing him.1

There have been no other major developments. I called Chauvel‘s particular attention to paragraph 3 of position paper on Indochina agreed at Paris and noted that French were still using term “guaranteeing powers” in draft armistice, and asked how he perceived the situation in this regard. He said that he conceived guarantee to be more than that embodied in French draft of conference declaration (Secto 5972). I pointed out that position paper made it clear that US will express its position unilaterally or in association only with non-Communist states, and was not quite sure how French concept of conference declaration fitted therewith. I said I had particularly instructed Bonsal reserve our position on last paragraph of French draft providing for consultation among conference powers on reports of violations by supervisory commission. Although I had no instructions on subject, I did not believe US would be willing assume continuing obligation consult with all conference powers including Communist China and Viet Minh. Chauvel said that in light of paragraph 3 of position paper, French draft provided only for conference “noting” armistice agreement.

Chauvel said French were concerned over reports continued contacts between Tran Van Do and Dong. They did not know exactly what was happening, they know very little about Do, but they had impression he was unsophisticated and might be “taken into camp” by Dong. They felt after zones between defined and two governments each clearly responsible for own territories, such contacts would probably be desirable and necessary, but in present situation might be dangerous and could even result in surprise move bringing about something in nature of coalition government. Chauvel said de Jean was going to see Bao Dai to determine what Bao Dai knew about the matter and whether he had approved.

In reply to my question on what French conceived to be major outstanding issues, Chauvel listed: (1) military demarcation line in Vietnam, (2) regrouping in Vietnam, particularly in delta area, where Chauvel said Viet Minh would be required to move out two divisions from areas that they now occupied so as permit separation from French-Vietnamese forces. In Laos he said major question was retention [Page 1396]small number French troops there (consideration was being given to “changing their flag” from French to Laos), and also political questions in Laos. He said there were no major issues on Cambodia.

Chauvel also mentioned international control and asked whether I had any new instructions on subject. I said I had not and subject had not been discussed at Paris in any detail.

UK informed me today that meeting was proposed this afternoon between Mendes, Eden and Molotov to go over present stage of work of conference and make catalogue of work to be done. They asked whether I wished to be present, pointing out if US were present Soviets would probably insist on presence of Chinese, thus turning meeting into “five-power affair”. I replied that I had no objection to their going ahead on three-power basis.3

Johnson
  1. With respect to this meeting the U.S. Delegation reported to the Department of State in telegram Secto 621, July 16, as follows: “Latournelle today told us that in course of dinner meeting with Molotov last night, Mendes-France gave complete statement of French positions on Indochina settlement. Molotov listened attentively and courteously but gave no indication of any yielding from previously assumed Communist positions. According to Latournelle. Molotov behaved like a ‘feather bed’”. (396.1 GE/7–1654)
  2. Dated July 13, p. 1355.
  3. See telegram Secto 632, July 17, p. 1408.