193. Telegram From the Secretary of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

5140. 1. Re Saigon’s 5325 repeated Paris 13702 and Deptel 5107 to Saigon repeated Paris 4104.3

You may inform Diem US position during Paris talks along following lines, in addition to reaffirming points you have already made: there must be full recognition nationalist spirit aroused in Vietnam and Vietnamese Government is now an independent force. Support for that force provides best available hope of a moderate constructive anti-Communist evolution. Future of Vietnam depends on having a nationalist government which is not subservient to foreign [Page 417] demands but which will be receptive to proper suggestions and assistance from those it believes are really interested in its survival and progress. The relationship with Vietnam can be built only on a spirit of mutual trust and confidence. In this context of Secretary’s presentation, principal issue in Paris was complete and sincere support for Diem government. Throughout all meetings with French officials in Paris US expressed firm policy continued sincere support for legal government under Diem. French authorities came around to similar policy in private talks as well as public statements. As to other aspects of talks, you may give Diem the following account with explanation that Ambassador Reinhardt will discuss the talks with him in detail in light of his conversation with Secretary Tuesday May 174 before departure for Saigon:

A better understanding has been reached between the French and the US re the differences between our respective viewpoints. A sounder possibility has been opened up for useful unilateral action by each government in their efforts to help the Vietnamese Government and people maintain their independence.
In public and private statements French authorities renewed their intention to support Diem and his government. If fully carried out, this could be of great importance.
It should be made clear to Diem there is no formal agreement or accord between France and US calling for joint US-French action of any kind. Instead it is understood between us that we each will instruct our respective representatives in our own words within the general understanding of support for the Diem government. We do not believe such accords are proper when a sovereign third party is involved, or which might limit US freedom of action.
Re Bao Dai, our position is that, pending an expression of the will of the Vietnamese, the thread of legitimacy provided by a Chief of State should be retained to help guard against possible arbitrary and lawless seizure of power by extremist elements including Communists. In any event it is not for the US by its words or actions to appear to suggest a juridical change regarding Vietnam’s constitutional structure, since that is a matter for the Vietnamese alone. Vietnamese officials presumably have reported to Diem that no member of the US Delegation in Paris made any contact with Bao Dai or any member of his entourage.
We had an exchange of views with the French re our respective attitudes towards desirability of strengthening the Vietnamese Government, the amalgamation of the sects into normal life of Vietnam, the disposition of the FEC, question of elections both in Free Vietnam and under Geneva Accord, and “propaganda” concerning the French. Ambassador Reinhardt can take these up in more detail with Diem in accordance with instructions. In any event you may reassure [Page 418] Diem that, in all these matters, no decisions were made inasmuch as the US emphasized the sovereign nature of the Vietnamese Government and the impropriety of the US or France doing more than making suggestions and offering advice.

2. Re Saigon’s 5249 repeated Paris 1345:5 While we appreciate the reasons for making this proposal, we wish to have the matter fully explored before determining whether or not it would be advisable or helpful for the US to participate on a four-power basis in discussions on Vietnamese questions at this time. In the light of the general understanding of support for Diem worked out in Paris, we wonder whether or not a four-power conference would still be a good idea. Therefore we wish you would speak to Diem along the following lines:

In view of the reaffirmed French declaration of support for Diem’s government, does he still wish to proceed with his invitation for a four-power conference in Saigon? What subjects would be discussed? When would the conference take place? What does he expect such a conference to lead to? What result does he want out of it? What might be its actual consequences?
There is an important question of whether or not such a conference coming at this time would have a limiting effect on the freedom of action of both Vietnam and the US. The US, having established the principle of our flexibility and freedom of action during the recent talks, would be disinclined to engage in a conference in Saigon which might restrict our independent action by reason of multilateral understandings.
If there are particular subjects of major importance which Vietnam wishes to take up with the French or the US, perhaps it would be better to do so on a bilateral rather than multilateral basis.
There is also the question of the level of such a conference. The Secretary’s schedule in the immediate weeks would not permit him to attend. Therefore a representative from US at ministerial level might be difficult to arrange. Exactly what level does Diem have in mind?

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/5–1755. Secret; Niact. Drafted by Young, cleared with MacArthur and Elbrick, and signed by Dulles. Repeated for information priority to Paris.
  2. In this telegram, May 17, Kidder relayed Diem’s bitter complaints that he was being left in the dark as to what had transpired during the Paris tripartite talks, particularly concerning the U.S. position on Bao Dai. (ibid.)
  3. In this telegram, May 17, the Department informed the Embassy in Saigon that U.S. officials in Paris had briefed the Vietnamese High Commissioner and Ngo Dinh Luyen and that Department officials in Washington had given the Vietnamese Ambassador an account of the Paris talks. The information, however, was mostly a summary of what had already been reported in Paris newspapers. (ibid.)
  4. No report on this discussion has been found, although, according to telegram 5053 to Saigon, May 13, Reinhardt was to meet Dulles on May 17 to receive a personal account of the Paris tripartite talks on Vietnam and to benefit from the Secretary’s last-minute view of the situation there. (Ibid., 120.1551G/5–1355)
  5. In this telegram, May 13, Kidder reported that Diem proposed discussions in Saigon among French, American, and British chiefs of mission and representatives of his government on Vietnamese questions. (Ibid., 751G.00/5–1355)