20. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Sebald) to the Secretary of State1
MEMORANDUM FOR DISCUSSION WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE CONCERNING INDOCHINA2
1. Points at issue between the U.S. and France to be raised with Defense
(A) Collins–Ely memorandum of understanding regarding U.S. undertaking responsibility for the training of the Viet-Nam National Army.
Generals Collins and Ely jointly drafted a memorandum of understanding, on December 13, which was submitted to their respective governments for approval (Tab A3). The U.S. approved but France revised the document and submitted a revision to the U.S. on January 8 (Tab B4). General Collins opposes the French revision because it omits provision for the autonomy of the Viet-Nam Army and for other unspecified reasons. General Ely believes there has been a serious misunderstanding between himself and Paris and has asked for clarification.
We have prepared a draft telegram instructing Collins to work out agreement with Ely. Although this will take time, it is preferable not to proceed unilaterally with the Vietnamese until we have come to agreement with the French. Defense has not made its views known as yet.
That the draft telegram (Tab C5) be approved by the Secretary and Secretary Anderson and Admiral Radford’s approval be obtained during the State–Defense meeting. (Telegram attached at Tab C sent Jan. 14 with Defense approval. No action required.)
(B) Difference in U.S.-French views on future of Diem Government.
The French have repeatedly attempted to secure U.S. approval to the setting of a deadline, by which date Diem would somehow be replaced by a Government of their choosing, ostensibly with U.S. concurrence. The U.S. has avoided agreeing to any specific replacement for Diem or to any precise deadline for rating his performance. [Page 42] The French have in mind either the return of Bao Dai or the establishment of a viceroy with the appointment of either Prince Buu Hoi or former Premier Tran Van Huu as Premier and the inclusion of Quat and Tam in such a government. Buu Hoi has been exceedingly pro-Viet Minh in the past, while Huu has been a neutralist and opportunist and their recent efforts to demonstrate a change of heart are unconvincing. While some French officials may honestly, because of advice given them, believe that Diem is incapable and should be replaced for that reason there are others who are apparently aiming at the establishment of a pro-French Government in Free Viet-Nam which might form a working arrangement with the Communists prior to the 1956 elections and would, after that date, form a coalition government with the Viet Minh.
We continue to oppose such a maneuver and continue to support Diem in the absence of a preferable alternate. General Collins is now reporting a slow but steady improvement in Diem as a leader and in conditions in Free Viet-Nam.
That we continue to oppose French efforts to replace Diem with a personality who would work toward a coalition with the Communists. This position would include continuing efforts to influence Diem to appoint more effective ministers and to move ahead vigorously in reforms. Although Defense has not opposed such policy in the past, it should be spelled out to Defense representatives for their appreciation.
2. Points at issue between State and Defense
(A) Formation of a U.S. training MAAG in Cambodia.
The Cambodian Government has asked us to enter into direct military training and direct budgetary support of their forces. Defense approval to the bilateral agreement to establish a MAAG in Cambodia included a JCS prerequisite that either the bilateral agreement or a separate agreement with Cambodia spell out that all French instructors now with the Cambodian Army, eventually be withdrawn. Defense insists that such an agreement precede the establishment of a U.S. MAAG, whether for logistical purposes or for actual training. (See Tab D6)
Continued and repeated working level efforts by the Department to have this prerequisite dropped or modified by Defense have met with no success, and it is hoped that Secretary Anderson’s and Admiral Radford’s approval can be obtained at the State–Defense meeting regarding solution to this problem. In the meantime, Ambassador [Page 43] McClintock is reluctant to begin direct budgetary support of the Cambodian National Army and since French subsidies stopped on December 31, 1954, there will soon be a condition of an unpaid army.
That Secretary Anderson and Admiral Radford be informed of the dangers inherent in attempting to proceed with the JCS prerequisite on the grounds that it will cause unfavorable reaction in the International Control Commission, will probably be viewed with considerable concern by the Cambodian Government itself and most certainly cause violent French reactions involving European matters as well as Indochinese. The JCS prerequisite should therefore be withdrawn or modified on the grounds of overwhelming political considerations. (Tab X7)
(B) Question of U.S. supplying additional helicopters and light planes to French in Indochina for use by International Control Commission.
The French have been pressing us for several months to supply seven additional helicopters and six light planes for the use of the ICC. They state they have an insufficient number available to meet both basic French and additional ICC requirements (Tab E8). When Ambassador Makins called on the Secretary and Mr. Merchant on January 7 on the subject, the Secretary stated he would look into this matter again as a result of Eden’s personal request.9
That the Secretary raise this matter with Secretary Anderson and Admiral Radford in an effort to have Defense reconsider their refusal to consider the supply of at least some additional helicopters. Light planes conceivably could be made available by Canada and have already been offered by the UK.
General Collins and General O’Daniel have recommended in a joint Embassy/MAAG message (Saigon telegram 2403—Tab F10) that we supply on a loan basis additional helicopters and planes but Defense has not answered this message or indicated any position other than their previous opposition.[Page 44]
3. Points at issue between U.S. and France
There are a considerable number of points at issue between the U.S. and France, concerning Indochina, and developments are rapidly bringing these differences closer to either a solution or a serious rupture in U.S.-French relations. The most important points include:
- French efforts to secure the replacement of Diem discussed in 1–B above.
Continued French influence in Cambodia and Laos.
The French have adopted a policy in Cambodia which indicates they intend to strengthen their position and influence in Cambodia and Laos. While in the latter country this arrangement appears to meet with the tacit approval of the Laotians. There is no firm resolution evidenced by the Cambodians to expel the French military advisors. The latter government has asked us to undertake direct military training, with a MAAG (see 2–A above for unresolved U.S. internal position in this question), and we are prepared to undertake direct budgetary support of the Cambodian Army as well as an economic aid program. The French allege to fear we are attempting to displace them and have put forward a specious complaint to the effect our policy is inconsistent with the Secretary’s assurances that we do not intend to take the place of France in Indochina. We expect further discord in this field as progress is made in U.S. military and economic programs.
The Sainteny Mission.
The Sainteny Mission to the Viet Minh is taking on the appearance and functions of a Diplomatic Mission, despite French assurances to us that such is not their intention. The Viet Minh are expected by the French to request reciprocal representation in Paris. Sainteny has requested U.S. approval to the shipment of various strategic items (fuels and vehicles) in opposition to U.S. economic policies of holding to the same controls with respect to the Viet Minh as are applied to Red China. The U.S. views the increased activity and influence of the Sainteny Mission with concern and fears that continued French deals with the Viet Minh can only weaken the Free World position vis-à-vis Communism in general and make more difficult our efforts to prevent the loss of Free Viet-Nam.
Viet Minh alignment with Soviet Bloc.
The Viet Minh itself leaves no question as to its direction and sympathies and its recent agreement with Red China11 has resulted in feverish efforts to open up direct rail communication to the China border (which will establish a direct Moscow to Haiphong line of [Page 45] communication) and other ominous moves. Red Chinese airplanes and uniformed Chinese “technicians” are now on the airfield at Hanoi, and the influx of Polish “technicians” and the arrival of Ambassadors from the Communist bloc countries is consistent with the Viet Minh policy which has doubled its effective military strength since Geneva and equipped it with arms made in Soviet Europe as well as Red China in violation of the Geneva Accords.
4. Progress of the Diem Government
Despite the elements of disagreement between the U.S. and France outlined above, General Collins reports definite improvement in both Diem’s effectiveness and conditions in general in Free Viet-Nam. Diem’s recent visit to central Viet-Nam resulted in impressive evidence of popular support which tends to belie French allegation of his lack of popularity. He is making satisfactory progress with the resettlement of over 400,000 refugees, internal security is not worsening and there are evidences that some anti-governmental groups are swinging to his support. His Defense Minister and General Collins are working harmoniously and making progress toward a mutually satisfactory National Army. The political and economic impact of direct U.S. budgetary support has not yet been felt (it began January 1) but this will have a favorable effect on Free Viet-Nam.
If we need anything to hearten us in our policy, it is necessary only to scan the heavily increased Viet Minh propaganda which daily exorcises Diem, praises the French and castigates the U.S. capitalistic warmongers.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/1–1755. Top Secret. Drafted by Hoey with the concurrences of Young and Sebald at the request of Dulles. A marginal note on the source text indicates that Dulles saw it.↩
- For the record of that meeting, see Document 22.↩
- For text of Tab A, see telegram 2261 from Saigon, December 14, 1954, Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xiii, Part 2, p. 2366.↩
- For text of Tab B, see Document 10.↩
- For text of Tab C, see Document 18.↩
- Not printed.↩
- Tab X was not attached to the source text.↩
- Tab E, not printed, was a copy of a memorandum by Robertson to Dulles, January 6, which provided the Secretary with background on the French request for helicopters.↩
- A report on this discussion is in a memorandum of conversation by Merchant, January 7, which is filed with a memorandum by Eden, undated, to Dulles supporting the French request for helicopters. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/1–755)↩
- Not printed.↩
- The reference is to a joint communiqué issued in Peking on December 24, 1954, stating that China and North Vietnam had agreed on Chinese material and personnel aid in restoring communications between the two countries and in reconstructing Vietnamese water conservation projects destroyed during the war.↩