205. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Sebald) to the Secretary of State1


  • Postponement of Briefing Paper on NSC 5519, “U.S. Policy on All-Viet-Nam Elections” up for Council Consideration on June 9

I suggest that you recommend to the Council postponement of its consideration of this paper at least until certain aspects of it can be clarified, and with no definite date set for any reconsideration.

The reasons for deferment are as follows:

It may not be possible to implement the paper as drafted. It assumes Diem will go along with consultations with the Viet Minh and that a clear-cut issue over free elections will come about. That may not be correct.
Before we formalize any statement of policy on this subject we should have a clearer and more precise view of the Vietnamese position than at present.
The question of pre-electoral consultations on July 20, 1955, with the Viet Minh is becoming a major political and diplomatic problem. The French, British, Indians, and the Viet Minh will insist on them.
Diem and his government may refuse because in his view:
He and his government did not sign the Geneva Accord and protested it. Therefore he is not legally bound by its provisions on elections. He wants to dissociate Free Viet-Nam completely from the Accord and does not feel compelled to meet with the Viet Minh beginning on July 20th.
Free Viet-Nam cannot consider the question of consultations and elections until after a National Assembly has been elected and convoked, and has declared its views. He has no mandate to talk with the Viet Minh about elections until he has the backing of some representative body.
The status and responsibilities of the French Expeditionary Corps and the French High Command must first be settled before [Page 442] determining his policy on consultations and elections. Free Viet-Nam must have unquestioned and complete sovereignty prior to adopting any public position on free elections.
While the opposition to the principle of genuine and adequate safeguards is acceptable, international pressures will compel them to compromise with the Viet Minh and so lose Free Viet-Nam.
The purpose of the draft paper was to take a position so our policy in the event of Viet Minh aggression would be clear. We have been calling Diem’s attention to the dangers in his taking a negative position. These are: (a) he will give the impression of being against free elections, while the Viet Minh seize the initiative and for propaganda purposes seem to be for them; (b) his rejection of consultations will provoke the International Control Commission, or the two co-chairmen to set the date, place and circumstances for consultations; and (c) the Viet Minh might seize upon his opposition as a pretext for terrorist and subversive activities in Free Viet-Nam before he is strong enough to combat them, or even to threaten military aggression. This would hinder our position on military reactions.
Accordingly, it would be better to proceed with our exchange of views in Saigon with Diem, as well as with the British, French and Canadians before fixing a draft statement of policy. We will need a maximum amount of maneuverability in any event.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/6–955. Top Secret. Drafted by Young. According to a marginal note on the source text by O’Connor, Dulles saw this memorandum.