283. Telegram From the Secretary of State to the Department of State1

Secto 17. Bilateral with Pinay on FE December 17 discussion only in general terms covering following topics:

1. Vietnam

Pinay began by describing difficulties particularly economic in French-Vietnamese relations. He said he still intended to visit Saigon but could not go until latter part of January because of elections and formation of new government. His mission would be to assure Diem France recognizes only Republic of Vietnam headed by Diem. Pinay also hopes to gain Diem’s confidence and persuade him improve relations with France. Pinay hoped US could use its influence help bring this about. Secretary stressed importance Pinay mission and urged desirability France and Vietnam rapidly reaching fundamental understanding which would permit basis for better relations.
Pinay stressed need for common French-US line toward Vietnam to prevent Vietnamese from playing French off against Americans and vice versa which he believes they are now doing. Secretary reiterated necessity for Franco-Vietnamese understanding and pointed out limitations of exercise of US influence on Vietnamese.
In reply to Secretary’s question re Sainteny mission, Pinay replied French must have some officials in Hanoi to protect remaining French cultural and economic interests. However Pinay assured Secretary that this did not constitute diplomatic or consular mission in Hanoi. Secretary pointed out Diem and Vietnamese are extremely mistrustful of French relationships with Viet Minh. Pinay fully acknowledged this and said one of his purposes in going to Saigon would be to convince Diem on need for some French official representation of a limited nature in the north without any political connotation and without prejudice French recognition Republic Vietnam. Pinay then made curious suggestion he hoped also to persuade Diem he should have an observer in the north and that there might be some value in economic exchanges between north and south in terms of rice and coal. (Embassy will try find out what French mean and why.)
Pinay noted experts had already covered economic and financial subjects2 but he wished to stress great difficulties French are having because of Vietnamese denunciation of monetary accord and inability of French concerns repatriate profits and capital. He said Diem must understand necessity of respecting accords with France. He hoped US aid procedures could be made a little more flexible to help alleviate franc shortage. Secretary replied he did not wish to go into details which had already been fully discussed at working level. Pinay replied so-called details could be block solution economic and financial problems. Secretary indicated we would look into question of flexibility with interested agencies in Washington but in light of discussions in Paris at expert level.

2. Laos

Secretary raised dangerous situation caused by Pathet Lao threat but Pinay had no comment other than to agree. Secretary urged France strengthen training mission and base personnel since US forbidden by Geneva accord instruct Lao forces which must be improved in view of threat. No reaction from French side.


Secretary stressed need strengthen SEATO at March meeting. Pinay agreed in principle. No details discussed.

4. Trade with Communist China

Secretary informed Pinay US had protested British unilateral intention change list. Secretary said US not necessarily adverse to some liberalization but felt strongly any changes should result from consultation and common action. Pinay completely agreed need common action since it would be most unfortunate if individual countries took unilateral action. He stated cohesion among western powers is becoming increasingly important and necessary.

5. Security Council

Secretary informed Pinay his agreement with Macmillan re proposal split tenure between Philippines and Yugoslavia. Pinay doubted its legality.

6. Press

Secretary pointed out Diem sensitivity and mistrust regarding bilateral talks on Vietnam. Secretary Pinay agreed not to mention to [Page 602] press any discussion of Vietnam but to describe talks as general discussion common problems in South East Asia and Middle East.

Following meeting French Foreign Office officials said they would inform Vietnamese officials in Paris and Saigon gist of talk re Vietnam. We said we would probably do likewise. French thought desirable give Vietnamese authorities full account of discussion.

(Pinay did not raise Geneva accords or question consultations and all-Vietnam elections. He did refer briefly but inconclusively question military accords and FEC.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/12–1755. Confidential; Priority. Repeated for information to Saigon, Vientiane, and London. Dulles was in Paris for North Atlantic Council meetings, December 15 and 16. According to a memorandum from MacArthur to Dulles, December 7, Pinay had requested bilateral discussions on Vietnam with the Secretary when Dulles was in Paris for the NAC meetings. (Ibid., 751G.00/12–755)
  2. Reports of these meetings are in telegrams 2886 and 2889 from Paris, December 16 and 17. (Ibid., 851G.131/12–1655 and 651.51G/12–1755)