296. United States Minutes of Bilateral Foreign Ministers Meeting With the United Kingdom, Department of State, Washington, January 31, 1956, 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.1


[Here follow a list of persons present at the meeting (19) and a table of contents of the discussion. On the British side, in addition to Lloyd, senior officials present included Caccia and Sir Hubert Graves, British Minister at Washington. On the American side, Dulles was accompanied by Hoover, MacArthur, Merchant, Robertson, Bowie, Young, and Winthrop W. Aldrich, United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom.]

Southeast Asia


The subject of the Chinese Communist request for a new Geneva Conference on Indochina was discussed.2 The Secretary and Mr. Lloyd both opposed the idea.

The Secretary said that it was his understanding that President Diem wished to wait until the South Viet-Nam elections on March 4 were held before proceeding any further on the question of consultations on all-Viet-Nam elections. The Secretary hoped that Diem would then take a new look at this whole question. In answer to Mr. Lloyd’s question as to whether Diem had ever given any verbal indication that he would consider the question of free elections in Viet-Nam, Mr. Robertson replied that Diem had so indicated on several occasions but had insisted that conditions must exist which would insure that they would be genuinely free. He suggested UN supervision.

The Secretary continued that he would discuss with Diem in mid-March if he visited Viet-Nam after the local elections with a view to try to persuade him to take a position regarding elections which could be construed as conforming to Geneva Agreement. However, the Secretary made clear he had no desire to push the Vietnamese [Page 629] into rigged elections and assumed that the British would not do likewise. Mr. Lloyd agreed. The Secretary had in mind the concept of free elections such as Sir Anthony had proposed for Germany. For tactical reasons the Secretary felt that Diem should not oppose this concept. Mr. Robertson stressed the fact that the Vietnamese people were violently opposed to the Geneva Accords and that Diem apparently felt he had to liquidate the rebellion of the sects and strengthen his internal position before risking an adverse public opinion in appearing to accept the Geneva Agreements.

In commenting on how to handle the Chinese Communist note regarding a new conference, Mr. Lloyd suggested the following procedure: (1) wait for the Soviet Government to get in touch with the UK on the note; (2) then wait for the comments of the other participating members of the Geneva Conference which would take some time; and (3) then wait for the outcome of the March 4 elections in Free Viet-Nam if they have not already occurred and the replies of the Geneva Powers are not yet available. The Secretary said then he would talk with Diem about the middle of March to try to get him to ease the situation. Mr. Lloyd indicated approval.

Mr. Robertson made the point that Diem has already started to carry out consultations by an exchange of letters and radio announcements. Since this in effect amounts to consultations in the sense of the Geneva Agreement we should not accept allegations in the Chinese Communist letter that Diem has failed to consult. We can point to these exchanges as the reason for not needing a conference on Viet-Nam. Sir Harold Caccia stated his complete agreement with Mr. Robertson’s point and Sir Harold said he thought this was a very good line to take in handling the request for a new conference. It would be said that the Geneva Agreement was being carried out because Diem has been exchanging views with the North.

Mr. Lloyd asked if the US believes the Communists desire elections in 1956 in Viet-Nam. Mr. Robertson replied that on the basis of available evidence … the Communists are becoming reconciled to a postponement of elections. Mr. Lloyd recalled that he had recently seen a paper which suggested that the Viet Minh would now like to have two or three years to undermine South Viet-Nam. Sir Hubert Graves confirmed that there had been an intimation from the Viet Minh of a three to five year postponement.

The Secretary in summary expressed his view that the Communists are anxious for a resumption of the Geneva Conference for broader purposes than just the question of elections on Viet-Nam. They will use that question as a pretext for urging for another conference to bring Chou En-lai into contact with the Western powers and as an excuse to set the stage for a major conference where both Chou En-lai and Molotov could trot out proposals for a regional [Page 630] pact, neutralization, etc. This would also give them a contact with the neutrals and a propaganda forum which would probably be their primary purpose in any conference. Mr. Lloyd agreed.

[Here follows discussion on Malaya, neutralism, SEATO, Laos, and China and Chinese representation in the United Nations.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Secret. The source text bears no indication of authorship. The minutes were cleared at the Assistant Secretary of State level and distributed on February 7 on a need-to-know basis.

    Foreign Minister John Selwyn Lloyd accompanied Prime Minister Eden for talks with President Eisenhower, Dulles, and other U.S. officials January 30–February 1, 1956. Briefing materials for these discussions are ibid., Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 647.

  2. Text of Chou En-lai’s note of January 26 to the British (as cochairman of the Geneva Conference) condemning South Vietnam’s failure to abide by the terms of the Geneva Agreements and demanding convocation of the Conference is in telegram 2563 to Saigon, January 27. (Ibid., Central Files, 751G.00/1-2756)