314. Telegram From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Reinhardt) to the Department of State 1

3759. Tokyo USDel 2 for Macomber.

Secretary had two-hour discussion with President Diem March 14, covering many matters. MacArthur, Robertson, Young, Mau, and Chau 3 also present. Diem who seemed confident and reposed gave brief summary of Vietnamese situation in encouraging terms and with expression of great appreciation for U.S. support and assistance. Secretary described highlights SEATO meeting, his talks Karachi and visits en route. He suggested discussion of French training mission, Vietnamese attitude toward armistice and ICC, and July election problem.
On training, Secretary stressed he had no opinion on solution Franco-Vietnamese military problem, preferring to leave details to technical and military people, but spoke in general on probable need for some French instructors for air and navy services. He said US Government attitude would be to go along with Vietnam on this issue as it seemed raise emotional factors. Diem replied Vietnam envisaged retention some French personnel but pointed out French had been delaying negotiations. He said they had indicated they would withdraw all FEC by March and balance military personnel by June. He expressed concern French delay in turning over military buildings, camps, etc., for Vietnamese use. Whenever conversation touched on French, Diem launched into bitter criticism of their behavior using many illustrations. In his opinion, retention of French military personnel depends on their changing their “bad attitude”. Secretary informed Diem that Pineau said in Karachi French would keep trainers if requested by Vietnam. There was some discussion of problem posed by unprocessed MDAP matériel. Diem indicated he would accept French and US personnel for this purpose.
Armistice question was described by Secretary as most important of issues to be discussed. In order to forestall new Geneva conference, which US and UK did not want and to assist British in talks with Russians, he suggested primary concern should be to find formula by which Vietnam could give some indications of practical compliance with armistice. Secretary also pointed out Vietnam had [Page 660] duty to friends to make known its intentions before co-chairmen talks in London.4 Later summarizing views of Lloyd and Nehru, he urged Diem give sympathetic consideration to something along lines of suggested British declaration.5 Diem stated Vietnam is and would continue in fact to cooperate with ICC to keep the peace and that Vietnam had no intention resort to force; permit establishment foreign bases, or enter military alliances. Secretary cautioned Diem against assuming commitments for indefinite period, pointing out Vietnam might wish to enter SEATO later although it not feasible now. Diem referred to ICC as a safeguard for Vietnam. He acknowledged correctness of UK Ambassador Stephenson’s view that a declaration on part Vietnam would facilitate status quo but did not commit himself any further at this point.
As to all-Vietnam elections, Secretary stated time would come when it would be useful for Vietnam to take positive stand on principle of free elections. This would entail no danger to Vietnam since free elections could never take place in Communist-dominated territories. Such a declaration by Diem on free elections would be helpful to Vietnam and its friends. Secretary cited examples “Germany and ROK which had profited by such stands”. Diem did not reject suggestion. He stated Viet Minh would never respect results of elections where majority voted for free Vietnam. An index of Viet Minh good faith would be their establishment of enclaves where people in north would be permitted freely to take refuge in order eventually move south.
At conclusion Diem brought up necessity increase armed forces and garde civile. He also said assistance would be needed for civic action program. Chau then cited increasing fiscal requirements and estimated Vietnamese overall needs at about 300–350 hundred million dollars US aid. Secretary suggested this subject be taken up with Embassy.
After dinner Secretary emphasized to Diem great importance his making declaration on armistice. Diem categorically assured Secretary he would make one and that government was working on text which they would discuss with me. Secretary also emphasized to Diem that Vietnam, though small, had now joined family of nations [Page 661] and must accept related international responsibilities. Vietnam could exercise much influence in free world.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 110.11–DU/3–1556. Secret. Repeated for information to Paris, New Delhi, London, Ottawa, and Tokyo.
  2. The reference is to the delegation to the forthcoming meeting of the U.S. Chiefs of Mission in the Far East at Tokyo, March 19–21, under the chairmanship of Robertson and attended by Dulles. For the text of the communiqué issued after the final session, see Department of State Bulletin, April 2, 1956, pp. 543–544.
  3. Nguyen Huu Chau, Minister of State.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 309.
  5. In telegram 3612 from Saigon, March 7, the Embassy sent a summary of a suggested declaration which the British wanted Diem to make. It was along the following lines: While not bound by the Geneva Agreements, South Vietnam would declare its intention of respecting the existing cease-fire, of cooperating with the ICC, of not seeking unification of Vietnam by force but rather looking to the day when conditions in the North would permit genuinely free elections, and of avoiding military alliances or foreign military bases on Vietnam’s soil. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/3–656)