85. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Tripartite Talks


  • M. Herve Alphand, French Ambassador
  • M. Charles Lucet, French Minister
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Robert McBride, WE
  • Mr. Dean Brown, WE

In answer to the Ambassador’s question as to the status of tripartite consultation as a result of the Secretary’s discussions in Paris,1 the Secretary replied that we should be prepared to resume the discussions on a more positive basis. We could take up in order important areas of the world, exchanging views and expanding on our policies with the hope that we could agree.

The Secretary said that he had suggested to Mr. Murphy that it might be most appropriate to start with the Far East. Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines are but some subjects. In the Philippines we find the situation not as satisfactory as it had been under Magsaysay. The situation there causes us concern. Our bases are important but the negotiations are not going well. The Formosa area is always explosive. The Chinese Communist aim, and that of the Soviet Union, appears to be to expel us from the Western Pacific. The Indo-Chinese area also provides a subject, one on which the French should be able to provide much information. The situation there is dangerous. (The Ambassador interjected that it is especially so in Laos because of Vietminh infiltration.) The Secretary added that there are difficulties between Thailand and Cambodia.

The Secretary continued, stating that the Far East seems to be the area where we could start. The Middle East, on the other hand, raises a series of problems more difficult to deal with as the situation there is so fluctuating.

The Ambassador then said that the Secretary had asked Couve de Murville what the General meant by “organization”. He said that he wants us to know that the General is ready to abandon this idea as long as regular, scheduled tripartite talks are held.

The Secretary replied that what is important is what takes place and not the framework in which it is cast. An elaborate framework could only cause trouble with other countries.

The Ambassador said that he agreed and the talks should go forward. From time to time, he added, they could be supplemented by meetings of the heads of government.

The Secretary said that this would pose problems as it would not be easy for the President to travel. There was, however, our invitation to [Page 158] General de Gaulle to visit the United States which he hoped would be accepted.2

The Ambassador reverted to the Secretary’s opening remarks. He said that Couve de Murville had thought that the Middle East was the more explosive area and might first be considered.

The Secretary replied that it is hard to tell which area is more dangerous. There has been new fighting in the Taiwan area. The Far East had been suggested because the lines are more clearly drawn there. Additionally, he had not had a chance to talk to Mr. Rountree. The discussions could start with the Far East. If an emergency situation arose in the Middle East, the discussions could be interrupted for consideration of that emergency.

The Ambassador agreed with this suggestion and said he would support it.

The Secretary noted that we are presently discussing Berlin tripartitely and stressed the importance of this subject. He asked if the Ambassador had yet received instructions.

The Ambassador replied that he agreed with the Secretary’s emphasis on the importance of the Berlin discussions. He had not yet received instructions but hoped to obtain them shortly after the new government was constituted on January 8.3

The Ambassador then said that the General has ideas on the establishment of theaters of operation in peacetime for wartime use. These could be connected or not to NATO. He asked if this proposal could not be studied tripartitely and simultaneously by the military. The French could use their Standing Group representative, acting in a national capacity. The United States might wish to have a representative of the Joint Chiefs take part. He gave as an example the organization of an African theater to which war in Europe would undoubtedly spread. This, he added, might have to be connected to NATO but there might be opposition from some members, especially the northern ones. It is, however, essential to study the question.

The Secretary said that such a study would have to consider an exchange of views with Spain which has important interests in Africa. He could not, however, give an answer to this question as he would have to consult with the Defense Department.

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The Ambassador said that the three are discussing Berlin politically and referring military problems to the military. This might provide a pattern.

The Secretary merely replied that we would study the matter.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 740.5/1–759. Secret. Drafted by Brown and approved by David E. Boster, staff assistant to Secretary Dulles, on January 16.
  2. See Document 81.
  3. See footnote 1, Document 34, and Document 81.
  4. General Charles de Gaulle was inaugurated as the first President of the Fifth Republic for a 7-year term on January 8, 1959. That same day, he announced the appointment of Michel Debré as premier at the head of his 27-member Cabinet and the names of the appointees. On January 15, the National Assembly met and overwhelmingly approved the government’s program.
  5. The British Embassy was informed of Alphand’s conversation with Dulles and stated it was generally in accord with the instructions recently sent it by the Foreign Office. These instructions approved the idea of the Embassies and the Department of State having “informal ad hoc consultations” on different problems on the understanding that no formal machinery be established, that other concerned governments be brought in, and where appropriate NATO would be kept informed. (Telegram 2374 to Paris, January 7; Department of State, Central Files, 700.5/1–759)

    Dulles discussed with President Eisenhower on January 8 his hope that the tripartite talks might alleviate some of the problems with de Gaulle; see Part 1, Document 185.