92. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Tripartite Talks, February 3. Procedural and Non-FE Substantive Matters


  • French
    • Herve Alphand, French Ambassador
    • Charles Lucet, French Minister
    • General Max Gelee, French Representative, Standing Group
    • Jean Daridan, French Foreign Office
    • Pierre Landy, Counselor
    • Claude Winckler, Counselor
  • British
    • Sir Harold Caccia, UK Ambassador
    • Admiral Sir Michael Denny, Chairman of British Joint Services in Washington
    • Arthur de la Mare, Counselor
    • C.D. Wiggin, First Secretary
    • E. Youde, First Secretary
  • United States
    • R. Murphy, Deputy Under Secretary
    • W. Robertson, Assistant Secretary, FE
    • Admiral Robert Dennison, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Plans and Policy
    • Admiral William Miller, Asst. Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Plans and Policy
    • R. McBride, WE
    • E. Martin, CA
    • M. Green, FE
    • R. Donhauser, G
    • J. Bennett, CA
    • Lt. J.G. G. Gildred, Aide to Admiral Dennison
    • D. Brown, WE

Mr. Murphy opened the meeting with the hope that there would be no publicity. Ambassador Caccia said that the press would undoubtedly be in the corridors after the meeting and something might have to be said. Mr. Murphy reiterated his hope that there would be nothing which would give away the subject of the present talks. (At the end of the meeting Ambassador Alphand left first and was able to give the waiting press a general description of his meeting that morning with the Secretary on Berlin and Germany. This briefing effectively covered up the tripartite talk.)

Mr. Murphy suggested that there should be no formal agenda but rather a general agreement that subjects previously mentioned as suitable for the talks should be covered. This was agreeable to Ambassador Caccia. Ambassador Alphand also concurred, adding that there should be a certain amount of organization of the discussion to make sure that all subjects are covered but this could be done on a day-to-day basis.

Mr. Murphy said that we had received a revised, annotated agenda from Mr. Daridan the night before.1 It had not been yet studied and could not, therefore, be a basis for our discussions. (The British said they had not seen this document. Copies were given them by the French at that time.)

Ambassador Alphand then brought up the matter of informing others. He said the three Permanent Representatives could be asked to inform Spaak and the other PermReps. France, however, does not want the matter broached in the Council itself as NAC has never been officially informed of the talks. The suggested pattern seemed to have worked satisfactorily in the past.

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Mr. Murphy said this method of informing NATO members appeared acceptable.

Ambassador Caccia agreed that Spaak had to be informed. He thought the PermReps could coordinate among themselves and arrange a briefing for others. He brought up the UK’s special relationship with the Commonwealth and indicated countries like Australia and New Zealand which have a natural interest in Far East matters would have to be advised.

Ambassador Alphand mentioned French clients in the Far East, citing Laos. (This citation has given the British the impression that the French have given us carte blanche to inform others as we deem necessary.)

Mr. Murphy said that we should handle this matter on as generalized a basis as possible. He mentioned the problem of Italy.

Ambassador Alphand replied that the Italians seem much quieter now. Fanfani, for example, had not mentioned this subject the last time he had seen General de Gaulle.

Ambassador Caccia reverted to the Daridan paper. He said that he understood it to be a list of things the French would like to see covered rather than a position paper.

Ambassador Alphand confirmed this and then expressed French gratification for the beginning of the talks. These talks, he continued, are to be political and strategic. It is of satisfaction to the French that military representatives are present. The aim of the discussions should be to outline common approaches to various areas of the world. The talks are starting with the Far East where all three have interests. Those of the United States are greater than those of France. France has interests in the area, however: in Indochina, the Pacific, and the Indian Ocean. These talks should be more than a discussion of political problems. They should also examine the criteria which would justify a war and, more especially, which would justify a nuclear war. At the time of Quemoy there were complaints about the lack of consultation. France agreed with what had been done but believed there should have been greater preliminary consultation.

The Ambassador proposed that strategic matters be dealt with on the Ambassadorial level. Other subjects, more political in nature, could be handled by the experts. The areas which involve strategic implications are China, Taiwan, Korea, Indochina and Indonesia. These are the areas where war is possible. It may be possible for the three to agree; perhaps not. If they can, then this would have favorable repercussions, including public opinion.

Mr. Murphy asked if the previous statement represented thinking which Alphand had collected in Paris during his recent trip.

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The Ambassador replied that this is not a new line. It is another form to what he had been saying to the Secretary and to Mr. Murphy in recent months.

At this point Mr. Murphy asked Mr. Robertson to start the discussion off.

Later in the discussion Ambassador Alphand left for his appointment with the Secretary.2 Mr. Daridan carried on for the French. Before the Ambassador left he said that he was agreeable to discussions on the expert level but believed that there must be a continuation of high-level discussions on the political/strategic subjects he had earlier mentioned.

At the conclusion of the meeting Ambassador Alphand, who had returned, said that the object of this exercise is to decide what would be done in the case of a major war in any of the areas we are discussing, perhaps in the spirit of the Entente Cordiale. As time was running out, he suggested a further meeting of the same group. This was set up for 3 pm on February 5.3

Mr. Murphy said that Mr. Green of FE would be in charge of scheduling meetings of the experts. These were later arranged among Messrs. Green, Daridan, and de la Mare.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 700.5/2–359. Secret. Drafted by Brown and initialed by Murphy. See also Document 93.
  2. Reference is to the agenda that Daridan gave the Department on February 2 and which he presented to the British representatives at this meeting. No copy of the agenda has been found.
  3. In summarizing Alphand’s conversation with the Secretary, Brown wrote in a February 3 memorandum:

    “The French Ambassador stated that his Government had agreed to having tripartite political talks first and that initial discussions on the Far East had begun that morning. The Secretary said that he was glad to hear this, pointing out that basic foreign policy decisions were formulated in the State Department. He added that he saw no objection, however, to inviting the military to join in on the talks from time to time when specific military problems arose.

    “M. Alphand stressed that de Gaulle had no intention of undermining or disengaging from NATO. On the contrary, his purpose was to strengthen NATO by making its functioning more effective. De Gaulle was insistent on primary French responsibility for communications between France and North Africa. If the French navy were to be removed from NATO control in this connection, it would still cooperate closely with NATO.” (Department of State, Central Files, 700.5/2–359)

  4. Bennett’s February 5 memorandum of conversation summarizing the discussion about Laos and Indonesia at the tripartite talks that day is printed in vol. XVI, pp. 6973. A copy of the memorandum is also in Department of State, Central Files, 700.5/2–559.
  5. Daridan told Murphy on February 4 that his government and de Gaulle would probably be disappointed in the February 3 talk concerning consultations in the event of an enemy attack. He made the personal suggestion that perhaps the United States could inform the French of any decision to respond to an attack with nuclear weapons. (Telegram 2806 to Paris, February 4; ibid., 700.5/2–459) In telegram 2609 to Paris, February 7, Dulles indicated that he knew the French desired tripartite advance consultation and would probably wish to exercise the right of veto over the use of nuclear weapons except in event of direct attack on the United States, the United Kingdom, or France. “Needless to say,” he wrote, “we do not intend concede either tripartite advance consultation or veto,” although the United States would consult NATO before using nuclear weapons if time permitted. (Ibid.)