246. Memorandum of Conversation, United States Delegation Building, Geneva, July 22, 1962, 11:30 a.m.1


  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Governor Harriman
    • William H. Sullivan
    • Anthony Clinton Swezey
  • Viet-Nam
    • Vu Van Mau, Foreign Minister of Viet-Nam


  • Tour d’Horizon on S.E. Asia—Laos, Viet-Nam-Cambodia Relations, Progress in Viet-Nam struggle


Foreign Minister Mau called on the Secretary by appointment. The Secretary opened the conversation by asking for the Foreign Ministerʼs assessment of the progress being made in Viet-Nam. The Foreign Minister replied that real military progress was being made, especially as a result of the mobility provided to the Viet-Nam forces by United States military assistance. He thought the next need was for rapid telecommunications which would make this mobility more effective.

The Secretary said that in his view there were two essential elements to success in Viet-Nam. The first was to be sure of full popular support for the Viet-Nam forces in their struggle against the guerrillas, and to pursue that struggle to a successful conclusion. The United States did not look upon Viet-Nam as a problem similar to Laos. In the first place the Vietnamese people are fighting against infiltration and in the second place the geography of Viet-Nam makes our assistance more feasible. We therefore do not anticipate any negotiations looking toward a Lao-type settlement in Viet-Nam. We have told the other side that if they will stop the attacks peace will result in Viet-Nam. But we do not intend to permit the other side any foothold in Viet-Nam, particularly one which might be assisted by an airlift. Therefore the orders are to shoot down any strange aircraft that appears over Viet-Nam. The second element of success for Viet-Nam will depend upon good relations with its neighbors. This would apply both to Laos and to Cambodia.

[Page 542]

The Foreign Minister said he agreed that good relations were essential but dilated for some time upon the difficulties in establishing good relations with Cambodia. He mentioned the Viet-Nam desire to have mixed military commissions to secure the Cambodia-Viet-Nam border. He said that Sihanouk had turned this down but had proposed the establishment of a Viet-Nam military mission in Phnom Penh, a proposal which the Vietnamese Government had accepted as a satisfactory first step.

The Secretary observed that unsatisfactory relations with neighboring countries in Southeast Asia seemed to arise partly from undue publicity accorded to statements by personalities. There followed a certain discussion about the problems of calming mutual press attacks, from which the Foreign Minister drew the conclusion that external assistance to this end would be of very little use.

The Foreign Minister said there was a point which he wished to raise concerning the representation of the Viet Minh in Vientiane. He had discussed this with Couve 2 and twice with Souvanna. Couve will discuss it again with Souvanna in Paris on July 25. He realized the Lao could not cut off all contact with the Viet Minh but perhaps they would be willing to maintain the current status in which South Viet-Nam has an Embassy and the Viet Minh merely a trade and cultural mission. He asked U.S. support for this position. The Secretary said that the problem does not concern Viet-Nam alone but also China, Germany and probably Korea. He said that the U.S. will be alive to the interests of Saigon in this matter.

The Foreign Minister said that the next important problem concerned the routes and points of control for withdrawal of Viet Minh forces from Laos. Governor Harriman pointed out that this matter should best be discussed in Vientiane. The Foreign Minister said he agreed but wished to stress his Governmentʼs interest to the Secretary. The Secretary said that this was a matter of special interest because of the difficulty in identifying Viet Minh troops and suggested we should not rely entirely upon the ICC. We should for example attempt to control infiltration into Viet-Nam from the Vietnamese side of the border and we should also exploit other means of assuring ourselves that the Viet Minh will withdraw from Laos back into North Viet-Nam.

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The Foreign Minister asked whether the Secretary Felt that the Russians will really exercise control over the Chinese and the North Vietnamese to observe the agreement on Laos. The Secretary Felt that the Russians did not want a war in Southeast Asia and that they would therefore presumably exercise control over the North Vietnamese to a point.

The Foreign Minister asked whether the Chinese Communists had proposed a conference on Viet-Nam. The Secretary replied that he had seen this only in statements which the Chinese Communists had made but that no direct proposals had been made to the U.S. The Foreign Minister pointed out that Souvanna Phouma has made a similar proposal.

Governor Harriman said that Souvanna Phouma has a tremendous problem in making neutrality a success in Laos. He felt that the Vietnamese should not lay too heavy demands upon him. In the Conference Saturday3 the North Vietnamese had disgusted everyone by their intervention and Harriman thought the South Vietnamese had made a tactical error by answering that intervention by a parallel statement of accusations, some of which were directed against Souvanna Phouma. He said that Souvanna had been annoyed and told us afterwards that he had been tempted to reply to Foreign Minister Mauʼs speech. Harriman thought that it would be wise for the Vietnamese to establish good relations with Souvanna because they must work with him in the future. The Foreign Minister agreed that they must work with Souvanna but that they should not shield him from the problems he must face. No accusation had been intended directly against Souvanna in the Foreign Ministerʼs speech. Governor Harriman said that Souvanna had interpreted it in that way and hoped that the Vietnamese in the future would work with us helpfully to bolster Souvanna Phouma rather than making his work more difficult.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretaryʼs Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330, July 1962. Secret. Drafted by Sullivan on July 23, approved in S on July 24. Copies were sent to Saigon, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, and Geneva. Secretary Rusk was in Geneva for the final sessions of the Laos Conference. The meeting was held in the U.S. Delegation building.
  2. Maurice Couve de Murville, French Foreign Minister.
  3. A summary report of the North and South Vietnamese speeches at the final plenary session of the Laos Conference, July 21, was transmitted in Secto 8 from Geneva, July 21. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/7-2162)