188. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Southeast Asia


  • French
    • Foreign Minister Couve de Murville
    • Ambassador Alphand
    • M. Charles Lucet, Director of Political Affairs, Foreign Ministry
    • M. Pierre Pelen, French Emb.
  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Bohlen
    • Mr. William R. Tyler
    • Mr. Johannes V. Imhof, WE

In response to an earlier question by the Secretary, M. Couve de Murville briefly discussed Laos and Vietnam. Vietnam was the key because there would be no trouble in Laos were it not for North Vietnamese activities. M. Couve de Murville said that he understood that the Secretary had earlier been interested in what information the French had from North Vietnam. Actually, the French had very little information. Chinese influence there undoubtedly had increased. Ho Chi Minh remained basically anti-Chinese but many of the newer ministers belonged to the pro-Chinese faction. The economic situation was rather bad, but the regime remained strong politically. In view of the increased Chinese role, it therefore seemed likely that the U.S. in Vietnam would gradually come increasingly face to face with the Chinese. The French had made this experience in the past and had found it necessary to reach most of the major agreements on Vietnam with the Chinese.

The Secretary said that if the Chinese and the North Vietnamese would leave South Vietnam alone, our troops could be withdrawn. This was, however, not the case. The Secretary said that an error had perhaps been made in the past when insufficient attention had been paid to the joint strategic evaluation of the key importance of the Red River Valley.

M. Couve de Murville said that the destiny of Vietnam was to be neutral. Such a solution might come about in the long run. The problem was how to get rid of the communist regime in North Vietnam.

The Secretary agreed. He said that North Vietnam was now taking the position that a settlement would require changes in the regime in South Vietnam but none in the North. M. Couve de Murville said [Page 389] that this was obviously an unrealistic position. Perhaps the increased dependence of North Vietnam on Communist China might in the long run provide some hope for the formation of a government of national union. The population in North Vietnam remained strongly anti-Chinese.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330, Oct. 1963. Secret. Drafted by Johannes Imhof. The meeting was held at the Department of Stat.