49. Telegram From the Delegation to the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization Council Meeting to the Department of State1

Secto 49. For Acting Secretary from Secretary.

As expected, communiqué presented main issue. Text key paragraphs concerning Viet-nam and Laos being transmitted septel.2 As you will see, all members except French finally supported strong paragraphs on Viet-nam, with French submitting separate paragraph expressing their sympathy for Viet-nam effort but saying they did not think it wise to join in declaration made by others.
Believe this result best we could have achieved in circumstances and at least heartening evidence of solidarity other SEATO members. Couve had resisted stoutly all efforts produce more forthcoming French statement of support during restricted session yesterday, and had simply gone on repeating that since French believed effort in Viet-nam doomed to failure they considered political solution must be explored. Incidentally, in discussing escalation possibility in restricted session, Couve said that if French were consulted they would probably be “rather against” extending the war to the north, which in his view would have to include hostilities with China. This seems to clarify French thinking this point and to negate Alphandʼs contrary interpretation. At same time, Couve said there certainly was no assurance Chinese Communists in fact would accept a neutral Viet-nam (even with US forces withdrawn, which he had made clear in private conversation was what French envisaged). Comment on this position seems superfluous, but at least we are a shade clearer where French stand and they were at least willing to express their sympathy for Vietnamese effort.
As to impact on French-Vietnamese relations, Quat seemed both satisfied with strength of declarations by other members and even somewhat pleased that French had finally ended up with some affirmative however mild. Couve and Quat have also had two conversations here, of which second was reported by Quat to be cordial and Quat considers door now open for French to initiate discussions that could include economic issues as well as restoration of Ambassadors. I will want to discuss this more fully in Saigon to assess what our next move and position with Khan should be.
As communiqué shows, all others remained solid throughout although Pakistanis said little and Lopez made abortive effort find common [Page 122] group between our strong position and that of French. Thanat, as expected, particularly firm. Essentially French were isolated in restricted session but were not publicly pilloried except by Thanat in opening public session, which Couve did resent. Otherwise, he probably content with result and had no latitude to go further. In this morningʼs session on communiqué he quickly suggested solution along lines ultimately reached.
What French future in SEATO is or should be is a matter we should consider on my return, but there no indication here French plan withdrawal. On contrary, given probable rigidity De Gaulleʼs instructions, Couve seemed to be going to some length to avoid confrontation.
As to greater individual contributions to Viet-nam, I have obtained no specific promises of material significance but believe communiqué and atmosphere here have prepared way for us to keep pressure on.
In Laos discussion, French proposed text that would have blamed “factions” impartially but yielded to final text which refers “particularly” to Communist violations.
Other communiqué issues revolved around Pakistani effort to invoke SEATO support as between member states and non-member states, meaning of course India, and brief British effort express concern on Malaysia. We stayed out of Pakistani fight, partly in order to avoid disturbing Pakistanis and possibly upsetting their support for Vietnamese paragraphs. Believe result innocuous.
In sum, meeting closed on fairly high note, considering adamant French position.3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, SEATO 3 PHIL (MA). Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Saigon, Paris, London, and Vientiane and passed to the White House.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 48.
  3. Verbatim records of the 1964 Council Meeting are in Department of State, S/S-Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2384E.