1. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France1

3539. For Ambassador Bohlen. Alphand called on Harriman under instructions 2:15 pm January 15. Said he was instructed see Harriman because Secretary not available.

Alphand reviewed recent history US-French conversations regarding possible French recognition Communist China recalling fact De Gaulle had told Secretary French would be in touch with US before carrying out any decision2 and mentioned January 7 Bohlen-Couve conversation3 where Couve said decision made to recognize Red China but this would be confirmed later. This was reason Alphand now seeing Harriman.

Alphand said French Cabinet has decided to recognize Communist China. Announcement will be made in “next several weeks”. Exchange of Ambassadors will take place three months after communique. Alphand said he had been instructed to stress:

France would not accept conditions from Peiping. This means France will not break relations with Taiwan. He professed not to know what would happen but said there will probably be a unilateral statement from Peiping saying that government represents all of China. France does not accept this version but is not required to make a public statement. French relations with Taiwan will remain unchanged unless Taiwan chooses to break relations.
France made no concession or decision regarding the position it will take in the UN. France has reserved its freedom of decision on this matter although clearly a position must be taken in the next General Assembly.

Alphand emphasized Paris had not “yielded to any demand from Peiping" and requested the matter remain secret until public announcement made.

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Harriman said report had just been received from Ambassador Bohlen of his talk today with Couve on this same subject.4 Bohlen had made clear and Harriman wished to underline this decision by France was very disturbing to the US and to other governments as well. Harriman emphasized he was speaking personally and without instructions but as well-known long-time warm friend of France. Response of President and US government would no doubt be forthcoming in due time. French action would be in direct conflict with fundamental US interests. It could not help having cooling effect on US popular feeling towards France. This was not an action we would have expected from an ally. It would seem the only gain to France is the assertion of its independence for the sake of asserting independence. This was an act on the part of France which can do no good to anyone and can do great harm to many.

Harriman continued still on personal basis saying De Gaulle must have known the effect of such a decision on the US. There was little to gain for France and there would be great damage to the US. The Ambassador must realize what the effect would be if US and French roles were reversed.

Alphand said he did not understand Harriman’s reaction. Others have recognized Communist China. Harriman reminded him these actions had been prior to Korean war.

Alphand said he also would speak personally and unofficially. He failed completely to understand this reaction. Harriman said Alphand was one of ablest and cleverest diplomats he knew. Alphand knew exactly what he meant. Harriman said French action would create doubt in Asia and would give a boost to Communist China. French action would create great difficulty for people and government and President of US. It was clear decision had been taken with total disregard of important US interests. France will be throwing away a great deal of good will and affection here in the US only for the sake of demonstrating its independence of US policy.

Harriman pointed out US has great responsibilities in the Far East, although we welcomed France taking more responsibility in such places as Laos and Cambodia. However, basic problem is containing Communist China and France can contribute very little as far as this basic problem is concerned. Burden rests squarely on US and France is strengthening our enemy. The Korean war has never been settled. Other areas of Asia are seething with Communist-supported conflicts. France has chosen the moment when our enemy is weak to help him.

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Harriman closed by reminding Alphand his reactions had been personal and unofficial but he felt they would be shared by many Americans.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 16 CHICOM. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Director of the Office of Western European Affairs Francis E. Meloy, and approved by Harriman.
  2. Rusk reported the conversation in telegram Secto 25 from Paris, December 16, 1963; see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXII, pp. 409410.
  3. Reported in telegram 3177 from Paris, January 8. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 16 CHICOM)
  4. Bohlen reported the conversation in telegram 3344 from Paris, January 15. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 17 FR–CHICOM)