4. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France1

1291. For Ambassador. Alphand called on Secretary at his own request 6:30 PM January 17. Alphand said US had presented note previous day saying French decision recognize Communist China “against security and political interests of free world.”2 He had note in response (which he presented) saying France thinks its action not against interests of free world.3 In Harriman/Alphand conversation January 15, Harriman had said he saw no reason for French action except assert independ-ence and embarrass US. This was not so. Alphand pointed out Western nations which recognized Communist China prior to Korean war had [Page 6]not broken relations during war. It was now twelve years later and France believed it should act. First point he wished to make was France did not consider recognition meant approval. Second point was Soviet Union and Communist China no longer monolithic bloc. Previously there was no need to talk to Peiping. One could talk to Moscow as the master of Peiping. There is now a split in the bloc and one must talk directly to Peiping. Contrary to US belief France may be able to achieve something useful through this channel, speaking especially of Asia and Southeast Asia in particular. Alphand stressed establishment diplomatic relations France has in view is without commitment. There is no requirement to break relations with Taiwan and nothing is said about the United Nations.

Alphand said he was surprised by text of US note. France hopes US will not think its action done as a gesture against US but that there are other reasons.

Secretary said Harriman had pointed out he was speaking personally and as old well-known friend of France. Secretary would now speak officially. Recognition will increase the prestige of Peiping. Since Korean war no country comparing in prestige to France has recognized Communist China. France must consider the effect of its action. If France finds American people react strongly, France must realize we are taking casualties every day. Just a short time ago we found 7 tons of Chinese Communist made arms south of Saigon. We are spitting blood.

Secretary continued we do not believe agreement can be reached with China through means adopted by France. Communist China does not respect its agreements. President Kennedy felt we took French views into full account over Laos. We expect our views to be considered by France now.

Secretary said Alphand had claimed recognition does not mean approval but it will be so interpreted. He had reviewed with Alphand many times our views on Communist China. US is aiding India resist Chinese Communist aggression. Chicoms are active in subversion in Latin America. Secretary pointed out if French action leads to Chinese Communist subversive centers in Africa, this will be more of problem for France than for US.

Secretary said Alphand had mentioned no conditions imposed on France by Peiping. He emphasized there were also no conditions imposed by France on Peiping, such as even minimum requirement for Chinese Communists to honor commitments in Southeast Asia.

Alphand protested French position not taken to oppose US. France believed its action might be beneficial to all. France was doing only what others have long since done. French recognition might be useful in obtaining agreement at conference to neutralize Cambodia. Secretary said 1954 Agreement already exists which Chicoms are not honoring. It [Page 7]is possible to have contacts with Chinese Communists without recognizing them. There is very slight chance US would attend a conference on Cambodia.

Tyler asked if French Government had assessed probable effect on Taiwan. Alphand said relations with Peiping did not prevent relations with Taiwan. Secretary said Peiping may be gambling on Taiwan breaking relations. If Taiwan does not break relations is France not exposing itself to rebuff by Peiping?

Secretary said he would not judge how France regards its national interest, but he would think French relations with NATO, SEATO, the United States and Southeast Asia would be worth more than its relations with Peiping because all these other relations would be affected.

Alphand said he could not control US press, public or congressional reaction, but US Government could at least say French action not taken against US. As to timing there comes a time when one must do what one has long felt is right.

Secretary inquired how France intends to handle Africa. Alphand said France does not intend to dictate but does not know if French African states will follow example of France.

Secretary said two things will erode attitude of American people toward alliance in coming months: 1) recognition of Communist China; and 2) Western European trade with Cuba. If Western European countries consider these problems as matters for each alone to decide, then US attitude will be seriously eroded. Secretary was very much concerned over alliance in next three months.

Secretary said we can understand that our allies do not give same priority as US to matters in Pacific. US however is bearing burdens both in Europe and in Far East. If we find in carrying out our responsibilities our position is being weakened or undermined, this is bound to affect our relations. Secretary said if French decision irrevocable then it is duty both governments to circumscribe and attempt to limit damage which will inevitably be caused.

Alphand said he would report Secretary’s views to Paris.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 17 CHICOM-FR. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Meloy on January 17, cleared by Tyler, and approved by Rusk. Repeated to London, Bonn, Rome, Tokyo for the Attorney General, Taipei, Brussels, Ottawa, and Saigon.
  2. Dated January 16; the text is quoted in telegram 3545 to Paris, January 15. (Ibid., POL 16 CHICOM)
  3. Filed as an attachment to telegram 3614 to Paris, January 18. (Ibid.)