Source: U.S. Congress, House, Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, 1951, 82nd Congress, 2d session, House Document No. 570, Vol. IV (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985), pp. 313-315

Conference files, lot 59D95, CF 51 

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Policy Reports Staff (Barnes) 

TOP SECRET [WASHINGTON,] January 29, 1951. 

Participants: The Secretary, Ambassador Jessup, Ambassador Bruce, Mr. Rusk, Mr. Bonbright, Mr. Heath, Mr.Battle, Mr. Barnes

The Secretary called the meeting after the first discussions with French Prime Minister Pleven to review the two special requests which had been made by the French: for approximately $70 million of additional economic aid for the Vietnamese armies and for high level US-UK-French consultations on Far Eastern economic, political and military questions.

Mr. Heath said the request for additional funds was based on valid figures in that the army would actually cost as much as Mr. Pleven had outlined in his presentation. He felt, however, that the request raised several additional questions, such as why we should not give additional aid, if any, directly to Indochina, and whether there were not some questions connected with the original aid program which needed to be reviewed. Mr. Jessup said that this was a question which could be studied by E and FE. We had previously told the French that they would have to present an over-all program covering both the French and Vietnamese forces before we would be able to extend economic assistance.

The Secretary pointed out that we had also told them before that we would not finance their budget deficits. He was also uncertain in his own mind as to how dollars would assist the French in paying the local currency costs of the troops in Indochina. He also wondered why Indochina could not pay its own army-was it simply a question of their failing to collect taxes?

Mr. Heath said the real difficulty was that the Viet Minh forces were still astride the export routes from Indochina, which created a very difficult economic problem for the associated states. Mr. Rusk said this was all quite true but there was nothing we could say to the French at this time other than that we would study the problem urgently and let them have our views. He did not think we could put ourselves in a position of financing deficits, so there was little prospect of a favorable answer. There were other things we might be able to do, however, and he had called a meeting for later in the evening with representatives of E, S/ISA and Treasury.

The Secretary then turned to the question concerning the Joint Tripartite Council to study Far Eastern questions, pointing out that from a military standpoint the JCS would have nothing at all to do with this proposal.

Mr. Rusk said that he considered this a very bad proposal and one we could not possibly accept. In the first place, it involved consultation on Far Eastern questions of three colonial powers. Secondly, the establishment of such a mechanism would merely create antagonisms among other allied states who would wish to participate. Thirdly, we would become so involved in commitments of this type that we would no longer be in any position to take action. He felt that we could establish the type of consultation which the French wanted without creating any formal organization.

Mr. Heath said he thought the French would be quite satisfied to know, which they did not yet know, that we had approved tripartite military talks on Indochina. Ambassador Bruce said he disagreed with this. The real French problem was the desire to get themselves in a position of equality vis-a-vis the British. This was the real issue, and what they wanted was some concrete type of consultation which would convince them that they were being consulted as much as we consulted the British. He wondered if there was not some middle ground such as discussions at the Assistant Secretary level or the creation of some type of Far Eastern High Commissioners.

Mr. Jessup said that any formalization of consultation would create difficulties since it would involve the problems of JCS clearance, etc. He thought that we should merely tell them about the proposed military talks and point out the number of other tripartite consultations which are held on a regular basis. Ambassador Bruce felt that perhaps we could promise to consult with the French on matters of concern through all proper channels, including in particular the UN. Mr. Rusk noted that we also had a highlevel review of all current problems before the periodic meetings of the three Foreign Ministers and that this could be continued in the future.[At his daily staff meeting on the morning of January 30, Acheson told his colleagues, including Matthews and Harriman, of "his conclusion that any kind of formal tripartite consultation on Far Eastern questions as requested by the French was quite impossible." (Secretary's Daily Meetings, lot 58D609, January 1951)]

Ambassador Bruce said that he did not think these various requests constituted a serious problem. If the final communiqué was good from the French standpoint, Pleven's position would be satisfactory on his return to Paris, whether or not he got the $60 million and the tripartite consultation. The Secretary suggested that Mr. Bonbright might try to tie together in one batch all of the various types of consultation which we now have with the French, and which we would plan to continue having in the future, so that our rejection of their proposal would sound as satisfactory as possible.

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