The Pentagon Papers
Gravel Edition
Volume 1
Document 36, Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles on Conversation with Anthony Eden about Indochina, 25 April 1954, p 477-78


FROM: Geneva

TO: Secretary of State

NO: DULTE 5, April 25, midnight

EYES ONLY ACTING SECRETARY FROM THE SECRETARY

I met with Eden this evening at 10:15 p.m., following his arrival from London. He had consulted Churchill, the Cabinet and British chiefs. He said that the United Kingdom is strongly opposed to any intervention at Dien Bien Phu because it does not think it will have decisive effect and will not be understood by United Kingdom or free world opinion. He indicated that the views of the British chiefs differ with ours and that British chiefs look forward to a discussion and estimate with Radford in London. In summary the British position is as follows: (1) The United Kingdom is prepared now to join with the United States in a secret study of measures which might be taken to defend Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia if the French capitulate.

Eden saw Bidault at Orly tonight on his way through Paris (where he stopped to pick up Mrs. Eden) and outlined to him the British position as follows: (1) The United Kingdom will give the French all possible diplomatic support in Geneva to reach a satisfactory settlement on Indochina. (2) If such a settlement is reached the United Kingdom will be willing to join with United States and others in guaranteeing that settlement. (3) If Geneva fails the United Kingdom will be prepared to join the others to examine the situation urgently to see what should be done.

I said to Eden that while I had reservations myself about air intervention at Dien Bien Phu at this moment without an adequate political basis for such action, his reply was most discouraging in that it seemed to leave the French nothing to fall back on. If French are to stand loss of Dien Bien Phu they must be strengthened and a declaration of common intent would do this. In essence the United Kingdom was asking the French to negotiate and at the same time telling them that if the negotiation failed that they would be glad to examine what could be done. Given the present French situation with which Eden is fully familiar, I said to Eden that I doubted that there would be French will to stand up to their adversaries at Geneva.

Eden made quite clear that the United Kingdom is opposed to air intervention at Dien Bien Phu and also opposed to becoming directly involved in any way with the Indochinese war.

Referring to the rest of Southeast Asia, he said the British were confident that they had the situation in Malaya in hand and mentioned that they had 22 battalions there and 100,000 native police. He said that there was no parallel between Indochina and Malaya.

Eden also showed me a map of Indochina prepared by Alexander and the British chiefs. The map indicates that virtually all of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia is under or subject to imminent control by the Viet Minh. The British believe that the only way to cope with the situation is to commit a strong force to the Hanoi delta and generally work outward concentrically consolidating their position as they go with loyal natives. This they believe is a "tremendous project involving lots of time and considerable forces."

I said to Eden I felt the position which his Government had taken would have so little in it in way of comfort to the French that the prospect of the latter standing firm here was very slight. It would be a tragedy not to take steps now which would prevent Indochina from being written off.

Eden said that there was obviously a difference in the United States and the United Kingdom estimates and thinking but the United Kingdom proposals which he had outlined above were as far as the British Government could go.

DULLES


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