The Pentagon Papers
Document 82, Telegram from Walter Bedell Smith to Secretary of State Dulles on the Negotiations in Geneva, 17 July 1954, pp. 559-60
TO: Secretary of State
NO: SECTO 632, July 17, 7 p.m.
Following account of Mendes-France-Eden-Molotov meeting last night is based on report of this meeting to Foreign Office made available to Johnson by Caccia. This telegram expands upon and supersedes preliminary account transmitted in first three paragraphs SECTO 630 (repeated information Paris 76, Saigon 48).
At Eden's suggestion, French enumerated documents before conference:
(A) Armistice agreements to be signed by local commanders-in-chief. French have prepared drafts for Vietnam and Laos and Cambodians draft for Cambodia. Viet Minh delegation preparing counter draft for Vietnam.
(B) Control arrangements. French have circulated papers for Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
(C) Political arrangements. After having seen military documents, certain delegations might make unilateral statements. For example, Laos and Cambodia are preparing statements on their willingness to limit their armed forces. Conference as whole would then agree upon common statement taking note of military agreements and unilateral declarations. French have circulated draft of such statement. Soviets have prepared counter draft and French second redraft.
French explained that if conference did not (repeat not) have time to agree on all details of armistice, it might approve only parts providing for cessation of hostilities and first stage of regroupment. Remaining aspects of agreements could be covered by statement of general principles for guidance of experts who would work out details after conference had dispersed.
It was agreed that British, French, and Soviet experts would meet July 17 to consider various drafts.
At Eden's suggestion, Mendes-France summarized main outstanding problems as (A) demarcation line for Vietnam; (B) elections, and (C) control arrangements. Concerning demarcation line, he said French had proposed line near 18th parallel whereas Viet Minh proposed 16th parallel. On elections in Vietnam, he said question was whether to fix firm date now (repeat now) (Soviets had proposed June 1955) or whether, as French proposed, to settle now (repeat now) only manner in which date would be set. Elections in Laos and Cambodia already provided for in constitutions for August and September 1955, respectively. On control, he said main questions were: Whether there should be one commission or three, composition, voting, execution of commissions' recommendations, and freedom of movement for inspection teams.
Molotov added to outstanding issues: (D) time required for regrouping (French have proposed 380 days and Soviets 6 months); and (E) prevention of importation of new arms and military personnel subject to certain exceptions for Laos and Cambodia, prohibition of foreign military bases, and prohibition of military alliances by three states.
Eden added (F) question of regroupment areas for resistance forces in Laos.
Discussion then turned to substantive issues:
(A) Elections in Vietnam. Molotov said conference should fix date for elections. He conceded more flexible formula might be found than firm date of June 1955 previously proposed by Soviets and suggested agreement merely that elections be held during 1955 with precise date to be fixed by Vietnamese and Viet Minh authorities.
Mendes-France argued that it would be imprudent to fix date as early as the end of 1955. He suggested two ways of providing necessary flexibility in arrangements: Date for elections might be fixed after completion of regrouping; or exact date might be fixed now (repeat now) and international control commission be given authority to advance date if necessary.
Eden supported Mendes-France on need for flexibility and suggested that two parts of Vietnam fix date after completion of regrouping. Mendes-France agreed to consider this suggestion, but Molotov continued to urge elections during 1955.
(B) Demarcation line. Molotov argued that in moving from 13th to 16th parallel, Viet Minh had made substantial concession which called for proper response from French. Mendes-France disagreed, arguing that Viet Minh would be giving up much less in Annam than they would be getting in Tonkin. He said that Pham Van Dong had admitted that line on 16th parallel would require special arrangements for Tourane, Hue, on route No. 9 leading into Laos. Mendes-France stated that necessity for such special arrangements showed how unnatural demarcation line at 16th parallel would be. He said that there was no (repeat no) chance of persuading French Government to accept line which excluded either Hue or route No. 9. Eden supported Mendes-France.
Molotov suggested that discussion move to question of control arrangements. Mendes-France replied might be better to postpone such discussion. He observed that questions of elections and demarcation line had been discussed together and might be linked in sense that conceivably one party might yield on one question and another party on other.
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