195. Telegram From the Secretary of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

5266. Deptel 4361 to Saigon repeated Paris 3546;2 Saigon’s 5462, 5453, 5428 repeated Paris 1399, 1398, 1392.3

Reftels indicate Diem has at least tentatively adopted position Free Vietnam may refuse consult Viet Minh during July 1955 as called for Geneva Accord but may intend delay such consultation until formation national assembly sometime after August 1955. Thus, difficulty may arise in our giving our views along lines of Vietnamese participating pre-election conversation if such advice would either have no effect or would cause Diem believe US joining in a ganging up operation against him with France and UK.
Nevertheless you should talk to Diem in general terms about matter of Geneva elections soonest. Regarding actual course of action to be followed during consultations, assuming they are held, we will be glad give Diem our views. (These are contained in next following telegram.4) He should understand these are simply US views based upon our experience with election problems involving the Communists in Korea and Germany. Basically we believe that in order to put Free Vietnam in strongest position it should take initiative on free elections and insist on rigid guarantees by Communists for genuinely free elections. Our experience in Germany and Korea has been that such guarantees are unacceptable to the Communists and that as a [Page 422] result negotiations have either broken down or been extended, in the case of Germany over ten years. Remind Diem of Secretary’s conversations in March on this subject when Secretary stated freedom elections cannot be assured unless there adequate official supervision, freedom from threats before during elections and assurances against reprisals afterward.
Indicate while he may believe correct refer question to national assembly we concerned about reaction various powers this delay. Wonder if he has fully considered seriously complicating disadvantages of what amounts to flat rejection of Geneva agreement provisions. We do not wish become involved in offering direct recommendations regarding ways and means of the two sides meeting for pre-election consultation until we know more about Diem’s thinking. However mention that in any projected delay or rejection of pre-election consultation Free Vietnam will almost inevitably expose itself to intervention by the ICC and possible action by the two co-chairmen of the Geneva Powers or a reconvocation of the Geneva Powers. Even if Diem’s reported intention to refer decision to assembly is a politically valid one, we feel delay may nevertheless bring about above intervention. Also rejection will leave initiative elections with Viet Minh.
FYI Department is ordering Kattenburg to Saigon for approximately sixty days temporary duty to assist Embassy specifically in election matters and to be of general assistance to the Political Section. ETA approximately June 27.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/5–2555. Secret. Drafted by Hoey and cleared by Young, Stelle, and Tyler. Repeated for information to Paris and London.
  2. Document 101.
  3. Dated May 25, 24, and 23 respectively, none printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/5–2355 to 751G.00/5–2555)
  4. Telegram 5267, infra.