202. Telegram From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Reinhardt) to the Department of State1

5643. This morning in first lengthy conversation with PriMin since my arrival following emerged:

When asked if explanations given him by Kidder re Paris talks had answered all questions in his mind he replied affirmatively. He added however that some press interpretations had bothered him, particularly those referring to the relative importance of Vietnam within the framework of Franco-American relations, but that he was fully aware and appreciative of the clarity and straightforwardness of the American position.
Re situation in southwest Diem said negotiations still dragging on but that he felt erosion of Hoa Hao would eventually reduce problem to manageable proportions. He stated integration of 3000 of Hoa Hao force of General Nguyen practically assured.
On subject of four power conference in Saigon I advanced considerations enumerated in paragraph 2 Deptel 5265 (rptd Paris 4245 London 6037).2 His attitude confirmed recent reports that he is not pressing for an early meeting yet it is clear that he wishes to use proposal for conference as lever on French to force regularization of [Page 435] status of FEC in Vietnam as well as to obtain definition of nature of Manila Pact commitment to defense of Vietnam against Viet Minh.
Diem linked subject of Geneva elections and declaration of Vietnam policy for unification and free elections to question of status FEC. He insisted it was not politically possible for him to run risks involved in any approach to this subject until matter of FEC regularized and his government enjoyed in fact freedom of action within its own territory.
Re elections for National Assembly he thought this might be accomplished by about September. FonMin in earlier conversation however expressed conviction November earliest possible date.
Diem agreed to our making available to Minister Interior police organization study originally drawn up by Franco-American working groups and recently revised to (1) provide for incorporation gendarméries into National Police, and (2) eliminate subject of advisory groups which could not be agreed with French.
Subsequent tel3 will deal with subject paragraphs 3 and 4 at greater length.
In general I was impressed by PriMin singleness of purpose and deep suspicion and distrust of French, as well as by his apparent lack of any compunction in tailoring his account of events to support a point.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/6–455. Secret. Repeated for information to Paris, Phnom Penh, and Vientiane.
  2. In this telegram, May 27, the Department of State instructed Reinhardt in his first substantive meeting with Diem to emphasize that a four-power conference idea to settle Vietnamese problems might diminish U.S. freedom of action to aid South Vietnam. Instead the Department’s advice was for Diem to first dispose of bilateral problems through direct negotiations with those powers concerned. This would leave the question of elections and negotiations with the North on election procedures. In the Department’s view, this was a proper issue for a four-power meeting. (Ibid., 751G.00/5–2355)
  3. Telegram 5677 from Saigon, June 6, not printed. (Ibid., 751G.00/6–655)