21. Telegram From the Chargé in France (Achilles) to the Department of State1

3034. Ministry Associated States asked us call this morning regarding Collins’ forthcoming trip Washington. We had informed Massigli of it yesterday (Embassy telegram 30102) and Ely has suggested to La Chambre that Collins’ presence Washington be taken [Page 46] advantage of for talks French requested for early February (Department telegram 2514,3 Embassy telegrams 29704 and 29875).

We noted there is apparently misunderstanding about dates as Department telegram 2514 reported French Embassy Washington had suggested February 4 while Foreign Office spoke yesterday of “mid-February”. Ministry explained that when French Embassy suggested February 4 Department preferred mid-February. French now ask that date be set which will permit Collins be present.

We raised question contained Department’s unnumbered telegram of January 13, 6:23 p.m.,6 received today by pouch noting again difference in interpretation decisions reached at December 18 Ministerial conversations. We stated that Secretary had made no commitment to change Diem government or associate Bao Dai with any such change. Ministry readily admitted this but at same time observed that Mendes had stated that “we must now prepare our minds for an alternative” (paragraph 3, Embassy telegram 26017) and that Secretary agreed that Collins and Ely should be instructed study alternatives (paragraph 15, Embassy telegram 2601). French also observed that Secretary agreed that Ely and Collins should be requested investigate matter of timing (paragraphs 16 and 17, Embassy telegram 2601). Finally, they maintained it agreed that two Generals should come to a conclusion on three points (paragraph 16, Embassy telegram 2601) and make recommendations to their two governments so that necessary decisions can be taken at next Indochina review.

French used their own notes of meeting to back up their interpretation pointing to fact that Secretary had informed Mendes that every time French had pointed to failings of Diem and were asked what they had in mind as an alternative they had been unable to supply one. They noted specifically Mendes-Dulles exchanges outlined in paragraph 12, Embassy telegram 2601, to effect that US had obstinately closed its mind to possible alternative solution and that investigation of an alternate must be done on careful basis and in the meanwhile we must continue to support Diem (paragraph 14, Embassy telegram 2601). Both statements, they claimed, provided additional evidence that we had agreed to study question of alternative so as to be prepared if need for one should present itself.

[Page 47]

In order, if possible, to run down question of different interpretations once and for all, we asked French to compare their notes of December 18 meeting with our own. They did so in detail and we must admit that they were virtually identical to our own in most instances and were identical on portions set forth above. Although there seems to be some question whether as his first point Mendes had in mind the Viceroy question or that of supporting Diem (paragraph 2 of Ambassador Dillon’s telegram 26978) there appears to be no difference of opinion that second point was to study alternatives to Diem Government for use only in event that it was subsequently decided that government had still not succeeded in its task. Further-more, appears to be no difference of opinion that third point, as stated in paragraph 16 of Department telegram 2601, was to investigate matter of timing in sense that Ely and Collins should make recommendations to their respective governments in matter, again presumably for submission to joint review. Our impression to this effect not only borne out by our own detailed notes of conversations and by French notes which fit but from Secretary’s own recollection as set forth in paragraph 4. In conversation this morning as on several recent occasions, we have emphasized that date is not to be set now for possible replacement Diem but rather that recommendations in matter are to be made and that in any case recommendations for any change in government will only be considered if we agree that Diem government has failed in its purpose. Again we noted that Diem has not failed and is in fact, according to our reports from Saigon, improving.

To summarize, while French admit that Ely and Collins are not to set deadline for replacement Diem and that US made no commitment to change Diem or associate Bao Dai with any such change except in event Diem’s failure to make progress makes alternative desirable, they maintain that Ely and Collins have a mandate from December 18 conversations study question of eventual alternatives to Diem and to submit results their respective studies to two governments in anticipation next Indochina review. Findings may or may not be considered depending on progress Diem has made by that time. Trust this meets Department’s understanding.

Since drafting above, Ministry has said they will instruct Ely or Daridan or both to attend Washington talks with La Chambre but that from standpoint latter’s schedule February 8 or 9 would be earliest date he could be in Washington.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/1–1855. Top Secret. Repeated for information to Saigon.
  2. Dated January 17, not printed. (Ibid., 751G.5/1–1755)
  3. See footnote 5, Document 19.
  4. The reference should be to telegram 2980 from Paris, January 14, which deals with the question of possible tripartite talks. Telegram 2970, January 13, is unrelated to the question.
  5. Dated January 14, not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/1–1455)
  6. The reference is to telegram 2872 to Saigon, pouched to Paris, Document 15.
  7. Dated December 19, 1954; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xiii, Part 2, p. 2400.
  8. Dated December 26, 1954; for text, see ibid., p. 2425.