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Digital Archive International History Declassified

July 17, 1954

FROM THE JOURNAL OF MOLOTOV: TOP SECRET MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION WITH ZHOU ENLAI AND PHAM VAN DONG

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    Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, and Vietnamese Vice-Premier Pham Van Dong discuss various topics relevant to the Geneva Convention, including the construction of foreign military bases in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the line of demarcation between North and South Vietnam, the establishment of regrouping zones in northeast Laos, the withdrawal of foreign troops from Indochina, and the possible formation of an international supervisory commission.
    "From the Journal of Molotov: Top Secret Memorandum of Conversation with Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong," July 17, 1954, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, AVPRF f. 06, op. 13a, d. 25, II. 8. Obtained by Paul Wingrove and translated by Gary Goldberg. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110962
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Molotov asks Pham Van Dong about his conversations with [British Foreign Minister Anthony] Eden and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia [Tep Phan].

Pham Van Dong says that in conversations with Eden and the representative of Cambodia he had mainly touched on foreign military bases in Bao Dai Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and the issues of a military bloc in Southeast Asia. Both Eden and the minister of foreign affairs of Cambodia declared that the US supposedly did not intend to create military bases on the territory of these states; for their part, the governments of these countries also did not want foreign military bases to be created on their territory. In reply to a question about the possibility of the Americans involving Bao Dai Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the military bloc they are planning in Southeast Asia, Eden and the representative of Cambodia replied that they did not give the Americans their agreement to this and did not intend to do this in the future. They added that it was another matter if the three “Associated States” were subjected to aggression. Regarding the creation of a military bloc in Southeast Asia Eden said that the US has been acting in this direction for a long time and that nothing new was added to this in Paris. Eden added that the aforementioned bloc being created by the Americans was supposedly of a defensive nature.

Pham Van Dong said that he had taken a sharply critical position with respect to the creation of foreign military bases in Bao Dai Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and also with respect to the creation of military blocs in Southeast Asia in this conversation with Eden and the representative of Cambodia.

Zhou Enlai says that in the new version of the draft declaration just received from the French, just like in the first version, there is no provision prohibiting the creation of foreign military bases on the territory of Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia and that this provision is also not in the draft documents about Laos and Cambodia.

Molotov says that it is necessary to get the appropriate changes entered in these drafts.

Molotov asks what questions we ought to discuss today.

Pham Van Dong says that, in his opinion, it is necessary to exchange opinions about how we need to act to get an agreement acceptable to us about the line of demarcation, about the elections, and about a number of other important issues, the regrouping zones, the composition of the supervisory commission, etc.

Zhou Enlai suggests first exchanging opinions about the main fundamental issues of our positions and then discussing the texts of the documents that have been prepared.

Molotov agrees and names the main documents and the primary issues which need to be discussed—the line of demarcation, the dates of the elections, the composition and functions of the observation commission, the withdrawal and importation of weapons and military personnel into Indochina, and the prohibition against the creation of foreign military bases on the territory of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and a military bloc in Southeast Asia. Molotov then says that in the private meeting on 16 July Mendes-France hinted that political representatives ought to discuss the primary issues on which both sides might make mutual concessions.

Molotov raises for discussion the first of the above seven issues (about the line of demarcation) and asks Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong to express their ideas.

Zhou Enlai says that in a conversation with Wang Bingnan, secretary general of the PRC delegation, Colonel [Jacques] Guillermaz, a representative of the French delegation, told the former that the French delegation cannot agree to Route 9 being jointly used and let it be understood that the French would insist on the line of demarcation being located north of this road. Guillermaz also said that the French delegation would insist on the setting of a more distant date for holding elections in Indochina and named a time: two years.

Molotov asks to what final position can we fall back to in the question of the line of demarcation.

Pham Van Dong says that the DRV can concede Route 9 to France and agree to locate the line of demarcation somewhat to the north of this road. He adds that it is necessary to demand concessions from the French in the regions of Tourane [Da Nang] and Hue. Mendes-France hinted earlier to the possibility of such concessions, says Pham Van Dong.

Molotov asks what concessions the DRV intends to demand from France in Tourane and Hue.

Pham Van Dong replies that he intends to demand that France not create a naval base in Tourane. Pham Van Dong says that he does not yet have any specific ideas with respect to Hue and has to think a little [about it]. Pham Van Dong then says that it is necessary to demand agreement from the French to set an exact date for holding elections in Indochina [in exchange] for the indicated concession about the issue of the line of demarcation. He adds that this date can be somewhat extended but it should be named in order that the DRV government have an opportunity to get certain organizational work started among the population.

Zhou Enlai states that Pham Van Dong's proposal about a final position on the demarcation line issue accords with the instructions which our delegations have and [they] can agree to it. Concerning the question of Tourane, Zhou Enlai says that, in a conversation with him, Mendes-France hinted at the possibility of concessions on the part of France.

Zhou Enlai asks Molotov if, based on his conversations with Mendes-France and Eden, it is possible to count on our being able to achieve something on the issue of the elections.

Molotov says that Mendes-France and Eden talked about the issue of the elections and stresses that it is necessary to get a definite period set within which the elections ought to be held. With regard to an exact date for holding the elections then [we] might propose that it be set locally [na meste] by agreement of the competent authorities of both sides.

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong agree with Molotov's suggestion.

Molotov says that if we ought be prepared to agree to set the line of demarcation north of Route 9 then it is necessary to determine this line.

Pham Van Dong says that he will give instructions to his military experts to study this question and prepare an appropriate map indicating the aforementioned line on it.

Molotov raises for discussion the issue of a military bloc in Southeast Asia and asks the opinions of Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong about what our side ought to attempt.

Zhou Enlai suggests getting the representatives of Laos and Cambodia to declare definitely in their statements that they will not allow the creation of foreign military bases on the territory of Laos and Cambodia and that Laos and Cambodia will not participate in any military alliances or blocs.

Molotov says that he considers it advisable to include in the text of the declaration an obligation by Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia not to create foreign military bases on their territory and not to participate in military alliances.

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong agree.

Molotov raises for discussion the issue of the international supervisory commission.

Zhou Enlai says that, in a conversation with [Head of the Indian Delegation to the United Nations, V. K. Krishna] Menon on 16 July, the latter informed him that the French are inclined to form a supervisory commission consisting of representatives of India, Canada, and Poland. Menon spoke approvingly of this alternative and expressed satisfaction that it did not provide for the participation of Pakistan. Zhou Enlai then said that he touched on this French alternative in a conversation with Eden. The latter expressed his agreement with this composition of the supervisory commission but declared at the same time that Britain cannot submit this proposal on its own initiative since this would produce displeasure on the part of Pakistan.

Molotov says that regarding the issue of the composition of the international supervisory commission it is advisable to adhere to the position which our three delegations agreed on earlier.

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong agree.

Zhou Enlai proposes coming to agreement about the scope of activity of the commission. He says that the French delegation submitted a proposal that the international commission conduct observation along the borders (including land and sea) and not at individual points, as was proposed by the Chinese-Vietnamese side. Zhou Enlai thinks that it would be more to the advantage of the DRV and PRC to establish monitoring along all the borders, which would allow for the achievement of more careful observation that the Americans or French do not move troops or weapons to the territory of Indochina.

Molotov proposes keeping to this tactic on this question: if the French insist on their proposals then agree with them so as to make a seeming concession.

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong agree.

Molotov raises for discussion the issue of establishing the regrouping zones in Laos and Cambodia.

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong suggest as a final position agreeing to the establishment of regrouping zones in the northeast part of Laos.

Molotov asks who will sign the agreements about Laos and Cambodia from our side.

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong think it possible to authorize two representatives, the representative of the People's Army of Vietnam and the representative of the resistance forces. They add that this issue needs to be studied more.

Zhou Enlai raises the issue of the timing of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Indochina. He says that [they] can agree to the establishment of a period of 240 days (instead of 380, as the French propose).

Pham Van Dong agrees.

Molotov recommends proposing the establishment of a separate period for the withdrawal of troops and the period for the withdrawal of weapons, and adds that the period for the withdrawal of weapons can be made longer than the period for the withdrawal of troops.

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong agree.

Molotov raises the draft declaration for discussion.

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong agree with Molotov's suggestion to take the French draft as a basis and make the necessary changes to it.

Then Molotov, Zhou Enlai, and Pham Van Dong exchange opinions about all the points of the text of the declaration and make changes.

The conversation lasted one hour.

Recorded: /signature/ (A. Ledovsky)

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