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Digital Archive International History Declassified

July 16, 1954

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

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    Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov describes his earlier conversations with British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and French Prime Minister Pierre Mendes-France to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Vietnamese Vice-Premier Pham Van Dong. Eden told Molotov in their conversation that he preferred military issues to be primarily in the cease-fire agreement between Vietnam and France, rather than in France’s draft of its Geneva Conference declaration. Molotov’s discussion with Mendes-France dealt with elections in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the line of demarcation between North and South Vietnam, and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Vietnam.
    "From the Journal of Molotov: Secret Memorandum of Conversation with Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong," July 16, 1954, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, AVPRF f. 06, op. 13a, d. 25, ll. 8. Obtained by Paul Wingrove and translated for CWIHP by Gary Goldberg. Published in CWIHP Bulletin #16. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/112967
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Molotov says that he would like to inform Cdes. Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong about the substance of his conversations with Eden and Mendes-France which occurred on
15 July.

1. The Conversation with Eden

Molotov: In the conversation with me, Eden said that he had still not managed to carefully study the changes we (the Soviet, Chinese, Vietnamese delegations) had made to the French draft declaration about Indochina, but would like to make the follow preliminary comments: Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are placed together in the text of the declaration. In Eden's opinion, they ought to be separated and spoken of separately inasmuch as the conditions in each of these countries are different. Eden was told in reply that real differences exist but there is also much in common.

Eden stressed that, in his opinion, it is very difficult to set a time to hold elections.

He expressed a desire to exclude military issues from the declaration drafts and move them to the cease-fire agreement.

Eden then said that the representatives of Laos complained to him that an intensified movement of men and weapons into Laotian territory had recently been observed and this is causing them concern. I replied to Eden that I was hearing about this for the first time.

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong say that the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of defense of Laos said nothing about this in the conversation with them.

Molotov: I told Eden that we have not yet received the text of the draft agreement about the cease-fire from the French delegation and that the French are giving us the draft of this document in parts. Eden said that some delay had occurred with this matter and that now the preparation of the documents ought to be sped up.

2. The conversation with Mendes-France.

Molotov briefly describes the substance of the conversation with Mendes-France about the main issues, elections in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the line of demarcation, and the timeframes for the evacuation of foreign troops.

Molotov says that as a result of the conversation with Mendes-France he has formed the impression that the French can agree to the establishment of a line of demarcation only somewhere north of the 16th parallel.

Molotov further reports about Mendes-France's proposal about holding a meeting of the three representatives (Eden, Mendes-France, and Molotov) and about how he reacted to the proposal by Mendes-France.

Molotov asks the opinions of Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong about this question.

Zhou Enlai says that he shares the position taken by Molotov; moreover, thinks it advisable to agree with Mendes

France's proposal about holding meetings with the representatives of the USSR, France, and Britain. Zhou Enlai adds that the participation of US representatives in meetings would be undesirable to us and therefore it seems inadvisable to insist upon the participation of PRC representatives. Pham Van Dong expresses agreement with the opinion expressed by Zhou Enlai.

Molotov talks about Eden's and Mendes-France's objections to holding elections before June 1955 and asks Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong whether we ought to press for our previous position about this issue or [whether it is] advisable to offer new proposals during the discussion. For example, propose that the elections be conducted in 1955 or recommend the adoption of this formula: propose that both sides solve the issue of the dates to hold the elections in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia no later than June 1955.

Zhou Enlai states that it would be advisable to take to the following position about the issue of the times of the elections: insist that the conference establish a time to hold the elections, no later than June 1955. If this proposal is declined then offer a new proposal—direct that the elections are to be held in 1955. If this proposal, too, is not adopted, then, as the last position, insist that a decision be made which provides that both sides are to decide among themselves no later than June 1955 to solve the issue of setting the dates for holding elections.

Pham Van Dong says that he agrees with the above ideas of Zhou Enlai.

Zhou Enlai stresses that the issue about the dates to hold the elections was discussed in detail during a meeting with Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh gave agreement in principle to the third alternative for solving the issue of the dates for the elections mentioned by Zhou Enlai being offered as a last resort.

Molotov then asks what questions Pham Van Dong intends to discuss during today's meeting with Mendes-France.

Pham Van Dong says he prefers to touch on the main issues about Indochina, primarily the questions about the elections and the line of demarcation. Pham Van Dong added that he will insist on setting definite times for holding elections in accordance with the exchange of opinions between us and also on locating the line of demarcation at the 16th parallel.

Zhou Enlai says that we will probably be able to reach agreement on the issues mentioned above in the next few days but one more very important issue remains which ought not be overlooked. This is the issue of the creation of an American military bloc in Southeast Asia. Zhou Enlai stresses that there is reason to suspect that the US, Britain, and France have in principle achieved some sort of agreement among themselves about this question. If the Americans manage to draw Bao Dai's Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia into a military bloc then the agreement we have drafted about prohibiting the creation of foreign military bases on the territory of the states mentioned would lose the importance which we attach to it. Zhou Enlai added that in a conversation with Nehru in India and in a conversation with Eden in Geneva he stressed that foreign military bases should not be created on the territory of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and that Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia ought not to be drawn into any military alliances [gruppirovki] or blocs. Zhou Enlai asks whether Cde. Pham Van Dong ought not touch on this issue in the conversation with Mendes-France and express our position.

Molotov expresses his agreement with the opinion of Zhou Enlai and says that in conversations with Mendes-France and Eden we ought to point to the reports available in the press about attempts being undertaken to create military blocs in Southeast Asia and declare that we are against such blocs. Molotov asks whether any documents need to be tied to this.

Zhou Enlai says that the representatives of the Western powers will hardly agree to write about this in any particular document.

Molotov says that the issue of military blocs in Southeast Asia ought to be touched upon during the discussion at the Geneva Conference of the text of the declaration being prepared on the issue of Indochina.

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong express agreement.

Zhou Enlai says that according to information available to him Britain is taking vigorous action to create an alliance of countries in Southeast Asia which would be tied to one another by a system of treaties of the Locarno type. The US is trying to counter the British plan with their own plan. They are relying on the basis of an alliance of the five powers taking part in a meeting in Singapore and creating a military bloc under their aegis including Thailand, Pakistan, Bao Dai's Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, in addition to these five countries. Zhou Enlai said that we ought to oppose the creation of military blocs in Asia, taking advantage the existing differences between the US and Britain in doing this.

Molotov and Pham Van Dong express their agreement with the opinion of Zhou Enlai.

Molotov asks whether, during negotiations about the issue of the time to carry out the regrouping of forces, [they] ought not say that the transport of French troops from North Vietnam might be accomplished not only by sea but also by rail and highway. He stressed that it would be possible to use this as an argument in order to insist on a reduction of the period of regrouping proposed by the French delegation (380 days).

Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong say that the movement of enemy troops from North Vietnam to the south does not seem possible in view of a whole range of circumstances (the lack of suitable roads, the difficulties associated with the supply of the troops with food, etc.)

Zhou Enlai then says that in a conversation with Cde. Molotov Mendes-France might touch on the issue of the schedule for the withdrawal of French troops from the southern regions of Vietnam. In this connection Zhou Enlai would like to direct Cde. Molotov's attention to the fact that France is counting on keeping its troops in the south of Vietnam a little longer. Zhou Enlai said that such a delay is to our advantage inasmuch as the presence of the French in Vietnam can serve as an obstacle to the establishment of military and political collusion between the Americans and the Bao Dai authorities. Zhou Enlai added that, of course, the French troops ought to be withdrawn from South Vietnam by the time that general elections are held there.

The conversation lasted three hours and 30 minutes.

Recorded by: /signature/
A.Ledovskꁹ

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