Volume #20 - 714.|
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMISSIONS FOR SUPERVISION AND CONTROL
Memorandum from Acting Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
April 13th, 1954|
UNITED STATES PROPOSAL FOR UNITED ACTION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA|
You may wish to use the following notes in discussing in Cabinet the United States proposal for United Action in Southeast Asia.
United States Approaches
2. In a public address on March 29 Mr. Dulles called for "united action" to keep Southeast Asia from falling under Communist control. 1 Beginning on April 2, Mr. Dulles called in turn the French, British, Australian, New Zealand, Philippine and Thailand Ambassadors, told them of the United States appreciation of the critical importance for Southeast Asian security of holding on in Indochina and asked that these governments and those of the three Associated States join the United States in a 10-power defensive grouping apparently somewhat on the NATO pattern within the reserved right of regional defence stipulated by Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. The "united action" which these countries would agree upon would be to cooperate in preventing the further over-running of Southeast Asia by Communism. Mr. Dulles does not appear to have formulated a precise written proposal.
3. From accounts which we have received from our Missions in London, Canberra and Wellington it would appear that Mr. Dulles asked that consideration be given to issuing a declaration which would:
(a) warn Communist China against further intervention in the war in Indochina;
(b) affirm their united intention to prevent Indochina from falling under Communist domination;
(c) express their resolution to check further Communist aggression in Southeast Asia.
In addition, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand were asked if they would be prepared to make available sea and air forces, but not ground forces, for prompt use in Indochina. They were also asked to stimulate French morale.
4. On April 7 Mr. Dulles informed Mr. Heeney about the United States proposals because "the United States regarded us as a Pacific as well as an Atlantic power and knew of our interest in the security of the whole area." He did not suggest any Canadian contribution or aid nor did he suggest Canadian membership.
United States Objectives
5. Some of the purposes of the U.S. proposal seem to be these:
(a) to strengthen the French will to continue the fight in Indochina;
(b) to prevent a French cave-in at Geneva;
(c) to prepare U.S. public opinion for the possibility of increased intervention in Indochina;
(d) to provide a framework within which the French would be obliged to accept United States military advice as well as military matériel for the war in Indochina;
(e) to put pressure on the French to grant real independence to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam so as to ensure support for collective action from all the proposed participants of the association;
(f) to prevent the outflanking of the United States defensive positions in the Western Pacific;
(g) to prevent the Southeast Asia rice bowl from falling under Communist control.
6. Mr. Casey told our High Commissioner on April 7 that the Australian Government does not want to give the United States the impression that they are dragging their feet on proposals for security arrangements in the Southeast Asia area in which Australia has a vital concern. Nevertheless, the Government is reluctant to commit itself:
(a) to any military action;
(b) to what might be considered a defense of French colonialism;
(c) to action on any other basis than through the United Nations.
Mr. Casey stated publicly in Parliament that day that "Australia cannot but welcome this American interest in preserving the security and independence of the nations of the Southeast Asia area and the South Pacific." He considered that reference to the United Nations would require careful study. Dr. Evatt replied that he took "the view that the situation in Indochina does demand intervention by the United Nations and that it has long since ceased to be a question of internal or domestic jurisdiction."
The Australians have since then made strong representations to the French in Paris concerning their interest in seeing that the Communist threat to Indochina and Southeast Asia is resisted. The French replied that they had no intention of giving up the battle or agreeing to a ceasefire unless safe and reasonable terms were arranged in the negotiations at Geneva.
New Zealand Attitude
7. The New Zealand Government has taken a very cautious attitude. While reluctant to disappoint United States hopes, they are likely to fall back on their traditional practice of going along with United Kingdom and Australian thinking concerning crises of common concern. In view of their difficulty in maintaining a full artillery battalion in Korea they are not likely to wish to assume additional military commitments.
8. There has been no full statement of the French reaction to Mr. Dulles' proposal. The French feel that this move should strengthen their bargaining position with the Communists at Geneva. They see many difficulties in the proposal. For the present they consider that the effort should be centred on the defence of Dien Bien Phu.
United Kingdom Attitude
9. The United Kingdom Government is sympathetic to the long-term objectives implied in the Dulles initiative. They doubt if a declaration should be made before the Geneva Conference as it might give the appearance that our side was not prepared to negotiate a settlement. They have misgivings about any warning declaration addressed to the Chinese Communists at this time. They consider that there would be a great difference between in effect ordering the Chinese Communists to stop giving undefined aid as they are at present giving in Indochina and taking action to prevent the Chinese breaking any agreement they might make in Geneva. They dislike any suggestions for bombarding the China coast or threats to do so. They suggest that a declaration would be more appropriate after the Geneva Conference, either to guarantee the settlement reached there or based on the failure to reach a settlement.
Following consultations between Mr. Dulles and Mr. Eden in London on April 12, a joint announcement is being made expressing concern over the threat to peace and security in Southeast Asia created by the activities of Communist forces in Indochina and expressing readiness to take part with other countries, particularly concerned, in an examination of the possibility of establishing a collective defence system in Southeast Asia within the framework of the United Nations Charter. 2
10. No statement of Indian views on the United States proposal as yet. However, it is quite possible that this subject will come up for discussion at the meeting of South Asian Prime Ministers at Colombo on April 28. India will probably regard this initiative as a further cutting into the area in which it hoped that a measure of neutrality might be preserved.
11. A number of approaches to this problem are suggested in the following paragraphs:
(a) United Nations Aspect. Canada could not be committed to action in Indochina or Southeast Asia unless the United Nations were seized of the problem. The Warning Declaration issued at the time of the Armistice in Korea in July 1953 does not commit us to take action. 3 It may be that Canada could make a helpful contribution by exploring with other governments concerned ways in which United Nations might be brought into Indochina, possibly by sending an observation commission as in the Balkans.
(b) Pacific Security Pact Aspect. It will be desirable to bear in mind public statements of the Canadian position in respect to proposals for a Pacific Security Pact. The proposed grouping seems to be a regional one for Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. Canada has not been asked to participate. The United States is not likely to propose broadening the membership at this time as this would bring in the difficult problems of Chinese Nationalist and Japanese membership.
(c) SEA Regional Security Aspect. Last year it was decided that Canada should not seek to participate closely in the work of the Five Power Staff Agency charged with the study of strategy and the organization of security in South-east Asia. It would be consistent for us to indicate that we have no immediate interest in any proposed regional military coordination arrangements that might arise from the Dulles proposal, but would be glad to be kept generally informed.
(d) NATO Aspect. About a year and a half ago NATO officially took cognizance of France's heavy commitments in Indochina. It might be appropriate for the Council to review the Indochina situation again in the light of more recent developments. It is possible that the United States, France or the United Kingdom might raise this subject at the forthcoming Council meeting.
(e) Canadian Arms Aid Aspect. If it is considered that some display of Canadian concern should be shown one suggestion that might be considered is removal of restrictions on the shipment to Indochina of military matériel supplied France under the Mutual Aid Act which is now supposed to be used only in the NAT area. 4