Indochina - Conditions for United States Direct Intervention in Indochina: Transcript of a News Conference of the Secretary of State, May 25, 1954 (Excerpt) (1)

At his news conference on, May 25, a correspondent recalled to Secretary Dulles his report to the Nation following his return from Geneva (2) in which he set forth the conditions under which the United States interverved in Korea. Mr. Dulles was asked to relate those conditions to the Indochina situations. Mr. Dulles made the following reply:

I pointed out, I think, the existence of certain conditions in the case of Korea, and I went on to say that the situation in Indochina was different and more complex.

I think that broadly speaking the attitude of the United States toward this situation has been made clear by statements which the President has made and which I have made. I think it is fair to say that the United States attitude in this matter has been one of the few stable aspects in an otherwise changing and fluid situation.

The position of the United States toward collective security in Southeast Asia has been known basically for quite a long while. In fact, it really goes back to the time when I went out to the Far East in, I think, January of 1951 on a mission to try to create a collective security pact in that area. That effort failed at that time in the sense that we were not able to put together a collective security arrangement of any large proportions, and we ended with a series of separate pacts one with Japan, one with Australia and New Zealand, and another with The Philippines. But there was not a regional security pact created at that time.

Then I think I pointed out that, in his great address of April 16 of last year, President Eisenhower made a statement which did not attract at the time the attention it deserved perhaps because of other aspects of his speech where he referred to Korea and Southeast Asia and said there should be united action for the defense of Southeast Asia.(3)

I repeated that statement in my March 29 speech after having previously discussed it with congressional leaders and with our principal allies.

The general conditions under which the United States is prepared to participate in collective defense there or elsewhere, for that matter, are quite well known. We are willing to participate in collective defense basically upon the terms that are laid down by the Vandenberg Resolution of June 1948,(4) which laid down basic conditions under which the United States would be prepared to participate on the basis of mutuality and in accordance with the principles of the United Nations.

We are not prepared to go in for a defense of colonialism. We are only going to go in for defense of liberty and independence and freedom.

We don't go in alone; we go in where the other nations which have an important stake in the area recognize the peril as we do.

We go in where the United Nations gives moral sanction to our action.

All of those conditions are known. They have been known. They are a basic part of American foreign policy, and they are, as the President said in one of his press conferences, a "stable" element in the situation.

Mr. Dulles was then asked what was initiated by this Government in the period between March or April of 195S and May of this year to bring about a Southeast Asian pact. He replied:

We did have conversations, particularly with the French and the representatives of the Associated States who under conditions then existing were apt to form the core of any defensive action in that area.(5)

A correspondent recalled that one of the conditions laid down by Mr. Welles in his speech of May 7 was to give independence to the Associated States. The correspondent said that France and Viet-Nam had initialed proposed treaties of independence and association.(6) He asked Mr. Dulles how far those treaties go toward meeting this point. Mr. Dulles made the following reply:

I think what France is doing will, from what you might call a juridical standpoint, be a very large step in fulfillment of their pledge of July 3 of last year of complete independence to the Associated States. The main difficulty, I would say, at the present moment is not so much juridical as it is the translation of legal documents into a sense on the part of the peoples of Viet-Nam, Laos, and Cambodia that they really have an independence for which it is worthwhile for them to fight and, if need be, to die.

It takes time to translate papers that are signed in Paris into the living spirit; and it also takes time to overcome a certain feeling on the part of many of the Asian nations that France is not really sincere in its promises. I believe the French are going a long way down that path-perhaps from a legal standpoint as far as it is either wise or necessary to go at the present time. But it is one thing to have the letter and another thing to have the spirit, and I would say at the moment the principal deficiency is a translation of the spirit of liberty into the area and in the conduct of the French people in relation to the native peoples. There is quite a bit to be done, I think, in that practical respect.

A reporter cited as one of the general conditions for participation a place where the United Nations gives moral sanction. He asked if the United States had any plans for seeking that kind of sanction from the United Nations. Mr. Dulles answered:

There have been discussions off and on, I am sorry to say more off than on, over the past year or more with reference to bringing the United Nations into this situation. At the moment the prospects look somewhat better than they have recently, but in the past we have been very close to the United Nations action without its being actually taken. So I don't want to forecast at the present time.

Asked if we would support any appeal to the United Nations for a peace mission or observation mission to be sent into the Southeast Asian area, he replied:

I believe if such an appeal were made, the United States would support it.(7)

Mr. Dulles was asked if the United States had before it any request from the French Government for intervention in Indochina. He replied:

No, the French Government has made no such request of the United States. They have had some conversations to explore the conditions under which that might be possible, and in that respect the French have been told much the same thing that has been publicly said by the President and me as to the conditions, which as I say have been stable and unchanging over a considerable period of time, under which such intervention would be considered possible. Of course, let me make clear that one of the conditions which we have always stood on is that there must be congressional sanction to any such action.

(1) Department of State Bulletin, June 7, 1954, pp. 862-864. Back

(2) See Secretary Dulles' address of May 7, 1954. Back

(3) Supra, pp. 65-71. Back

(4) S. Res. 239, 80th Cong., 2d sess., June 11, 1948; A Decade of American Foreign Policy, p. 197 Back

(5) See Joint Franco-American Communiqué, September 30, 1953 and Joint Statement by the Secretary of State and the French Foreign Minister, April 14, 1954. Back

(6) See the agreement initialed at Paris, June 4, 1954; Documents on American Foreign Relations, 1954 (New York, 1955), pp. 270-272. Back

(7) Cf. Secretary Dulles' statement of June 18, 1954, regarding the Soviet veto of a Thai request for a peace observation mission; Department of State Bulletin, June 28, 1954, p. 974. Back

American Foreign Policy 1950-1955
Basic Documents Volumes I and II
Department of State Publication 6446
General Foreign Policy Series 117
Washington, DC : U.S. Governemnt Printing Office, 1957

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