Statement of President de Gaulle at His Tenth Press Conference in Paris, July 23, 1964
The Geneva Agreements concluded in 1954 put an end to the fighting in Indochina. At the time, everyone seemed to desire it sincerely. These agreements included provisions which varied according to the countries in question, but which had in common the absolute exclusion of all outside intervention. Cambodia pledged not to enter into any alliance and not to allow any base on its territory. Laos was to prohibit the presence of any foreign troops, with the exception of a French military mission and an airfield used by France in Seno. The two Vietnams could not ally themselves with anyone, or introduce on their soil any force from the outside, or receive armaments which would increase their potential. Moreover, general elections were scheduled to take place in Vietnam in 1956, so as to lead to the institution of a democratic Government and to reunification. The 1954 agreements were not applied for long. That is the least that can be said about them. Cambodia alone-thanks to its national unity and to the very skillful and determined way in which it is led by its Head of State-bas known bow and been able to remain intact, neutral and relatively peaceful until now. But in Vietnam everything conspired to bring that country back to the troubled situation from which it had just emerged, while Laos in its turn was caught up in domestic conflicts, aided from the outside.
Concerning Vietnam, it must be said that the existence of a communist State installed in Tonkin from where our troops withdrew in accordance with the agreements, and the shock caused in the south by the withdrawal of our administration and our forces, exposed the country to new perils. It was a matter of knowing whether it could find, in itself, a national cohesion and a solid government. It was then that the Americans arrived, bringing their aid, their policy and their authority.
The United States, in fact, considered itself as being invested throughout the world with the burden of defense against communism. Since South Vietnam was running the risk of it, as the regime established in the north was aimed at imposing itself there, Washington wanted to put this State in a position to protect itself. It can be added, without any intention of being derogatory, that their conviction of fulfilling a sort of vocation, the aversion which they had to any colonial work which had not been theirs, and finally the natural desire in such a powerful people to ensure themselves of new positions, determined the Americans to take our place in Indochina.
We know that, back in 1954 they sponsored the Diem government, that Diem immediately and unfortunately assumed an unpleasant attitude toward us, that once Emperor Bao-Dai had left the country he replaced him, that be did not carry out the scheduled elections and lastly that in all fields, particularly those of defense, economy and administration, he placed himself in the orbit of Washington. But, as this policy was more and more unpopular, the day came when Diem tried to disentangle himself from it, while the Americans began to have doubts about him. Then a military putsch removed the President and gave him a successor. After that, a new putsch invested another one, the latter closely linked with the war action which the United States is supporting, staffing, financing and arming.
War action, indeed, for although the subversive elements of the Viet-cong had disappeared from South Vietnam after the 1954 agreements, they reappeared there under pretext that the agreements were not being applied. Guerrilla fighting and some action carried out by constituted units are spreading more and more over the territory. At the same time, the populations, whatever their opinion of Communism, are less and less inclined to support a cause and an authority which in their view are intermingled with those of a foreign State. Thus it seems that, locally, a military solution cannot be expected. Some people imagine, it is true, that the Americans could seek it elsewhere by carrying the war to the north as far as it would be necessary. But, although they certainly dispose of all the desired means, it is difficult to assume that they wish to take the tremendous risk of a generalized conflict.
Lacking a decision by war, it is peace which thus must be made. Now, this implies returning to what was agreed upon ten years ago and, this time, complying with it, in other words, this implies that in North and South Viet-nam, in Cambodia and in Laos, no foreign power any longer intervene in any way in the affairs of these unfortunate countries. A meeting of the same order and including, in principle, the same participants as the former Geneva conference would certainly be qualified to make a decision and to organize an impartial control. That is what France is proposing to all the States concerned, certain that, unless plunging Asia first and without doubt, at a later date, the entire world into very serious trials, this will have to be done, and the sooner, the better. This meeting, to which each must come without conditions or recriminations, would successively deal with the international aspects of the Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese situation and of which the essential is, in advance, their neutrality. No other road can be visualized which can lead to peace in Southeast Asia, provided that once the theoretical agreement is concluded, if it is to be, two practical conditions be realized. The first is that the powers, which directly or indirectly bear a responsibility in what was or is the fate of Indochina and which are France, China, the Soviet Union and America, be effectively resolved to be involved there no longer. The second is that massive economic and technical aid be furnished to all of Indochina by the States which have the means for it, in order that development replace cruel division. France, for her part, is ready to observe these two conditions.
Text of President de Gaulle's statement was made French Press and information Service, New York.
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© Paul Halsall, July 1998