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De Gaulle Proposes Neutralization of Vietnam

Jan. 31, 1964 - President Charles de Gaulle of France proposed today the neutralization of the former French possessions in the Indochinese Peninsula in cooperation with Communist China. The states involved are Cambodia, Laos, and North and South Vietnam. The United States is deeply involved in the anti-Communist struggle in South Vietnam. Suggesting an international guarantee for the neutralized states, de Gaulle stipulated that they must be free from any kind of foreign intervention, including, presumably, that of the United States. In discussing his proposal, the French President used the term “Southeast Asia,” which, in French usage, refers to the territories given up at an East-West conference in Geneva in 1954. The conference ended France’s struggle against Communist-led rebels.

It is impossible to assure the future of the area, President de Gaulle said, without the participation of the Government in Peking, which France recognized Monday, because the French “see the world as it is.” However, U.S. officials in Washington appraised President de Gaulle’s calls for negotiations with Communist China as naive and misguided. The Johnson Administration made no formal rebuttal. But officials made plain their belief that the French leader was himself ignoring the realities of the situation and proposing negotiations without means of forcing Communist China to make any concessions.

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