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On his way to the London meeting of Foreign Ministers this May, Secretary of State Dean Acheson will stop in Paris to discuss dollar aid for Viet Nam with French ministers Bidault and Schuman. In his diplomatic portfolio Acheson will carry the unpleasant facts of French colonialism and of the civil war it has sired in Viet Nam.
Viet Nam, one of three states in Indo-China, was colonized by the French in 1860. Its bid for home rule dates from Skirmishes in the 70's to the wholesale revolt which began after World War II and which still goes on. France's cure for the Viet Namese problems is a semi-autonomous government headed by Emperor Bao-Dai, native monarch who had considerable pre-war support. But under the past which put Bao-Dai, in office last year, France retains control over Viet Nam's foreign policy and of the Viet Namese army in war-time; France keeps military bases and economics privileges which were bludgeoned out of Viet Nam During the years of colonial rule; and each foreign adviser of technician employed by the native government must first be approved by French officials.
These French controls have stigmatized the Bao regime. Most able Viet Namese have refused to enter the government, and just last week three of Bao's ministers resigned because the government "in no way represents the people." Reports from western newspapers correspondents estimate that at least 80 percent of the population considers the Bao regime a Paris puppet, and backs either tacitly or openly the only national movement, the insurgent Viet Minh.
Neutral observers report that only a minority of Viet Minh, 10 to 20 percent, is Communist, though they agree that this minority holds key positions and controls the movement. But Viet Minh's strength is not only its Communist leadership. The nationalist yearnings of a suppressed people help keep the Viet Minh in business.
U. S. economic assistance, on which the Acheson-Bidault-Schuman talks will focus, can combat Viet Namese Communism only if dollars will follow new freedoms granted the Bao-Dai regime by the French government. Though French troops are needed to hold off the immediate threat of Communist rule, and end of French curbs on the Bao-Dai regime can win nationalist support from Viet Minh to the present government.
In Paris, Acheson should set new freedoms--in foreign policy, native economy, and government appointments--as conditions for U. S. aid to Viet Nam. Though a more independent Bao-Dai is no guarantee of a Viet Nam safe from Communist conquest, such independence is the best chance that France and the U. S. have to promote democracy in Indo-China. Without this autonomy, Viet Nam, Even with U. S. assistance, will remain easy prey for Indo-China's Communists.
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