The Acting Secretary of State to the Chairman of the Korean Commission in the United States (Rhee)

My Dear Dr. Rhee: The White House has referred to the Department your letter of May 15 to President Truman in which you comment upon the alleged discovery of a secret agreement regarding Korea assertedly made at Yalta which, you claim, is contrary to the Cairo Declaration. Furthermore, in your letter you appeal to the President to support your request for a seat in the San Francisco Conference and suggest that Korean manpower might be more effectively utilized in the war effort.

In view of the statement to the press made by your colleague in Chungking on May 26,33 I am sure that you no longer give credence to the unfounded reports that commitments were entered into at the Crimea Conference in regard to Korea which are inconsistent with the Cairo Declaration. You will also doubtless recall that responsible officials of the Department have from time to time reiterated that Korea will be liberated from Japan and that the intentions embodied in the Cairo Declaration will be carried out. As recently as March 24, 1945, for example, Assistant Secretary of State Archibald MacLeish on a radio discussion program, stated that “the Koreans will get their independence ‘in due course’, which presumably means as soon as they are in a position to govern themselves.”

As you have repeated your request for a seat in the San Francisco Conference, it may be pertinent at this time to review certain basic considerations which have guided the Department in this connection and which have been made known to you in previous correspondence or orally. The United Nations which are represented at the San [Page 1030] Francisco Conference all have legally constituted governing authorities, whereas the “Korean Provisional Government” and other Korean organizations do not possess the qualifications requisite for obtaining recognition by the United States as a governing authority.

The “Korean Provisional Government” has never had administrative authority over any part of Korea nor can it be considered representative of the Korean people of today. Its following even among exile Koreans is limited. It is the policy of this Government in dealing with groups such as the “Korean Provisional Government” to avoid taking action which might, when the victory of the United Nations is achieved, tend to compromise the right of the Korean people to choose the ultimate form and personnel of the government which they may wish to establish. Such a policy is consistent with this Government’s attitude toward all people under Axis domination or liberated therefrom. For these reasons, then, among others, the Department has not recognized the “Korean Provisional Government”.

I am sure you will realize that the foregoing review of the Department’s position in this connection carries no implication whatsoever of a lack of sympathy for the people of Korea and their aspirations for freedom. The officers of the Department have spent a great deal of time in studying the problems relating to Korea and have talked at length with you and with other individuals interested in the welfare of Korea and the Koreans and have endeavored to explain this Government’s responsibility in such matters and to give a clear indication of the lines along which this responsibility is being fulfilled.

In regard to your reference to the use of the Korean manpower in the war against Japan, you may be assured that the military services of this nation have not neglected to examine carefully the potentialities of the Korean people in this regard. It is a matter of record that many Koreans have been serving unselfishly and devotedly in the forces of the United Nations. As the war against Japan progresses, the Korean people may be placed in a position to play an increasingly important role in the defeat of Japan.

The Department hopes that the foregoing discussion of this Government’s intentions34 with respect to Korea will serve to dispel the doubts which you have entertained, based upon false rumors.

Sincerely yours,

For the Acting Secretary of State:
Frank P. Lockhart

Acting Director Office of Far Eastern Affairs
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[For the Department’s estimate of conditions in Korea at the end of the war and a statement of United States policy in regard to this region, see Policy Paper of June 22, Section III, ante, page 561.]

  1. In telegram 865, May 29, the Ambassador in China reported that a spokesman of the Korean Provisional Government had issued a statement to the Central News Agency on May 26 denouncing as “a groundless rumor” talk of a secret agreement reached at Yalta about Korea’s position after the war (895.01/5–2045).
  2. For Acting Secretary Grew’s statement on “Review of Policy regarding Korea” released June 8, see Department of State Bulletin, June 10, 1945, p. 1058. In telegram 6639, July 2, 2 p.m., the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) reported that the British Foreign Office was “in full agreement” with Mr. Grew’s statement (711.95/7–245).