740.00119 Control (Korea)/2–1546

The Political Adviser in Korea (Benninghoff) to the Secretary of State

No. 19

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the numerous telegrams which were sent by this Command52 regarding the recent U.S.-Soviet Joint Conference, copies of which were presumably furnished the Department, and to transmit copies of certain documents which were prepared in the course of the conference. This conference, it will be recalled, was convened in accordance with the fourth paragraph of Section III (Korea) of the Moscow Communiqué of December 27, 1945.

Copies of the following documents are enclosed:53

Original United States statement and agenda
Original Soviet agenda
Agenda as finally adopted
Statement made by Colonel General Shtikov, Chief Soviet Delegate, on 1 February 1946
Letter of transmittal from the two chief delegates to their commanding generals, with fifteen attachments containing the decisions reached on each of the fifteen items of the agenda (see No. 3 above)

The conference first met on 16 January 1946 and held fifteen formal sessions, the last one being on 5 February 1946.

The United States Command was represented by the following: Major General Arnold, Major General Lerch, Major General Spalding, Mr. H. M. Benninghoff, Colonel R. H. Booth, Colonel F. H. Britton, Colonel J. C. Underwood, Lt. Colonel W. J. Herlihy, Lt. Colonel A. J. Cornelson, Lt. Colonel G. B. Enders and technical assistants.

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The Soviet Command was represented by the following: Col. General T. F. Shtikov, Minister Extraordinary S. K. Tsarapkin, Major General G. I. Shanin, Major General A. A. Romanyenko, Advisor Balasanov, Engr-Colonel Butusov, Advisor Manukian, Advisor Lavrov, Advisor Lt. Colonel Karkulyenko, and Secretary Maslov.

The chairmanship was alternated between the chiefs of the respective delegations. It was agreed that all minutes and other documents would be prepared in the English and Russian languages and that the minutes of each meeting would be approved and signed by the chiefs of the two delegations. It was also agreed that the decisions reached by the Conference would be submitted to the two commanding Generals for final approval before being put into effect. After the agenda was finally agreed on (see enclosure No. 3), the conference was divided into three sub-committees for the detailed consideration of various items. These sub-committees were the Economic, the Administrative and the Transportation sub-committees. A few items of a general nature were discussed only in the full meetings of the two delegations.

Early in the discussions in regard to the agenda, it became apparent that the U.S. and Soviet delegations approached the solution of economic and administrative problems from widely divergent angles. The United States delegation based all its discussions and arguments on the desirability of removing the barrier of the 38° parallel and considering the country as an economic and administrative unit. The Russians, on the other hand, came to the conference with the idea of discussing economic and administrative matters from a very narrow viewpoint. We wished to do everything possible to open up the country and to unite such important facilities as transportation and public utilities into single administrations, whereas the Soviets, from the outset, viewed the problem as one of exchange and coordination between two adjoining but separate zones of military responsibility. We talked in terms of opening up the country for the benefit of the nation as a whole, while the Russians talked in terms of negotiations between the two commands.

This divergence of viewpoint colored the whole proceedings, and was directly responsible for the failure of the conference to achieve any substantial results. For instance, the United States delegation proposed to place the railroads of Korea under a unified joint administration which would operate the railroads as a unit. The Soviet delegation, on the other hand, insisted on retaining the dual system of administration which has been in effect since August 1945. In other words, it did not consider giving up any of the command prerogatives to a joint commission. After a great deal of discussion, a Technical [Page 635] Joint Transportation Commission was agreed upon, but this commission was given no authority to operate the railroads; its sole function is to make recommendations to the two commands.

Another development of the conference, growing out of the Soviet’s narrow viewpoint described above, was that the Russian delegation insisted that all exchange of commodities should be between the two commands, and should also be on a quasi-barter basis, with exchanges to be kept approximately equal and with no advancing of credit. This attitude made the work of the Economic sub-committee extremely difficult as the Russians were in position to furnish the American Command immediately with a large supply of raw materials, whereas the United States delegation was not in a position to supply any commodities until they had been manufactured out of coal and other materials shipped from the north. The Economic sub-committee, therefore, reached a virtual deadlock.

It will be noted that the problem of the removal of capital goods from Korea was omitted from the agenda. The American delegation raised this point in one of the early meetings, but the Soviets stated that the problem was outside the scope of the conference, and that in any event there was no need to discuss it as the removal of capital goods was already prohibited in both zones. The Russians inquired whether the Americans were making any direct accusations, but as our evidence was all hearsay and could not be substantiated, General Arnold was forced to agree to the omission of this item from the agenda.

The most important problem considered by the conference, and that on which the conference virtually collapsed, was the Soviet demand for rice from the south in exchange for raw materials and other commodities from the north. It soon became evident that General Shtikov was sent to the conference with instructions to get as much rice as possible and to refuse to agree to any exchange of other commodities unless rice was forthcoming. It was explained to him and to other members of his delegation that south Korea was not in position to furnish rice, but the Russians did not see fit to accept the force of our arguments. After considerable fruitless discussion on this point, General Shtikov submitted a statement of 4 February 1946 (see enclosure No. 4), setting forth the Soviet position. In that statement, which virtually amounted to an ultimatum, General Shtikov said that the Soviet representatives would not be able to continue the discussion of the exchange of commodities, including electric power, until the American command was able to guarantee the delivery to the Soviet command of a substantial quantity of rice. In his rebuttal (copy not included in enclosures because of its length), [Page 636] General Arnold proved that on a per capita basis, northern Korea should be practically as self-sufficient as southern Korea in regard to food stuffs. He also attempted to gain Soviet agreement on an exchange of commodities, such as locomotive spare parts, amounting to about Yen 25 million in 1946. The Soviet delegation refused to consider this proposal and the conference broke up.

In summary, the conference was able to achieve agreement only on the following points:

Rail, motor and water-borne transportation on a limited basis.
Establishment of joint control posts.
Limited movement of Korean citizens from one zone to the other.
Limited exchange of first-class mail.
Allocation of radio frequencies.
Measures for future coordination between the two commands.

No decision could be reached on the following items, chiefly because of fundamental differences in viewpoint:

Supply of electric power.
Exchange of commodities.
Mutual payment for goods.

The remaining items on the agenda were either removed therefrom by mutual agreement or were relegated “for future study.” The United States proposal for an adjustment of the boundary between the two commands was transmitted by the Soviet delegation to the Soviet High Command for its approval, but no reply has been received to date. The question of the repatriation of Japanese civilians from north Korea was deleted from the agenda because it was considered to be outside the scope of the conference. Discussions on this question, however, will continue and it is hoped that eventually the Japanese will be returned to their homes.

Although any discussion of political matters was carefully avoided during the meetings of the conference, it was apparent from the tone and attitude of the Soviet delegation, and from several indiscreet remarks made by various of its members, that the U.S.S.R. contemplates a lengthy occupation of at least the northern half of Korea. It was also apparent that the U.S.S.R. will probably resist all efforts by the United States to open up the country and to treat it as an economic and political unit until such time as the U.S.S.R. is satisfied that it has gained political ascendency in the country, or is forced to change its attitude because of political necessity.

Respectfully yours,

H. Merrell Benninghoff
  1. Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge.
  2. Enclosures not printed.