The Ambassador in Korea ( Muccio ) to the Assistant Chief of the Division of Northeast Asian Affairs ( Bond )


Dear Niles: You will recall that in my letter of June 23rd2 I expressed the doubt whether Dr. Rhee knew what Dr. Chough was doing there in Washington. Here is an instance. This morning the AP had a slug to the effect that Dr. Chough had delivered to Secretary Acheson a message from President Rhee that Korea needed an armed force of 400,000. The AP correspondent called on Rhee who expressed surprise at the figure 400,000 and said that this was the first time he had heard that figure. Later in the day AP 13, Washington, enclosed,3 was received and the correspondent phoned the President’s secretary and gave him the breakdown given therein. It would appear therefore that either Rhee is holding out on the correspondent, and me, or Chough is playing his own little game.

The Korean security forces now are up to 76,953 Army, 5,433 Coast Guard, and 50,484 police. Recently while talking with President Rhee I emphatically cautioned against expanding the security forces too rapidly and reiterated what General Wedemeyer told both Rhee and Lee Bum Suk last February4 that what was essential here was a small, compact, well-trained and equipped force thoroughly loyal. I pointed out—that if the expansion was too rapid—the danger of subversive infiltration and of having to use loyal forces at this critical juncture to control disloyal elements within his own ranks. He mumbled that he appreciated this and agreed with me thoroughly and that he would tell them to hold up recruiting for awhile. Recruiting for the reserve, [Page 1061] now slightly over 30,000, was discontinued. The army is already close to 100,000 if to the above figure, we add the number of enlistees awaiting examination, screening, etc. before formal enrollment. I have heard of a desire to increase police to 60,000 but never of the need for a police reserve of 50,000.

When I took Lasher up to call on Rhee day before yesterday, Rhee launched off on the need for improving and increasing the army and said that they needed 100,000 army and 200,000 militia. There is no doubt that there is real apprehension, if not outright fear, still existing in many segments of the population and especially in the inner government circle. Their every thought in May and up until towards the end of June was the inevitability of a clash and the need to prepare therefor. This fear is probably not as acute as it was last month though it still pervades a great deal of their thinking. They are still feverishly eager to do everything to increase their security forces. I am sending you a separate letter on the juggling now going on here to obtain planes.5

Sincerely yours,

John J. Muccio 6
  1. Received in the Department on July 21.
  2. Not printed.
  3. The text read as follows:

    AP 13, Washington. Korea Monday [June 11] proposed the arming of 400,000 men as a precaution against rash action by the Soviet sponsored North Korean regime. President Syngman Rhee made this proposal in a message delivered to Secretary of State Acheson by Korea’s UN representative, Dr. Chough Pyung Ok. Chough told reporters he explained to the Secretary that the vastly increased military force is a temporary program to last until North and South Korea are united. We feel North Korea might take drastic action against South Korea, he said. Chough said Rhee’s message suggested a fixed defense force of 100,000 Army, 50,000 police, 50,000 reserve police officers and a 200,000 man militia. The proposal for a 400,000 man military force would in effect quadruple Korea’s present military strength. Most reports have put Soviet trained North Korean forces at around 200,000 men. The UN envoy said President Rhee’s message appealed for some kind of assurance that Korea might be looked after in case of foreign aggression or foreign inspired domestic troubles. It also made the point, he added, that Korea would like some form of collective security in Asia. Chough disclosed that he is going to Ottawa Friday to discuss political and economic matters with the Canadian Government. He declined to explain in detail, but said he hoped Korea might expand her trade with Canada.”

  4. General Wedemeyer accompanied Secretary Royall on the latter’s Far East trip; see Mr. Royall’s memorandum of conversation, dated February 8, and the annexed memorandum of conversation by Mr. Muccio, dated February 25, pp. 956 and 958.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Ambassador Muccio’s letter crossed one dated July 14 from Mr. Bond wherein the latter enclosed a copy of the July 11 memorandum of conversation by the Secretary of State. The final two paragraphs of Mr. Bond’s letter read as follows:

    “Although Chough has been getting pretty short shrift around here of late, his free-wheeling efforts to put the squeeze on us for military assistance continue to be a source of some irritation. (Following his conversation with the Secretary he told the press that Korea should be provided with an Army, militia, and police force totaling 400,000 men.) Although we have endeavored discreetly to impress upon the Ambassador that Chough’s activities are definitely contraproducente in terms of the best interests of his Government, he continues to go his merry way. I doubt, however, if Chough will hereafter get to see any top people either in State or Army on any matters relating to military assistance.

    “With reference to the penultimate paragraph of the enclosed memorandum of conversation, I may add that following that conversation I gave Chough a copy of our June 8 statement, which he admitted he had never read carefully. He phoned me the following day to say that he had now read it with care and that he regarded it as a fine, strong statement, inferring that had he read it before he would not have raised with the Secretary the question of a further statement.” (895.20/7–1349)