CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 152: Pre Mins 1–5

United States Delegation Minutes, Fourth Session, Preliminary Conversations for the September Foreign Ministers Meetings, Washington, August 30, 1950, 3:00 to 5:30 p. m.1

top secret

[Part 1]

Delegations: British: Graves, Burrows, Greenhill
French: Daridan, de Margerie, Millet, Fequant
United States: Yost, Emmerson, Bancroft, Raynor, Jackson, Emmons, O’Shaughnessy, Hackler, Bacon, Ranney (Recorder)2

Subject: Korea

In opening the discussion on Korea, Mr. Emmerson said that the U.S. position was still tentative and we wished to hear the views of the other Powers regarding the future course of action. It was unnecessary to detail the events which had led up to the present position. U.N. responsibility for Korea had existed for some time and present action in the country was clearly based upon the Security Council resolutions of June 25 and 27, 1950.3 As the U.S. saw it, the problem might be divided into two phases, (1) the question of present enforcement action and, (2) long-term objectives for Korea. Both matters, in the U.S. view, required urgent consideration. Reversal of the North Korean fortunes would compel a decision by the Soviet Union regarding its own course of action and the danger existed that the USSR might take extreme measures, either of open intervention or of large scale military assistance to the North Koreans. These questions would become particularly acute when the North Korean forces were driven back to the 38th Parallel, and the U.S. believed that continued military action would depend upon prior decision by the U.N. It was clearly desirable that efforts for the unification and independence of Korea be carried through to a successful conclusion. The U.S. stated, however, that it believed no step should be taken which might provoke a general war.

[Page 1155]

The U.S. proposed the following course of action as U.N. forces approach the 38th Parallel:

Constant assessment of the situation should be made and continued consultation held with U.N. members to seek general agreement to the course of operations:
If Soviet forces occupy North Korea to the 38th Parallel, U.N. forces should not cross the Parallel unless ordered by the U.N.;
If major Soviet or Chinese Communist combat units engage or clearly indicate their intention of engaging in hostilities, the question of further action should be referred to the Security Council.

The U.S. put forward the following proposals with regard to restoration of peace and security in Korea:

The final solution must be consistent with the principles of the U.N. Charter and U.N. support of action in Korea must be assured and solidified.
Consideration should be given to the reports and recommendations of UNCOK.
An appropriate U.N. body should be created to study and make recommendations to the GA on the future of Korea. Such recommendations should be based upon (a) permanent unification of Korea requires free elections in Korea under the observation of the U.N.; (b) the Government of the Republic of Korea should continue to be recognized as the only lawful Government and should be consulted on long-term solutions; (c) any solution must conform with Korean aspirations and U.N. objectives; (d) continuing U.N. support will be necessary.

The U.S. also expressed the view that it would probably be necessary to retain a U.N. force in Korea for some time after the cessation of hostilities. Such a force should include substantial contingents from Asian countries. U.S. forces would be available for this purpose, but the U.S. would recommend that its contingents be stationed South of the 38th Parallel. The U.S. also believed that members of the U.N. should give such political and economic aid to the Korean Government as might be necessary after the conclusion of hostilities.

The French representative began by mentioning that the Korean problem was at present under discussion in New York between the various delegations to the U.N. Without prejudice to the course of these discussions he could state the following general elements in the French position:

Until the Security Council has passed a further resolution on the subject, U.N. forces should not cross the 38th Parallel, as this would create a new situation and might bring in the USSR and China;
U.N. forces must remain in South Korea after the liberation of the country;
It would be inconsistent with the high principles which have guided U.N. action in Korea for the U.N. merely to undertake a restoration of the Rhee Government, which has revealed its internal weaknesses and corruption. Elections shortly before the invasion clearly demonstrated that a large majority of the people were dissatisfied with that Government. Moreover, re-establishment of the present regime might provoke a widespread terror in the country. France believed that new situations called for new formulas. Whatever formula is adopted, its application should be step by step, to gain time, allow passions to cool, and permit a period of guidance of Korean affairs by the U.N. In response to a question by the U.S. representative, the French admitted that any apparent effort to keep Korea in a state of tutelage might be resented by other Asian powers, but he said that the decision would be a U.N. one so that the Western powers alone could not be blamed for slowness in implementing a solution. It was obvious, in any case, that the U.N. could not stay in Korea “for only a few days”.

The British stated that because of the nature of Korean operations their remarks at this meeting could be speculative and exploratory only. They were largely in agreement with the U.S. position as outlined, although there were some different points of emphasis. The British attached great importance to the remarkable array of unanimity in support of U.N. action in Korea and believed that every new phase of action should be designed to command widest support, especially in Asia. The U.N. therefore should endeavor to make just and reasonable arrangements for Korea, even if these arrangements in practice were difficult of attainment.

Some early statement should be made of broad U.N. objectives for the country. The British agreed with the French that something more than the mere restoration of authority of the present Korean Government was necessary. A limited objective of this kind would satisfy no one. The United Kingdom holds that the Government of the Republic of Korea has no title to sovereignty to those parts of the country where free elections have not been held. Rhee’s pretensions that all Korea is under his Government are accordingly unacceptable and any solution for Korea based upon these pretensions would split the democratic powers.

The British suggested that one way of clarifying U.N. objectives might be a resolution of the GA that as soon as the situation permits, all previous U.N. resolutions with respect to Korea should be implemented and that free elections be held at the earliest date. Such a resolution need not commit us to the view that the 38th Parallel should be crossed—this decision could be made at a later date—but it would emphasize our desire to unify Korea on a democratic basis. In the British view, the GA was the most appropriate body for the consideration of broad objectives with regard to Korea.

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The British doubted whether crossing of the 38th Parallel could be justified under the resolution of June 27, 1950, as this resolution was aimed at repelling attack. Crossing the Parallel or establishing a permanent occupation of North Korea would be another matter requiring further decision by the Security Council. In any event, it was essential that a general statement of objectives be made prior to any extension of military activities beyond the 38th Parallel. Future circumstances would necessarily affect the decision as to the wisdom of committing U.N. forces north of the 38th Parallel, particularly the state of the North Korean forces at that time. The British shared the view that fighting North of the 38th Parallel would increase the risks of Soviet intervention. They believed the USSR did not wish to provoke a major war, but the Soviets might dispatch a volunteer force or large military supplies which would create a situation full of explosive possibilities. It was, of course, possible that the USSR might in any case occupy the country up to the 3.8th Parallel or take other action alleged to be in the interest of restoring peace. The Soviets might also revive previous proposals for a four-power trusteeship of Korea, although we could solve this problem by exposing Soviet motives and saying that the Koreans have demonstrated their ability to govern themselves. The British agreed that U.N. forces should be retained in Korea during the period of readjustment following cessation of hostilities to prevent renewed aggression and maintain order. In their view, permanent occupation of North Korea by U.N. forces should not be contemplated.

The British believed that UNCOK as now constituted was not an entirely suitable body for handling Korean affairs involving the establishment of the new state. A new Commission should be formed, composed largely of Asian representatives to make recommendations to the U.N. on problems relating to establishment of an independent and unified Korea. The Commission would also inform the Koreans of the intention to hold elections and if possible would arrange for U.N. forces to enter North Korea to supervise the elections. The Commission would be charged with preventing retaliation by the South Koreans. In the British view, such a Commission should be as strong as possible, composed of members who would carry considerable weight. It might remain in Korea for about a year, or whatever period was necessary for secure establishment of the new Government. The British were of the opinion that elections should be held in whatever part of Korea may be liberated by U.N. forces, whether or not it is possible to hold them North of the 38th Parallel. They had no definite instructions on this point, however.

The U.K. shared the view of the other Powers that the new Korean state would need continued military and diplomatic support because [Page 1158] of the ravages of the present conflict and the danger of subversion which the Korean Government would have to face.

In reply to the views put forward by the British and French representatives, the U.S. representative stated that we appeared to be in general agreement, the chief point of difference being our attitude to the present Korean Government. The U.S. favored continued recognition of the Republic of Korea as the only lawful Government in the country, which should be consulted with respect to any long-term solution of the Korean problem. The U.S. pointed out the importance of maintaining the prestige and continuity of the Republic of Korea, a nation sponsored by the U.N., and cited the democratic aspects of that Government in spite of its immaturity and inexperience. If Rhee is, in fact, not supported by the Korean people it will be up to them to change the Government by democratic processes.

The British and French representatives continued to express their dissatisfaction with the Rhee Government, although the French representative agreed that Korean pride should not be diminished and that this matter needed careful consideration. The U.S. stated that its position was to continue to recognize the jurisdiction of the Government of the Republic of Korea in the exact terms of resolutions which have been passed by the GA. The jurisdiction of the Republic might progressively be extended as free elections were held.

  1. Attached to the source text was a cover sheet, not printed, which indicated that the series designator for these minutes was SFM Pre 4.
  2. John K. Emmerson, Planning Adviser of the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs; Arthur B. Emmons, Acting Officer in Charge of Korean Affairs; Windsor G. Hackler, Staff Assistant in the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs; Frederic G. Ranney, Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs.
  3. For the texts of the two Security Council resolutions on Korea, June 25 and 27, see vol. vii, pp. 155 and 211, respectively.