795B.5/9–2750: Telegram

The Ambassador in India (Henderson) to the Secretary of State


788. 1. During course conversation with Bajpai, Secretary General MEA, today I asked him if GOI had given any more thought to problem of advance of UN Forces North of 38th Parallel (see Embtel 755, September 23).

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2. Bajpai said GOT considered question most difficult. It had reason believe there was real danger Peking might intervene if UN Forces should cross Parallel and that world war might result. UK had informed India in confidence that it was agreed among three Foreign Ministers there would be no advance beyond 38th Parallel until matter had been taken up again in UN.1 Original resolution of course related only to return to 38th Parallel. In his opinion when North Koreans were driven out of South Korea military phase might be considered exterminate and phase of negotiations and discussions to begin.

3. I told Bajpai I was under no instructions to discuss matter and had no idea what my government’s attitude might be. Nevertheless it seemed to me it might be necessary for decision to be made in near future and quickly. It was I thought general opinion of free countries that artificial division of Korea should no longer be tolerated and that under UN supervision plebiscite should be held for all Korea to decide its future. North Koreans thus far under influence Soviet Union had steadfastly refused permit UN plebiscite in their territory or even allow UN officials to cross 38th Parallel. I was wondering if Bajpai or GOI had any ideas as to how other than by use of force North Koreans could be prevailed upon to permit UN representatives to enter North Korea for purposes conducting plebiscite. I had some doubt that mere requests would have any more effect on North Koreans in future than they had in past.

I added there seemed to me no number of courses which might be pursued. One course would be for UN Forces to push into North Korea, before North Korea Forces had time to reform, and to place that territory under temporary UN control pending plebiscite.

Another course would be for UN Forces stop at 38th Parallel while efforts were being made to prevail upon North Korean regime agree to plebiscite under UN auspices. If such efforts should fail UN Forces would then move into North Korea. This course would naturally result in greater loss of life, particularly American, than course first mentioned, since North Koreans would have time prepare themselves against invasion. Another course would be for UN Forces remain along 38th Parallel until such time as through some means or other North Koreans could be prevailed upon permit UN plebiscite. This might well mean that UN Forces composed mostly of Americans would remain for indefinite period in South Korea and would be continually called upon to defend border against armed attacks from North. I was afraid that if such a course should be followed certain elements in Asia including some in India would tend to overlook origin of Korean trouble and would begin to criticize US for occupying section of Asian continent.

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I pointed out that it was much easier for countries citizens of whom were not being killed in Korea to regard situation leisurely and philosophically. Feeling on subject in countries like US in which casualty lists were steadily lengthening were likely to be more tense.

4. Bajpai said he could understand that Americans would be more emotional on subject than Indians. Furthermore due deference should be given to US point of view since US was bearing brunt of fighting. He felt however that it would be mistake for UN Forces proceed into North Korea until matter had been thoroughly aired among members of UN. It would of course be impossible to obtain any decision in SC against North Koreans in view of Soviet veto. Nevertheless, informal discussions among UN members might be helpful. He was somewhat surprised in view of rapid developments in Korea that GOI had not already been approached by US Government on this subject. He hoped that approach would not be at last moment. There should be time for full discussion.

5. During conversation Bajpai was extremely cautious and continually insisted that his government had not made decision as yet re this matter. From my knowledge of him and of his relations with Nehru I am inclined to believe that it is Nehru’s present intention at least not to support any military action North of 38th Parallel. Whether GOI would go so far as to vote against such action in SC or GA or merely abstain I cannot as yet hazard a guess. I am convinced however Nehru would like to maintain his freedom to criticize US for developments which might occur if UN forces should enter North Korea. He might also complicate problem by again introducing subject of right Chinese Commies to participate in discussion.

6. Judging from editorial appearing in Hindustan Times of yesterday and from informal conversations which we have had with various Indian leaders I am inclined to believe that there are influential elements in India which might be willing to agree to occupation all Korea by UN Forces provided the entire country should be placed under control UN pending plebiscite; that is, that Rhee Government should not be allowed to remain in control South Korea or Commie regime in control North Korea. It is barely possible Nehru might be persuaded to go along with solution this kind.

  1. See telegram 791, September 28, from New Delhi, p. 808.