Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Rusk)


Subject: Conversation between Mr. Hubert Graves, Counselor of the British Embassy and Mr. Dean Rusk.

Participants: Mr. Hubert Graves
Mr. Dean Rusk

Mr. Graves came in to bring the attached message from Foreign Minister Bevin to Sir Oliver Franks which Mr. Bevin had asked the Ambassador to discuss with Mr. Acheson.

I told Mr. Graves that the views of our two governments were very close together and that I saw no reason for the Ambassador to see Mr. Acheson personally. I said that I would call this to the Secretary’s attention and inform Mr. Graves by phone that we could report that what I was about to tell him was in fact Mr. Acheson’s view.

Regarding paragraph two of Mr. Bevin’s message, I said our view was that the Government of Korea’s authority does not extend automatically north of the 38th parallel, that this area will be under the military occupation of the Unified Command until the United Nations arranges for a political successor, and that General MacArthur would appoint civil authorities for North Korea with the assistance of Ambassador Muccio during the period of military occupation. I said that Mr. Syngman Rhee had made public statements which were not helpful from the United Nations point of view and would probably make some more, but that we would have to struggle through the situation [Page 1005] and insure that the UN have an opportunity to work out the unification of the country. I said that I thought it was most unrealistic for governments around the world to expect the Korean government to be an ideal western democracy under present circumstances. I said I had little sympathy with certain instances where those who were inclined to be critical of Syngman Rhee had fallen far short of democratic processes in their own countries.

With respect to paragraph three of Mr. Bevin’s message, I said that there undoubtedly have been South Korean atrocities, that the fighting in Korea has been furious on both sides but that the policy of the Unified Command has been clearly against atrocities and that our responsible commanders are trying to do everything that they can to curb such atrocities. I said that under war conditions, particularly where extremely bitter fighting has taken place, there might be instances of atrocities committed by members of any of the armed forces engaged. I said that it is not easy to curb troops who find their comrades tied together and shot but that everything possible was being done in this regard.

I stated that we are generally in accord with the policies indicated in paragraphs four and five and the last sentence of paragraph six.1


Message From Mr. Bevin to Sir Oliver Franks Dated October 27, 1950


I foresee difficulties arising in Korea and I want you to discuss them with Mr. Acheson.

2. I am concerned lest the United Nations Commission should be presented with a fait accompli. There are press reports that Syngman Rhee has appointed “Governors” and other officials from South Korea to proceed to the North, apparently intending to extend the authority of his government over the whole of Korea. If these reports are reliable, it means that decisions are being taken which the United Nations will be expected to support. I am not at all sure that this support will be forthcoming: the reaction may on the contrary be that the South Korean Government is usurping the responsibilities of the Unified Command and the functions of the Commission. I and my colleagues are disturbed about this. Public opinion in this country [Page 1006] attaches much importance to the setting up of the Commission and would not accept derogation from its functions. I believe that opinion in Europe and Asia would take the same line.

3. Reports of atrocities allegedly committed by South Koreans are already being published here. We shall probably see many more such reports. These give opportunities for propaganda which the Russians will not miss, and this propaganda will have an effect. It would be a tragedy if the effect of military success and of resolute concerted action by the United Nations in defence against aggression were dissipated by mishandling the political settlement.

4. The South Korean Government has a very big task. It must cope with the immediate internal problem in South Korea, and its participation in the policing and garrisoning of North Korea in the interim period is indispensable. But the responsibility for the administration of North Korea, pending nation-wide elections and the formation of a new National Unified Government, does not lie with Syngman Rhee and his government—it lies with the Unified Command, advised by the United Nations Commission (and, I would hope, advised also by those nations with substantial military forces in Korea). That was what I had in mind when I addressed the Assembly and that was my intention in promoting the resolution of October 7th.

5. The issue at stake is even more than that of usurping the functions of the Unified Command and of the Commission. The Security Council were fortunate in securing the support of so many members for endorsement of the policy initiated by the United States Government of resisting aggression in Korea by military means. The South Korean Government may not be legally bound by the Assembly Resolution, but there is a strong moral compulsion on it not now, in the moment of victory, to brush aside the views of Members of the United Nations and not to settle the future of North Korea by arbitrary action. If it does so, not only the Korean Government but the Unified Command will be exposed to criticism.

6. I leave it to you how to make this approach, but you can assure Mr. Acheson that I have given much careful thought to the problem and that, in putting these views to him for the consideration of the United States Government, I do so in a spirit of cooperation. It is in the interests of both our countries that nothing should be done in Korea which might provoke adverse world reaction on the grounds that the Commission’s functions are being usurped and world opinion ignored.

  1. In an addendum, dated October 30, to this memorandum of conversation, Mr. Merchant said that Deputy Under Secretary of State Matthews discussed the matter with Mr. Acheson who authorized Mr. Merchant to inform Mr. Graves that the views expressed by Mr. Rusk reflected those of Mr. Acheson. Mr. Merchant went on to say that he so informed Mr. Graves who expressed no surprise. (795.00/10–3050)