795.00/11–650: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom

top secret

2344. Following is text of message from Secretary to Bevin handed by Secretary to British Ambassador this evening:1

“I assume you have received from Sir Oliver Franks the text of a special report of UN Command in Korea re Chin intervention in [Page 1051] present fighting in north.2 You will also have seen General MacArthur’s UN communiqué no. 11 dated November 4, 1950.3 Our latest information does not change the picture as set forth in the report, but it appears that the enemy is continuing his attack in northwest sector and is reinforcing his effort by substantial vehicular traffic across the Yalu.

The report does not contain sufficiently detailed information to permit an immediate estimate as to Chin intentions in present situation. We are giving this problem most urgent attention both in Washington and in Tokyo and will keep in close touch with you. We should greatly appreciate any info or views which you might have on this most important point.

We are trying to determine whether the Chin are acting on basis of one or more of following considerations:

Since it became general knowledge that Peiping had threatened to take some sort of action if UN forces crossed 38th parallel, present intervention might be demonstration that they are not ‘standing idly by’.
Since Commies may have learned of UN desire to hold UN forces back and use Koreans in areas of Korea along frontier, they may have decided to occupy area along border in order not to lose any chance to salvage at least that much of Korea if their opposition proved to be limited to South Koreans.
Chin may have in mind making large enough commitment to establish cordon sanitaire within Korea, even though such action would bring them into direct clash with UN forces.
Commies may be seriously concerned over prospect of losing hydroelectric power and may be acting to defend power installations along line set forth in recent NK broadcast from Sinuiju.
Chin intervention may be ‘token’ both with respect to NKs and with respect to possible Soviet pressure for assistance to Koreans.
Chin may have come to believe that UN forces are in fact aiming at Manchuria and present intervention may be based on fear of attack.
Moscow and Peiping may wish pin down substantial UN forces in NK during coming winter, to produce strain and discomfort on our own military resources, to slow up readiness of expanding US forces by holding an important proportion of our trained officers and men [Page 1052] in Korea, or to insure that these forces may not be available for use where other Commie adventures are already under way or planned.
Chin may intend reoccupy Korea down to 38th parallel.
Chin may intend attempt expel UN forces from Korea.
Chi action in Kor may be a part of more general military program hatched up by Kremlin affecting entire FE area (Indo-China or Japan) or even involving new moves in other parte of world.

We are not ready for a satisfactory assessment, but military and supply factors lead us to preliminary view that explanation for Chin action lies in some combination of first seven or eight factors.

Whatever our conclusion on the above proves to be, there is no doubt but that Chi military intervention is substantial, that there is no reason to suppose that it will not increase, and that very serious political and military implications are thereby raised.

I repeat, perhaps unnecessarily, that our own purposes in Korea are unchanged, that we wish to act wholly within the framework of a UN solution for an ‘independent united and democratic Korea’, and that we most particularly do not wish to have hostilities in that country spread elsewhere. While I have no doubt about our own joint purposes, we are concerned about the program of aggressive action now being carried out by Peiping, combining as it does activity in Korea, Indo-China and Tibet, with more indirect attacks on other countries in Asia.

I have seen your message of third Nov to Oliver Franks and have had it very much in mind in considering what we ought to do at this time about Chi action in Korea. Whether what we now do will seriously affect Chi intention depends to some extent upon what those intentions are. I agree that we should do nothing provocative. On other hand, I believe that Chi intervention is now serious and that it cannot be ignored.

It seems to me that the first and essential step is to give the basic facts to the UN, as set forth in text of special report. We have officially ignored Sov arms and advisers, ‘volunteers’ from Manchuria and other assistance in the past even though whole world knew facts. We did so in order to leave other side a way out. I doubt that is possible to treat organized Chi units on same basis, even though there has not been an official espousal of these units by Peiping regime. The world fully understands nature of intervention and greatly intensified propaganda campaign inside China indicates full espousal by Peiping. It seems to us, therefore, that we must send the special report to SC promptly. It will be immediately preceded or accompanied by regular periodic report of UN Command covering period Oct 16–31.

[Page 1053]

The next question which would arise is the action to be taken in SC in light of special report. The fact of Chi intervention is such that a report can hardly be left on table and ignored. Further if Peiping discovers that nothing at all happens in the face of its intervention it will be emboldened to act even more aggressively by what it might consider proof of weakness or nervousness on our part. On other hand we do not wish to extend the fighting in Korea to China by pressing and proving a case of aggression against Chi in such a way as to lead to full UN sanctions against mainland Chi—certainly not at this present stage. We believe that our purpose should be to emphasize that we are trying to limit the fighting to Korea and to do everything we can not to spread the hostilities.

It seems to us therefore that we should ask for an early meeting of SC, for not later than Wed of this week,4 to discuss the reports from the UN command. At this mtg, our debate shd be directed toward localizing the conflict and should be geared to a short and simple res along the lines of the res vetoed by Sov on same subject in Sept. A proposed draft res is being forwarded by separate message.

We welcome info that you are working on draft res and would be glad to give it most sympathetic consideration. I am sure that our purposes in the present situation are very close together.

You will notice that our draft res. takes into account a number of the points raised by your message of Nov 3. We have made only limited ref to Chi interest in Korea. We can see that Peiping has an interest in having a neighbor in Korea whose intentions are peaceful, with whom any border problems can be worked out with the help of UN, and in whose territory there are not established foreign military bases or installations constituting a threat to contiguous areas of Chi. We do not believe however that we should concede to Peiping any interest whatever in the internal affairs of Korea or in the unification and rehabilitation work to be carried out by the UN. The Balkan record5 seems to us entirely persuasive on latter point.

As to timing we wish to report facts to SC at once. We envisage a day or two’s gap between the filing of the special report and the convening of a meeting of the SC. Members of SC will wish to get report of their govts and we do not wish to embarrass members on such matters as instructions. That would give us a brief period to concert our own views as to how we handle the case in the Council.”

  1. Telegram 2345, November 6, 10 a. m., to London, not printed, instructed the Embassy to change the words “this evening” to “evening Nov 5” (795.00/11–650).
  2. See telegram 476, November 5, 5 p. m., New York, p. 1046.
  3. The text of this communiqué, issued on November 6, is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, November 13, 1950, p. 763. In it, General MacArthur reported the defeat and destruction of the North Korean armies, but went on to say that “the Communists committed one of the most offensive acts of international lawlessness of historic record by moving without any notice of belligerency elements of alien Communist forces across the Yalu River into North Korea and massing a great concentration of possible reinforcing divisions with adequate supply behind the privileged sanctuary of the adjacent Manchurian border.” Whether these reserves would be committed to battle, said MacArthur, remained to be seen and was a matter of the gravest international significance.
  4. November 8.
  5. The word “record” was inserted under instruction of telegram 2345 to London, not printed.