Learn about the beta


Memorandum by the Acting Officer in Charge of Korean Affairs ( Emmons ) to the Deputy Director of the Office of Northeast Asian Affairs ( Johnson )

top secret

Subject: Steps which might be taken in the light of all-out Chinese Communist intervention in Korea.

Military Action

It is obvious that in the light of new Chinese Communist aggression in Korea and its serious implications as reflected in MacArthur’s communiqué of this morning1 that UN capabilities for carrying out its original objectives of restoring peace and security to the area and, following that, of withdrawing UN forces as quickly as possible, cannot now be carried out except at the cost of all-out war with Communist China. The U.S. cannot now afford this course and its policy under NSC 81/12 makes clear that if UN forces are confronted in Korea with Soviet troops no further move should be made to aggravate the situation. All-out Chinese involvement in Korea against the UN forces carries with it a strong implication of Soviet involvement through the Sino-Soviet treaty and present developments could easily lead to the invoking of this treaty.

As a result of the foregoing considerations it now seems evident that U.S. and UN policy in relation to Korea must be carefully and, at the same time, urgently reconsidered. If the original objectives cannot be attained what lesser objectives should be sought? Much will depend upon the ability of the UN forces substantially to hold what has already been taken. Militarily, for instance, if the present line cannot be held, a shorter one running from Sinanju to Hungnam might be maintained. If this is the case, then diplomatic measures should be taken to resolve the question by establishing in Korea north of this line a demilitarized zone from which both Chinese and UN forces would withdraw. Such an arrangement admittedly would be undesirable and would lead to the possibility or even probability of renewed aggression by the North Koreans against the ROK at some future time. The British proposal of a 50 mile neutralized zone south of the Yalu and Tumen rivers would now hold out no hope of acceptance by the Communists at this late date.

[Page 1240]

If it becomes impossible to hold the line referred to above then successive withdrawals will have to be made as necessity dictates until the 38th parallel is reached. If in turn the 38th parallel line cannot be maintained then every effort should be made to strengthen the ROK forces with what equipment is now in Korea. UN ground forces should be disengaged and withdrawn but air and naval support should continue to be rendered. Consideration might also be given to assisting Chinese Nationalist forces now on Formosa to come to the aid of the ROK. This would include water transportation and naval and air protection of convoys. The Seventh Fleet should be withdrawn and no further inhibitions placed upon actions of the Chinese Nationalists. American and/or other UN garrisons in Japan should be reinforced. Chinese Nationalist forces should forthwith be given a maximum of U.S. military aid.

Political Action

A resolution by the Security Council (after Soviet veto, then by the General Assembly) should be passed, condemning Chinese Communist aggression in Korea. All States should be called upon to refrain from aiding or assisting Communist China in any manner as long as her forces remain in Korea. Sanctions should be considered against any state violating this injunction. The resolution should explain that in order to avoid the spread of war due to Chinese Communist unlawful intervention in Korea in defiance of the UN it has been necessary to stop short of a full achievement of UN objectives in Korea, that in so doing the UN has been guided only by force majeure and through its desire to limit the conflict. Communist China might be called an international outlaw against the peace of the world and treated as an outcast in international relations. The resolution should pledge the continued interest of the UN in a settlement of the Korean problem.


Once the military situation has become clearer, immediate and urgent consultations should be had with the various governments contributing armed forces to the UN operations before any of the above steps are undertaken. The unanimity of the UN must be preserved at all costs to meet the test of the future.

  1. General MacArthur’s Special Communiqué No. 14, issued at 5:25 p. m. Tokyo time (3:25 a. m. EST), reported on the Chinese Communist military offensive in Korea along the general lines of telegram C 69953, received at 4:46 a. m. on November 28, p. 1237; the text of the Communiqué is printed in U.N. document S/1920. It concluded with the following statement:

    “This situation, repugnant as it may be, poses issues beyond the authority of the United Nations military council—issues which must find their solution within the councils of the United Nations and chancelleries of the world.”

  2. Dated September 9, p. 712.