The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom
2810. Please express appreciation to Mr. Bevin for his inquiry Tues afternoon (urtel 3117 Nov 28) and give him following message. I recognize the difficulties which Mr. Bevin will face in Parliament tomorrow [Page 1250]and that these difficulties are not lessened by the lack of firm and final information on the immediate situation in Korea.
There is no doubt but that the Chi Commies have intervened with very large forces in an open and flagrant way in the fighting in Korea. There is also little chance that this intervention could have such limited purposes as securing their frontier, protecting hydro-electric installations or of providing token assistance to NK forces.
An important factor in the present situation is the unanimous and considered judgment of our JCS, supported by information from field commanders, that the present Chi offensive has been planned and staged over a considerable period of time. What in fact has happened is that two offensives ran into each other. This point is important not only because it removes any question that the Chi were merely reacting to the UN offensive but also because it clearly reveals an intention to attempt to destroy UN forces in NK. The Chi offensive was launched across a broad front, was well coordinated, had great depth and penetrating power, and involved a mass of troops in an operation which must, for military reasons, have been in motion for several days.
As Mr. Bevin knows, the timing of the attempted UN offensive was based on military factors and was not related to the arrival of the Chi Commie Del at Lake Success. There is every possibility, of course, that the Chi offensive was timed with such arrival in order to get maximum political effect.
The military position in Korea will continue to be confused for at least another day or two. We are sorely disappointed by the present situation. One of the purposes of our offensive was to clarify the situation. The lack of contact between the opposing forces for a period of two weeks was a serious factor in the surprise which we suffered as to the scale and disposition of enemy forces.
The present situation is serious but not in any sense disastrous. Two ROK divisions have suffered very heavily but the remainder of the UN forces are in good shape. The breakthrough obviously imposes problems of position and redeployment upon the UN Command. For Mr. Bevin’s info, the present purpose of the Command is to stabilize the position along the general line of the narrow waist in NK.
In connection with the increased gravity of the position in Korea, you should reiterate the assurances I gave (Deptel 2776 Nov 27)1 re the three questions raised by Mr. Bevin through Amb Franks. It is our purpose to deal with this massive and increasingly overt Chi aggression through the UN and not unilaterally. In arriving at our position, we will continue to consult closely with the UK and bear in [Page 1251]mind the special interest of those nations represented by combat forces in Korea.
The scale of the Chi offensive makes it impossible to pretend that this is not an openly aggressive move by the Peiping regime. Amb Austin has stated this view in the SC. Please tell Mr. Bevin that our purposes in Korea remain the same, namely, to resist aggression, to localize the hostilities, and to wind up the Korean problem on a satisfactory UN basis and in such a way as not to commit US forces in large numbers indefinitely in that operation; We believe that the UN must make every possible effort to force the withdrawal of the Chi from Korea and so we believe it important that the six-power resolution receive urgent and favorable action.
This message does not purport to be a full examination of the problems arising from the present situation in Korea but is furnished after a quick review of the situation today in Washington and in order to be of some help to Mr. Bevin in the House tomorrow. Please tell Mr. Bevin we shall keep in close touch as the situation develops. I trust that Jebb’s instructions will permit him to vote if resolution comes, up Nov 29, as it may, even though prior to such vote he should prove unable to communicate with Chi leaders.
I expect to speak at Cleveland tomorrow night2 and will say that we must meet the situation with resolution and firmness but that we are acting in Korea as a part of the UN and not unilaterally.