Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs (Satterthwaite)


Subject: Situation in Korea

Participants: H. A. Graves, British Embassy
Amb. Norman J. O. Makin, Australia
F. H. Corner, New Zealand
W. Dirkse-van-Schalkwyk, South Africa
Amb. Hume Wrong, Canada
George Ignatieff, Canada
Eigil Nygaard, Norway
Jean Daridan, France
Amb. Baron Silvercruys, Belgium
Roger Taymans, Belgium
Faruk N. Berkol, Turkey
J. G. de Beus, Netherlands
Asst. Secretary Rusk, FE
L. Satterthwaite, BNA

In order to bring the representatives of the principal countries contributing military aid to Korea up to date on the latest developments in Korea, Assistant Secretary Rusk arranged a briefing meeting at the Canadian Embassy. The meeting was held at the Canadian Embassy rather than in the State Department in order to avoid press speculation and questioning.

Mr. Rusk thanked the representatives for meeting with him in a body and saving him a great deal of time. Mr. Rusk said that the official military reports of the fighting in Korea were always several hours behind the newspaper headlines which reflected cabled reports from the front line correspondents. These front line reports usually were more pessimistic than the facts warranted when things were going badly and more optimistic when they were going well. The situation was extremely serious and would not be clarified for two or three days, but our best estimates were that the UN forces would be able to stabilize the line across the waist of Korea without more reinforcements [Page 1264]than those already available to them. Because of the shortness of the lines and the long hours of darkness, the Chinese Communists were able in secrecy to mass a large number of troops (somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000) in the mountainous region of north central Korea. It has become increasingly evident that this operation by the Chinese Reds had been planned for a long time and that the offensive was not a result of or in response to the recent UN offensive. UN forces had been out of contact with the enemy for ten days or two weeks. UN forces had spread out northward up avenues of easy access as a series of fingers. When the Chinese offensive started the fingers were withdrawn from the western part to form a fist. In the central part where the Chinese offensive struck, South Korean troops were employed and received the full weight of the offensive. The fact that they retreated more rapidly than parts of the lines is not an indication of inferiority. They happened to be in the way of the main Chinese drive. The South Korean forces received a bad mauling. The other UN forces (the American divisions, the British, and the Turks), although battered somewhat, have not been seriously hurt. The Tenth Army Corps in Northeast Korea is in a serious predicament, and it is not known yet what its tactics will be. Mr. Rusk paid tribute to the extremely gallant fighting of the Turkish contingent.

On the political side Mr. Rusk said that it is our purpose not to go beyond the Manchurian border and that we are doing everything in our power to prevent the entrance of the Chinese Army into the Korean War from touching off World War III. Mr. Rusk emphasized the restraint with which the UN forces were operating. He contrasted the fact that the UN forces have not sent airplanes or men across the border at any time with the 200,000 Chinese Reds which are in North Korea fighting and many thousands that have been there for some time. Yet if a single UN airplane as much as gets across the border a tremendous protest that the UN forces are provoking war goes up. One of the reasons that our Intelligence did not find out the extent of Chinese penetration in advance of the offensive was our inability to make reconnaissance flights across the border where the Chinese Army was being concentrated. At the present the UN forces have total air superiority. If the Chinese concentrate air power in Manchurian air fields and use it in Korea, it will be necessary for us to bomb the bases in Manchuria.

We will deal with the new problem of the Chinese Armies in Korea, through the UN and not unilaterally. The situation is quite different now than it was in June when action had to be taken in a matter of hours or everything would have been lost. Now UN forces are there fighting and the need for immediate UN action is not as great. More time for consultation among the United Nations as to each step is available. We will continue consultation with members of the UN with [Page 1265]forces in Korea. We believe that the Six-Power Resolution must proceed. If, because it is vetoed in the Council, it is necessary to go to the Assembly, we believe the resolution should be rewritten.

The Australian Ambassador was puzzled by the disparity between the recent communiqué from the UN Commander when the UN offensive was begun indicating that this was the final phase of the fighting and the subsequent discovery that large Chinese forces were in North Korea. He wondered what had happened to the UN intelligence. Mr. Rusk said the intelligence of course was faulty but pointed out again the difficulties caused by the shortness of the distance between the Manchurian border (over which we could not send reconnaissance planes) and the North Korean hills where the Chinese Communists are. During the day we, of course, patrolled by air and ground along the border regions but the Chinese moved at night and hid during the day.

Mr. de Beus said that a report had been received several weeks ago from Peiping indicating there were about 160,000 Chinese Reds soldiers in Korea ready to go. In view of this report he wondered why the surprise. Mr. Rusk said that the report was one of hundreds, each one different, and it was impossible to tell in advance which one was right. There were so many reports in fact that one of them was bound to be right.

The Belgian Ambassador wanted to know what we thought the short and long range objectives of the Chinese Army were. Mr. Rusk stated a personal view that it seems clear that their objectives had been and are to get the UN forces out of Korea, but what their objectives were beyond this there was no way of telling.