Memorandum of Conversation, by John R. Heidemann of the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs


Subject: Briefing of Ambassadors on Korea

Participants: Australia —Mr. Moodie, Counselor
Belgium —Mr. Taymans, Counselor
Mr. Callebaut, Attaché
Canada —Mr. Campbell, Second Secretary
Colombia —Absent
Ethiopia —Mr. Tesemma, First Secretary
France —Mr. Millet, Counselor
Great Britain —Mr. Tomlinson, Counselor
Greece —Mr. Kalergis, Minister Counselor
Korea —Ambassador Yang
Mr. Han, First Secretary
Luxembourg —Absent
Netherlands —Baron van Boetzelaer, First Secretary
New Zealand —Mr. Corner, First Secretary
Philippines —Dr. Gamboa, Counselor
Mr. de Castro, First Secretary
Thailand —Mr. Charat, Second Secretary
Turkey —Mr. Esenbel, Counselor
Union of South Africa —Mr. van Schalkwyk, First Secretary
Mr. Botha, Second Secretary
United States FE, Mr. Rusk
UNA, Mr. Hickerson
FE, Mr. Merchant
UNP, Mr. Wainhouse
EUR, Mr. Allen
UNP, Mr. Henkin
FE, Mr. Hackler
FE, Mr. Heidemann
Army, Capt. Pope

Captain Pope, in reviewing for the group the latest information relevant to the enemy’s military capabilities, noted that the Far Eastern Command had tentatively accepted the presence of three communist armored divisions in positions just behind the front, that the pattern of enemy troop movements to and from the front in the central sector suggested that preparations were going forward for a new offensive, and that the enemy stockpile, which was the largest accumulated thus far in the war, was deemed capable of supporting 46 divisions—the enemy has that many between the 39th parallel and the front—for a period of 26 days. Captain Pope recalled that the failures of the enemy’s previous offensives were largely the result of [Page 856] his poor handling of the re-supply problem, a shortcoming which he was doubtless striving to correct. Mr. Rusk commented that flying conditions in Korea would presently become better and that we had reinforced our air force and the enemy would shortly begin to feel the effects of the increased UN air action. Mr. Rusk said that the latest communist message to General Ridgway does not change the situation except insofar as the communists have now said that further investigations were needed.1 He recalled that the communist liaison officer told our liaison officer on the night of the “bombing” that a daylight investigation would not be possible since the evidence had to be taken up and analyzed. Mr. Rusk pointed out that the military build up in Korea, the sharpness of the communist propaganda, and the latest communist message on the suspension of the talks have forced us to consider the possibility that the other side wants a real break-off. He remarked that it was practically impossible that there could be any cease-fire in Korea by the time the Japanese peace treaty conference convened in San Francisco. Noting that the odds were in favor of there being some connection between the two events, Mr. Rusk suggested that the communists might feel that if the Kaesong talks were in abeyance they would be able to play upon the uncertainties arising from the situation. Or they might be planning to produce a military success or to be in the midst of a new offensive at the time of the San Francisco conference. If the conference were to get underway at a time when the UN forces in Korea were giving way, as they well might be in the early stages of a new offensive, the communists might feel that this would have a highly desirable political effect. Mr. Rusk went on to note that the Soviet radio has suggested that we broke off the talks just as the communists were prepared to make concessions in the sub-delegation’s meetings. He observed that there had indeed been some indication that the negotiators might be able to make certain adjustments and arrive at an acceptable military demarcation line. Mr. Tomlinson was told that it was still too early to say what General Ridgway’s reply to the latest communist message would be, but, Mr. Rusk noted, the General’s instructions were to clarify the communist attitude toward the talks. Mr. Hickerson said that General Ridgway was studying the matter.

Commenting on the bombing of Rashin,2 a Korean city some 17 miles from the Soviet border, Mr. Rusk said that, while it had been [Page 857] bombed earlier in the fighting, it was determined that the military value derived from such bombings was not worth the risks involved. However, in the face of the enemy’s military build up in general and the use to which he was putting Rashin in particular—perhaps with the idea derived from the Senate hearings that it was a safe place—it seemed advisable to accept the risks involved and to strike selected targets in the city. The border was not crossed. Mr. Hickerson revealed that in an earlier raid, UN fighters had crossed the border and strafed an airfield. Mr. Rusk added that the other side had not reacted, perhaps out of embarrassment that the planes had gotten through.

Mr. Millet asked about the press speculation that General Ridgway might ask for the talks to be moved away from Kaesong and Mr. Rusk replied that this was probably one of the points Ridgway had in mind since he had a standing authorization to do so if he so chose.

  1. The message under reference, dated August 27, was broadcast over Peking radio on August 28; the text is in the Department of State Bulletin, September 10, 1951, p. 440. In it, Kim Il Sung and Peng Teh-huai called on General Ridgway to order his liaison officers to Kaesong to carry out a reinvestigation of the alleged bombing raid of August 22.
  2. An attack had been made on Rashin on August 25; regarding restrictions on bombing Rashin, see footnote 3, p. 767, and Hermes, Truce Tent and Fighting Front, p. 108.