396.1/8–653: Telegram

No. 261
The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of State, at Seoul1

Tedul 17. Re Soviet note August 4,2 Department’s preliminary reaction is that language of note dealing with general sources of international tension, Asian problems, Commie Chinese participation, etc., is much vaguer and more obviously of propaganda nature than section of note expressing Soviet willingness to examine German problem. We believe Soviets do not intend stand firm on their ambiguous suggestion of Five-Power meeting including Communist China and that, depending on nature our reply, they would be willing participate in Four-Power meeting of Foreign Ministers dealing with German problem.

[Page 610]

There would appear to be three alternative types of reply that might be made to Soviet note: (1) flat rejection; (2) counterproposals re agenda; (3) brief acknowledgment stating we are pleased Soviets have acknowledged our proposal to discuss German problem and suggesting time and place.

Soviets would make most capital out of negative reply on our part and British and French public opinion would obviously never permit this. We have no desire to get into the endless argument about agenda, such as occurred in Palais Rose discussion in 1951. We accordingly favor adopting third course, which involves positive reply, trying to pin Soviets down on German issue. This would mean playing down point 1 of their proposal, which we think can be done.3

Foregoing represents only preliminary position and our further thinking will develop in light British–French–German and other foreign contacts. This connection, Soviet note is well calculated gain support considerable elements of public opinion in Western Europe and will probably increase German public pressure for Four-Power conference on German unity.

British have already asked our cooperation in restricting official statements to press to non-committal language and we have taken initial public line very similar to theirs. They have also expressed hope we would not say anything at this time which would definitely close door to discussions with Soviets of general problems giving rise to international tensions. British also suggest it would be advisable have tripartite drafting teams set up in either Paris, London or Washington begin work on reply to Soviet note.

French official reaction is one of considerable unhappiness and pessimism. Though recognizing door not completely closed, they conclude Moscow does not want Four-Power talks on Germany at this time and that purpose of note is to provoke negative reply and divide Western Powers. They believe in our response we should stress it is Soviets who are opposing unification of Germany, not us.

Re Austrian issue, we have decided take advantage Soviet stated unwillingness reach decision on Austria pending German negotiations to treat Austrian issue separately and, after consultation with Allies, to send early reply to latest Soviet note on Austria indicating [Page 611] willingness participate in meeting Foreign Ministers’ Deputies in very near future.

  1. Drafted by Thurston; cleared with Kidd, Matthews, and Merchant; and sent at the request of Under Secretary Smith. Repeated to London, Paris, Bonn, and Moscow. Secretary Dulles was in Korea for talks concerning a defense agreement with South Korea; for documentation on his visit, see vol. xv, Part 2, pp. 1465 ff.
  2. Document 259.
  3. On Aug. 7, 10, and 11 the U.S. Missions in Moscow, Bonn, and Paris, respectively, pressed for agreement with this approach and the choice of the third alternative. (Telegrams 180 from Moscow, 591 from Bonn, and 536 from Paris, 396.1/8–753, 8–1053, 8–1153)