396.1 LO/10–1753: Telegram

No. 304
The United States Delegation at the Tripartite Foreign Ministers Conference to the Department of State1

Secto 19. Subject: Korean Discussion at Tripartite Meeting October 17, a.m. At request Eden, Secretary stated according latest information Chinese Communists have agreed to preliminary discussions at Panmunjom for arrangements for political conference (PC) and United States has agreed send representative to Panmunjom [Page 705] this purpose October 26. Krishna Menon,2 who often seems have firm ideas Chinese Communist reactions, told Secretary he not confident how Communists would react to United States unwillingness discuss at Panmunjom composition of PC. Secretary emphasized importance United States attached to united front on composition. If Communists feel they can reopen this question, they will attach more importance to it than to purpose PC itself, to detriment of success of conference. Supreme United States concern is fighting not be renewed. Whether PC can succeed is at best problematical. Were Communists renew hostilities it might be on basis belief they would this time be successful. They seemed to be building up airfields and bringing in new planes. Thus, they might deliberately provoke an incident.

UNC aware this possibility and is erecting new defense lines which in month or so will be as strong as those abandoned at time of armistice. On other hand, ROK might provoke hostilities. Rhee, as in US opinion he legally entitled to do, has reserved freedom of action. When Secretary was in Korea3 Rhee publicly committed himself not take independent action until three months after convocation PC. Thus, we have assurance Rhee will do nothing until security agreement comes into effect which expected about February. Rhee controls world’s sixth largest military force which well-trained and loyal and will probably obey orders even if execution such orders would amount to suicide. He might gamble on US support if he does renew hostilities. US can not publicly state it will not support Rhee as Communists might take advantage this knowledge by attacking ROK. We, therefore, faced with extremely dangerous situation. US best acquainted with Korean problem and is doing its best handle that problem in light its knowledge situation. US asks the confidence and support its Allies.

Eden replied UK aware of US difficulties with Rhee, and of his military power and character. UK will do what it can to help. Re PC, if Chinese Communists show desire discuss composition at Panmunjom, he would hope US would at least listen. It would be pity if plans for PC broke down at preliminary meeting. It essential we retain a certain elasticity in dealing with Communists on Korea and elsewhere. It would be well for US representative not reject out of hand Communist views on composition PC but merely agree report Communist views to UN. Attitude US representative would have important bearing on whether or not PC even held.

Bidault commented from French point view it most important PC be held. In itself it would be important as putting an end to [Page 706] Korean conflict. It would present opportunity for later discussion Indochina. He expressed concern over certain persons, even inside government, who have heretofore been supporting agreed Western line but who now seem to be plugging for five-power conference discussion Indochina.

Secretary said it had been made clear to Chinese Communists we should be prepared listen to what they wished to say re composition PC. He mentioned that there was feeling in some quarters US obstinate in refusing admit India to PC. US position based on impressions gained by Secretary during his visit to Korea where he became convinced Indian participation would have vastly increased chances renewal hostilities. We have nothing against India—quite the contrary. Opposition based solely on anticipated violent reaction Rhee. If desire is have someone at PC who could act as intermediary, we have made it plain to Indians we should be glad to have them act in this capacity but this does not require formal invitation. Indian representatives already in Korea in connection with NNRC. If as occasion arises India wishes informally play part of honest broker we would be delighted if it could play useful role. This fact certainly clear to Chinese. Secretary said as much to Krishna Menon just before leaving Washington and he confident Menon had already passed on this information.

In reply to Eden’s remark Krishna Menon only an indirect channel to Peiping, Secretary agreed authorize US representative who would be sent Panmunjom make US views known to Communists.

  1. Repeated to Paris.
  2. V. K. Krishna Menon, Indian Permanent Representative at the United Nations.
  3. Secretary Dulles traveled to Korea in August 1953.