The First Secretary in the United Kingdom (Ringwalt) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Johnson)

top secret

Dear Johnnie: During the past few days, I have been reviewing the sad history of the two alternative proposals for a solution of the prisoner of war question in Korea allegedly advanced by Chou En-lai in the course of a farewell conversation with Panikkar on June 15 (Embassy’s telegram 5798, June 18).1 These proposals, you will recall, were communicated to the Foreign Office through the Indian High Commissioner, Krishna Menon. Proposal (a) was that the Unified Command would agree to the repatriation of, say, 100,000 prisoners of war, including 20,000 Chinese. Proposal (b) was to the effect that those prisoners of war who did not elect to return to their homes could be brought to Panmunjom and there interviewed by an agreed committee from neutral states.

Under prompting from the Foreign Office, Krishna Menon had attempted to obtain “clarification” from Panikkar, the results of which, as [Page 448] reported in the Embassy’s telegram 206 of July 11,2 modified the original proposals quite substantially without any apparent reference to the Chinese authorities. One rather striking “clarifying” clause was subparagraph (a) of paragraph 1, which stated that the Chinese wished the center of substantive discussions to be transferred back to Panmunjom. Subparagraph (b) was a suggestion that the Chinese wished to avoid appearance of being sponsors of alternative (b). In an effort to obtain further “clarification” through the Acting High Commissioner in New Delhi, the Foreign Office learned that the Indian Embassy in Peiping had finally received a written communication on this subject which in substance stated that the Chinese were no longer willing to negotiate on the basis of alternative (b).

In a conversation at the Foreign Office yesterday with Scott, I reviewed the above and related telegrams and suggested that there seem to be a number of explanations why the proposals made by Chou En-lai had proved abortive.… But, I added that I was beginning to doubt the authenticity of the original proposals and wondered whether, in fact, Chou had ever made them in the first place.

Scott replied that he and Garner, the Acting High Commissioner in New Delhi, had exchanged personal letters on this very subject and that they had come to a similar conclusion. As Garner pictures it, Panikkar may have himself broached a similar solution to Chou, who, for reasons of his own, was noncommittal and later repudiated it when the’ diplomatic flurry it had caused had run its course. There is, indeed, some doubt in the Foreign Office whether a written reply was ever made to the Indian Embassy in Peiping, . . . . In this connection, the Foreign Office, after waiting in vain for a copy of the alleged Chinese Communist reply, has now wired New Delhi asking Garner to approach the Indian Government direct asking for the text of the communication.

If the facts are as stated, they only serve to underscore the difficulties we face in attempting to use the Indian channel as a means of communication.…

. . . . . . .

Sincerely yours,

  1. The telegram under reference, which was the Embassy’s report of the ChouPanikkar conversation of June 15, is not printed (795.00/6–1852).
  2. Ante, p. 398.