State-JCS meetings, lot 61 D 417

Memorandum of the Substance of Discussion at a Department of State Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting1

top secret

General Collins: We have a message from Clark2 suggesting that he set up a commission to release the South Korean non-repatriates. He believes that releasing the South Koreans would firm up our position against the Commies and would also be of convenience logistically and in cutting down the number of guards that are required.

Mr. Matthews: We have seen the message and as yet have no definite reactions. From our point of view there are two questions we would have to think about. First would be consultation with the Allies and second the question of timing. With Chou En-lai and all his staff in Moscow,3 we think that something important is up. We don’t know whether this is good or bad, but we do know something is up.

Mr. Allison: We also have to consider the question of facing the Commies with a fait accompli and also the question of the relationship of this to possible difficulities we might get into on North Korean non-repatriates.

General Vandenberg: I should think the fait accompli would be the [Page 462] only right way to find out what the Commies are going to do.

General Collins: I think this is really 90 per cent a State matter. We certainly would be willing to take State’s advice on timing.

Mr. Matthews: How long would it take Clark to go through with this.

General Collins: He says he could complete preparations in 70 days. But he doesn’t say how long it would take to set up a commission or tribunal. Do you have any estimate how long Chou En-lai’s conference will go on?

Admiral Fechteler: Does Kennan have any information?

Mr. Matthews: He thinks it is an important development and he is inclined to think the Chinese are taking the initiative but doesn’t prophesy any outcome.

General Lee: Hasn’t he suggested we increase pressure on the Communists?

Mr. Matthews: Yes, but we haven’t been able to see how we could step up pressure.

General Collins: Our bombings are doing that to some degree.

Admiral Fechteler: I think Clark’s arguments are convincing, particularly the one where he says the releasing of South Koreans would impress the Commies with the firmness of our position. I think this would be along the lines Kennan advocates.

Mr. Matthews: It might be useful to ask Kennan’s views on timing.

General Collins: We can tell Clark we have the question under consideration. Why don’t we do that? You wire Kennan about timing4 and we will tell Clark we have the question under consideration.

Mr. Matthews: There is one other related question and that is the question of holding trials at the Koje Camps.

General Collins: What is the status of that over here?

General Lemnitzer: It is under consideration.

General Collins: I personally think it is OK, but again I think it is a question of timing.

Mr. Nitze: We wondered whether it would be possible to put it on a disciplinary basis and say from now on out prisoners would be disciplined without getting into the difficulties of going through all past disciplinary cases.

Mr. Matthews: We have some question about how far you can go in disciplinary matters under the Geneva Convention.

General Lemnitzer: That is a real problem.

General Collins: We are shooting them now when they make trouble. The important thing is not to have a setback and let camps get out of control. Clark is confident he can handle the situation.

[Page 463]

Mr. Matthews: There is one other thing that we want to discuss. We don’t want any decision on it but just want to put it forward for discussion.

Mr. Nitze: The Daily Worker and the other Communist papers are plugging every day the thesis that there should be a cease-fire and the POW issue should be left for later negotiation. We have thought of the possibility of putting forward a counter proposal. It would call for a cease-fire with the articles that are already agreed going into effect and also those prisoners which each side has agreed to repatriate being exchanged. In other words we would agree to exchange 83,000 prisoners and they would agree to exchange our 12,000 prisoners. This might give the Communists the opportunity of agreeing to figures without agreeing to the principle of non-forcible repatriation. This draft statement that we have here is along that line.

General Vandenberg: My first reaction is that I am scared of anything to do with a cease-fire.

Mr. Nitze: It really would be a cease-fire which would include precisely the same terms as an armistice.

Admiral Fechteler: There is, however, a difference between a ceasefire and an armistice.

General Collins: It certainly would be useful to have the word armistice in. Can we have copies to discuss in our Services?

Mr. Matthews: I would like to emphasize again that our Secretary has not approved this and we are just putting it forward for discussion.

  1. A note on the title page read: “Draft. Not cleared with any of participants.”

    Of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Generals Collins and Vandenberg and Admiral Fechteler attended. Matthews headed a five-man Department of State contingent, and Generals Lee and Lemnitzer and Nash represented the Department of Defense. The entire meeting was concerned with Korea.

  2. The message under reference was telegram CX 54177, Clark to JCS, Aug. 25, p. 456.
  3. On Aug. 17, a mission from the People’s Republic of China, headed by Chou En-lai, arrived in Moscow to discuss political and economic questions. Discussions were held through Sept. 15, and on Aug. 20 Stalin received Chou En-lai. Kennan’s preliminary assessment of the significance of this meeting for Korea can be found in telegram 315 from Moscow, Aug. 18, 1952, not printed (661.93/8–1852).
  4. Kennan saw no objection to the release, but felt it was better not to do it during the present stage of Chinese–Soviet discussions in Moscow (telegram 384 from Moscow, Aug. 28, 1952; 695A.0024/8–2852).