795.00/11–1852: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Department of State

top secret

2825. Following obtained in strictest confidence from FonOff yesterday:

Indian Ambassador Raghavan saw Chou En-lai twice last month on or about October 16 and 31 re Korean armistice negotiations. During interviews Chou made points about as follows:
ChiComs still want armistice.
Although ChiComs continue to hold fast to principles of Geneva convention requiring total repatriation of POWs, no objection to “declassification” Korean POWs.
Principle of non-forcible repatriation included in all three United States (United Nations) alternate proposals and therefore they all unacceptable. [Page 652] Mechanics governing repatriation POWs are however subject negotiation. Time lag between any agreement in principle to repatriate and actual repatriation all POWs may well be considerable.

According Raghavan, ChiComs taken aback United Nations “broke off” negotiations at Panmunjom and anxious they be reopened there.

. . . . . . .

Informant said there was unmistakable indication public opinion in United Kingdom building up rapidly in favor compromise. FonOff receiving more and more letters demanding conclusion armistice at any cost, and asking why welfare Chinese POWs who had already switched allegiance first in favor ChiComs and now resisting repatriation should be valued above welfare and repatriation British POWs.
Embassy comment:
According today’s London Times, Indians propose that, after ninety days, problem of disposition of POWs who have not by that time been sent home under auspices neutral repatriation commission will be referred to Korean political conference contemplated under armistice agreement. Perhaps Indians, having in mind Chou’s comment recorded in para 1(c) above, have made proposal in realization it leaves repatriation question open for further ChiCom propaganda on POW issue and for possible use as lever exact additional political concessions. It is assumed, however, overriding Indian consideration is achievement of armistice.
FonOff informant speculated ChiComs anxious get negotiations back to Panmunjom because (1) they wish conduct own attendant propaganda campaign and (2) they do not entirely trust Russians. Inference is Soviets may wish irrevocable sabotage negotiations while ChiComs may wish retain initiative and strive for armistice on terms suitable to them.