695A.0024/12–2552: Telegram

The Ambassador in Korea (Briggs) to the Department of State

top secret

792. Department pass Tokyo, rptd info Tokyo 177 (Tokyo please pass) CINCUNC as DIP 307.

We have studied Department’s summary of CINCUNC proposal to try prisoner of war post-capture offenders but are still doubtful desirability doing so. Public trial would inevitably be target for Commie propaganda in which issue of maintaining order in camps could readily be obscured or distorted, trial thus becoming forum from which all sorts of false charges and accusations could be trumpeted to listening world. In short trial might be turned into Commie propaganda bonanza.

Secondly we question whether threat even of capital punishment would effectively deter professional agitators from fomenting trouble.

To recommend against public trials is not however to favor maintenance status quo in handling POWs or silence on political issue presented by Commie propaganda to date.

Question of POW trials is part of larger problem of conduct and strategy of Korean war. On surface problem is one of discipline in POW camps; beyond that we face important Commie political drive conducted in area political warfare. Fact that in recent UNGA vote the Asiatic powers abstained from voting on POW issue should give us small cause for rejoicing.1 Any time Commies can swap 80 POWs for 10 Asia Assembly votes, we would do well to examine our position. What I suggest therefore is that whole subject POWs be restudied not only with respect prevailing camp conditions and problem maintaining discipline and order, but POW problem in relation our political strategy and political objectives.

For example, if we estimate prospects obtaining armistice are now remote, consideration might be given to separate solution for non-repatriate [Page 718] (anti-Commie) prisoners, or of moving POWs out of Korea altogether and relocating them in areas where control conditions less difficult.

It is furthermore my opinion that whole question merits highest and most urgent attention.

  1. The reference was to the vote on the Indian resolution in the General Assembly on Dec. 3; see footnote 1 p. 702.