Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

Memorandum of Discussion at the 131st Meeting of the National Security Council Wednesday, February 11, 19531

top secret
eyes only

Present at the 131st meeting of the Council were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; and the Director for Mutual Security. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Acting Director of Central Intelligence; the Administrative Assistant to the President for National Security Matters; the Military Liaison Officer; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

There follows a general account of the main positions taken and the chief points made at this meeting.

1. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

[Here follows an intelligence briefing by Allen Dulles, Acting Director of Central Intelligence, in which he commented, inter alia, on the recent appearance of three new Chinese armies in Korea, which he deemed to be chiefly replacements and not to be indicative of any notable increase in overall Chinese strength. He also touched on the very high incidence of MIG flights over Korea in January.]

2. The Situation in Korea

General Bradley’s briefing on this subject was sharply pointed to two messages from General Clark.2 The first of these stated that the so-called “Kaesong sanctuary”, which had been created through the armistice negotiations and had an area of approximately 28 square miles, was now chock full of troops and matériel. General Clark believed that the Communists were using this area to build up for an attack on the UN. He therefore was requesting permission himself to attack as soon as he believes that the Communist attack is imminent. He also desires that steps be taken to end the immunity which has thus far prevailed within the Kaesong area. General Bradley stated that the Joint Chiefs were not of the opinion that such permissions should be given.

Secretary Dulles inquired whether the others present did not believe that the time had come when we should indeed end those arrangements in Korea which had been originally designed to facilitate armistice negotiations which were now defunct. He pointed out, however, that we would need some time to prepare our friends for this step. In his view the sooner these arrangements were terminated the better.

[Page 770]

There followed a discussion of the timing of notice to the Communists of our intention to abrogate these arrangements.

The President stated his desire that the Secretary of State begin prompt consideration of this matter with our friends and to determine their reaction to this proposal. He then expressed the view that we should consider the use of tactical atomic weapons on the Kaesong area, which provided a good target for this type of weapon. In any case, the President added, we could not go on the way we were indefinitely.

General Bradley thought it desirable to begin talking with our allies regarding an end of the sanctuary, but thought it unwise to broach the subject yet of possible use of atomic weapons.

Secretary Dulles discussed the moral problem and the inhibitions on the use of the A-bomb, and Soviet success to date in setting atomic weapons apart from all other weapons as being in a special category. It was his opinion that we should try to break down this false distinction.

The President added that we should certainly start on diplomatic negotiations with our allies. To him, it seemed that our self respect and theirs was involved, and if they objected to the use of atomic weapons we might well ask them to supply three or more divisions needed to drive the Communists back, in lieu of use of atomic weapons. In conclusion, however, the President ruled against any discussion with our allies of military plans or weapons of attack.

General Bradley turned to the other message from General Clark, which concerned the latter’s anxiety over the possibility of a surprise air attack on the UN forces and air fields from Manchuria. General Clark believed that he was vulnerable to a surprise attack at low level as a result of the considerable build-up of Communist aircraft on Manchurian fields. He therefore desired permission to attack these fields when he feared that a Communist attack was actually imminent. The Joint Chiefs, said General Bradley, were not inclined to grant such permission to General Clark.

The President inquired as to the nature of any advance information that General Clark might obtain, and expressed doubts as to its validity. Furthermore, the President expressed himself as opposed to giving General Clark the authority he sought, and that the authority already in General Clark’s hands as a result of the Joint Chiefs of Staff message of April 28, 1951,3 concerning actual attack, was sufficient. Nevertheless, the President stated that he had never been able to understand why the UN command had ever abandoned its rights of hot pursuit of enemy aircraft to the bases, wherever they were, from which the aircraft had risen to attack.

[Page 771]

The National Security Council:4

Discussed the subject in the light of an oral briefing by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Noted the President’s desire that the Secretary of State undertake promptly* to secure the agreement of our allies to termination of the existing arrangements in Korea connected with the armistice negotiations.

Note: The action in b above subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of State for implementation.

[Here follows discussion on item 3. “The European Situation”, and item 4. “The Use of Radio as a Medium for Psychological Operations and the Impact of Its Use on National Security”.]

5. Settlement of Republic of Korea Advances of Korean Currency (Won) to United States Forces (Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated February 9, 1953)5

The details of the problem were explained at some length by Mr. Cutler and by Mr. Dodge. The latter was not sure that this issue properly belonged on the NSC agenda, but no matter who investigated it, Mr. Dodge thought it would be necessary to face the facts, and the facts seemed to be that there was absolutely no use making new won exchange rate agreements when Syngman Rhee had already abrogated two past agreements.

Mr. Stassen said that what was needed was a new coordinated economic approach to the Korean Government, with perhaps a high commissioner to take charge of the matter.

Secretary Wilson expressed sympathy for the ROK position and noted that our refusal to pay thus far had contributed seriously to the heavy inflation now afflicting Korea. He expressed agreement with Mr. Stassen’s proposal. Mr. Dodge pointed out that settlement at either the $65 or $85 million figure was bound to be unrealistic, and that it amounted to cancelled aid in any case. If these funds came out of Army appropriations and the Congress found out about it, it might prove very embarrassing.

The President stated that we had had similar problems for many years with many other countries. War was just naturally an expensive affair. But we ought to get together with the Koreans, he added, to work out a scheme which isn’t too expensive.

The National Security Council:6 [Page 772]

Discussed the problem, and noted the President’s desire that it be referred for solution, unless recourse to the Congress proves necessary, to a committee consisting of representatives of the Secretary of the Treasury (chairman), the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director for Mutual Security, and the Director, Bureau of the Budget.

Note: The above action subsequently transmitted to the Secretaries of the Treasury, State and Defense, the Director for Mutual Security, and the Director, Bureau of the Budget for implementation.

[Here follows discussion on item 6. “Review of Basic National Security Policies” and item 7. “NSC Status of Projects”.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. This memorandum was drafted by Gleason on Feb. 12.
  2. The references were to telegrams CX 61160, Clark to JCS, Feb. 7, and CX 61172, Clark to JCS, Feb. 9, pp. 742 and 758, respectively.
  3. The reference was to a telegram from the JCS to Ridgway; for the text, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vii, Part 1, p. 386.
  4. The following paragraphs and note constituted NSC Action No. 708.
  5. In approving this record of action on the following day, the President directed the inclusion of an explanatory note to the effect that intelligence from Korea received from the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, after the close of the meeting indicates the advisability of proceeding deliberately rather than promptly. [Footnote in the source text.]
  6. The reference was to the covering memorandum transmitting the memorandum and attachments from the Secretary of Defense to the NSC, Feb. 9, p. 747.
  7. The following paragraph and Note constituted NSC Action No. 711; a record copy of NSC Action No. 711 is located in S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95.