Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson) and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

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  • Present Status of Armistice Negotiations.1
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After adoption of the agenda, there remained four agenda items to be considered. Agreement was reached on item 2 on November 27. Items 3 and 4 are being discussed simultaneously in separate sub-committees. The last item, item 5, will be considered after agreement is reached on items 3 and 4.

Item 2: “Fixing a military demarcation line between both sides so as to establish a demilitarized zone as a basic condition for a cessation of hostilities in Korea.”

On November 27, the delegation for both sides ratified an agreement on agenda item 2 containing three principles:

The actual line of contact between both sides shall be the military demarcation line, with both sides to withdraw two kilometers from the line to establish a demilitarized zone.
If a military armistice is signed within 30 days, the demarcation line adopted on November 27, based on the line of contact as of that date, shall remain in effect regardless of any changes in the battle lines.
If the armistice agreement is not signed within 30 days, the demarcation line shall be revised immediately prior to the signing of the armistice in order to make it accord to the line of contact as of that date.

Since an armistice was not achieved within 30 days, provision c has come into effect. Immediately prior to the signing of an armistice, therefore, there will have to be a new determination of the actual line of contact at that time and the line of contact so determined will be the demarcation line.

Item 3: “Concrete arrangements for the realization of cease-fire and armistice in Korea, including the composition, authority and functions of a supervisory organization for carrying out the terms of a cease-fire and armistice.”

Discussions on this item still continue. Agreement has been reached in substance on the following:

Cessation of hostilities within 24 hours after the armistice agreement comes into effect.
Withdrawal of armed forces from the demilitarized zone within 72 hours after the agreement comes into effect. Thereafter, no armed forces shall enter the demilitarized zone, nor shall any acts of armed forces against the zone be taken by either side. Each side will administer its half of the zone.
Within 5 days after the agreement goes into effect, all armed forces of either side shall be withdrawn from the rear of the other side and from the territorial waters and coastal islands of the other side, i.e., those islands which were formerly controlled by the other side as well as any other islands specifically agreed to.
No reinforcement of military personnel, but rotation is permitted within limits to be agreed upon by both sides. No increase in the level of matériel.
Establishment of a Mixed Armistice Commission composed of representatives of both sides to supervise the implementation of the armistice agreement. The Commission shall deal with any alleged violations within the demilitarized zone, and be responsible also for general supervision of the agreement.
An invitation to non-combatant nations to provide personnel for a supervisory organ. This organ will observe at ports of entry to be agreed upon, to assure that there is no violation of the limitations on reinforcement of personnel and equipment. At the request of either side, it will also investigate any alleged violations anywhere in Korea.

The remaining points of disagreement are:

The Communists insist on inserting language under item 3 which would constitute a commitment to hold a political conference by both sides after an armistice. We have requested more general language which, while referring to a political settlement on a higher level, would not commit us specifically to a conference involving governments on both sides. Also we think this question should be dealt with under item 5.
The Communists insist that there be no replenishment of matériel whatever. We desire the right to maintain the level of equipment existing at the time of the armistice though not to increase it. Under our proposal we could replace matériel worn out or damaged after the armistice, but not equipment consumed or damaged during hostilities.
The Communists object to any limitation on the rehabilitation of airfields. We have insisted that only a limited number of airfields may be rehabilitated for civil air operations, and that such rehabilitation should not include the extension of runways. No other airfields should be rehabilitated or constructed.

The Communists have indicated that the last point is the major obstacle to agreement on this item. On this point, we are prepared to concede after the “greater sanctions” statement is ready.

Item 4: “Arrangements relating to prisoners of war.”

Discussions to date have largely concentrated on the exchange of lists, and alleged discrepancies in both lists. The Communists have from the beginning sought agreement on the release of all prisoners of war, i.e., an all-for-all exchange. On January 2, we made our first proposal which in effect would provide for the exchange of those prisoners of war who wish to be repatriated on a one-for-one basis against prisoners of war held by the enemy, interned foreign civilians, and South Koreans who are in North Korea, whether they have been impressed in the North Korean Armies or not. Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross would be present to assure that all repatriation is voluntary. Those who do not wish to be repatriated would be released and paroled on condition that they do not again bear arms in the Korean conflict.

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General Ridgway’s instructions authorize him to retreat from his first position and if necessary to agree to release all the prisoners of war we hold against all the prisoners of war which the enemy holds and UN civilians and certain listed South Korean civilians. He is not authorized to drop his insistence on these civilians, or to agree to any involuntary repatriation, without first consulting Washington.

Item 5: “Recommendations to the governments of the countries concerned on both sides.”

This item has not yet been the subject of discussion. It is clear that the Communists will seek a commitment to hold a political conference in which the North Koreans and Chinese Communists will participate which shall deal, inter alia, with the question of the withdrawal of foreign troops. We have instructed General Ridgway to seek agreement on a general recommendation to governments and authorities concerned that early steps be taken at a political level to deal with questions concerning a political settlement including the unification of Korea and other questions not resolved by the armistice.

  1. The subject under discussion in the memorandum was the Korean Military Armistice Negotiations between the delegates of the United Nations Command and those of North Korea and the People’s Republic of China, which resumed at Panmunjom on Oct. 25, 1951. For a statement of how these negotiations will be documented in this volume, see the editorial note, infra.