795B.00/5–353: Telegram

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


1292. Department pass Tokyo; repeated information Tokyo 367, Tokyo pass to Ambassador Murphy for General Clark.

First thoughts on President Rhee’s letter April 30 to General Clark1 (transmitted Clark’s CX 62220 to JCS) are as follows:

Notwithstanding unacceptable aspects of Rhee’s detailed proposal, letter represents perceptible advance over his previous unequivocal insistence on withdrawal Chinese troops from NK as condition his acceptance of armistice. At least Rhee now appears willing discuss terms and alternatives.
There is nothing inherently repugnant in idea of bilateral security pact since US came to Korea’s defense without one in 1950 and we are far more committed to Korea today than three years ago.

Specific terms proposed by Rhee are largely unsatisfactory since they would commit US to variety of dangerous gambits while leaving Rhee free to take whatever action he might see fit in NK under shelter of US defense guarantee. Rhee is evidently thinking in terms of ROK occupation of all Korea and when he speaks of US commitment to help “defend Korea” in event further attack he obviously has in mind everything up to Manchurian border. It also apparent that while he talks of “simultaneous withdrawal” of US–UN and Chinese Commie troops, what he really envisages is only partial withdrawal US military support, involving continued US participation in air and sea defense and in training and equipping ROK forces.

What Rhee’s letter appears suggest, in other words, is that if Chinese Commies could be induced withdraw beyond Yalu (and buffer zone) ROK troops would then move into NK and that if either Chinese or Soviets intervened, US, on basis previously concluded defense pact, would immediately come rushing back to pull Rhee’s chestnuts out of fire.

One of principal questions raised by Rhee’s letter is that of our own attitude toward simultaneous withdrawal UN and Chinese troops from Korea. It seems to me we should be careful avoid being placed in position of advocating such simultaneous withdrawal until we are certain in our own minds as to optimum timing of withdrawal our own forces. Withdrawal US forces from Korea, together with controls while [which?] their presence enables US to exercise, might be particularly serious step in [if?] US bound, through formal pact or otherwise, to come to aid of ROK in case of trouble.
8 points presumably represent his maximum position on basis of which he plans enter into new bargaining phase. Fact that word “armistice” does not appear once in entire letter suggests Rhee may be preparing shift attention to post-armistice political settlement. This seems all to the good.

  1. Ante, p. 955.