Draft Telegram From the Vice President to the Secretary of State1

top secret

Thursday afternoon following my arrival in Seoul and briefing with Ambassadors Briggs and Dean and Generals Hull and Taylor I paid initial call on President Rhee in order to present President Eisenhower’s letter of November 4. Following initital discussion of 45 minutes with Ambassador Briggs and General Hull and Prime Minister and Foreign Minister present, others withdrew and I had more than two hour conversation alone with President.

President Rhee read letter aloud slowly and carefully. It was obvious to me during his reading that letter had deep emotional effect on him. His only comment at end of reading, however, was “That is a very fine letter”.

In subsequent discussion Rhee emphasized primary importance to him of close friendly relations with United States and his particular appreciation of personal relationship of friendship between him and President Eisenhower. He added however that despite this fact he cannot forget his first loyalty to Korea and specifically to the three millions (sic) enslaved in North Korea. His obligation to these people required unification of Korea whether by peaceful means or otherwise. He expressed view that there was chance political conference might achieve unification and stated he would give it this chance although he considered it a slim one.

During ensuing discussion Rhee rambled off in various directions including his well known views on Japan, economic problems related to US aid, etc. Without wishing to press him too closely I several times brought him back, however, to discussion of letter and assurance desired from him by President Eisenhower. At one point in discussion Rhee leaned towards me and said “I pledge to you that before I take any unilateral action I shall inform President Eisenhower.” During [Page 1610] discussion of this point I sought to impress him with fact that what was needed was agreement to act together in all such matters.

Question of Rhee’s reply to letter, which he stated he would make, was left unsettled, and I will not insist that reply be made before my departure from Seoul Sunday. Depending on whether he replies before that time and nature of that reply, however, I contemplate writing him a letter, perhaps from Tokyo, thanking him for his courtesies and for conversations which we had and stating specifically that I have passed his pledge on to President Eisenhower. This will place on record fact he made such statement regardless of what his reply may say. If reply received before I depart and contains satisfactory assurance, I shall probably not include this reference in my letter to him.

Have discussed my private conversation fully with Ambassadors Briggs and Dean and Generals Hull and Taylor and they believe this oral pledge by Rhee, although short of commitment desired from him, marks definite step forward. We have agreed it would not be desirable to press Rhee too much on fundamental questions raised in your letter but rather to allow time for them to sink in. I hope that later in my visit there will be opportunity discuss subject further however and shall report results any such conversations.

I made brief reference to possibility of Rhee visiting Washington in January or February and stressed this would give opportunity for him to discuss these and other matters with President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles. In touching on timing of submission of Mutual Defense Treaty to Senate and request for further appropriations for economic aid, I made the point that his actions and statements between now and then would of course have a bearing on the attitude of Congress.

Meeting was friendly and cordial throughout and I made effort to keep it so. At no point did Rhee become angry or emotional although as mentioned above letter itself was obviously considerable shock to him.

  1. In a covering note from Allison to Dulles, the U.S. Ambassador explained that at Nixon’s request he sent via special courier to Eisenhower a single copy of this draft telegram which was prepared in Seoul but not sent telegraphically. This message was drafted by the Second Secretary and Consul at Seoul, John A. Calhoun.