PPS files, lot 64 D 563, “Korea, 1953”

Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1

top secret


  • NSC 170—U.S. Objectives and Courses of Action in Korea.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff submit herewith their views regarding a draft statement of policy prepared by the National Security Council Planning Board and entitled “U.S. Objectives and Courses of Action in [Page 1611] Korea” (NSC 170), which is intended, if adopted, to supersede current NSC policies on Korea as set forth in NSC 118/2, NSC 154/1, NSC 156/1, NSC 157/1, NSC 167/2, and the memorandum for the NSC from its Executive Secretary, subject “Additional United Nations Forces for Korea” dated 27 (17) July 1953.2
The views of General Hull contained in DAIN 18719 dated 4 November 19533 have been considered by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in connection with their review of NSC 170.
In paragraph 2 of the draft statement of policy, it is stated that “The current U.S. objective … is to maintain a position of strength in Korea… “The Joint Chiefs of Staff interpret paragraph 10 of the draft statement of policy as delineating the nature of the intended position of strength in Korea and as detailing the means by which it would be achieved. They assume that the provisions of subparagraph 10b would not preclude the possibility that an adequate defensive position in Korea might ultimately be provided by ROK armed forces alone, backed up by a strong United States military posture in the Far East region in general.
The words “if possible” as used in paragraph 3 are ambiguous. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe the intent of this paragraph would be more precisely expressed if the paragraph were amended as follows:

“3. The United States seeks to achieve these objectives through peaceful means, if possible, avoiding or preventing the resumption of fighting in Korea if possible to do so without compromise of our obligations, principles, and military security.”

Since the action called for in subparagraph 8b of the draft statement of policy would not be advisable until a decision had in fact been reached to expand military action to China, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that the timing of such action should be clarified, and recommend amendment of subparagraph 8b as follows:

“8b. At the time when the action referred to in the Joint Policy Declaration is being carried out, makeMake clear to the world the necessity of expanding the war to China by air and naval action as the only feasible way of honoring our collective security commitments to the United Nations and our security commitments to the Republic of Korea.”

The provisions of paragraph 9 of the draft statement of policy would continue in effect the current policy as to the United States position in political negotiations, a position which would accept a unified and neutralized Korea (see paragraph 9 of NSC 157/14). This negotiating position was adopted in the belief that “the achievement of a [Page 1612] unified Korea under the ROK, tied into the United States security system and developed as a military ally, is not a practicable possibility under present circumstances.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff did not favor adoption of this position. In their memorandum for you of 30 June 19535 subject “NSC 157, U.S. Objective with Respect to Korea Following an Armistice,”* the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed the views (1) that the establishment of a unified but neutralized Korea would be to the strategic disadvantage of the United States, (2) that the precedent which would be set would constitute a serious hazard if applied, for example, to Germany, (3) that the basic United States objective with respect to Korea should be the attainment of a unified, independent, and non-Communist Korea, and (4) that until this objective is realized the United States should maintain a strong military posture in the Far East and that this posture should include the retention and support of adequate ROK armed forces. The Joint Chiefs of Staff still hold these views. Further, they are of the opinion that as long as the Communists continue to pursue their expansionist policies in the Far East, a Communist guarantee of the territorial and political integrity of a unified and neutral Korea would be meaningless and that the Communists would use all possible means to subvert the new ROK with the ultimate objective of subjugating it to the status of a satellite. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that without continued outside (U.S.) assistance, Korean armed forces could not be established and maintained at a level which would insure their capability of preserving internal security and of defending Korean territory short of an attack by a major power. Therefore, it is considered that the degree of neutralization of Korea accepted by the United States incident to a political settlement should not be such as to preclude the continuation of United States assistance to Korea in the establishment of adequate security forces.
While recognizing that the matter is primarily political, the Joint Chiefs of Staff would favor adoption of the bracketed phrase in subparagraph 9a, as proposed by the Department of Defense member, inasmuch as it is considered that the establishment of a unified Korea based on free elections throughout North and South Korea would provide a more representative and stable government than one which might result from the incorporation of North Korea into the present ROK.

It is recommended that the following be added to subparagraph 10b:

“preferably in accordance with a Communist proposal for a concurrent reduction or withdrawal of foreign forces by both sides.”

[Page 1613]

The reason for this recommended addition will be apparent.

The matter of the adoption of the substitute paragraph proposed by the Department of State member in lieu of subparagraph 10f (4) and (5) is not considered to be within the purview of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Subject to the comments set forth above, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that you concur in the draft statement of policy contained in NSC 170.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Richard H. Phillips

Captain, USN Deputy Secretary
  1. This memorandum was transmitted to the NSC under a covering memorandum by Lay to the NSC, Nov. 18, at the request of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) for the information of the Council in connection with its consideration of NSC 170 at its meeting of Nov. 19.
  2. For references to NSC documents, see footnote 1 p. 1600. The memorandum, July 17, by Lay transmitted the Report by the Special Committee to the NSC, p. 1394.
  3. Printed as telegram C 65842, Hull to JCS, Nov. 4, p. 1588.
  4. Dated July 7, p. 1344.
  5. Ante, p. 1288.
  6. See memo for NSC from Acting Executive Secretary, same subject, dated June 30, 1953. [Footnote in the source text; the reference memorandum transmitted the views of the JCS to the NSC.]