Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

Memorandum of Discussion at the 171st Meeting of the National Security Council, Thursday, November 19, 19531

top secret
eyes only

Present at the 171st meeting of the Council were the President of the United States, presiding; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; the Director, Foreign Operations Administration; the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. The Vice President did not attend because of his absence from the country. Also present at the meeting were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Acting Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; Huntington Sheldon, Central Intelligence Agency (for Item 1); The Assistant to the President; the Deputy Assistant to the President; Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President; the Acting White House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

There follows a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the chief points taken.

[Here follows discussion on items 1. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security, 2. “United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to Indonesia”, and 3. “Interim Defense Mobilization Planning Assumptions”.]

4. U.S. Objectives and Courses of Action in Korea (NSC 170;2 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated November 18, 19533)

Mr. Cutler stated to the Council that this report really constituted only a codification of a great number of policy papers on Korea going back a number of years. In view of the shortness of time, he suggested that he run through the paper and indicate the proposals for revisions which had been suggested by the State Department and by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A number of minor revisions were suggested, but the first discussion centered on a suggestion by the Joint Chiefs of Staff with regard to paragraph 8–b, which called on the United States to make clear to the world the necessity of expanding the war to China in the event of a resumption of hostilities by the Communists. The Joint [Page 1617] Chiefs had suggested that this clarification not be made until after hostilities had begun or were about to begin.

The President inquired whether the Joint Chiefs’ amendment would prohibit any discussion of this matter even in a preliminary way at the forthcoming Bermuda Conference.4

Secretary Dulles pointed out in turn that a great deal of “educational work” had to be done on this point and it was really essential that we begin to talk to our allies about it in the near future.

Upon reflection, Admiral Radford said that he could not agree with the position taken by the Joint Chiefs on this point.

With respect to subparagraph d [of paragraph 8] at the top of page 6, Secretary Dulles noted that the paragraph seemed to indicate that in the event the Communists resumed hostilities we would call upon other UN members for effective manpower and other military assistance. He said he simply wanted to be clear that this reference to additional manpower did not imply that if war were resumed and spread to China, it would involve operations on land in China by ground forces. Since this was likely to be a very different kind of war than others in the past, this might very well not be the case, and he believed that it would be best to strike the term “manpower”.

With respect to subparagraph 9–a, which indicated that the United States should seek a unified and neutral Korea in its political negotiations with the Communists, Mr. Cutler noted that in addition to certain proposals to change the language of the paragraph, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had raised objections to the substance of this proposal. After agreement as to the phraseology of this paragraph, Mr. Cutler called on Admiral Radford to explain the substantive issue raised by the Joint Chiefs.

Admiral Radford replied that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were unclear as to whether a neutral or neutralized Korea meant a disarmed Korea. The Joint Chiefs feared that in any case a neutralized Korea would presently succumb to Communist subversion.

The President replied that he had no doubt whatever that the Communists would make every effort to subvert a neutral Republic of Korea, even if they agreed to setting it up. The proposal had been put forward, however, as a practical suggestion to put to the Communists in the political conference. The President added that his idea was a “neutral Korea on our side”.

Admiral Radford repeated the view of the Joint Chiefs that a neutral Korea simply could not last, but the President countered with the argument that in his mind a neutral Korea would certainly have the right to arm itself and defend its internal security.

[Page 1618]

Secretary Dulles confirmed that a neutral or neutralized Korea to his mind did not mean a disarmed Korea. The pattern was Switzerland. Nor did this paragraph exclude the United States from keeping a protective umbrella over Korea by means of stationing forces in Okinawa which would be ready to strike if Korea were again the victim of aggression. Finally, said Secretary Dulles, a neutral Korea certainly did not exclude United States assistance to help the Korean economy to remain viable. For these reasons, Secretary Dulles doubted the reality of the differences between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the other agencies.

Mr. Cutler suggested that the point be clarified by the addition of a paragraph affirming that the United States would not be precluded from rendering military and economic assistance to a neutral Korea.

Still unconvinced, Admiral Radford directed to Secretary Dulles a question as to the precise meaning of “neutral”.

Secretary Dulles replied that what he meant was that while the United States and the other free world powers would remain free to help Korea preserve its independence, a neutral Korea would not become a military ally of the United States, nor would it afford us bases within its boundaries. The President stated his agreement with Secretary Dulles’ concept.

In subparagraph 10–b, which called for the United States to build up and maintain the defensive capacity of the ROK armed forces pending a political settlement in Korea, Secretary Dulles recommended that the Council delete the adjective “defensive”. He argued that it was not easy any longer to differentiate between offensive and defensive arms, and he did not wish to support the limitations suggested by the present phraseology.

The President suggested the substitution of “the security position of the ROK“, and it was also agreed to omit the phrase “in accordance with existing commitments”, on the ground that it was unwise at this time to specify a level of twenty divisions for the ROK, since Korea might not be able to maintain so large a force for an indefinite period.

Discussion then moved on to a consideration of the paragraphs on page 9 dealing with the form and character of economic assistance to South Korea [paragraph 10f(2)-(6)]. Mr. Cutler pointed out that the State Department objected to the language in the draft and felt that emphasis should instead be placed on projects which would increase productivity and which could be completed quickly in order to impress on the South Koreans the value of their ties with the United States.

After Mr. Cutler’s explanation of this disagreement, the President expressed himself, in terms of bitterness and disappointment, that after all the careful plans that had been laid to rehabilitate South Korea, the Communists were actually doing a much more impressive job in the rehabilitation of North Korea.

[Page 1619]

Secretary Humphrey expressed his complete accord with the position taken by the State Department and by the President. In this instance, said Secretary Humphrey, the object is to spend the money allocated for rehabilitation in Korea just as quickly as possible in order to show concrete results.

Not to be outdone, Secretary Wilson recommended the elimination of the term “limited” before “assistance” in subparagraph e [of paragraph 10] on page 8.

After the President had again spoken of his sense of frustration with the results of our program for assisting South Korea, Governor Stassen attempted to point out that the picture perhaps was not quite as black as the President painted it. We had shipped a lot of food, hospital supplies and the like to South Korea. We were moving ahead on the program as fast as possible, although President Rhee was a terrific obstacle.

The President said he was not too impressed with the list of achievements offered by Governor Stassen, although he understood the difficulties. What he wanted, said the President, was not merely food, but houses, hospitals, roads, bridges, and the like, so that the South Koreans would feel they had some stake in peace and would not be prone to resume hostilities if President Rhee breaks his promise to us and tries to lead his people into another war. In sum, said the President, he wanted all limitations taken out, and he wanted the Council to tell Governor Stassen to do whatever was necessary to assure that the South Koreans remained on our side.

The National Security Council:5

Adopted the statement of policy contained in the reference report on the subject, including Annex A thereto, subject to the following changes:

Paragraph 1. Delete, and substitute the following:

“1. The long-range objective with respect to the Korean problem is to bring about the unification of Korea with a self-supporting economy and under a free, independent and representative government, friendly toward the United States, with its political and territorial integrity assured by international agreement and with armed forces sufficient for internal security and capable of defending Korean territory short of an attack by a major power.”

Paragraph 3: Delete, and substitute the following:

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

Subparagraph 8–d: Delete “Manpower and other”.
Subparagraph 9–a: Delete “under a substantially unchanged ROK“, and substitute “under an independent and representative government.” Also delete the phrase in brackets, the asterisk and the footnote to which it refers.
Subparagraph 9–a–(2): Delete, and substitute the following:

“(2) United States and Communist assurances of the territorial and political integrity of Korea under the ROK but foregoing all rights granted to the United States under a U.S.-Korea mutual assistance pact; and.”

Subparagraph 9–a, following subparagraph 9–a–(3): Add “The foregoing would not preclude the provision by the United States of economic and military assistance to Korea.”
Paragraph 10, line 5: Delete “indefinitely”.
Subparagraph 10–b: Substitute “the security position of the ROK“ for “the defensive capacity of ROK armed forces in accordance with existing commitments.”
Subparagraph 10–e, line 6: Delete “limited”.
Subparagraph 10–f–(1): Substitute “maintaining” for “carrying”, and “in” for “into”.
Subparagraphs 10–f–(4) and –(5): Delete and substitute the following, renumbering subparagraph (6) as (5):

“(4) The investment program should be restricted to those projects contributing to the goals stated in subparagraphs (2), (3) and (5) of this paragraph, and should place greatest emphasis initially on projects contributing most immediately to better living conditions and future increased productivity for the Koreans.”

Note:NSC 170, as amended, and approved by the President, subsequently circulated as NSC 170/16 and referred to the OCB as the coordinating agency designated by the President.

[Here follows discussion on item 5. “U.S. Civil Administration in the Ryukyu Islands.”]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Drafted by Gleason on Nov. 20.
  2. Dated Nov. 9, p. 1600.
  3. This memorandum transmitted views of the JCS on NSC 170 to the NSC; see footnote 1 p. 1610.
  4. For documentation on the Bermuda Conference, Dec. 4–8, 1953, see vol. v, Part 2, pp. 1710 ff.
  5. The following paragraphs and note constituted NSC Action No. 964, a record copy of which is located in S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95.
  6. Infra.