S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 170/1

Report by the Executive Secretary (Lay) to the National Security Council1

top secret
NSC 170/1

[Here follows a table of contents.]

[Page 1621]

U.S. Objectives and Courses of Action in Korea


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.

2. The current U.S. objective, pending achievement of the above long-range objective, is to maintain a position of strength in Korea (a) in support of the United Nations commitment to oppose aggression, (b) to prevent the area from coming under Communist domination either by subversion or by being overrun, and (c) to ensure the continuance of a free government on the peninsula.

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.

courses of action

4. To achieve these objectives, the United States must be prepared to take the following courses of action:

Preventing or Countering the Resumption of Fighting by the ROK

5. In order to prevent or to counter any resumption of fighting in Korea by the Republic of Korea the United States should:

Continue to observe the armistice.
Seek to ensure that the Republic of Korea observes the armistice by:
Notifying President Rhee formally and letting other ROK leaders know (on behalf of the United States and as executive agent for the UN), that if South Korea unilaterally initiates military operations against Chinese or North Korean forces in or north of the demilitarized zone, then:
UNC air, ground and sea forces will not support such operations directly or indirectly;
The United States will not furnish any military or logistic support for such operations;
All U.S. economic aid to Korea will cease immediately;
The UN Commander will take any action necessary to prevent his forces becoming involved in the renewal of hostilities and to provide for their security. [Page 1622] If Rhee should ask whether or not UNC forces might be withdrawn from Korea, he should be told that, if he ceases to cooperate with UNC, the UNC will decide its course of action purely in terms of its own interest and without consulting him.
Attempting to obtain from Rhee a formal assurance in writing that he will not initiate unilateral military action at any time against the Communists in or north of the demilitarized zone. If he refuses to give such assurance, the United States should inform him immediately that the UNC reserves all rights to take whatever actions it deems necessary to preserve the security of the UNC forces.
Making UNC plans and dispositions such as to permit maximum flexibility in meeting any likely eventuality and, insofar as possible, to reinforce the statements made to Rhee and to manifest U.S. determination to carry them out.

6. In anticipation of the possibility that President Rhee may order the renewal of hostilities by an attack on Communist forces in or north of the demilitarized zone, despite all the actions taken by the United States under paragraph 5-a and b above, the United States should take the measure stated in Annex A, which is being given separate distribution.

7. If ROK forces should renew hostilities unilaterally, the United States should, in addition to appropriate actions under Annex A:

Stop all economic and military assistance to Korea.
Discontinue all logistic or other support to the ROK forces.
Take such other military measures as seem feasible and consistent with the security of UNC forces to block ROK offensive action.
Evacuate UN civilians.
Notify the Communists that the UNC will continue to abide by the armistice terms, but will defend UNC forces against any Communist attack, and will be prepared, if a Communist counterattack against the ROK threatens the security of UNC forces, to undertake such military action as may be necessary for the security of UNC forces.
Renew general hostilities with the Communists only if attacked in force by the Communists or if Communist attacks against the ROK seriously threaten the security of UNC forces.
Promptly seek to obtain the support of the other members of the UNC, and as appropriate inform the United Nations of the actions taken by the UNC under UN authority to ensure compliance with the armistice.

Countering the Resumption of Fighting by the Communists

8. If Communist forces violate the armistice and renew hostilities in Korea, the United States should:

Invoke the Joint Policy Declaration by calling upon the signatories to carry out the commitment that “if there is a renewal of armed attack, challenging again the principles of the United Nations, we should again be united and prompt to resist. The consequences of such [Page 1623] a breach of the armistice would be so grave that, in all probability, it would not be possible to confine hostilities within the frontiers of Korea.”
Make 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.
Implement the military and diplomatic measures referred to in NSC Action No. 794 of May 20, 1953, as approved following the urgent review by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of State.
Call on other UN members for effective military assistance appropriate to the expanded war against China.

Seeking to Obtain Satisfactory Agreements from the Communists

9. The United States should:


Continue to seek, by political negotiations between the Communists and the UN (with the Republic of Korea associated with the latter), a unified and neutral Korea under an independent and representative government. To this end be prepared to accept:

A unified Korea friendly to the United States, without U.S. or other foreign forces or bases in Korea;
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
A level of Korean armed forces sufficient for internal security and capable of defending Korean territory short of an attack by a major power.

The foregoing would not preclude the provision by the United States of economic and military assistance to Korea.

Continue to exert political and economic pressures against Communist China, including unconventional and covert pressures, at least until settlements satisfactory to the United States can be achieved in the areas around Communist China.

Achieving a Position of Strength in Korea

10. Pending a political settlement and in the absence of a violation of the armistice, the United States should, conditioned upon the satisfactory cooperation of the Republic of Korea, continue to observe the armistice and try to avoid renewed fighting; accept the division of Korea on the present demarcation line while seeking a satisfactory solution of the Korean problem by the use of other than military pressures; tie the Republic of Korea into the U.S. security system and develop it as a military ally. To this end the United States should:

Ratify the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Republic of Korea.
Build up and maintain the security position of the ROK consistent with the armistice terms, and in a manner and to an extent that will permit the phased and orderly redeployment of the bulk of U.S. armed forces at the earliest feasible date.
Carry on a vigorous campaign to secure additional armed forces from other UN members for service in Korea in accordance with the existing formula (see Annex B2), covering reimbursement of U.S. expenditures for such forces.
Working in and through the organs of the UN where feasible, continue to strengthen the government and democratic institutions of the Republic of Korea.
Pending a satisfactory understanding with the ROK Government with respect to internal measures required to achieve economic stability, make such use of UNC facilities in Korea as is practicable, consistent with the primary mission and security of the UNC, to provide assistance to the Korean people in order to give tangible evidence to them of the value of U.S. friendship and assistance.
Conditioned upon a satisfactory understanding with the ROK Government with respect to internal measures required to achieve economic stability, implement the present expanded program of economic assistance in that portion of Korea controlled by the ROK and the UNC, subject to the following conditions:
The Republic of Korea satisfactorily cooperates in maintaining the armistice in effect.
A standard of living approximating the 1949–1950 levels should be the goal toward which the program should contribute.
The investment component of the program should be increased as rapidly as is consistent with economic stability.
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.
The program should be directed toward an economy which the Republic of Korea could support with a minimum of future external aid.
Continue in effect all pertinent instruction to the UNC involving the maintenance of the security of U.S. forces in the Korea area.
Conduct a high-level diplomatic campaign to persuade our allies to accept U.S. courses of action and contribute to their support.
Continue a program of covert operations designed to assist in the achievement of U.S. objectives vis-à-vis Korea.

  1. In a covering note, Lay stated that the President approved this paper on Nov. 20, 1953, directed its implementation by all appropriate departments and agencies, and designated the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency. Lay also noted that Annex A was approved without changes, and thus became Annex A to NSC 170/1, not printed.
  2. For text of Annex B, see p. 1605.